YOU'VE HAD SOME TIME to perfect your paradiddles, so why not start to apply the principle to practical rhythms? Given that the bass drum and snare playing against each other is the basis of most rhythms, let's add the paradiddle to this equation. The simplest way to do this is to play the right hand's part with the right foot (on the bass drum) as in Diagram E. Play it very slowly to begin with, and try to get it as even as you can.
To follow the rest of this article, you'll need another painless lesson in the strange but logical art of reading music, Here we go. If you put a dot after a note, it increases its length by half again. So, for instance, if you have a crotchet, and you put a dot after it, it becomes a crotchet and a half, with the length of three quavers added together instead of two. The most commonly used figure is the "dotted crotchet, quaver", or "1 2 3 and", where the "1 2 3" is the dotted crotchet, and the "and" is the quaver.
You'll also need to know about rests. As the name suggests, these are the signs that show you when not to play, and for how long. See Diagram F for examples of the different rest symbols and their respective lengths.
Right. Now for some of that independence of limbs I talked about before. It's time to release your right foot from your right hand. (And no, this is not a contortionist's trick.) First of all, practise playing alternate beats, slow and steady, between-your right hand (on hi-hat) and your right foot (on bass drum). Then go on to try the exercises in Diagrams G and H.
When you're happy with these exercises (well, who's ever happy doing exercises?) try this. Play the paradiddle between right foot and left hand as before, but this time hold a constant beat on the hi-hat with your right hand. You can see what this looks like written down in Diagram I - ignore the brackets for the moment.
The trick with this is to concentrate on the points where your right hand plays, ie. on the beat. The first and second beats of the bar coincide with the right foot, the third and fourth on the left hand. Make sure you play these dead on with the hi-hat.
Again, start slow and don't speed up too soon - there's no point trying to race.
Now I'm going to tell you what you just did is useless. It's not that you'll never play it, but really it's a bit too busy to keep up as a rhythm pattern. The way to use it is as a framework on which to "hang" a rhythm. You play some notes from it, and leave some others out. Which notes you play from it depends on what you think sounds good. So, for instance, if you play the pattern in Diagram I, but omit the bracketed notes, you'll get Diagram J. Try it.
Once you've mastered this, you an devise your own variations by playing around in the same way with the paradiddle framework. The beauty of it is that you can play a slightly different variant every bar, if you want to. And you can mix in elements of non-paradiddle rhythms anywhere you like. For instance, the final quaver of the bar, played on the snare in the paradiddle framework, provides an excellent lead-in to a regular fill - say of quavers played with alternate sticks across the toms.
To further complicate matters, if you're mad enough, you can vary the paradiddle itself. The easiest of the variations is simply to reverse the pattern, turning RLRRLRLL into LRLLRLRR. It's quite tricky to do, but if you reverse the paradiddle framework in the last bar, for example, of an eight-bar phrase, it makes for a useful snare fill, as in Diagram K. Ironically, reversing the paradiddle like this actually reinforces the effect when you return to the basic pattern.
The paradiddle framework is also perfect for "syncopated" rhythms. "Syncopation" is a long word for a simple idea. It means stressing any note apart from those which are naturally stressed in the beat of the music. In a bar of four beats, that means anything apart from those that are on-beat - like the second quaver of the bar, or the fourth, or the last quaver of the bar.
Once you're confident playing rhythms based on the paradiddle framework, try accenting one of these "off" beats as you play. It adds a completely different dimension to the rhythm.
Syncopation is especially common in jazz, funk and other music that is essentially dance-oriented, but it'll lighten up your rhythm whatever style you choose to play.
Next time, the all-important details: flams, triplets and more tips on hi-hat playing.
Do It Yourself
Feature by Trevor Parsons
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