Wednesday, February 4, 2015

On A Roll


How many types of drum roll are there? Most people would say 2 or 3, and for practical purposes this will work. But there are several distinct types of roll, all of which can be useful.

Single Stroke
This is not just a type of roll. Often it's the core of everything we do. Simple ‘RLRLRLRL’ can go a long way, but to technically be classed as a roll it's best played quickly on a single drum and drawn out for a bit.

Double Stroke
A.k.a. the long roll or ‘mama dada’ roll, this one calls for two distinct strokes from each stick. It’s also the basis of a host of short rolls. It sounds simple enough, but a good long roll is not that easy to find, though there's not much call for it in popular music.

French Roll
Whether of French origin or not, this one simply adds another stroke to the long roll, i.e.: Rrr Lll Rrr Lll. Playing three clear stroke with each hand takes some practice and, like the long roll, it’s not seen much outside of drum clinics and show-off moments.

Buzz Roll
There's some confusion over this one. The buzz roll is played by deftly pressing the tip of the stick into the head slightly and producing a smooth, clear, controlled buzz sound. So bzzz/bzzz/bzzz/buzz. There should be no gaps between the strokes, resulting in a continuous, even roll. Also called a press roll and, wrongly, a closed roll.

Scratch Roll
At best it's an interesting accent; at worst it's an unpleasant noise. In this case the sticks are forced into the head to produce an abrupt ‘bzzzt’. Depending on the context, it can be an indication of creativity or a sign of bad technique, and no way to do a buzz roll.

Whipped Cream Roll
My personal favourite (for the obvious gustatory reason) this is a standard buzz roll, but instead of moving the sticks up and down, you execute a circular motion as if whipping cream in a bowl. When well done, it produces a wonderfully clean and elegant roll. And it looks pretty cool.

Chatter Strokes
This is a specialized type of buzz, usually played with a single stick on the snare. The idea is to play a buzz, but with very distinct notes, perhaps 4 or 5. Very popular in New Orleans ‘second line’ drumming and blast beats.


These basic rolls require a lot of practice to master, and it will be time well spent. Well-executed rolls can really spice up your playing.

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