5 Exercises to Help Play Faster on the Drums
If I had a nickel for every time some one asked me how to play faster on the kit, I'd be a very rich man! In order to play faster on the drums you must first learn to play slower. Pretty much everything you see out there, where drummers are flying across the kit stems from simple rudimentary patterns, worked up with technique to get the speed going. In this post I'm going to highlight 5 rudiments/ exercises that I used to generate speed around the kit. There of course are many more, but these 5 will get you playing faster. The first one is a given so I've included a video- its the Paradiddle diddle, or six-stroke roll. This rudiment is used by all of us drummers- and truthfully, overused. But, it just works so well in just about every context that it has to be the number one, outside of the single stroke roll.
Single Stroke Roll
The single-stroke roll is the most common and effective rudiment you can apply across the drums for speed. It's simple form all drummers to whip it around the kit from left to right, right to left, top to bottom so forth and so on. The problem is playing it clean presents some difficulty. I always recommend starting out with medium tempo 1/16 notes in groups of 8 on each drum. So for instance, start with the snare and play 2 full beats, or 8 sixteenth notes. Then move left to right through your toms and finally back to the snare in a continuous circular motion. Once you get that feeling good you can increase the speed until you begin to tense up. When the tension sets in this means you need to work on shifting gears- perhaps you now need to add more finger control to play faster at this point. Whatever sticking point you have, don't just try to power through it. Instead, stop, recalibrate and think about how you can apply more technique to get around those drums quicker. One tip would to immediately make the motion smaller. Try keeping the sticks closer to the heads and work on twisting your body from the core to move, instead of your arms. If you let your core do the rotation, you'll keep your arms locked in position which will allow the same amount of energy to disperse through your hands. Try all these little tricks until you are able to increase the speed over time.
Swiss Army Triplets
Swiss army triplets are great to blast around the drums. Once you get them working up to speed on your snare, you can then move the hands around on different drums to change the sound and feel of the lick. I personally like to keep them on the snare though, and play them really quickly as accents. I tend to keep them on the quieter side of my playing as well, especially useful during jazz solos. In the song "Treading Water" you can hear me playing Swiss army triplets in context right at 6:42. If you're unfamiliar with how to execute a Swiss army triplet, I have a video you can check out; How to Play a Swiss Army Triplets with Freddy Charles.
RLRR LRLL is the cornerstone for speedy licks around the drum kit. Drummers can use the paradiddle to execute blazingly fast 1/16 notes on all surfaces of the kit. It's also great to apply to the cymbals and in grooves. I suggest experimenting with playing various combos of paradiddles on 2 drums to begin, and then moving on to more. Essentially the combos are endless, which makes the paradiddle perfect for speedy fills around the drums.
Hertas are monstrous when played around the drums. They take a little bit of getting used to to perfect, but once they get going you can do some real damage. You'll hear hertas in many drummers' arsenal, and rightfully so. To play a herta, you're going to take a 4 note grouping and play the first two notes faster. Always leading with the right hand, or left hand if you start it with the left.
Check out the notation below to visualize the technique.
So there you have it. 5 rudiments that will get you flying around the drums. All you need is practice and patience.