The Flam is a funky little rudiment that can be placed anywhere in your playing. The beauty of this rudiment is that it can be added to any other rudiment you can imagine.
It’s simply one accent note preceded by a light and quiet grace note. The accent note is played with one hand and the grace note is played with the other.
The key to playing the Flam correctly is to ensure that the two notes are as close to each other as possible without falling at the same time. The grace note always falls before the accent note.
To make sure the Flam is executed correctly both hands must be placed at the correct heights. The accent note hand should be about 12 inches from the drum while the grace note should be about 1 inch from the drum. If the hands are played at the correct heights then the Flams dynamics will not only sound correct (Accent = Loud / Grace = Quiet) but will also be easier to play faster.
The Flam is used a lot in loud and rocky music styles because it gives the drummer a louder and more “meaty” sounding accent note. One drummer that uses the Flam a lot in his playing is Dave Grohl so check out any recording from Nirvanas “Nevermind” album for lots of examples of Flam use. It’s worth noting that the Flam can be found in any style of music though.
If this is the first time you’ve played a Flam then don’t worry about alternating hands. Simply work on the Right hand Flam first and then move to the Left hand Flam. Once you’re comfortable with the individual hands then try playing the exercise above with alternating Flams.
Remember to play both the accent and grace notes as closely to each other as possible without them falling together. The opposite applies as well; if the two notes are too far apart then it will sound like two individual notes and not a Flam.
The Flam – Faster
This is exactly the same as the first exercises except written in eighth notes. The idea is to increase the speed you are able to execute alternating Flams at. You will find it difficult to play these at fast tempos as the hands have to do a lot of complicated movement. Speed isn’t as important as the sound – make sure they sound correct!
Isolated Flam Hands
This exercise is a way of working on one Flam hand at a time. The grace note hand feels like its simply playing a line of notes while the accent hand performs the Flam when required, in this case, every two notes.
You can of course lengthen the number of notes between Flams to create your own rhythmic ideas.
Don’t forget to try both Left and Right hands.
Flam Rudiment Variations
Due to the nature of the Flam, it’s able to be added to many other rudiments creating Flam hybrids that can be a lot of fun to play and be used in creative ways.
The following exercises are some of the most popular Flam rudiments and hybrids.
The Flam Tap
Think of this rudiment as doubles with a Flam added to the front of each double. This rudiment is an effective and easy way of executing Flams every two notes.
The Inverted Flam Tap
As the name suggests this is the Flam Tap but inverted. The best way to think of this is as inverted doubles (RLLRRLLR).
Unlike the Flam Tap, the opposite hand plays the note after the Flam. This means that both of these rudiments are going to feel very different.
The Flam Accent
The name for this rudiment doesn’t really describe how it’s built and played. The Flam Accent can be thought of as triplets with an Accent at the beginning of each. Or another way of thinking of it is as alternating singles with a Flam on every third note.
The Flams alternate so this is a great rudiment to practice both Flam hands with. This rudiment can be used within single stroke rolls to execute Flams every three notes.
The Flam Drag
This rudiment takes the Flam and places if before a drag note. Think of this as the Flam Accent rudiment but the middle note has been doubled.
Be careful that the doubled note is played smoothly and doesn’t turn the whole rudiment into four evenly spaced notes (i.e. LR-LL-R turns into LRLLR).
Another great rudiment created from this variation is explained next.
The “Bloosh-Da” – Unofficial Hybrid
The name comes from the sound it makes when performed, its name is an onomatopoeia. The actual sound is more like “Bloosh-Der-Da” if you want to imagine a sound.
This hybrid has been made famous by super talented drummers such as Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl amongst others. In their hands this little rudiment can be played at super fast tempos and sounds incredible when moved around the kit!
Most drummers find it difficult to execute this rudiment cleanly at high tempos so stick with it and you’ll eventually get there.
Swiss Army Triplets
The Swiss Army Triplet is a popular rudiment in its own right. One of the great drummers Tony Williams used the Swiss Army Triplet a lot in his solos.
It is often used in the place of a Flam Accent, since repeated Flam Accents will have three taps on the same hand in a row, where repeated Swiss Army Triplets only involve two taps on the same hand. This means that this rudiment can be executed faster then the Flam Accent.
Both sticking suggestions underneath should be tried to ensure both hands can execute the rudiment successfully.
You guest it! The Paradiddle with a flam at the beginning, it’s as simple as that.
Single Flammed Mill
The name doesn’t suggest that this is simply an Inverted Paradiddle (RRLR LLRL) with a Flam at the beginning. It could be called the Inverted Flam Paradiddle but gets its own special name instead.
Another rudiment that uses an onomatopoeia in its name. It’s a four note single stroke idea with Flams placed on the first and last note. This is also another hard one to play fast but feels and sounds great.
The Flam Paradiddle-diddle
Again, the name says it all.
As you can see, the Flam is an incredibly versatile rudiment and appears in many ideas and styles. Its well worth your time learning to play the Flam correctly and effectively as the possible uses for it are endless.
Whether it’s wanting new ways to move your hands around the kit or a strong and unique Accent sound is required, the Flam is a great rudiment to use.
Although it’s simply not necessary to become a master at all of these rudiment variations it is recommended that you at least become familiar with them. You can then take your favourites and develop them further.
I do think that the Flam Accent is probably one of the most useful variations as it teaches you how to insert Flams into a single stroke roll with both hands. This rudiment can then be expanded so that Flam notes could be dropped into a single stroke roll wherever desired – very useful!
Further lessons on the Flam will be coming soon looking at how to move the Flam around the drums and the many ways it can be used in context with drum beats and drum fills.
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