Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And now, for more on triplets...

In looking through the blog the other day I noticed a major hole in the content: We're running a blog about drumming and we haven't touched on any practical or technical playing advice! Well the blog is about the journey of learning the drums, and last night I came up with an exercise that I realized I needed to improve my own playing, so I decided to share it with the world.

As you may have guessed by virtue of reading the title of this post, I'm talking triplets. As every drummer should, I've thought a lot about triplets; timing and coordination, placement and voicing, accents and patterns. Once you get the timing of a triplet as it falls against the quarter note, you start moving them around the toms and incorporating the kick drum. These are things I've been working on for years. When it comes to triplet patterns and incorporating the kick drum, I start to get creatively excited. Here's what I do:

For purposes of this post, K=Kick drum, R=Right hand, and L=Left hand (we'll leave that left foot out of it for the time being). My standard 'triplet pattern with a kick' practice involved essentially 3 combinations: KRL, RKL, and RLK. So I've learned to put the kick drum at the front, in the middle, and at the back of the triplet. I've even gotten fairly quick at fills and patterns where the Kick drum placement changes in the scheme of the triplet through a fill.

Then Aaron Spears (I'm sure he wasn't the first. Here's a video of him playing and talking a little bit about this concept) came along and talked about 'flipping triplets'. Here's the basic triplet flip idea: KRL KLR (or RLK LRK). The kick drum is first both times, but the last two notes are reversed. Try this with your left hand on the snare and your right on a floor tom and you get some pretty cool sounds. This is what I was working on last night when I realized there was a glitch. If I did it fast and several times in a row I started to get off. I pulled that a part a little and found where the problem was happening. It should come as no surprise: It was where the sticking was reversed and I led with my left hand.

I've practiced different kick and sticking patterns, but those patterns never involved leading with the left hand, so here's what I came up with to simplify the lick and work out the problem. The easiest and most basic exercise is this: KLR. Try it. But don't just try it twice, pick a tempo that just slightly pushes your comfort level, and do that pattern for a full minute. Once that starts to feel comfortable, do the same thing with LKR and LRK. You may as well knock some of the dust off of that metronome while you're at it. Once you've got these 3 patterns down you can start to incorporate these 'left lead' patterns into some of those other triplet patters and come up with some really cool feeling phrases.

Don't forget: The quarter note is king, and equal spacing is essential. To play with other musicians and keep these 'left-lead' triplets clean, the timing has to be second nature. Let us know how the practicing goes, and if you find any fun new ways to use this!

Until next time...