Strictly Technique

Build a More Balanced Double-Stroke Roll

Inverting the Diddles to Increase Strength and Precision

by Jeff W. Johnson

This month we’ll examine a technique used to balance out the double-stroke roll. A double-stroke roll should have a machine-gun-type sound, with each stroke sounding identical to the previous one. The second stroke of each double is often the problem spot for many drummers.

One effective practice method for evening out doubles is inverting the roll, where you play a single stroke followed by a series of double strokes. This is seen in the first example. The approach places the second note of the double stroke on the strong beats (1-&-2-&-3-&-4-&), while the first note is on the weaker partials (each “e” and “a”).

Playing double strokes with a triplet base will shift the second note of the double to each of the three parts of the triplet. Practice the exercise as written, and then reverse the sticking so that you also work on leading with the left hand.

Here’s the same exercise with the sticking displaced by a stroke.

It’s also beneficial to practice moving the double strokes between 8th notes and 8th-note triplets.

This next exercise displaces the double by a stroke.

The following example works its way through 8th notes, 8th-note triplets, and 16th notes.

Here’s the same exercise with the sticking displaced by a single stroke.

Now let’s apply double strokes to quintuplets.

Here are the quintuplets displaced by a stroke.

The next examples transition between 8th notes, 8th-note triplets, 16th notes, and quintuplets.

Here’s the same rhythm with a displaced sticking.

For further inspiration, try playing doubles and inverted doubles over other rhythms. For example, doubles over a base of sextuplets and 32nd notes would look like the following.

Here’s the same exercise with displaced doubles.

After practicing these exercises, you should notice your double strokes feeling and sounding stronger. You will also discover some interesting sonic possibilities if the hands are split between two different instruments.

Jeff W. Johnson, who has played with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, is the owner of Johnson Drum Instruction in Richmond, Virginia, and the author of The Level System. For more info, visit