Movement & Mechanics Series: Developing Singles Around the Set

I notice a lot of great drummers who tend to play in a very small area of their drum set.  What I mean is, they may be a monster drummer, but they focus all of their attention on the left side of their set and play only the hihat, snare, and bass drum.  This isn’t necessarily a problem, because in many styles of music we drummers tend to keep time on the hihats and don’t need to move around the rest of the set much.  But, at the same time, there is so much real estate around the set, so if you can get used to playing freely in the rest of that space then you’ll open up so many great possibilities.  Plus, moving around your set a quickly provides an inherent visual effect that makes you a more interesting drummer to watch from the audience.

With that in mind, the exercises we’re covering today will help you develop the ability to effectively move around your set.  These exercises will:

  1. Enhance your balance and agility as you move from left to right (and vise versa);
  2. They will improve your speed as you increase the tempo;
  3. And, they will increase your hand and wrist strength in both hands because you’ll be playing on your toms and cymbals, which offer varying degrees of rebound and therefore force you to lift the stick off the drum head.

These exercises will also be useful for drummers who have trouble playing with their weak hands – they will really help you overcome your imbalances.

Example 1

In the first exercise I play eighth note triplet singles.  I play the first stroke of each triplet on either the floor tom to my right or the floor tom to my left.  If you don’t have a floor tom on your left – don’t worry – you can use your hihat instead.  Once you get comfortable, you can begin to move the accents around your set like I do in the video.

Lesson: Movement & Mechanics Series - Singles Around the Set

Just because this is a fairly simple exercise on paper, that doesn’t mean it will be easy.  I still find it to be a great exercise for building my grip, testing my endurance and perfecting my accuracy – particularly at higher tempos, but even at low ones too.

Example 2
The next exercise follows the same idea, except this time we’re going to play paradiddles and move the first stroke of each paradiddle around the set.  I begin by playing the accents on my floor toms and then I move them around the rest of the set.
Lesson: Movement & Mechanics Series - Singles Around the Set
Example 3
This last exercise is great fun and it will really limber you up as you start moving around your set.  It incorporates cross sticking, which is a technique in which you cross one of your hands over the other as you play.  Cross sticking is an awesome visual effect, but sometimes it can also be the most effective way to get from point A to point B as you’re playing.
Lesson: Movement & Mechanics Series - Singles Around the Set
All we’re doing here is playing alternating singles, so you can move them around the drums however you want after you become comfortable with the pattern.  The basic sticking for this exercise is as follows.
Lesson: Movement & Mechanics Series - Singles Around the Set
I hope you all enjoyed this lesson.  As with all things drumming-related, the possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  Once you understand the concept, you can create your own exercises, which can also be used as fills or patterns in your normal playing.  Remember, practice exercises don’t have to remain rigid practice exercises.  Instead, they can be used in your real playing however you want.  Last, I’ll come back to this topic in future videos too, so if you enjoyed this video please stay tuned.

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