By Ed Flack ©2014
Drum strokes are the various techniques of striking a drumhead with a drumstick. More specifically, when we talk about strokes, we are referring to the dynamics of the stick in motion and how the energy of its momentum is imparted to the drum to produce a specific kind of sound. A drum stroke is considered to be a single motion from where it starts to where it ends, but it is also useful to break that motion down into component parts to understand how it is controlled.
Understanding drum strokes is the key to fluent and consistent drumming. Grip (how the stick is held) is a factor in the sense that different muscles can be used to initiate force, but the motion of a specified stroke must exhibit the same characteristics regardless of the grip method used. In fact, an incorrect grip may be defined as any method used that interferes with the efficient execution of a stroke.
Drum stroke techniques can be divided into four categories: single strokes, double strokes, multiple-beat strokes, and collateral strokes. There are many possible variations with interdependent combinations that can blur the lines between categories. Studying the differences, mastering the techniques, and knowing when and how to use each stroke are all parts of the science behind the skill of artful drumming. The best stroke selection will be influenced by factors such as tempo, dynamics, and rhythm.
Identifying individual drum stroke techniques, organizing them into categories, and explaining them is a challenging task. The result of such an endeavor can be controversial due in part to the fact that different labels are often used to describe identical techniques. Adding to the confusion, dissimilar techniques sometimes have similar names. Even when drummers completely agree on the name, definition, and use of a specific stroke, they may differ slightly in their personal executions of the technique.
In his book, The Sturtze Drum Instructor, Earl Sturtze wrote, “The author has instructed hundreds of students and in no case have two drummers performed exactly alike, although they were taught to play the same. In every case, some movements which are natural for one are not natural for others.”
1. Earl Sturtze, The Sturtze Drum Instructor (Ivoryton: Reissued by The Company of Fifers and Drummers, orig. 1956), 15.