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How can double-stroke (RRLLRRLL) rolls be faster than single-strokes (RLRLRLRL)? If someone can hit 2 notes with the same hand, surely they'll get faster if they intertwine this with the other hand after the first note is played..?

I'm a beginner drummer, and I've just measured that I can do 16th note doubles at around 100 bpm, starting to lose track at around 110; while if I do alternating strokes (what I understand by "single") I can easily get to 160 bpm and slightly beyond. Obviously I haven't practised doubles much, but I just don't seem to grasp how with this huge bpm gap can doubles ever exceed singles :-O

For reference, for instance this guide seems to claim that doubles are faster:

The double stroke has a couple practical uses.

Playing faster than you can with a single stroke roll. Using the efficiency of the push-pull, you can use doubles to outperform your singles when the going gets too fast.

I'm not 100% sure I'm doing all the push-pull correctly, but my wrists feel relaxed, I'm definitely using the bounce of the stick from the drum / pad and it just seems impossible to go much faster for me right now, especially not being able to alternate the hands while striking.

What speeds can you guys get to with single and double strokes?

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  • The double-stroke allows the stick to rebound on its own, rather like the spiccato or sautille for bowed instruments. Mar 22 at 17:43
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The double stroke is a different stroke from the single stroke. It's not played the same way as playing two single strokes in succession. It uses techniques to redirect the bounce of the stick off the drum back down to the drum.

Imagine playing a drag but instead of letting the stick bounce until it runs out of energy, you "grab" it after the second bounce. That's a double stroke.

One thing that should be happening as you increase the tempo of your double stroke roll is that you should change your grip. At the slowest speeds, the energy for the strokes comes from your wrists and maybe lower arm, and your grip is more relaxed. At the slowest tempos the technique is like playing two single strokes in a row.

As you speed up, your fingers get more involved, first with your ring and pinkie fingers "catching the bounce" and sending the stick back to the drum for the second stroke. Then at the highest speeds it's your first two fingers and your thumb gripping the stick more firmly but loosely enough so the stick can bounce. From the elbow or wrist you drive the stick down and it almost "vibrates" between your thumb and fingers to hit the head twice very quickly before you lift it away again to prepare for the next double stroke.

I would look for some videos on two-stroke rolls on YouTube to get a better idea of the proper techniques. At the time of this writing, Drumeo is a great YouTube channel for techniques. Even better would be to hire a drum teacher.

In short, generally a drummer can play a two stroke roll almost twice as fast as single stroke, because the motion of each stroke is the same between them, it's just that with each two-stroke stroke, the drum is struck twice instead of once.

it just seems impossible to go much faster for me right now, especially not being able to alternate the hands while stroking.

It takes a lot of practice. Again I suggest a teacher or Drumeo on YouTube. You'll want to learn to do double-strokes with each hand isolated before combining hands into the roll.

All of that said, there are some drummers who can do single stroke rolls very fast and might disagree about some points here. I'm just trying to give a basic understanding of the difference and why double-stroke rolls can be faster than single strokes. The main thing to keep in mind is that the technique is different, and it should feel different and sound different when you're playing them.

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If someone can hit 2 notes with the same hand, surely they'll get faster if they intertwine this with the other hand after the first note is played..?

Yes, but that's the point: you can hardly play more than two notes as fast as you can play the first two. While you can use the double stroke technique to play 4 very fast single strokes, you probably cannot do that for more than 5-6 strokes.

Consider that a rebound stroke takes advantage from the previous one: it's easier to make a second stroke after the first (and make them sound similar), than a third after the second, and so on.
The movements of the first and second stroke are not the same: when talking about standard single strokes, most of the movement involves the wrists, while the second stroke of doubles requires using your fingers.

All that's because the amount of energy you can put on the first is given by the fact that you have more time (and space) to "recover", since the other hand is playing in the meantime. The second stroke uses both the energy of the rebound and that of the hand (mostly, your fingers), but that energy is limited and your hand gets easily fatigued - meaning that it gets harder and harder the more strokes you try to do from rebounds only.
Also, sticks are heavy, and while fingers are faster than wrists, they don't have enough power to move sticks that fast at certain dynamics for a long period without some amount of recover.

Just to clarify, you can get pretty fast with single strokes, using a proper finger technique, that's how Guinness holders do that (see this old video of Mike Mangini that achieved about 300bpm playing sixteens) - but that technique cannot be holded for a long time at louder dynamic for the reason given before.

So, practically speaking, if you can play single strokes at speed X (mostly using wrists), you can theoretically play doubles at a speed close to 2X with the proper technique. Obviously, as soon as your single stroke speed gets higher, the difference between those maximum speeds increases.

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    > as soon as your single stroke speed gets higher, the difference between those maximum speeds increases. Did you mean "decreases"? As in, if Mike Mangini did single-strokes at 300bpm, I doubt he could do doubles at 600?
    – uukgoblin
    Mar 20 at 16:12
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    @uukgoblin The difference between 2X and the actual speed you can reach with double strokes increases: if you can play singles at 120 you can probably play doubles close to 240, but if you can play singles at 180 you will hardly be able to play doubles as close to 360. Mar 20 at 18:36

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