S i n g l e    S t r o k e    R o l l    D e v e l o p m e n t

By Kevin Picone     Date: 7th, July, 2000

  The "single stroke" roll is one of the most important and perhaps overlooked rudimental exercises on the drum set. Development and conditioning of this roll, this ability, can be extremely beneficial to our overall playing. It will help improve your speed, endurance, note quality and clarity around the drums. But it does take some work.

  To define what a single stroke roll is made up of, is easy.  It's simply a roll made up of evenly spaced notes played in an alternating fashion, i.e. RLRLRLRLRL. Traditionally, it was common for students to practice or develop this roll on a snare drum, starting out slowly and then gradually building the tempo, when you peek (before it all breaks down) you gradually slow down again, then repeat.  With practice you'll notice your peek speed gets slightly higher and better sounding.  This can be a very abstract study when you think about it, since it doesn't have a rhythmic (timing) application. So it's purely an exercise, but a good one none the less.

  To define the notes were playing or to give this a little application, we'll examine playing singles as quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes and thirty second notes in a bar of 4/4 time. 

   1/4 Notes             Count:   1       2       3       4 
                         Snare:   R       L       R       L 
   1/8 Notes             Count:   1   +   2   +   3   +   4   +
                         Snare:   R   L   R   L   R   L   R   L
   1/16 Notes            Count:   1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a  
                         Snare:   R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L 
   1/32 notes            Count:   1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
                         Snare:   RLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRLRL

  The above exercise is Right Handed, to improve your Left hand, just reverse the sticking and repeat. This is quite a challenge to begin with.. As your left side improves, so does the overall quality of notes your producing.

  The secret here is to not play too fast, accuracy is more important than speed !.  You can measure your maximum 32nd note speed via examining each hand separately.  If you look closely, you'll notice that in order to play 32nd notes, each hand needs to play constant 16th notes for the entire bar.   Thus, we are limited to how fast each hand can play 16th notes.

 You can improve the quality and speed of each hand via using a side to side approach. Here we focus on each hand as a separate items.  Initially, try working in fixed groupings of 3, 4 or 8 notes per side.  For starters it's not important to play them as any particular rhythmic figure or rate, it's just a conditioning exercise.

 Some Development Pattern Examples:
                           3 Notes:   RRRLLLRRRLLL    etc etc 
                           4 Notes:   RRRRLLLLRRRRLLLL   etc etc


  Once you start to do it cleanly, Watch your stick height & motion.  Aim for left & right to be mirror images of each other (matched Grip).  Look and listen for any differences in sound and hand movements (i.e. Tension, sideways movement, too much wrist or fingers that are pulling away). Really try and make the transition between sides, as transparent as possible.  A good way to do this is video tape your self playing the exercises. From both left and right perspectives. Also, you can use mirrors, which will help you see your hands from a third party perspective.

  To expand this challenge and further help with endurance and note quality, we'll play the following rate exercise single handed. 


   1/4 Notes             Count:   1       2       3       4 
                         Snare:   R       R       R       R 
   1/8 Notes             Count:   1   +   2   +   3   +   4   +
                         Snare:   R   R   R   R   R   R   R   R
   1/16 Notes            Count:   1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a  
                         Snare:   R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R 


 Now repeat the exercise leading with your LEFT hand.  Once you are able to do this, you should notice the ease and quality of your single stroke roll will improve greatly when your hands combined again, but it does take time.  Try and work on these exercises daily, make them part of your 'warm up' and perhaps 'warm down' routine. If you are able to, practice them away from the drum set, watching TV is perfect for this, it allows you to focus on the issue more, rather than jumping into drum solo after drum solo.. . 


 Well, that's about it from me, Good Luck !


 If you would like to submit your own lesson please feel free to contact me.

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