Moving Between a Press Roll and Playing Time

This is an exercise I was working on yesterday. It developed as an extension of the rhythm scale (I’ll dedicate a post to this basic exercise in the near future.) It’s one thing to subdivide in septuplets or some other less common subdivision when practicing your press roll, but in context, on the bandstand, what actually works? Working on the rhythm scale will put you in a better place to be expressive with your press roll, but I’ve found at times, all of that subdividing and practicing with a metronome goes out the window in actual performance. My shoulders and forearms tighten up and the loose expressive roll that I worked so hard at comes out like a weak cough.

The goal of this exercise is to get your ride cymbal hand moving between the ride and a press roll on your snare. There is a subtle change in pressure that happens when moving from playing a press roll on the snare to playing time on the ride and vice versa. This is similar to the change in pressure it takes to go from playing a staccato group of notes to a legato press roll on the snare.

As a preliminary exercise we’re going to work on playing sixteenth notes, first staccato and then legato as a press roll. Try to make the roll as even and smooth as possible, even if you’re starting slowly and it’s difficult to connect the notes. Here’s what that looks like:

staccato and smooth

I suggest starting closer to 60bpm than not. Like I said, it’s difficult to connect the notes as smoothly as you might like to at this tempo, but this is a crawl before you can walk – walk before you can run type of exercise, it’s the long con. Focus on your grip as you play. Feel the pressure change on the stick as you go from staccato to legato and back again. Focusing on how your hands work through this change at a slow tempo will help internalize the movement so that you don’t even think about it in the future, whether playing slow or fast.

The second half of this exercise utilizes Exercises 1-8 in Ted Reed’s Syncopation. You’re going to play a press roll subdivided as 32nd notes through the whole exercise, moving the hand you play your ride with over to “play the line” on your cymbal. Here’s a couple examples taken from Syncopation Set 2, the pages leading up to Exercise 1. Again, start slow, Quarter note = 60bpm.

press roll 1 and 2

press roll 3 and 4

All notes on the snare should be played as a press roll, the ride cymbal should be a clean single stroke. Once you can play these examples try playing through all of Exercises 1-8.



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