Ralph Humphrey: Intensive Technique

Phrase Development And Practice

By Ralph Humphrey Originally Published in DRUM! Magazine's October 1997 Issue

An important and practical way to build your technical vocabulary is to use hand exercises, as well as foot patterns, and apply them as orchestrated phrases on the drum set.

The application of accents, combined with unaccented notes, begins to give shape to a series of notes that we call a phrase. An important part of phrase development is the understanding of the note groupings that are used to make a phrase, including duple groupings (twos) and their compounds (fours, eights, sixteens, and so on) as well as odd groupings of fives, sevens, elevens, thirteens, and so on.

Practice the notated phrases in the following ways, leading right and left:

1. On the snare drum.

2. Apply the accents to the tom toms.

3. Apply the accents to cymbals with bass drum support.

4. Apply the hi-hat on the quarter-note pulse of 2 and 4 for Ex. 1 through Ex. 3 and on the dotted quarter-note pulse for Ex. 4 and Ex. 5.

5. Then apply an appropriate ostinato foot pattern (Ex. 6 through Ex. 11) to steps 1 and 2 above. This will help develop your sense of balance and four-way capability.

You may choose to use two-part counting (1&2&) or recognize and count the accent note of each group as being the 1 of a group. For example, Ex. 1 has a grouping of 3+4+3+2+4. which equals sixteen eighth-notes over two bars of 4/4.

Have fun and good luck.


Ralph Humphrey has toured and recorded with such artists as Frank Zappa, Akiyoshi-Tabakin Big Band, Al Jarreau, Free Flight, Manhattan Transfer, Chick Corea, Bette Midler, Wayne Shorter, and Larry Carlton. He is the author of Even In the Odds and is currently a department head at the Los Angeles Music Academy.

More Lessons