When In Doubt, Flam!

flam /flam/ n [prob. imit.] (1819): a drum beat of two strokes of which the first is a very quick grace note.

“You mean the Cuban gelatinous dessert?” my father asked. “No, a FLAM,” I responded. My dad – the legendary tenor player, professor, musical scholar – did not know what a flam was. This can only mean one thing: a flam is a musical term that only applies to percussion ... yeah. Pick up a copy of the bible – Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, or Portraits in Rhythm by Anthony Cirrone, and you will see thousands of exercises dedicated to the glorious flam. Listen to any drum corps line and you will hear intricate flams so precise, they are barely audible.

But what does all this have to do with rock drums you ask? Everything. Flams are the spice in our percussive stew. A flam here, a flam there, will liven up even the dumbest of dumb, hard-rock, heavy-metal fills. Do all flams have to be applied to the snare? Hell no. Ex. 3 has flams between the second tom and floor. Take any boring old snare fill and throw a flam in there and look what happens.

John Stanier