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I am looking at Sergei Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights (from the Romeo & Juliet ballet: Act I, Scene 2, No. 13) .

In mm. 9–10 (from rehearsal mark [77]) and also a few times later in the piece there is a particular grace note ornament that is played on the snare drum:

three grace note semiquavers followed by accented crotchet and a crotchet rest, repeated four times over two bars

In both of these performances:

it looks like this ornament is played with the sticking: lrlR.

Does this type of ornament have a name?


On a chart of standard drum rudiments there are some grace note ornaments:

  • a single grace note ornament called a Flam, which is played with the sticking: lR
  • a two grace note ornament called a Drag, played: llR

But, I don't think the ornament in question is well described as either of these because a flam has just one grace note, and a drag has two grace notes both played with the same hand rather than with alternating hands.

Some other candidates from standard drum rudiments (but that don't contain grace notes) are:

  • a Single Stroke Roll: RLRL
  • a Single Stroke Four, which contains a triplet, but is also played: RLRL

But, both of these start on the beat, and don't usually have the last note played with the right hand or given an accent.


Would/should a percussionist think of the snare drum ornament in the Dance of the Knights as some variant any of the above, or as something completely different? And is there a name for it this ornament?

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  • Sorry: What exactly is your question?
    – MS-SPO
    Jan 1, 2023 at 13:33
  • @MS-SPO What is the name for the ornament in the image? I don't think it's a flam, or a drag, or a single stroke roll, or a single stroke four. Does it have name? Jan 1, 2023 at 13:36
  • Thanks. Quick look into „Stick control for the snare drummer“ suggests flam beats, which you can perceive as a variation of rolls. I don‘t think there‘s a specific name for it. Also, whether to play it LRLR, LRRR, RRLL or whatever is a matter of convenience for, experience of, drum tuning by the drummer. There are so many ways to create said sound (rrlR or llrLmight be a reasonable choice). E.g. you can follow Tommy Igoe, who favors soft hands and mainly finger control. Or you could even achieve it by the Muller technique. As long, as it’s clear, how it should sound …
    – MS-SPO
    Jan 1, 2023 at 13:43
  • The latter point may be worth a discussion. Taking the notation literally, suggests a slightly syncopated accent on what’s written as a quarter note. If no syncopation was intended, then the flam has to start a little earlier, which may be harder to notate.
    – MS-SPO
    Jan 1, 2023 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

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A four stroke ruff. It sounds similar to a drag, but with an extra grace note. There is also an alternative sticking of rllR or lrrL, which sounds basically the same (provided you don't crush the double stroke), so you can really play either sticking. But alternating is the "proper" way.

I would not call this a "single stroke four" because that would usually refer to a metered grouping of three notes with no accent, rather than a single accent with three preceding grace notes.

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  • Ah, so a ruff is different to a drag. I'm sure I've seen rudiment charts that suggest they are just two name for the same ornament, or call a drag a "drag ruff". Jan 1, 2023 at 16:30
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    I don't know that there's really a set definition here. I believe "drag" always refers to the rrL / llR rudiment, but ruff is a bit more ambiguous- Some people consider the drag is a type of ruff, some people only use ruff to refer to non-drag and non-flam ornaments.
    – Edward
    Jan 1, 2023 at 16:35
  • Would you say that lllR/rrrL could be called a four stroke drag? Jan 1, 2023 at 16:45
  • I don't think I've ever seen that rudiment used, so any name you gave it would have to be clarified, and that name returns no relevant hits on google. I guess that seems like a reasonable choice for a name, though.
    – Edward
    Jan 1, 2023 at 17:12
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'Single stroke four' is about as close as we get to an official name from the list of rudiments. lrlR or rlrL, although the speed at which the acciaccatura 'triplet' is played may well vary. The main point is that the main note is played on the beat, rather than after it, meaning the 'triplet' is played before.

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I think what confuses you is that you try to assign a name to a sticking pattern, like "LR must be called xyz". That's not a useful approach to a drummer.

Let's try to get two things straight, the roll and the flam.

A roll basically plays note after note, e.g RLRL or RRLL or RRL or RLR etc. in whatever timeframe. Right stick, left stick, right stick, left stick, done. In terms of arm/hand movements you'll observe basically arms out-of-phase: if one is up, the other one is down (or on its way), alternatingly.

A flam in contrast is hitting with both sticks at the same time ... with a nuance of a shift and lower accent in time: think of two sticks falling onto the snare, where one is just a little bit shifted, say an inch or so ... which translates into a very narrow time interval of "almost same time". If you can hear both sticks, it's not a flam. In terms of arm/hand movements:

  • both sticks seem to hit simultaniously,
  • while when starting the flam the louder stick will be held higher and arrive just a little-little-bit later

If done correctly, see video here, you'll hear a very characteristic sound, you can't create else on the drumset.

To complete, a ruff, if you look at the relevant movements of arms/hands, is much more like a roll with a taste of a flam, as you can see here at 01:15.

Though there is a logical convention for notation, one or two short notes with a slur towards the emphasized quarter note (see middle of my 2 videos), it doesn't really address the movement property, which is essential for the sound produced. So the translation from notation to action may be ambigous, depending e.g. on the composer, the drummer etc.


Now, let's return to your two videos. In both cases you'll see the characteristic movement for a roll, not for a flam, and sounds very uniform and with distinguishable strokes. So call it whatever you think is usefull AND will be understood as you wanted it.


Some final remarks on stick-techniques. As I indicated in my early comments (stick control), it depends much on the drummer.

A beginners technique is the good habit to have one beat (sound) from one hit (with any stick). So if you want to hear beat-beat-beat-beat, you play carefully hit-hit-hit-hit, or stick-stick-stick-stick.

An advanced drummer, and even a careless drummer, can create multiple beats with one hit only using rebound (backbouncing of the stick), like:

  • beat-beat from hit or stick
  • beat-beat-beat from hit or stick
  • etc.

Rebound is widely used, and can sound bad when not under control. I.e. the time intervals tend to become shorter, just like with a steel ball or coin falling on the floor.

So, putting both together a drummer has many options all the time to realize an intended sound, like a notated beat-beat-beat-beat, e.g.:

  • RLRL or LRLR (which will probably be precisely in time and sound quite uniform)
  • RRLL or LLRR (which may sound less uniform and more rock-n-roll-ish, like in "dada dada didi didi, bat-man!")
  • R L or L R (using good controlled rebound; do you see the 3 options using rebound you have per pattern R L or L R?)

So what can you do? Listen and observe:

  • how does it sound?
  • what are arms, hands and fingers doing (in order of increasing difficulty to observe)?

And as a rule of thumb: you'll hear flams almost never. So a roll is a good first assumption.

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  • I think this answer meanders a bit and never really answers the question. Also, I've had more than a couple instructors encourage very open flams for solo repertoire.
    – Edward
    Jan 3, 2023 at 1:07
  • Calling it "open flams" may be ok by notation, but simply fails observation in your two videos, as I layed out. // My answer may seem to meander, as the question paved this path. Sometimes things become easier to understand when moving towards the limits. // To repeat, creating the intended sound impression is more important in my view than coming up with some name for it.
    – MS-SPO
    Jan 3, 2023 at 9:00

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