One of the most important early fundamentals for beginner drummers is finding ways to build control on the drum set. Control is a wonderful state to achieve because it opens up so many other drumming areas, including musicality, speed, dynamics, power, efficiency, and endurance. Once you understand how all of these byproducts of control relate to one another, you'll be able to take your drumming to the next level, and most importantly, have a lot of fun along the way. One of the best ways to build control is to understand a drumming concept known as sticking.
Sticking is the process in which we assign certain notes to either our left or right hand. While some sticking concepts are straightforward, others are more calculated and take a little more time to develop. There is a video blog on this very subject before we go any further, and this is well worth watching. We use sticking concepts to orchestrate drum fills, play certain grooves, and during snare drum exercises.
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The early challenges of learning the drums.
Learning the drums is a lot of fun, especially when you learn your first beats and fills. After a little practice, the first few grooves are surprisingly straightforward to learn. Once you dive deeper on this amazing journey, you will naturally experience situations where you realize you are not fully in control. For example, you will most likely attempt drum fills where you run out of ideas quickly or falter over a drum fill orchestration because the sticking doesn’t quite work out. (When we refer to playing the different drums in a drum fill situation, we call this orchestration). You will also, without a doubt, experience the scenario when you are exiting a drum fill, and you are unsure right up to the very last second, which hand is going to hit the crash cymbal. Understanding sticking concepts helps you build control so that eventually, you are rarely in any doubt about executing a creative drum fill and ensuring smooth transitions back into the main drum beat.
Diving deeper into the thought behind sticking.
Understanding sticking bridges the gap between what you conceptually want to play (your idea) and what your limbs allow you to play (the actual physical outcome). Think of sticking as driving an aptly named stick shift car or manual transmission. You want to go from zero to sixty miles per hour, but you can’t do it by just putting your foot on the gas pedal. You have to understand the relationship between the gas and the clutch and the transition point of each of the gears - otherwise, you are going nowhere fast. You get there through understanding what part is played by each of the components and through a lot of practice and repetition. Then, through experience, you drive your car seamlessly without really giving any thought to the processes you needed when you were learning to drive. They have become habitual and second nature. The same applies to your drumming and is attained partly through understanding sticking. Occasionally you might grind a gear or stall your car - and the same is true in music, no matter how experienced we become.
Common sticking concepts.
One of the most common sticking approaches is alternating or hand-to-hand sticking. Quite simply, this is the process of going from right to left and repeating. While this is arguably the most accessible and certainly has its benefits, it also, in our opinion, offers less control than other options. There are certainly times when we want to use an alternating approach, and these are discussed in the Music Notation videos in Module One of Drum Ambition. In these videos, we'll introduce you to a concept that we like to call root note sticking. We refer to quarter notes 1, 2, 3, and 4 as the root notes and mostly play these notes with our right hand. The other notes are assigned either a left or right hand determined by different factors and explained in detail in the videos. You won’t find reference to root note sticking on a Google search (at least as of March 2021) - but you will see reference to root notes being used on other instruments and concerning drum tuning techniques - both of which are in a different context. We have found that our students relate comfortably to the root note sticking concept and are sure that you will too.
Is rudimental sticking different?
Rudimental sticking refers to sticking patterns played using what we refer to as the drum set rudiments. There are twenty-six drum set rudiments, and if you are an aspiring drum line or marching band student, you have over forty. Since rudiments have their own set sticking patterns, they are a sticking concept within their own right. Rudiments are an essential part of drumming, and we cover the main ones in our curriculum. Our goal is to get you playing grooves and fills competently and musically so you can primarily have fun, and we then show you how the rudiments can enhance and embellish your foundation.
Understanding sticking concepts will transform your drumming. We need to understand at least a couple of different concepts because there is not, in our opinion, a one size fits all approach that will cover every possible scenario. To really dive into sticking concepts, you will need to have a basic knowledge of music notation and have a good handle on how to count notes. We cover all of this in our curriculum in a careful and considered step-by-step approach. The biggest takeaway is that sticking will help build control, and when you have control on the drums, there are some wonderful breakthroughs in musicality, dynamics, speed, power, and endurance. While we strive to attain each of these, it is critical to understand that they are all merely byproducts of control. If you do not build control on the drum set, you will never truly be able to play freely and unrestricted - those wonderful moments when you sit at an instrument, take a breath, feel the moment, and play whatever flows.
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