Strictly Technique

Pataflafla Builder

Exercises for Developing a Challenging Yet Musical Rudiment

by Bill Bachman

One of the most beneficial of the forty PAS rudiments is the pataflafla. It’s one of the few where each hand plays a totally different part. The leading hand uses what I call the Moeller whip-and-stop technique, and the secondary hand uses what I call the no-chop flop-and-drop technique. Playing a rudiment with the weaker hand leading usually involves just a mental switch, but now there’s a physical learning curve as well.

When you dissect the pataflafla, you’ll find that the lead hand plays two low taps immediately preceding an accent. When you play the rudiment slowly, there’s plenty of time to execute the three consecutive notes as a tap, upstroke, and downstroke, using the wrists. At a medium speed and up, there isn’t enough time to play the upstroke without tension and/or a rhythmic gap before the accent, so we’ll replace the wrist motion with a forearm motion: the Moeller whip stroke. After the accent, there’s time to stop the stick low to the drum before starting the process over, so we’ll call it the Moeller whip-and-stop motion.

These three consecutive notes will be played as follows. First, drop the hand and stick, with the fingers open, for the first tap. Lift the forearm, while allowing the hand to drop down, and let the stick bump the drum for the second tap. (We can call this a Moeller upstroke.) Finally, throw the forearm down, with the wrist limp, to create a whipped accent. Immediately after you play the accent, grab the stick so that it stops pointing down and right next to the drumhead. This sets you up to repeat the series of three notes starting from a low tap height. Practice the lead hand’s motion slowly and with an exaggerated whipping technique.

The secondary hand plays “1-e-a, 2-e-a, 3-e-a, 4-e-a,” with the accent on the “a.” At slow tempos, playing a high accented note immediately followed by two low taps can work using a downstroke and two taps. But at medium tempos and up, there isn’t enough time to stop the stick low after the accent and before the low taps. Here’s where you’ll have to employ the no-chop flop-and-drop motion so that the high accented note can be followed by lower and lighter taps without the stick stopping. I call it the no-chop flop-and-drop, since you want to avoid using the fingers to add velocity to the taps after the accent. The tap strokes will not be as low as usual, but they will sound light as they drop down in height sequentially. Since the taps flow out of the accent, you can’t hit the accent hard. But be sure to attack the accent from a high stick height in order to get the most out of it.

In the exercise, we’ll play pataflaflas with just the leading hand, then with both, then with just the secondary hand, and then with both again. It’s a good idea to also play this with each hand on a different surface in order to make sure there’s no change in the motion as the hands go from solo to coordinated. For an additional challenge, try counting each hand’s part out loud.

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Once you’ve mastered the pataflafla builder using right- and left-hand lead, you can move on to a 16th-note exercise where the rudiment gets scrambled around systematically. I’ve put the variations in the 4-2-1 format, where we play four counts of each variation, then two counts of each (and repeat), and then one count (repeat four times). Going into and out of the fourth pattern, you’ll need to play three flams in a row. There, one hand will need to flow from the no-chop flop-and-drop technique immediately into the Moeller whip-and-stop technique.

Do your best to exaggerate the accents in both hands, practice with a metronome, and tap your foot so that you’re rhythmically grounded. These exercises are challenging for the hands, and the skills you’ll develop from them will have applications far beyond the practice pad.

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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.