Speed Lesson: The Key To Effortless Accents
Listen to any of the great drum technicians play and you’ll notice that they have one thing in common – the ability to switch dynamic levels instantly and effortlessly in the midst of supersonic blasts of singles, doubles, paradiddles, and other sticking combinations. And their accents seem to magically fly in from out of nowhere. If your accenting ability isn’t quite up to the pros, this month’s video lesson will help take you to the next level.
In over 30 years of teaching, I’ve identified two common mistakes drummers make when accenting. The first is what I refer to as the squeeze approach. This occurs when a drummer attempts to play an accent by squeezing the stick harder. Squeezing will work at slower speeds but at faster tempos it slows you down and tenses you up, which makes accenting difficult. Another common mistake is the incorrect use of levels to produce accents. By levels, I mean holding the sticks at various distances from the drumhead. Although using levels to produce accents is the correct approach, many drummers make the mistake of not raising their sticks to what I call “accent level” soon enough. This causes a lack of control and makes accenting much harder than it should be.
The Key To The Level System
The key to effortless accents is to use two distinct levels: a low “unaccented level” and a higher “accent level.” Take a look at Ex. 1. Drummers who use the "Level System" incorrectly wait until they are almost ready to play the accent before raising their stick to the accent level. As you’ll see by following the “U” markings in Ex. 1, a better approach is to raise the stick to prepare for the accent as soon as the stick has finished playing the unaccented note, which in the case of paradiddle sticking is two strokes before the accent. This allows you to execute smooth, effortless accents.
Examine the written exercises and then view the accompanying video, which demonstrates the exercises at both slow and fast tempos.
SD = Snare Drum
R = Right stick on snare
L = Left stick on snare
U = Raise stick up to accent level immediately
* = When playing continuous accents like these, stick stays at accent level
For Further Study
To perfect your new accenting technique, take any book that contains accented sticking patterns and write in the correct "U" markings as we have in the exercises shown here. In the beginning, you’ll have to figure out every sticking pattern to decide when your stick needs to come up to the accent level. With enough practice, the technique will become second nature, part of your muscle memory, and you’ll soon be playing accents easier and with more control than ever before!
For questions on this month’s Speed Lesson, you can contact me at www.tigerbill.com.
Until next time, have fun and stay loose!