Friday, September 24, 2021

A little technique video

Let's talk more about me. I just posted a little technique video in response to a forum conversation. Someone was confused about the meanings of the stroke types, and wanted evidence of my competency to speak on the subject. With that handy visual reference, let's talk a little bit about technique.

Also see my Three Bloggers post about technique, and my other long post about it. 

I do a quick demonstration of the level system stroke types, then flams, an open roll, and Swiss triplets, because that's what the cat wanted: 

I say all the time I'm not a technique guy, I'm not a snare drummer, I'm not a chops guy— it doesn't mean I'm not proficient. I can still do most of what most professionals can do on the drum, and more than many. What we're seeing here is my unconditioned baseline, when I haven't practiced snare drum in a couple of weeks. 

Something about those Remo pads makes me always revert to 80s power drummer mode. I don't play like that normally; it's a detriment to the playing I do on the drum set. My grip, with my index finger hanging off the stick, is roughly what Dom Famularo described (in a lesson with him ~1989) as a “power grip.”

First, notice the stroke types: full, down, tap, up. I'm more picky about these than most people. I do the strokes fast, especially the lift after the full stroke and the up stroke. Fast hand movement. You'll notice I don't lift the stick before the stroke— most people habitually lift the stick when attacking a note, even when the stick was already at the height you wanted for the next note. It's totally unnecessary, and it can't be accomplishing anything but slowing you down and making it harder to play the dynamics you want. I attack the note by directly moving the stick downward. No “here we go” lift motion. I've talked about this before.

With that full stroke I am not doing a “free”stroke, where you fling the stick at the head and catch it when it bounces back in your face. It's all wrist, my hand never opens up. My grip is controlled but light. The up stroke is also important— you have to pick up the stick. You get no assistance from surface bounce, if you're attempting some kind of Moellery/Famularo-y bounce technique. When practicing technique I always do that motion as fast as possible, regardless of the timing of the notes. The more practice you get doing a very fast lift, the more prepared you'll be for playing flam rudiments fast, and anything else requiring a fast upstroke, like a shuffle. 

On the flams, notice that I don't lift the grace note— maybe very slightly, because my hands are not real conditioned at the moment— the stick is already in position after its downstroke in the previous flam, so any lift in the stroke only makes the grace note louder than I want it. Mastering this no-lift thing was the major thing that finally gave me real control over my dynamics. 

I play the open roll slow-fast-slow, which I never do when practicing. I want to be practicing everything in time, so I'm against that in principle. I may start doing it just to see what happens, though. At the slow end I'm playing each double as two full strokes, all with the wrist. As we get into actual roll speed, there's a rebound happening, but I'm not changing my grip. I'm not opening up my hand or using fingers or anything. Just the motion and the natural flex of your hand creates those powerful doubles. At the fastest speed the doubles are getting a little crushed because my hands aren't conditioned and I'm a little tense, and my left hand seems to be slicing somewhat. Generally my stick heights are all over the place. That isn't really acceptable if you're trying to polish your technique, or are playing in a drum line, or whatever serious purpose. For day to day life as a jazz musician... whatever.   

The Swiss triplets: I feel like I haven't practiced a Swiss triplet in five years, so I'm surprised they didn't fall apart at the faster end. I don't have a lot to say about them. They're possibly good conditioning for open rolls— they'll often turn into an open roll when you try to play them faster than you're able.  

I'll repeat what I've said elsewhere, this controlled grip needs to be done carefully, so you don't stiffen up. Light grip, well articulated wrists— it's hard for a lot of people to actually move their wrist joint. Emphasis is on a fast motion, all strokes, quiet or loud, moving at the same speed. Dynamics come from stick heights, not force. 


Michael Griener said...

And again: this could be me, talking to my students.
Thank you.

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks Michael!