I’ve used this little concept before, but I’ve mostly focused on the hands and the idea that two little combinations can be the key to cool improvisation ideas. The key now, however, is to take the concept a little further. I want to show you what just a couple of simple additions or variations can do to increase vocabulary and the challenge factor.
The original concept is still worth recapping, particularly if you haven’t read my previous articles. The idea is to focus on two simple stickings: RL and RLL. In both cases, the right hand (or leading hand) is accented and the left hand is ghosted (very soft). You can mix and match these two stickings in any random order or across subdivisions (16th notes, triplets, etc.) to create some cool phrases. They are simple but effective, particularly when you pay close attention to the dynamics between the hands. Contrast is the key to making it interesting.
ADD A BASS DRUM
The next step is to stretch the idea a little further. You can apply this to any of the primary stickings you want, but my base to begin with will be RLL – the second of the primary stickings. Figure A shows this sticking with the addition of a bass drum (RLLF). This allows the sticking to fall perfectly over 16th notes (semiquavers), and leading with the right hand accent allows you to easily feel where the beat is. Experiment moving the right hand accent around the kit and combine this sticking with the original ‘just hands’ idea.
ADD TWO BASS DRUMS
Next up (Figure B), I’ve remained in 16th notes, but added another bass drum to the first idea. This gives us a five-note sticking, but we’re going to keep the tempo and the subdivision ‘feel’ the same. To get this feeling nice, you need to be aware of a) where the beat falls and b) how 16th notes feel regardless of which limb is on the beat. The sticking will ‘cross’ the bar. For the purposes of this article, I’ve stopped the sticking/lick after two bars, but you could most certainly play it for longer and see what that sounds like.
What about we go another way? Figure C has the original sticking, but I’ve added a RL to the start. Now we have one of each of the primary stickings (RL, RLL) and a bass drum – six notes total. This is cool for a few reasons. Firstly, there’s some really nice dynamic contrast across the lick itself. Secondly, you can play it as 16th note triplets (sextuplets) and thirdly, you can do the crossing method, keep it as 16th notes, and let it move across the bars. This feels awesome if you can get it happening.
The final idea today is to then add another bass drum (foot) to our six-note sticking to make it seven. Now we have RL RLL FF. You get the idea. Play it across 16th notes to see how it crosses and feels. Don’t forget to move the right hand across the drum kit to get some other colours/flavours. This is an especially interesting one as the addition of a double bass drum, particularly at speed, can be quite effective in solos. As with before, all my examples are only two bars long. You can really experiment to see how long you can keep it going.
Image via Roger Hoover.