This month we’re going to work on a couple of shortburst single-stroke rudiments: the single four and single seven. The key to executing these rudiments effectively is using finger control to play rapid free strokes. Single fours and sevens are very commonly used in fills on the drumkit, and practicing them on a pad will build speed and strength for playing doubles, triples, and even sets of four notes with each hand. As your finger control improves, these single-stroke bursts will become easy to play at very fast tempos. Speed certainly isn’t everything, but the more musical options you have, the better.
Every stroke of the single four and single seven should be played as a free stroke. If the free stroke is rebounding properly, that means that each note is played with enough velocity down toward the drum to allow the stick to bounce back up, and that the wrist and fingers are relaxed so as not to inhibit the stick. It’s also important that the fingers stay somewhat open and away from the palm. This allows the stick to vibrate freely and gives the fingers the opportunity to add a little bit more velocity to the strokes.
I recommend beginning at slow tempos, with the stick starting and stopping past vertical in order to ensure that the fingers are opening up to help move the stick instead of simply holding it, which would inhibit the speed and add unnecessary tension. If at any point the last stroke played by either hand doesn’t rebound by itself, then you’re practicing at a tempo that’s too fast for your finger speed and you’re not developing the desired finesse.
The exercise is in 7/8. The first bar can be broken down into groups of two, two, and three. The second bar repeats that pattern starting with the left hand. The third bar is reversed into groups of three, two, and two. The fourth bar is a repeat of bar three, except it has a triplet turnaround that allows you to repeat the exercise using the opposite sticking. Every group of two will contain a single four, and every group of three will contain a single seven. You could shorthand the four-bar exercise like this: 4-4-7, 4-4-7, 7-4-4, 7-4-turnaround.
The exercise is short, but don’t be fooled. Developing hand technique is not about learning a lot of vocabulary; rather, it’s about spending time getting in thousands of perfect repetitions to train your muscle memory. The muscle memory you’ll develop through this short exercise will serve to make a lot of other things you play infinitely easier. Perform the exercise with a metronome, and be sure the strokes don’t decrescendo (get softer) and that the last stroke in each hand rebounds all the way up by itself. Work up your finger control, and burn it!
Bill Bachman is an international drum clinician and a freelance drumset player in the Dallas area. For more information, including how to sign up for online lessons through Skype, visit billbachman.net.