Rudimental Clave With Inverted Stickings
Musical Exercises for Developing the Whip-and-Stop Technique
by Bill Bachman
This month we have a fun and challenging exercise that will do wonders for your Moeller-style whip-and-stop technique. The exercise uses the son clave rhythm as the accent pattern, with inverted stickings underneath it. The term inverted, in this instance, is borrowed from the inverted flam tap, and it basically means that the taps precede the accent. We’re going to add flams, diddles, cheeses, and singles to the basic pattern for some fun rudimental variations.
As far as technique is concerned, the Moeller whip-and-stop motion will be the key. Since there’s always a tap immediately before the accent, there’s very little time for the wrist to perform an upstroke, especially as the tempo gets faster. In order to relieve the wrists, we’ll replace the wrist motion with an arm motion. When you play the last tap before the accent, your forearm will quickly lift (leaving the relaxed hand and stick drooping down) and then quickly throw down to pass the hand and stick (leaving them pointing up), which whips the hand and stick toward the drum. This is the essence of the Moeller whip stroke, and it’s how we’re creating stick height for these exercises without employing the wrist. In fact, any engagement of the wrist muscles will slow down or completely kill the whip stroke.
The faster the up/down motion of the forearm, the less time it takes to generate the whipped accent stroke. And the farther up and down the arm moves, the bigger (and consequently louder) the whipped accent will be. Sometimes it will feel like an aggressive “herky-jerk” motion, requiring some work in the upper arms and shoulders to keep the hands relaxed. At fast tempos, it’s more of an effect where the forearm throws down and the palm of the hand bumps the back of the stick down to seesaw the front of the stick higher. Since this technique is geared toward faster tempos, practice the exercises with mainly the fingers playing the taps, even at slower tempos.
The downstroke accent should stop as low to the drumhead and as quickly as possible. Think about making the downstrokes point down as you play on top of the stick at a steeper angle, where the thumb is higher than the bead. Not only should you use the back fingers to pull the stick into the palm to create the downstroke, but you should also use the thumb to push down on the front of the stick. By using American grip, with the thumb a bit more on the top than on the side, and by having no gap between the thumb and first finger, you can stop the stick quickly and with less tension. Stopping the stick quickly and low to the drum sets you up to initiate low, light taps. It’s challenging enough to get big accents in a hurry, so don’t lessen the dynamic contrast by playing the taps too high/loud.
Now that we’ve covered the technique, let’s take a look at the basic exercise:
Now add flams.
Next, drop the flams and add diddles on the accents. When you accent diddles, both beats should be stressed. (Here’s where your free stroke/downstroke alley-oop finger control comes into play.) Avoid pressing down into the drum or attacking the diddles too hard. That will only cause you to crush the spacing between the notes, and it will leave the fingers with almost no opportunity to accent the second beat of the diddle.
Now we’ll combine the previous two variations in order to play cheeses on the accents. If you don’t know what a “cheese” is, it’s just a flam and a diddle combined.
Finally, we’ll work on our singles by dropping in some taps with the opposite hand. Think only about the lead hand when you play this variation, and don’t let the coordination of the two hands stiffen you up or bog you down.
Once you’ve worked through all of those variations, try stringing them together, or play the first example between each variation. When you work them up to 200 bpm, it may be easier to think of the rhythms as 16th and 32nd notes. As always, use your metronome, tap your foot, and watch your stick heights. Strive for maximum accent/tap contrast. Shut your wrists off, and whip it good!
Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician, the author of Stick Technique (Modern Drummer Publications), and the founder of drumworkout.com. For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons, visit billbachman.net.