Drummers often ask whether it’s better to use wrist or finger technique. The answer is that both should be used if you want to develop your chops to the max. While you can use any exercise to develop your wrists and fingers, the rudiment known as the triple stroke roll is one of the best. If you're familiar with the double stroke roll (RRLL), the triple stroke roll is simply an extension of that, and is played by adding a third note on each hand as follows: RRRLLL. (Go here if you missed our lesson covering single stroke, double stroke, and closed rolls.)
While regular practice of the triple stroke roll shown in the first exercise below will develop your wrist and finger control, speed, and endurance, practicing the remaining four exercises will help you develop a controlled one-handed roll. When working on the one-handed roll, repeat exercise number five using only the right hand, and then do the same with only the left hand. (I also suggest you go here for an alternate method of developing the one-handed roll.)
The best way to practice the following exercises is to play them using only your wrists and start at the slowest recommended metronome speed. Raise the metronome setting a notch each time you practice until you can no longer play each exercise cleanly and without tension. At that point, switch from using wrists to fingers (which should enable you to travel a few more notches up the metronome). As always, whether you’re using wrists or fingers, remember to throw the stick down toward the drum and let the natural rebound of the stick automatically produce the upstroke for you. See the following video for a demonstration.
In order to keep the video clips brief, I don’t repeat each exercise. When practicing, I suggest you repeat each of the two-bar exercises at least eight times without stopping before moving to the next. For best results, always start at the slowest recommended tempo (60 bpm) and gradually increase the metronome speed, one notch at a time. This is the best way to develop control while staying relaxed over the entire tempo range from slow to fast. Although I list 200 bpm as the top speed for these exercises, don't let that stop you. If you reach that goal and can still play the exercises cleanly with control and without tension, than keep increasing the tempo. The sky’s the limit!
For more details on developing my relaxed approach to drumming, visit TensionFreeDrumming.com.
Until next time, practice regularly, stay loose, and have fun!