In part one of this two-part series, we’re going to isolate our timing and sticking “gear shifts” between 8th-note triplets (twelve notes per measure) and 16th notes (sixteen notes per measure). Not only will these exercises be great for your hand technique as you develop the stickings and transitions, but they will also help solidify your timing as you transition back and forth from grooves and fills based on triplets and 8ths or 16ths.

With singles and doubles as our two stickings, there are four different possibilities using triplet and 8th-note metric rates. You can have both note rates played with single strokes, or the triplets can be played with single strokes while the 16th notes are played with double strokes; the triplets can be played with double strokes while the 16th notes are played with single strokes; or both note rates can be played with double strokes. The exercises will all be in the “4-2-1” format, where you play four counts of each variation, then two counts of each (repeated), and finally one of each. That pattern repeats four times. You should also play all four variations in the reverse order.

It’s imperative to practice these exercises with a metronome, tap your foot, and count quarter notes out loud so that the relationship between the patterns and the pulse is programmed accurately. Avoid morphing from one rhythm to the next; make the metric changes as concise and accurate with the metronome as possible. You may find that as you go from the slower rhythm to the faster one, it feels as if you have to delay the attack in order to give the last note of the slower rate its full value.

The exercises will do wonders for your comfort and accuracy in negotiating rhythmic gear shifts behind the drumkit, even if you never use these exact stickings.

Variation 1: Triplet Singles/16th-Note Singles

These should be played as free strokes where you dribble the sticks. Try to maintain a consistent stick height/dynamic level throughout. You may find yourself using the fingers more for the 16th notes and the wrists more for the triplets. This is fine. Just keep the transitions smooth and concise along with the metronome.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 1

Variation 2: Triplet Singles/16th-Note Doubles
The triplet singles should be played as free strokes, while the 16th-note doubles will require what I call the “alley-oop” technique, where the first stroke is primarily played with the wrist and the second stroke is primarily played with the fingers. At faster tempos it’s a good idea to add some forearm pumping on the doubles in order to avoid straining the wrists. Try to maintain one consistent stick height/dynamic level throughout. As always, try to bury the metronome on every downbeat for rhythmic accuracy.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 2

Now reverse the order of the two components.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 3

Variation 3: Triplet Doubles/16th-Note Singles
Now that the triplets are being played as double strokes, you will run into some real challenges with the stickings in the two-count and one-count variations. Take your time, and go nice and slow so you can really nail the transitions and so you have time to think about what type of stroke is coming next for each hand. Try to maintain relative matching stick heights/dynamic levels throughout.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 4

Now reverse the order of the two components.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 6

Variation 4 : Triplet Doubles/16th-Note Doubles
The double strokes at both metric rates will require the alley-oop technique, but the ratio of wrist to fingers will be different. The faster 16th-note doubles will also require more forearm pump and less wrist motion than the triplets. The trick is to transition from one to the next with clarity. Here more than in the other variations, you may feel that you have to delay the attack of the faster note rate in order to play the rhythm accurately.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 7

Now reverse the order of the two components.

8th-Note Triplets and 16ths 8

If you get through all of those exercises before next month’s article and you want to take it to the next level, add diddles to the single-stroke variations to double the note rate. Good luck!