Gary Chaffee received his education at SUNY in Potsdam and DePaul University in Chicago. From 1973-77. Gary was head of the Percussion Dept. at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He presently teaches at his home in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. He’s the author of four hooks: The Independent Drummer, and Patterns: Vol. I , II , and III. Vinne Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Gino Vanelli) and Steve Smith (Journey) are two of Gary’s former students. Ml) readers can write to Gary at GC Music, 30 Laval Street, Hyde Park, MA.


Due to the many changes that have taken place in contemporary music over the last 20-30 years, it seems appropriate to re examine “stickings,” to develop a more comprehensive and useful approach to this area of a percussionist’s early training. A “sticking” is an articulation or a way of making a group of notes sound. Just as a horn player uses different articulations to play figures, a drummer can play a sequence of figures in a variety of ways by using different stickings. This will have a major effect on what the figures sound like and on the phrasing.

For example:

Stickings Part 1 1

In Example 1 the sequence of 16th notes is played using the traditional paradiddle sticking. In situations where the rhythm and articulation are identical there is no phrasing. In Example 2, the sequence is articulated with a series of 5 and 3 note stickings which creates a definite phrasing. There is also an implied polyrhythmic sequence.

Stickings Part 1 2

Using stickings is not difficult and can he applied to a single rhythm or group of rhythms. Using stickings allows for a greater degree of flexibility on the drumset for how the various sound sources (toms, cymbals, etc.) are combined. We will now examine how a sticking system can be developed. The hands are going to have to develop a fairly high degree of flexibility and control. So it is necessary to understand the various stroking procedures. There are basically 4 types of stroke motions, as follows:

Stickings Part 1 3

The Full and Down strokes are used for playing accents. The Tap and Up strokes are used on unaccented notes. This lifting system is designed to get the hands to move quickly and precisely to execute a figure or phrase. The majority of technical/control problems most students have are primarily the result of excess motion. Every motion takes time and energy. The more precise and specific you are, the greater the potential for increased speed, dexterity, endurance, and overall ease of playing. The relative heights of the stroke motions are affected by dynamics. There are situations where these motions need to be altered. They will work for most situations, however, and are well worth the time and effort needed to master them.

Basic Sticking Possibilities

The majority of compound stickings in this system are made up of single and double strokes broken down into groups, related to their distribution. Group A contains one single stroke followed by double strokes. Group B has two singles, Group C has three singles and so forth. The following examples illustrate basic sticking possibilities:

Stickings Part 1 4

Stickings Part 1 5


It is necessary to understand that stickings are not rhythms. They are simply groups of notes. The goal is to be able to use stickings in any rhythmic situation. This is how phrasing is derived. Notice that all of the accents are on single strokes. This has to do with the lifting procedures discussed. Putting the accents in other places makes them much more difficult to execute. That is not really necessary or practical except in some cases I’ll discuss later. Even though all the patterns contain accents, that doesn’t mean that whenever a sticking is applied. accents should be used. Accents are valuable in learning the patterns because the motions give each pattern a certain “feel.” The accents make it possible to interpret without additional notation or symbols. There are many instances—especially on drumset—when the patterns can be used effectively without accents. It would be easy to develop larger stickings of 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 notes for these groupings. The motion principles would essentially be the sam


Examples of Sticking Usage

The following examples indicate possible uses of the stickings in various situations:

1) 3 and 5 note stickings from Group A. 16th notes.

Stickings Part 1 7

2) 7 and 5 note stickings from Group A. Triplets.

Stickings Part 1 8

3) 6 and 4 note stickings from Group B. 16th notes.

Stickings Part 1 9

4) 7, 5, and 4 note stickings from Groups A, C and B respectively. 16th notes.

Stickings Part 1 10

5) 6, 8, and 6 note stickings from Groups B, D, and D respectively. Triplets.

Stickings Part 1 11

In the next article we will examine ways to apply these stickings to the drumset.