In the context of contemporary hybrid rudiments, the flam has been used in different ways to create some new and exciting patterns. Inspired by some of these modern hybrid combinations, I’ve come up with a concept to add yet another dimension to rudimental drumming, drumset playing, and percussion in general. I call the concept the “flam ostinato.” Given a constant flow of notes, you can create an ostinato that incorporates flams while playing rhythmic phrases that are built on accent patterns.
Let’s start with the following samba-inspired phrase as the basis of an ostinato.
Now let’s add grace notes to this rhythm.
And now let’s incorporate this rhythm into a constant 16th-note flow, creating an ostinato based on flams.
We can play any accented rhythmic phrase along with that ostinato, as demonstrated in Exercise 4.
When we put the ostinato and the accent phrase together, we get a new, challenging pattern. This is the basis for the flam-ostinato concept.
There are several rhythmic layers occurring: the constant 16th-note flow, the flam-based ostinato, and the accented phrase. The combination of these elements creates an interesting technical and musical challenge. It also encourages independence of execution between the accented notes and the flams. Since both the flam ostinato and the accent phrases occupy the same subdivision, you should strive to make each element of the phrase clear for yourself and the listener. The player should be able to accent any note within the ostinato to develop the ability to create and, ultimately, improvise different phrases.
Developing the Concept
Often we’re taught to play flams with an unaccented grace note and an accented primary note. However, in order for the flam-ostinato to work, we must first learn to play the flams and the regular notes at the same dynamic level (generally soft), without accents.
Let’s begin by practicing the previous ostinato on the snare. Notice the consistent hand-to-hand sticking.
Play all unaccented notes from a low position (two to three inches from the head), and avoid the tendency to accent the primary note of the flams. Start slow, and gradually increase the speed as you feel more comfortable. Practice this ostinato by leading with both hands, as doing so presents two different coordination challenges.
Once we can play the ostinato smoothly at different tempos, we can start to incorporate accents. Be careful to accent only the marked 16th notes in the following examples. We can also omit the accents in parentheses to create a few more variations.
Once you’re comfortable with the previous patterns, try the following one-bar phrases.
For additional practice, try combining the previous examples to create two-bar phrases. Or better yet, come up with some variations of your own. These are just a few ideas to get you started.
It could take some time to master this material, but with patience and diligent practice, you’ll see results. Happy practicing!
Luis Ricardo Méndez is a Venezuelan drummer with wide-ranging playing experience in pop bands and symphony orchestras. He has a degree in percussion performance, and he’s currently finishing his studies of Latin American musicology at the Central University of Venezuela. Méndez can be reached at email@example.com.