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I teach beginning band to first-year players aged 10-12. I have always taught 5-stroke and 9-stroke rolls this way: Assuming that we are in a simple meter like 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4, I first divide the notated roll note into 16ths. There are 4 sixteenths in the quarter note of a 9-stroke roll and 2 in the eighth note of a 5-stroke roll. Then, I teach the kids to allow the stick to "bounce" on each stroke, which results in the correct number of impacts on the head. So, a kid playing a 9-stroke roll will use wrists/arms to play four main strokes (that will sound exactly like 16ths); they will let the stick bounce once on each of these main strokes to fill in the remaining notes (which would sound like 32nd notes). Adding the next quarter note after the roll gives 9 strokes total, which sounds correct. Once they learn how to control the speed of the bounce they can execute pretty decent rolls and they are ready to learn more rolls.

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Today, however, 2 different students told me that their private drum teacher instructed them to execute the 9-stroke roll with 9 separate strokes (RRLLRRLL R), and no bounces. I'm perfectly willing to accept that as a "band" teacher I may have it wrong, and I'd happily defer to a "percussion" teacher... But if the kids are trying to execute a roll with 9 full motions like this, how will they ever get it to sound smooth at tempo?

Am I teaching it wrong?

This post here seems related... How can double-stroke rolls be faster than single-strokes?

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  • I'd say that either and both are fine. There are single and double rolls, and good drummers should be capable of combining each in whatever they do. That said, I drum, but haven't had formal lessons. But wouldn't be surprised if there's more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.
    – Tim
    May 13 at 15:19
  • Thanks so much for asking this. When a kid perceives a contradiction between the band teacher and the private teacher, it can be very uncomfortable for the kid. May 18 at 4:57
  • At least it wasn't uncomfortable for these kids. I know them well, and I know their drum teacher:)
    – nuggethead
    May 18 at 11:50

1 Answer 1

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I wonder if you're both teaching only part of rolls. I don't see anything in your question about grip or technique, and the thing that unlocked rolls for me was using a technique where I change my grip as the roll gets faster.

So for a slow "roll", I do consciously play every stroke (as the private teacher suggested). On your side of things, even when I play a single stroke I am thinking about rebound and bounce as a way to take up the stick at the end of the stroke, even when I'm not playing another stroke with the same stick.

I do slow rolls with a loose grip, and I take up the sticks off the bounce and prepare for the next stroke. Volume is mostly controlled by initial stick height with a bit of Moeller influence in my overall technique. For a mid speed roll, my wrists move less and I'm using my back fingers to take up the bounce and execute the next stroke. My grip at the thumb and forefinger tightens slightly. For the fastest rolls, I move my thumb to the top of the stick and grip the stick firmly, and use more elbow to bring the stick up and down. The thumb takes the first bounce and drives the stick back to the head almost instantly for the second stroke, and then my elbow is lifting to prevent a third stroke.

So I agree with you that managing and using the bounce is not only advantageous, it's critical beyond a certain speed. You just can't roll as fast without it.

However, I also agree with the private teacher that learning to play even, deliberate strokes without using the bounce (aside from uptake), and learning to play them pretty fast, is a great foundation for both rolls and other techniques.

I would tell your students that both are correct, and that they are learning different things that at some point will synthesize and give them the most control over rolls at any speed.

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  • Is it true that what I've described is a "double" roll, but a separate stroke for each 32nd note is a "single?" My percussion methods class is about 20 years behind me...
    – nuggethead
    May 13 at 15:27
  • @nuggethead I'm not sure if I understand your question about "single" vs "double". To me, if you're stroking or "bouncing" twice with the same hand, that's a double stroke. The point of my answer is that the same roll can be played with or without using the bounce, and students would ideally learn both ways. I'm 99% sure that you can't play the fastest rolls without using the bounce, but there are definitely players who can rolls quite fast with deliberate strokes that are not just bouncing. May 13 at 15:35
  • Single rolls are just what it says on the tin - single alternate strokes. Doubles will bounce for each stroke - LlRrLlRr.
    – Tim
    May 13 at 15:35
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    @Tim Even when I'm not bouncing I still call it a double stroke if I strike twice in quick succession with the same hand. Some teachers instruct their students to learn to double stroke fairly quickly without using the bounce. So I wouldn't say everyone agrees that "bounce" means "double" and "double" means "bounce". May 13 at 15:37
  • Awesome @Todd Wilcox I think this is the answer. I'm thinking I just found double strokes easier to execute on my own and then forgot there was an alternative! But it's good to know that both are valid, and both have their place.
    – nuggethead
    May 13 at 15:40

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