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Doin' Doubles 'Til You're Seeing Triple
It's probably safe to say that all of us would love to have clean-sounding chops. It's great to hear a player that sounds "even" in his or her execution. In this article, we'll look at a way to improve our evenness through the execution of a couple of basic patterns.
I get a fair number of new students that come to their first lesson and try to play figures that require a certain degree of evenness in order to sound right, such as paradiddles between their snare and ride cymbal. Yet, when they try to play these types of figures, they end up sounding erratic, and outside of the groove. Even if they're playing in time, their flow is uneven and uncertain.
The problem is a classic case of trying to run before you walk. Just about everything that we play with our hands has to sound good on a single surface, such as the snare drum, before it can sound good between two or more surfaces. When you try to play double strokes or paradiddles around the drum set without first checking your execution on a single surface, you can fool yourself into thinking that things sound okay, simply because of the complexity of the sounds. And just because a ride cymbal might wash with a certain degree of decay, don't let it fool you into thinking that it's masking the unevenness of your playing.
Take a look at Ex. 1:
Here you have sixteenth-notes made up of double strokes. Many players with poor technique try to play doubles, and they unintentionally make the bounce strokes softer. The result is uneven-sounding. You can remedy this by practicing Ex. 2:
By accenting the bounce strokes, you bring out those notes that have a tendency to sound weak. Try using a technique known as "catching the bounce", in which the first note of the double stroke is played normally, and the second note-the bounce stroke-is played by snapping your fingers up into the stick at the very moment your wrist starts to come up for its next stroke. This type of snapping motion allows you to play the bounce notes louder, because it causes the stick to snap back into the drumhead, instead of just bouncing up and back. Also try varying the degree of the accents. Run the gamut from extreme to subtle. This will give you a lot more control over your hands, in order to shape the sound of your doubles any way you wish.
The same principle applies to paradiddles. Look at Ex. 3:
Here you have a single paradiddle. What I have found is that many students don't play the doubles in the paradiddle evenly. A good way to remedy this is to accent the second stroke, as in Ex. 4.
Again, use the "catching the bounce" technique, and vary the degree of the accents. By doing this, and by paying attention to note placement, you should see an improvement in your sound and level of accuracy. Remember too, that the principle of accents can also be applied to your feet.
Images and Information from DRUM! January/February 1993, pages 52 & 54