Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Double Sticking Practice

Many others may reply to your post in more detail but essentially there are two strands of double sticking, those at the 'top end', that is where the beater hangs down from the hand, and the other which is more centre based. Last time I saw Mel play he was a centre player. Most players these days do a bit of both. All that is said below can be used either way.

Double sticking involves a departure from the traditional 'down up' technique, to a 'down down up' style. The reason for this emerging style was to accommodate more syncopated rhythms that the traditional style found difficult or impossible to achieve. Everybody has their own way of getting this double downstroke Shiobahjn O'Donnell does it by mimicking the drag roll of a snare drummer, allowing the beater to bounce off the skin in a single downstroke action. The sound is quite effective but to my mind does not give you the measure of control, which was one of the main reasons for going to double sticking in the first place. Most players make two distinctive beats on the downstroke followed immediately by an up stroke. The first part of the down stroke, (which in 'top end' drumming is the first of two strokes away from you) is more of a tap, with the second stoke following through to the up stroke. Many hours of practice are required before this action becomes natural, but once achieved its advantages immediately become apparent.

Firstly, by combining double sticking and conventional down ups, you can engineer your play so that all your accents are on downsrokes. Many players find this to be an advantage, although I personally don't stick to it. An up beat accent always sounds different to a down beat one, and adds a lightness to many rhythms, so I use a fusion of the two which adds a measure of interest to the tune instead of merely repeating the same thing over and over again. For example, many a jig has a twelve beat cycle broken down into two sixes. For this I play DduDduDudUdu, (two double sticks of three notes each and traditional 6 note jig to finish). This routine adds a nice variety to the tune and can be further lifted by missing one of the traditional notes out. DduDduD-dUdu.

However the main advantage is the ability to place accents in positions that traditional sticking does not allow. The simplest of all is to put the accent on the second note of a set of three, dDu dDu. Placing the accent in this position causes the first note of the set of three to become the grace note to the accent, (a note that tells you the main beat note is about to follow). This type of action allows you to syncopate a rhythm in ways the lend a little swing or jazz into the playing. for example for an 8 note reel, instead of playing DuduDudu, you might give it a swing by playing DdudDudu (DOWN down up, down DOWN up down up). This has an incredible lilt to it even though the two accents are in the traditional places.

All of this takes a while to sink in but once you are happy with your double sticking try the RHYTHM SCALES as an exercise. The idea is to go through every rhythm from 1-16, integrating double and single sticking to get your numbers right. I have listed a few below as a starting point. Where I have a hyphen that is a paused note, but where I have a comma this is merely to separate visually the parts, there is no break in the rhythm, play the sequence as though the commas are not there

1 D-D-D-D
2 DuDuDu
3 Ddu,Ddu,Ddu, or grace noting dDu,dDu,dDu
4 Dudu,Dudu, (the motor rhythm)
5 Ddudu,Ddudu, or rather dDudu,dDudu
6 DudUdu,DudUdu (pineapple apricot)
7 Ddududu,Ddududu, of rather dDududu,dDududu
8 DdudDudu,DdudDudu or the paradiddle DDudUUdu,DDudUUdu
9 DdududUdu,dDududUdu
10 dDudDududu,dDudDududu
11 DduDduDdudu
12 DduDdududUdu,DdudduDudUdu,
12a or the syncopated version which is a 5 and a7 rolled together, 
13 dDudDudDududu,dDudDudDududu
14 DdudDudududUdu, DdudDuduDudUdu, an 8 and a 6 rolled together
15 DdudDududDududu,DdudDududDududu, an 8 and a 7 rolled together
16 dDudDudDuDudUdu,dDudDudDuDudUdu, 3 x dDu followed by a pineapple 
I play each one for a little while then change to the next in the sequence. When I get to 16 I go back to 1. Because the sequences vary as you go you have to stay alert, but because of this it doesn't get boring. Beginners usually try 1-6 first and the go on to 1-9 etc. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

Once you get into the higher numbers there are endless variations to choose from, make up your own. And finally you can add triplets or rolls at any time to make it a bit more explosive. For the double stick triplet you merely put 4 notes wherever there is a DDU. This roll is made up of a dudu.

Naturally the caveat in all this is that the music determines what you play, but the ability to switch rapidly from double to single sticking in any combination means that you are ready for anything those pesky musicians can throw at you.

Happy drumming

Alan Collinson

[Posted to Bodhran@yahoogroups.com on September 11, 2007.]

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