Double Stroke Roll
This rudiment is commonly referred to as the long roll. Older generations used to refer to it affectionately as the “mama-dada” rudiment. This phrase connects with students because when said aloud, it sounds a lot like the double stroke roll itself. Our old friend onomatopoeia is at work here again. (See FIGURE 6-6.)
We can use “mama-dada” to learn about the double stroke roll. You'll see that this phrase has four syllables, just as one cycle of the long roll contains four notes. The long roll also has two parts, just like mama-dada. Also, both mama-dada and the long roll are symmetrical. The double stroke roll is made up of two rights and two lefts. Similarly, mama-dada contains two syllables per word.
FIGURE 6-6 Double stroke roll
Typically, this roll is taught using the open-closed-open approach. In the closed position, it should have a machine-gun effect similar to the single stroke roll.
What Is a Closed Roll?
There is some dispute over what closed means in drumming. Some contend that a closed roll is equivalent to a buzz roll. Others claim that closed simply refers to the peak speed, not necessarily a change in the amount of notes played in one cycle.
What's the difference? A double stroke roll uses two, and only two, notes per hand. The buzz roll uses multiple bounces. When playing the latter, each hand plays four to six very tight bounces, creating a buzzing sound.
Orchestral drummers commonly use buzz rolls because it has a smooth, refined tone. Because of this, the buzz roll is often referred to as an orchestral roll. On the other hand, marching drummers never use the buzz roll. They maintain a strict double stroke at all times. Drum set players use both freely.
You will enjoy choosing the rolls that best fit the music you play. For now, do not confuse or combine the double stroke roll with the buzz roll, as this will only interfere in your technique building. And when you play the closed portion of the roll, always use doubles.
Learning the proper way to execute a double stroke roll requires hard work and patience. You will not learn how to play this roll overnight. In fact, it could take you months. But be optimistic and gauge your progress by recording your roll once a week. Compare each recording and critique your work as you see fit.
As previously stated, when you play a long roll, you will play two notes per hand. The first note is called the primary stroke. The second note, not surprisingly, is called the secondary stroke. Your work with the whole and half strokes will come into play a great deal here.
After you play the primary stroke, allow your stick to rebound. The second note should be the result of the bounce, not a forced wrist movement. If you hear an accent on the primary stroke, this is okay. Later, you will learn — quite naturally — how to play this roll with an even dynamic. You will even learn, with a little practice, how to accentuate the secondary note. This will occur after you've developed finger technique.
In the first stages, practice slow, even double strokes and think snap-bounce as you strike the drum. Don't worry about playing the open-closed-open approach just yet. Concentrate on the snap-bounce feel. Use your wrist for the primary stroke snap. After the secondary bounce, gently cup your fingers around the stick to stop it from bouncing again.
Increasing Your Speed
As you gain proficiency with this, you can begin to increase your speed. When doing so, keep the pulse and the space in between the primary and secondary strokes even and articulate. You do not want the roll to sound like a bag of marbles falling down a stairwell. When you increase speed, you will not need to cup your fingers around the stick to stop it from bouncing multiple times. Leave the stick in motion and guide it with a wrist/finger combination.
Playing a roll at fast speed is like playing a game of paddleball. Remember Newton's Third Law: For every action there is a reaction. Don't interfere in this natural movement. Put the stick into motion and guide it with your wrists and fingers.
To propel the sticks faster, use your fingers as you did with the single stroke roll. The only difference is that you shouldn't put your hands in a thumbs-up position. You need to use a combination of wrists and fingers to play the double stroke roll, so put your hands in a position that is halfway between the palm-flat and thumbs-up positions. By doing this, you will get the full range of motion needed in both your wrists and fingers.
Now let's take FIGURE 6-6and rewrite it using the double-stroke sticking. As before, we'll refer to this as the “step” method. The step method will improve your sense of rhythmic relationships, reinforce the hand techniques spelled out previously, and improve your sense of time. See FIGURE 6-7.
Lastly, FIGURE 6-8is an advanced double stroke roll variation. You should not attempt this until you can play the traditional long roll. In the following exercise, you will see that accents have been added to the secondary strokes. By bringing out the secondary strokes, you will develop more articulate finger control.
FIGURE 6-7 Double stroke using step method
FIGURE 6-8 Double stroke accenting secondary strokes