It's been awhile since I've done one of these, in which I go on YouTube and comment on the things brought up by searching a basic drumming term; punishing the guilty, rewarding the innocent, and so on. Today we'll do that with “open roll technique”; I'll limit myself to actual instructional videos on playing an open roll. I'm not really a one right answer kind of guy, and there are at least some things to think about in most of the videos. We can talk about what we think is the ideal method for doing this, but the main thing is to just put in a lot of time working at it, using the better videos, and your critical eye, as guides, so your hands can figure out how they want to do it.
The first one is by Jim Chapin. No pressure, everybody else, you just have to follow the foremost scholar of rudimental snare drum technique of the 20th century.
Chapin is a little scattered in his presentation here, but this is all stuff I use. As I see it the important thing is to moderately accent the second note, and play an upstroke at the end of the double. If you do that, and play a shuffle rhythm with each hand, from slow to very fast— about ten minutes per hand— you can develop a good open roll. Just do the exercise and don't over-think it. He also has a good method in which you do a fast, full-speed double, but starting with a slower overall motion— he does this after 1:45. My old corps director George Tuthill, a rudimental authority, advocated learning rolls this way— he didn't like the traditional slow-to-fast thing.
Next, from a site called The Beat Doctor:
I guess the verbal instruction is not terrible, but the demonstrations are weak— particularly at 1:26, where he downstrokes each note, momentarily lets the stick rebound while he's telling you to let it rebound, then goes back to downstroking. He advises against that latter technique of Chapin's above, calling it “galloping”— you can decide who's right. There is some disconnect between the different stages of the progression, and the presentation seems a little unformed.
By Jason Furman:
Decent video by a good drummer, though I don't really care for the method he ended up with. The technique he demonstrates after 1:25 is mentioned in the Chapin video as a not-preferred way to develop a roll: with an exaggerated soft-loud dynamic, and ending with a downstroke— both of which are contrary to the final product we're after— and Furman says he was unsatisfied with that technique, too. I do not dig the thing he eventually settled on, with a sort of scooping motion, which he demonstrates after 3:25— it would be easy for your average self-instructing, YouTube-using drummer to screw up, so approach with caution. I would only recommend doing that with an expert teacher (like Furman) who can guide you through the process.
To some this will be the ultimate in nit-pickery: it bothers me that at one point he is in playing position with the sticks resting on the head, even making a little sound as he places them there— just an unthinkable no-no to me. My old professor Charles Dowd was very picky about doing things silently, and I guess I internalized that. Also, being at rest with the sticks laying on the drum head is... difficult for me. Sorry, Jason...
More after the break:
From a YouTube channel, You Are A Drummer:
People, please clear some of the clutter out of the frame when you make these videos. Laundry bad. His descriptions/demonstrations of the closed roll and “closed drag” (I call that a ruff) are terrible— please do not play that way, mashing the buzzes into the pad. On the slow-to-fast open roll, he does the thing which we have concluded is not happening (but which many of the other video makers do)— downstroking at the end of each double. He does say some good things later on about heights (bring them down), and about the wrist (do use them— they are faster than you think). His technique is pretty wonky around the edges, but what the hell, I'm sure it serves him fine for everything he needs to play. If you ignore him on the bad things above, it has a nice vibe, sort of like if a pretty-good drummer you know showed you some stuff; you wouldn't follow him religiously, but he brings up a couple of OK things to think about.
By Dave Weckl:
Weckl, one of the best drummers in the world, under the advice of Freddie Gruber, another great snare drum technique authority, does something I've never really messed with: this two-part, bounce-and-snap motion. It's a good idea to learn a lot of different ways of moving the stick, but I don't really favor this as a way of initially learning to roll, especially for someone who is self-teaching. He does use a somewhat similar turning motion to the one Jason Furman uses above.
Just a random guy:
Here's an example of doing that bounce-and-snap technique badly; his technique is unformed, and he really hasn't gotten beyond the experimenting stage with it. There's nothing wrong with that, just don't use this as an instructional video.
Another random guy demonstrating the “double stroke roll open”:
The drum sticks are helpfully color coded here, so there's no confusion that there are indeed two hands in play, and that one is on the right side of the body, and the other, the left. He anticipates that we will be unable to follow which hand is which when he plays facing us, so he plays the roll starting with his left hand, which he calls his right. Otherwise, it doesn't take a lot of expertise to find the fault in this video, so let's just move on.
By rudimental snare drum expert Bill Bachman:
A long video with several workouts for developing your doubles. I like the general technique he uses, with a restrained finger motion; and he does downstroke at the end of each double, a drum corps thing which, again, I don't think is helpful generally— you have to unlearn that part of the stroke as you move into actual roll speed with this thing. Personally, I think it's best to end with the stick in a raised position, like in the Chapin video. He uses an inverted sticking here, which is good— RLLR RLLR— so the second note of the double lands on the strong part of beat. I don't see the utility of introducing a rim shot into the mix, as he does— maybe the explanation is buried in some part of this very long video that I skimmed through. But he knows what he's doing; there's no reason not to try it.
An Expert Village video:
This one just gets honorable mention for being perhaps the least offensive Expert Village video ever made— they are notoriously awful. He should have scripted the verbal part of his presentation, as it isn't real helpful. But I like that he plays the slow form of the roll with full strokes, and that he emphasizes playing each note. Do not copy the strange position of his right arm— that's some kind of stylized modern drum corps thing. And he's another one who lays his sticks on the head before he plays— do not do that.
A “Howcast”, apparently a slightly upmarket Expert Village:
The bounce/snap technique again. He begins with a full-speed double, and then works that up to roll speed— again, similar to Tuthill's approach, and Chapin's alternative approach, above; which is a legitimate thing. But he's a good example of a thing all the other videos are trying not to do, which is to accent the first note of the double, and have the second one die— he's doing that rather badly.
I'm curious about the prominently featured product labels; some video makers seem to think, strangely, that the presence of product trademarks suggests an endorsement, and gives them added credibility. Perhaps VF really did give him a discount on some sticks for wearing the t-shirt, but I suspect it was just done for appearance.
From Drumbfounded, by Memphis drummer Michael Tooles:
I like this a lot— it feels like a throwback to technique things we talked about in the 80's, before everyone became obsessed with Moeller-type techniques; and he does them all really well. I spent a lot of time experimenting with many of the ideas he talks about here, and though my technique has moved a different direction in the last ~10 years, this was my ideal technique for a long time— refined 80s power drumming. If you're looking for a drum teacher in Memphis, he would be a great person to call.