Every now and then whilst practicing the drums I get a “Eureka” moment. I suddenly realise something new about the drums or notice something new about the way I’m playing that I didn’t see before, such as hand technique or thinking about a drum lick in a new and different way.
Well, it was the day before writing this drum lesson that I had my own drumming realisation. They don’t happen very often these days so when they do happen they’re extra special. They give me something new and exciting to work on! A weakness in my playing that I’ve discovered that I can now fix with focused and regular practice. I’m on the road to improvement again after finding a “kink” in my drum playing.
My Eureka moment occurred whist playing single stroke accents on the snare drum whilst also trying to incorporate the bass drum (both single and double) in and around these accents. I soon discovered that there were certain variations that I really struggled with. I couldn’t work out why I had never noticed this before. It really isn’t an exaggeration when I say that it was quite surreal for me. I was trying to play bass drum notes before the accents on the snare drum when I discovered that this did not come naturally to me. Playing bass drum notes after the accents was no problem at all, but before, that was something different.
So it’s with this personal short fall in mind that I write this drum lesson. Not only to hopefully shed some light on your own drumming but also as a way for me to crystallize in my own head my own practice requirements. Lets work on this together then 🙂
This drum lesson is going to look at playing accents (loud notes) within a single stroke roll (RLRL) whilst at the same time placing single and double bass drum notes before and after the accents. The ability to be thinking about accents whilst using the bass drum to emphasis or “underline” the hand accent is a great tool. The hand accent acts as a marker for the bass drum note as we will discover.
Hand Accent Patterns (Templates)
The first stage is to have a set of hand accents to work with, a template if you will. These Accent Templates will be used to help practice our bass drum placement.
Theses accent templates could have been any random accent pattern. It actually doesn’t matter what pattern you use, the bass drum rules we are going to learn can be applied to any accent pattern and in any time signature or subdivision. As long as as there’s a single stroke pattern containing accents this lessons techniques can be applied.
Important: Throughout this lesson the drummers focus should always be on the accents played by the hands. The bass drum is going to enhance these accents and should be thought of us an “embellishment” to the hand accents. That way, when you get to play your own accent patterns you can be thinking purely about the hands and be using the bass drum foot as an embellishment for the accents. This mind set will help the technique to become a useable and practical drum solo and drum fill tool.
The following are the four accent templates we are going to use throughout this lesson.
Accent Template 1
Focusing on the downbeat of the bar with just one left handed accent on the “e” of beat 3.
Accent Template 2
Accenting every third sixteenth note. The hands alternate from right to left.
Accent Template 3
This pattern contains two groups of two accents, one starting with the left hand and one starting with the right.
Accent Template 4
Odd groupings of fives throughout this accent pattern. Two accents in a row with the right hand, then left and then the right hand again.
These four templates give us a varied and healthy mix of accents using both hands. Try to play these four accent patterns comfortably and smoothly before applying the bass drum next.
The end result with this lesson is to give you the tools to be able to play any accent pattern whilst applying different bass drum permutations in and around the accents. Lets see the first bass drum application now…
Applying The Bass Drum Before The Accents (Single Bass Drum Foot)
This is what I found so difficult to play. I just wasn’t used to improvising an accent pattern that was proceeded with bass drum notes. This seems silly to me now because it’s such an obvious thing to be able to play but I found that proceeding the left hand with a bass drum note was…well, tricky. I can play a pattern if it’s written out but improvising with the bass drum before accents, whilst in the moment, just didn’t come naturally to me.
The following exercises will help explain what I mean and will hopefully give you some new and cool sounding ideas to work on. The ability to proceed hand accents with bass drum notes while your focus remains on the accents is truly a great drumming skill to have in your “stick bag”.
Each of the accent pattern templates from above will be written again this time with a single bass drum foot proceeding each accent. This gives the accent pattern forward momentum as each accent sounds like it’s being “pushed into” by the proceeding bass drum note. This is the most popular way this technique is used and so might deserve the majority of your time and concentration when practicing.
Practice Tip: Try to ensure that the hands remain even and are played as RLRL throughout. The bass drum is to be played at EXACTLY the same time as the hands written above it. You’ll notice that the an accent played with the left hand is proceeded with a bass drum note falling on the right hand and vice versa. Use this knowledge to help you play all four patterns smoothly.
Important: Again, it’s worth pointing out that with ALL of the exercise in this lesson your focus (and ears) needs to remain on the accents, this is after all what you’re musically trying to communicate to the audience. The bass drum needs to remain a side thought and is only meant to be used as an embellishment. That way when you play your own accent patterns the bass drum will naturally and (eventually) instinctively be placed before each accent.
Single Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 1)
Single Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 2)
Single Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 3)
Single Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 4)
Applying The Bass Drum After The Accents (Single Bass Drum Foot)
As the title suggests, this time we have the same accent templates but with the bass drum following the accents.
This has the opposite effect of the previous exercises. Now the bass drum gives “grounding” to the accent pattern. The bass drum notes end each accent with a solid and definite full stop. It’s hard to put into words but it always feels like the bass drum drags, giving a rather cool “feel” to the pattern.
Practice Tip: Again, try to ensure that the hands remain even and that the bass drum plays EXACTLY at the same time as the corresponding hand above it. Notice how, again, all accents played with the left hand are followed with bass drum note played at the same time as the right hand and vice versa. This is important to notice as it allows you to gain a full and deeper understanding of the technique.
Single Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 1)
Single Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 2)
Single Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 3)
Single Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 4)
Applying The Bass Drum Before The Accents (Double Bass Drum Foot)
For the final half of this drum lesson we will look at applying exactly the same ideas to the four Accent Templates as before but this time using a double bass drum pedal instead. If you do not own two bass drums or a double bass drum pedal then you can still play these patterns with a single bass drum, it just might be at a slower tempo.
Each of the single “Sixteenth Note” bass drum notes from the previous exercises will be doubled into two “Thirty Second Notes”. Don’t worry if these two terms don’t mean anything to you. What we are effectively doing is starting the bass drum in the same place but playing a second bass drum note right after the first but still before the hand accent.
Lets look at the first example to get a better understanding of what I mean…
Double Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 1)
As you can see, each of the bass drum notes are now doubled and can be played either RL or LR with your bass drum feet. The first of the two bass drum notes starts EXACTLY where it did before (still played at the same time as the corresponding hand above it) but this time we play a second bass drum note evenly between the first bass drum and the accent.
This accent technique gives real forward momentum to an accent pattern. The use of powerful bass drum doubles when played precisely and with control makes a really strong effect. I work on these patterns on a regular basis now as I think they sound awesome!
Practice Tip: You might find starting a bass drum double whilst playing the left hand at the same time a little more awkward than the right hand so play all of these patterns slowly at first, paying close attention to where the bass drums line up with the hands. Your technique for playing double bass drum notes starting with the left hand (before the right handed accents) is definitely something to look out for when practicing.
Here now is the rest of the Accent Templates…
Double Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 2)
Double Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 3)
Double Bass Drum Before Accent (Accent Template 4)
Applying The Bass Drum After The Accents (Double Bass Drum Foot)
This final section of the drum lesson will look at playing bass drum doubles after the hand accents. The same technique issues apply as before so nothing more needs to be said on this matter. Just be extra careful when playing those doubles with the left hand…they’re a bit of a bugger! 😀
Double Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 1)
Double Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 2)
Double Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 3)
Double Bass Drum After Accent (Accent Template 4)
Final Thought: As mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, this technique can be applied to accents in different time signatures and different subdivisions. Any time you have a single stroke accent pattern you can use this technique to emphasise and highlight accents with the bass drum. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in 5/4 or played through triplets, the same rules apply.
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