ON THE MENU this time, some spicy details to add to your basic rhythmic diet. We've got flams, triplets, semiquavers and accents on the hit-hat, as well as some tips on playing the ride.
First off, try the flam. This is an obscure word for an easy idea - two sticks being played together. Or almost together, because if they hit the head at exactly the same moment, you get a deadened sound. Try it, to see what I mean, and then avoid it. What you want to do is get as near as possible. Hold one stick higher than the other, and then bring them down at the same rate, so that (stone me!) one stick hits the head before the other. Practise it both ways round, left and right, (lefthanders, as ever, please reverse).
Use a flam anywhere you need a strong accent. It's especially useful on the snare, where a flam instead of the ordinary, single-stick off-beat is a nice touch, if used sparingly. On the toms, it makes a great lead-in to a semiquaver fill, for example.
Up till now, we've been dividing beats into two and four. But it's just as easy to make a beat into three parts - forming what's known as a triplet. If you divide a crotchet into three, it's written like three quavers bracketed together. There are several ways of sticking a triplet - RLR, LRL, LRR, RLL - and you should practise them all. But the last of these is the most useful, since it gives you the strength of the right hand on the beginning of the triplet, and the start of the next beat. To play RLL at speed, you'll need to use the double bounce you learned doing the paradiddle. Practise playing a triplet into a beat, as in Diagram G, slowly at first, making the bounce as clean and even as you can. You'll get chance to use it in a rhythm...
...When I've said a bit more about the hi-hat. To date, you've only been using the right stick on the hi-hat, but - surprise, surprise - you can use both. The rhythm to learn is semiquavers on the hi-hat, 16 to the bar, played with alternate sticks. The off-beat snare is put in with the right hand. You can see what it looks like in Diagram H. Start slowly, and relax into the rhythm, making sure you pulse the bass drum and snare beats strongly. When, and only when, you're totally at home with this, tantalize yourself with a more complex bass drum pattern, such as the one in Diagram I.
Other possibilities include dropping in a couple of beats onto the snare (keeping the alternate-stick pattern going) say, one or two semiquavers before the off-beat you're playing anyway, as in Diagram J. This rhythm is also the perfect opportunity to use your newly-practised triplets. In place of the last two semiquavers in the Diagrams H or I, put in a triplet (RLL). You'll be surprised how much it lightens up the feel.
And finally, the ride cymbal. Everything we've done so far has been on the hi-hat, just for the sake of simplicity. But all these rhythms, with the exception of alternate-stick semiquavers, can be easily played on the ride. And what's more, the ride offers its own possibilities. The note sustains, unlike the closed hi-hat, and this makes it able to match certain textures in what the rest of your band is playing. The ride tends to be used to accompany passages of open strumming on the guitar, for instance, while the "voicing" potential of the hi-hat links up better with stopped, rhythmic riffs. Experiment, and find out what you think sounds best with what.
Different ride cymbals have different properties. Some rock-style rides refuse to do anything but go "ping" however hard you hit them. Others have the rapacity to build in volume and overtones, which you can use creatively to build up the intensity in a groove. You can get a different sound from any ride, though, if you concentrate on the bell. Playing the bell makes a... well, a bell-like sound, which pierces through. It's particularly used when stressing the on-beat of a rhythm. You still play eight quavers to the bar, but the first, third, fifth, and seventh (the on-beats, in other words) are heavily accented. Another technique to try is adding in semiquavers to quaver patterns, which hurries the feel along. Examples are given in Diagrams K and L.
Next time: putting it all together. Some hints on how to approach playing with other people.
Do It Yourself
Feature by Trevor Parsons
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