Saturday, August 13, 2022

It's suspect: nothing but singles, doubles, and flams

New recurring (maybe) feature, inspired by Modern Drummer's It's Questionable column. I'll call it It's Suspect, and say a few words about an annoyingly wrong but persistent drumming myth. 

This question was asked on a forum: 

There is a common sentiment I have heard when it comes to rudiments: "Everything you play is either a single stroke, double stroke, flam, or a combination of the three". What does it mean though? Does it literally mean that I should spend hours simply drilling each of these rudiments?


It's true-ish— I guess— all single strokes are not created equal. And they left out multiple bounce strokes. And I guess rim shots, stick shots, rim clicks, dead strokes, and brush technique generally don't merit inclusion in this equation. Why? I couldn't say. I also cannot say why we've limited our purview to hand technique only; we also have feet, and use them. 

Whatever. It's totally misleading. Let's listen to this record: 

Now, if you say well, Jack Dejohnette is simply playing single strokes, double strokes, and flams, that would be a totally useless analysis. What we want to know is: what is he doing to make it be that, and what do we practice?  

Like, OK, they're singles, doubles, and flams, but they're used in a playing framework. The frameworks are the whole point, that's what you practice. Which are all the normal things you were just about to practice when the guy showed up wasting your time with did you know all of drumming is simply single strokes, double strokes, and flams? 

Maybe this is the product of a snare drummer mentality? You'd have to be a single surface, single instrument, single literature player to think that way. And I don't know what constructive purpose it serves, since it begs the question:

So if I spend hours simply drilling each of these rudiments I'll be fine then?

The answer to which is obviously:

No, it's actually about the ways you practice them, which are specific and myriad and are really the whole point of all this, and do not even particularly rely on your ability to play quality singles/doubles/flams in the abstract. So it could be said that the singles/doubles/flams are really incidental to the framework in which you play them, and focusing on them this way has been a diversion and a waste of all of our time, sorry.



Anonymous said...

Someone high profile has made this a part of their thing at college clinics. They may elaborate but a bunch of my friends that went to it ended up telling me "it's not that hard, it's just doubles and singles!"

Todd Bishop said...

....which, to actually master, you have to learn the entire concert snare drum literature! Simply master all of Cirone, Podemski, Delecluse, Peters, Firth, Goldenberg...

I don't get it. What's the point of saying it? To me it says I don't know what real drumming content is, or I don't want to talk about it, or I don't know how to talk about it.

Unknown said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate here and say that, in an ever-expanding universe of rudiments, (I'm old enough to remember when there was only 13, then 26, now 40, and you are correct that there is little to no mention of multiple bounce or dead strokes) I found it helpful to simplify them down to their basic elements to help me to avoid being overwhelmed and just get working on them. Of course, I agree that this doesn't address your feet or many other essentials of playing music, especially working in some sort of musical CONTEXT. I wonder if the problem here is the tendency in drum forums to look for ONE ANSWER to practice, rather then viewing rudiments as part of the many things (sound, time, feel, musician instincts) that we want to develop to fully function as musical players. Anyway, lots of food for thought here. Thanks. BTW, this is Ted Warren. I'm not posting anonymously on purpose! :)

Todd Bishop said...

Oh hey Ted! I guess my big problem with the concept is that it's bad communication-- if what people are taking from it is "why drumming is simply single strokes and doubles etc." Like whatever these guys are trying to say with that... it ain't working.

Forums are a kind of orgy of conflicting negative impulses-- manically swinging between over-simplifying and over-complicating everything, and rabidly defending both. I had somebody fighting with me last night about it over on drummarworld.

The regular hard damn job of learning to play looks like a really clean process in comparison to that.

Michael Griener said...

The claim that everything in drumming is made up of "singles, doubles and flams" (and I'm guilty of saying it many times myself) is comparable to saying that all matter is made up of atoms.
It is certainly true, but that does not explain the diversity of things, living beings and everything else.
A big problem of this time is that everything is reduced to the "how", sometimes one still cares about the "what", but at the latest before the "why" it stops, because nobody has the time for it anymore.
A friend once told me: "Art is created by the waste of time".
Effectiveness is a fetish these days when learning skills, but at the same time what this friend also said is true: "Detours increase local knowledge".
I believe that these individual detours are important to find one's own expression and voice.
This is something that no one seems to care about.
There's no effective way to become an artist.

Todd Bishop said...

Thanks for that-- I agree completely. I think that efficiency business is part of the drum corpsification of art-- making it so motivated people who would not otherwise be artists can do impressive (but meaningless) work.

I sometimes think this site presents a kind of distorted view of my actual philosophy-- I'm not a technocrat. Most of what I do developed purely organically, which is hard to write about. It's just in the last ~15+ years that I've started trying to add some things to that, that are pretty foreign to my actual instincts, but have been useful.

Todd Bishop said...

(and I'm guilty of saying it many times myself)

Oh, and sorry! I've probably mentioned to my students that that's what's in the major snare drum books I use-- singles, rolls, flams, accents. There's a context where it makes sense to point it out. It's a small point, people shouldn't be coming away thinking oh, all I have to do is running singles/doubles and I'm set.