Drum Stroke Rolls: Applications Of The Rudiments

Posted in Learn | Last Updated on October 4, 2018

Single Stroke Roll

The single stroke roll is the simplest, most fundamental rudiment for the drumset. It may seem simple, easily mastered, and "over-lookable", but be warned: it's one of the best options for playing almost any figure or fill around the drumset.

What is the single stroke roll? It's as simple as it sounds; alternating strokes, from hand to hand, "right, left, right, left", and so on. It is even referred to as playing "hand to hand" by some drummers.

How Versatile Is It?

When most people learn rudiments, they're eager to apply them to fills. But often, singles are a simpler, easier to play option. It's easier to "execute" (i.e. learning the pattern, it's just alternating hands), and it's easier to control dynamics (try playing a paradiddle with even dynamics. It's much easier in singles.)

Here's an example of a fill that sounds like it must be some sort of double paradiddle or paradiddle-diddle variation. Nope! It's only singles.

The example above is a single stroke roll meant to sound like a sextuplet played behind the beat, when in fact it is actually evenly spaced quintuplets stretched over the space of 6 beats (a 5:6 polyrhythm).

It may sound complicated, but it's just an example of how RLRLRLRL, a single stroke roll, can be applied to some pretty complex stuff.

Work On Your Singles

Singles are simple to develop, but are great for all sorts of things. How do you work on them? Many drummers talk about using wrist strokes on a pillow, and practicing finger strokes on a practice pad. These are great methods! Use a metronome and make sure you're always playing with a good time feel. Also, try practicing on a real drum. That way, you can work on getting a good sound at the same time.

When practicing rudiments, an even sound is key!

Another great exercise for your singles is to play them around the drum kit. Try playing them so that you're forced to "cross over" from drum to drum in uncomfortable ways. This will develop your quickness around the drums. See the video below to know what I'm talking about. (Again, the video will be updated shortly! But this one gets the message across.)


Double Stroke Roll

The double stroke roll is incredibly common and practical. It's a part of nearly every other rudiment, as well as the being to key to an "open drum roll".

While I still think the single stroke roll is the most practical and useful rudiment to know, the double stroke is a close second. It's the gateway to all the complexities that drum techniques and rudiments have to offer. If we can get a solid, even double stroke going, the rest of our technique is not too far away.

A double stroke roll is fairly simple. For those of you wondering what it is, it's just

Right, Right, Left, Left...


The trick to playing an even, smooth double stroke is emphasizing the second attack in each hand during practice.

The reason we emphasize the second note in each hand is because this note tends to be weaker than the first when most people play a double. They don't know about the technique I'm going to show you, and they just let gravity do all the work. The result is this...

  • The first note has your hand's force behind it. It's louder and more powerful.
  • The second note relies on the rebound of the drum head, and then gravity to pull it back down. It's never going to be as strong as the first attack unless you intervene!

Emphasizing that second note will at first sound lopsided the other way, but if you work on pulling out the second note, the roll WILL correct itself and sound even.

Push Pull Technique In Doubles

To help emphasize that second note that we're talking about in your double stroke roll, you can employ the push-pull technique.

This technique is all about efficiency. You're getting two notes for the price of one. Here's a step by step guide...

  • Throw your stick down using the wrist or forearm.
  • Let the stick bounce freely off of the surface. Your fingers should provide no resistance. Instead, they should "ride" the stick's momentum back into an open position. It takes practice to learn how to time this correctly.
  • Snap your fingers shut, propelling the stick back into the drum. Do this as you lift your wrist back up to a ready position.

What's happening here, is that you're taking full advantage of the mechanics of your hand. So many people will throw with the wrist, then physically lift the stick up, and then throw the stick down again for their next stroke. They neglect the fact that they're able to get 2 strokes on the drum for everyone 1 stroke in the wrist.

While you're down there, you might as well play another stroke on the way up!

We have another page dedicated to the push-pull, but it's focused on streams of notes instead of use in a double stroke roll.

Practical Uses

The double stroke has a couple practical uses.

  • Playing faster than you can with a single stroke roll. Using the efficiency of the push-pull, you can use doubles to outperform your singles when the going gets too fast.
  • Being a part of 99% of the other rudiments. Paradiddles, paradiddle-diddles, ratamacues, drags, strings of consecutive flams, and the list goes on and on.
  • Playing an open roll. This is a drum roll but is a little different than the press roll. The open roll is simply a double stroke roll played smooth and fast. It ends up being a wall of sound but is less dense than a press roll. I demonstrate it in the video above.

Five Stroke Roll

The five-stroke roll is another great, useful rudiment.

Like most rudiments, I find it helps to understand the five stroke roll as being made up of smaller components. Most rudiments are all combinations of doubles and singles. This particular one is just a double in the right, then a double in the left, then you land on a single stroke in the hand you started (in this case the right). Obviously, it can and should be practiced in both directions, starting with right and starting with left.

RRLL R ... LLRR L

It has the potential to be played in several situations.

  • You could play it as a roll on the snare and play the last note on a crash cymbal.
  • Play it as a roll on the snare and then accent the last note on the snare as well. This could be used to cut out on a break or to suddenly drop in dynamics (volume).
  • Many people use a five-stroke roll on the hi-hats, as ornamentation to their grooves. For example, they'd play it as 16th notes in an 8th note groove, or 32nd notes in a 16th note groove.

Another possible use of this rudiment might be in open/spacy/almost-rubato sections of music, where one would play short rolls on the cymbals. The 5-stroke-roll is very common in passages like this and is pretty effective.

The Nature Of These Rolls

Most of these rudiments with a number, followed by "stroke roll" are all just derivatives of a simple double stroke roll. The term double stroke roll implies that the length is not defined and that they can go on forever. When you put a number in front of it, you're telling the drummer exactly how long his double stroke roll should be.

In this particular case, we're dealing with the number 5, but there are plenty of different "___ Stroke Roll"s that you'll encounter while reading sheet music or learning solos. 7, 9, 11, 13, etc. stroke rolls are all really the same thing, just longer or shorter than each other. They're all just double stroke rolls. SO when you're learning these rudiments, it's much, much easier to realize that you don't have to learn a bunch of different movements, because most of these rudiments are made up of the same, simple movements.


Seven Stroke Roll

Like the 5 stroke roll before it, the seven stroke roll is simply a double stroke roll that has a fixed length. In this case, it would be (obviously enough)... 7 notes.

The rudiment is just 3 double strokes in a row (RR LL RR), followed by a single stroke (L in this case). Before learning this rudiment, or any other of the controlled drum roll rudiments (5, 7, 9, 11 stroke rolls, etc.), you need to have perfected your double stroke roll. All of these rudiments are basically just double stroke rolls. Being able to play them longer or shorter is something a kindergarten student can do; it's just simple counting. However, being able to play a clean double stroke roll takes the most time out of all these things, so work on that first!

The rudiment, from both sides, looks like this...

RRLLRRL

LLRRLLR

Example From The Pros

I know I mention him a lot, but when I hear "seven stroke roll", I can't help but think of a Keith Carlock lick/fill. Written out, it looks like this...

This could be the last bar of an 8 bar groove, for example.

Note: the backbeat on beat 3 of this final bar is played with the right hand so that the 7-stroke roll starts in the left hand so that the crash comes out in the right (strong) hand on the downbeat.

Other Ways To Use It

I probably couldn't even think of all the ways to use a seven-stroke roll, let alone write them all here, But here are some of my suggestions.

  • Use it on your hi-hat in a back-beat groove. You could place it anywhere, but one way I'm currently thinking of would be to start it on the "and" of 3 with the right hand, then play it as sixteenth notes. It will land in the left hand on beat 1, where you could play it as an open hi-hat stroke. Once you can do it, try moving it around to different beats.
  • You could use it as a set-up to a break on a downbeat. Again, starting on the "and" of three (if the break is on beat 1), you could play it as 16th notes leading to the break.
  • Back to the hi-hat, you could start the roll on the "and" of 1 in the right hand. Then roll would come out on beat 2, which you could play as the backbeat the snare drum. You can repeat the process on the "and" of three as well. This would make for an interesting, intricate-sounding backbeat groove.

There are probably thousands of other ways to do it. Mess around with the rudiment, and see where your ear tells you to play it. You might be surprised with how well your ear will lead you in the direction!


Double Paradiddle

The double paradiddle is a simple variation of the paradiddle. It has several practical applications and is a good rudiment to practice.

I know that personally, I used to get confused between double paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles. Before we begin, I'll just give you a quick, easy way to remember which one is which: If we think of "para" as meaning one set of singles (RL), and "diddle" as meaning one double stroke (RR or LL), we can tell which rudiment is which by its name. "Double Para" means there are two sets of singles (RL, RL or "para para"), "diddle-diddle" means two consecutive doubles (RRLL). Paradiddle-diddle would then be RLRRLL RLRRLL, whereas double-paradiddles would be...

RLRLRR LRLRLL

Hope this clears it up!

Some Uses Of The Rudiment

I'd first like to stress the importance of developing your single stroke roll, as well as your double stroke roll. Double-paradiddles are simple combination of singles and doubles. If both of those building blocks are strong, this rudiment can be played in no time at all.

It can be used to play melodies around the drum kit. Like many rudiments, double-paradiddles create a unique melody when played on two separate instruments of the drum set. By getting these rudiments firmly under your hands, you'll be able to play the melody of the double paradiddle without even thinking about it, simply when your ears feel it needs to be played.

I think the best/ most common use of double paradiddles is in a groove setting. One of the more widely played 12/8 grooves consists only of double-paradiddles! I cover it in the above video, but here it is written out for you...
12/8 groove

This 12/8 groove is very common. It's felt in triplets, and can be played with the sticking "RLRLRR LRLRLL".
Even Strokes Are Key

When you work on this or any rudiment, you've got to keep your strokes even. Most rudiments have places where accents occur naturally. We can use this to our advantage, but if we are to be in control, we need to be able to let these accents happen or not.

Areas, where double strokes occur, will almost always present changes in dynamics. It is a bit difficult to play these parts of the rudiments evenly, so we must pay extra attention.

I also think it bears repeating that we should always practice with a metronome! If you can't make the double-paradiddle groove, it's not worth playing.