Triplet Stick Control and Timing for Your Students

Mike Lawson • GoodVibes • December 5, 2019

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There are many different approaches that percussion teachers use to teach drumstick control. I am going to present a very simplistic approach to teaching this concept.

You and your students can also develop, improvise, and add ideas to what I provide, as the combinations can be infinite. This will provide a great foundation and starting point.

Most stick control exercises are sixteenth note based. I believe that eighth note triplets are a better base for teaching stick control because the hand playing the downbeat changes every beat. This teaches a better balance between the right and left hand in terms of strength and muscle memory. Every pattern that I am going to provide is to be performed on an eighth note triplet base. “R” denotes “right hand” and “L” denotes “left hand” and the triplets remain constant. Play all of these patterns with no accents at a three-inch stick height and then at a nine-inch stick height.

Playing with no accents is extremely important so your student doesn’t rely on them for timing. Timing should rely on the precise timing of the triplets. Every note should be smooth and even with the triplets remaining steady. Your student must play these with a metronome. Start very slow at quarter note equals 60 and gradually increase the speed. Maintaining control of the sticks as well as steady triplets is much more important than speed. The tempo should only be increased when perfection is reached. Before each pattern starts, have your student play two measures of eighth note triplets just to get the feel for the timing and the pulse as follows: RLRLRLRLRLRL RLRLRLRLRLRL

1) RLRLRL RRLLRR LRLRLR LLRRLL: This pattern will develop triplet open rolls switching off between the right and the left hand, as well as singles. This will also help your student practice transitioning from single stroke rolls to double stroke rolls. Make sure your student keeps the notes smooth and even. Slow and perfect is more important than speed.

2) RLRRLRLLRLRR LRLLRLRRLRLL: This is simply a paradiddle played with a triplet base rather than a sixteenth note base. This is two measures of eighth note triples played with paradiddles so your students can get used to hearing them as triplets rather than sixteenth notes. In most rudimental studies, this rudiment is practiced as sixteenth notes. This will give your student a completely new approach to this rudiment.

3) RLRLRL RLRRLL RLRLRL RLRLRR LRLRLR LRLLRR LRLRLR LRLRLL RRLLRRLLRRLL: This is an exercise that works paradiddle-diddles and double paradiddles with an eighth note check pattern in between. The first time through is off the right hand, and then it repeats off the left hand with all of the sticking reversed. The triplet roll at the end brings the entire pattern back to the right hand. Once a slow tempo is mastered, speed it up and have your students practice it at multiple tempos.

4) RRLRLLRLRRLR LLRLRRLRLLRL: This is simply an inverse paradiddle exercise with a triplet eighth note base spanning two measures. This can also be added on as an extension to the second exercise I provided playing them in tandem with the two measure eighth note check pattern in between.

5) RRRLLLRRRLLL RRLLRR LLLRRRLLLRRR LLRRLL: This exercise is great because it focuses on triple stroke rolls and double stroke rolls and alternates the lead between the right and the left hand. Once again, it is great to have your student play the two-measure check pattern so they can mentally recover.

6) RRRLLR RRLLRR RLLRRR LLRRRL. This exercise is simply “eggbeaters” played on a constant triplet bass. This one is very challenging, but it can be extremely fun when it is worked up to speed. “Egg beaters” are a five-stroke figure with a sticking of “RRRLL.” This exercise is an ostinato where the pattern does not always land on the downbeat and moves around it. These types of mental drumming exercises need to be taught more often in percussion pedagogy.

7) RLRLRL RRLRRL RLRLRL RLLRLL RLRLRL RLRRLR RLRLRL RRRLLL RLRLRL RLLLRR RLRLRL RRLLLR RLRLRL RRRRRR RLRLRL RRLLRR reversed: LRLRLR LLRLLR LRLRLR LRRLRR LRLRLR LRLLRL LRLRLR LLLRRR LRLRLR LRRRLL LRLRLR LLRRRL LRLRLR LLLLLL LRLRLR LLRRLL. This is an amazing exercise. It may seem frustrating for your students at first, but remember to take it slow at first. This works many different rudiments as well as different possible triplet patterns. It also helps your students transition smoothly from the right and left hand while traveling through the sticking “maze.”

As you can see above, the entire exercise inverts itself the second time through. It is exactly the same as the first time, but with opposite sticking. This exercise is extremely fun when played at fast speeds!

I cannot emphasize how important it is for your students to play with a metronome and keep every triplet even and smooth. This is a timing as well as a stick control exercise. No accents are to appear anywhere in these exercises. Your students should have a mindset of “smooth like butter” while playing these. Make sure they keep the triplets constant and uninterrupted. I highly recommend setting the metronome at eighth note triplets while your students play these in order to help them emphasize how important it is to keep them steady and even when travelling through various sticking. Have fun and feel free to have your students improvise and create even more patterns, as the combinations are endless!

In 2016, The Huffington Post called Kevin Lucas “the most talented percussionist since Lionel Hampton, Ginger Baker, and Tito Puente.” He has been nominated for 38 music industry awards for his Echoes in the Sand album, and he won the 2016 American Songwriting Awards. Kevin performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from 1992-1994 and won the DCI Midwest Individuals in 1994 for keyboard percussion.

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