4, 5, 6 sticking challenges – for improving dynamics and independence

This lesson is designed to help you develop your hand control with single and double-stroke accents when playing within quickly-changing time signatures. It will also work towards developing your dynamic accuracy and limb independence as you start to explore the patterns in more detail. We’re going to run through three bars in total: 4/4, 5/5, and 6/4 and then repeat the pattern.

There are six exercises in this lesson covering a few different techniques, all of which I use abundantly in my playing, as patterns within groove and drum fills. These patterns/rudiments are: single strokes, double strokes, displaced double strokes, five-stroke rolls, and paradiddle-diddle’s. We’re also going to explore non-dominant lead (left hand) and displacement.

Why is this useful? Developing your hand technique and stick control is one of the most important things you need to consider as a drummer. Failing to do this will result in sloppy grooves and fills and an overall inefficiency behind the kit – which means you’ll need to work harder to achieve something that other drummers seem to play effortlessly.

This lesson offers to take you a few steps along your journey toward better overall technique and control. By combining a constantly changing timing element alongside a pattern that, therefore has to change to realize a consistent accent placement, you’ll be challenged at each step to learn something your hands and brain haven’t put together before – and this is where growth happens.

These exercises are simply an example of timing challenges that I find to be effective in pushing my abilities to new levels of comfort. One of the first hurdles to get over with an exercise like this is getting a clean transition from each count into the next – particularly if you only allow yourself one bar of each count. As the exercises increase in tempo, they will absolutely become more of a challenge.What I recommend is gradually working up to the speed at which the exercise falls apart, drop it back 5bpm, and sit there for five or ten minutes (or until you’ve ‘got it’). Once you’ve identified the tempo at which this becomes a challenge, this is your new starting point.

Set a challenge for yourself to increase this by ‘x’ BPM over a week – there’s no correct or incorrect amount to increase by – it’s subjective to the drummer. Any clean increase in tempo or dynamic control is a huge win.

Transcription and Guitar Pro file

Exercise 1 – Single stroke double accents

We’re going to place two accents at the beginning of each count, so the tricky element is likely to be the transition from one count into the next (4, to 5, yo 6). Starting with single strokes is going to be the easiest way to make the rest of the exercises in this lesson make the most sense, and if you’re struggling with this single stroke exercise, take it back one step further and loop just the four-count, then the five-count, then the six-count. Practice transitioning from the four into the five and the five into the six, then try putting it all together.

The goal is one bar of each count played in sequence, with clean accents and quiet ghost notes.

Exercise 2 – Displaced Double Strokes

In this exercise, we’ll play displaced double strokes – this is where you take a double stroke and offset it by a sixteenth note. For the bar of 5/4 however, we’ll switch to a five-stroke roll pattern which changes from right to left lead with each roll. The 6/4 bar will provide an additional challenge by requiring us to place an accent immediately after a ghost note. To achieve this, I lower my wrist and arm so that the stick falls more naturally, producing a rim-shot or accent.

Exercise 3 – Left-lead: Displaced Doubles, Five Stroke Roll & Paradiddle-diddle

This exercise will challenge us to lead with our non-dominant hand while changing patterns with each bar. The 5/4 bar leads with the left and switches to the right with each five-stroke roll and the 6/4 bar plays a consistent left-lead paradiddle-diddle (two singles and two doubles).

Again, if this exercise is too difficult at first, take it one step at a time – practice each section of this exercise independently, and then try to flow from one to the next.

Exercise 4 – Off-beat displacement on the ‘&’

This exercise is going to use single strokes again but we’re going to change the placement of the accent to the third sixteenth note within each measure. Within the bar of 4/4 it will land on the ‘&’ (1 E & A, 2 E & A etc – being a classic way of counting sixteenth notes). In the bar of 5/4, the first accent is played on the right hand, on the third 16th note, meaning the next accent will be on the left (as we’re counting single strokes as groups of five, so they’ll naturally switch from right to left). In the 6/4 bar, the accent is going to land consistently on the right hand.

Exercise 5 – 16th Note displacement on the ‘E’

This exercise is going to use single strokes and we’re going to change the placement of the accent to the second sixteenth note within each measure. Within the bar of 4/4 it will land on the ‘E’ (1 E & A, 2 E & A, etc). In the bar of 5/4, the first accent is played on the left hand, on the second 16th note, meaning the next accent will be on the right (as we’re counting single strokes as groups of five, so they’ll naturally switch from right to left). In the 6/4 bar, the accent is going to land consistently on the left hand.

Exercise 6 – 16th Note displacement on the ‘A’

This exercise is particularly challenging – we’re going to use single strokes again, and we’re going to change the placement of the accent to the fourth sixteenth note within each measure. Within the bar of 4/4 it will land on the ‘A’ (1 E & A, 2 E & A, etc). In the bar of 5/4, the first accent is played on the left hand, on the fourth 16th note, meaning the next accent will be on the right (as we’re counting single strokes as groups of five, so they’ll naturally switch from right to left). In the 6/4 bar, the accent is going to land consistently on the left hand.

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