by Ed Flack, ©2015
Earl Sturtze said, “The three basic rudiments of drumming are the Single Stroke Roll, the Long Roll, and the Flams. All other rudiments are derived from different combinations of these three.” He also said, “Some experts claim that, since the ‘flam’ is a derivative of the ‘single stroke roll’ there should only be TWO basic rudiments.”
Many years later, Thom Hannum made a similar observation when he wrote, “There are three beat patterns which form the basis of most rudimental and orchestral passages: single, double, and triple beats.” Hannum does not specifically name the flam among the three beat patterns, which he also called the “three keys.”
Sturtze’s case for distinguishing the flam as independent from the single stroke roll is strong because flamming requires a collateral action between hands to combine a high primary stroke with a low grace note. Furthermore, the individual stroke by each hand can be either a high-to-low, or low-to-high motion, whereas roll single strokes are played at equal heights. With this in mind, learning to control two-height accent-to-tap, and tap-to-accent strokes is the gateway to advanced flam execution.
There are four widely-known exercises that form the core of a successful warm-up and practice routine because they engage all the basic beat patterns identified by Sturtze and Hannum: 1. eight-on-a-hand (one-height); 2. bucks (two-heights); 3. Sanford double beat; 4. Sanford triple beat.
Each foundational exercise is designed to be practiced one hand at a time. The advantages of working each hand in isolation is to allow focused attention on specific motions, grip and playing positions until all actions are performed consistently and without flaw. Once each hand has those motions programmed into muscle memory, you can bring both hands together to coordinate specific sticking sequences with a much better chance of achieving an even balance in hand-to-hand motions and sound.
Another way of using one-handed exercises to build balance and fluidity is to practice them as simultaneous double-stops. With both hands playing the same thing at the same time you can precisely match stroke motions, stick heights and volume. When all aspects of a pattern match up in unison they should blend beautifully when played in alternation.
Follow this link to a video demo of foundational exercises.
1. Earl Sturtze, The Sturtze Drum Instructor (Ivoryton: Reissued by The Company of Fifers and Drummers, orig. 1956), 10.
2. Thom Hannum, Championship Concepts for Marching Percussion (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, 1989): 8.