Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Weight Room: Breaking down the Flam Tap

The rudiments are a great tool. They can also be a great challenge. I find that when I plateau or "hit the wall" with a certain rudiment, I need to break the figure down to its basic elements and figure out what's holding me back.

For example, last summer I hurt my knee really bad. It felt awful and didn't bend right, and I was absolutely certain I was going to have surgery. But when I visited the doctor, he gave me a thorough checkout and put me through a bunch of tests before declaring that the problem had nothing to do with my knee, but started with my hips and my hamstrings. What? If that was the case, then why did my knee hurt so badly?

Turns out that weak hip flexors and hamstrings, in conjunction with stiffness or inflexibility, manifests itself as knee pain. So I spent about eight weeks in physical therapy working and stretching my hips and hammies, and my knee pain magically went away.

In music, this idea plays itself out in many ways, but we'll look at just one specific rudiment to demonstrate the concept of breaking it down to its key elements.

So, the Flam Tap. It looks like this. (It goes without saying, but the grace notes are played by the hand not playing the main note.)

As you can see, this is a double stroke exercise, right right? (Bad drummer joke, couldn't help myself...) Actually, it's a triple stroke exercise. You see, the right hand will play a main note, a tap and then a grace note before the left hand plays a stroke, and so on.

So, if you want to make your Flam Taps faster, make your triple stroke faster, like so:

Play the first two measures all with the right hand, then repeat with all left hand. I like to do the exercise a total of four times - right, left, right, left (Coldplay, anyone?) - then end with a right hand downbeat in the last bar. 

As always, start slowly and gradually increase the tempo. Stay relaxed, especially as the tempo climbs. Remember that tension is the enemy of speed and control.

There are a lot of ways to approach this exercise, so I'll give you a few ideas.
  • Keep all notes the same height and dynamic
  • Accent the first note and play the last two the same
  • Play the first two notes down, and accent the last note
  • Play all three as a diminuendo
  • Play all three as a crescendo
After you work on this for a while (a week or so), you should notice an increase in your Flam Tap speed and control.

Happy drumming!

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