Johnny Rabb: Get Faster Hands Now!

Beat Displacement/Metric Modulation

Here’s another advanced technique Rabb demonstrated in our lesson. The idea is to shift a beat earlier or later by either a sixteenth- or an eighth-note, then shift it back. Rod Morgenstein performed a widely heard eighth-note beat displacement in the Winger song “Seventeen.” Here, Rabb played some sixteenth-note displacements, shifting the downbeat early, and then returning the beat to 1, by shifting it later. You can think of this as playing a measure of 15/16 to shift the pattern early, and then playing a measure of 17/16 to bring it back to where the rest of the band is nervously waiting for you.

This last short pattern is an excerpt from Rabb’s Roland clinic that I thought was cool. It’s a metric modulation in 5/4 that makes it sound like he’s in 4/4. He played an easy 5/4 beat in the first measure, and then played every fifth sixteenth-note in the second measure to divide that bar of 5/4 into four equal-sized parts. Another very cool idea among many — thanks Johnny!

Rhythmic Scale Modulation

This is a technique Rabb is still exploring, to expand upon patterns he already knows. The basic idea is to take a rudiment or a drum set lick, and modulate it rhythmically by shifting its rhythmic value from where it is usually played, to a new one. In this case, we’ll play with a common rudiment, the five-stroke roll (RRLLR-LLRRL). This rudiment is usually played as thirty-second-notes; either starting on the downbeat and ending on the and, or vice versa. Let’s first modulate the rudiment by playing it in a triplet rhythm, which is a common variation used in compound time signatures like 6/8 and 12/8. The next rhythmic permutation is less common, and harder to master. Play the notes as quintuplets (five sixteenths in the time of four), and space the notes evenly from one beat to the next. By keeping the last note of each five accented, it sounds very cool and will fit in most of the places a triplet lick will work.

Single Stroke Roll Development

We first asked him what every drummer wants to know: “How can I get faster singles?” He responded with several exercises. The first is made up of groups of three and four notes per hand played as sixteenth-notes in 4/4. You play a sticking of RRR LLL RRR LLL RRRR in the first measure and LLL RRR LLL RRR LLLL in the second. Once this is memorized, insert a note on the opposite hand between the first two notes of each grouping. This results in the thirty-second and sixteenth-note pattern in the second line: RLR R, LRL L, RLR R, LRL L, RLR R R, and then LRL L, RLR R, LRL L, RLR R, LRL L L. This is an excellent exercise for developing control and burst speed.

The third exercise shows a more musical way to work on singles over a foot ostinato. Here we wrote out how Rabb played the previous exercise over a baion pattern. He also showed how to work your singles over samba, songo, and other foot patterns. He stressed making everything groove together while being able to lead with either hand.

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