What is "sticking" and why is it important for beginner drummers?

Author: Simon DasGupta.
September 15, 2022

In this article

When learning the drums, you'll soon discover that building control is the key to everything! As you watch our online drum lessons and make steady progress, you'll see that developing good control opens up many areas, including musicality, speed, dynamics, efficiency, and endurance.

  • Why is understanding sticking important?
  • How does this give me better control of the drum set?
  • What are the benefits of learning basic sticking patterns on the drums?

What is sticking, and how will it help my drumming?

Once you understand how sticking helps builds control, you'll be able to take your drumming to the next level and, most importantly, have a lot of fun along the way.

Sticking simply refers rather generically to which hand plays which note. While some sticking concepts are straightforward, others are more calculated and take a little more time to develop. We use sticking concepts in drum fills, grooves, rudiments, and snare drum exercises.

The early challenges of learning the drums.

Learning the drums is fun, especially when discovering your first beats and fills. After a bit of practice, the first few grooves are surprisingly straightforward to understand.

Once you dive deeper into this fantastic journey, you will naturally experience situations where you realize you are not entirely 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 will hit the crash cymbal.

Understanding sticking concepts helps you build control so that you are never in 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 gear; otherwise, you are going nowhere fast. You get there by understanding what part is played by each component and through a lot of practice and repetition. Then, through experience, you drive your car seamlessly without really considering the processes you need when 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. This is the process of going from right to left and repeating. While this is arguably the most accessible form of sticking and certainly has its benefits, it also, in our opinion, offers less control than other options. Sometimes we want to use an alternating approach, and we discuss this in our Music Notation videos in our first course.

In these videos, we'll introduce you to a concept called 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. We have found that our subscribers relate comfortably to the root note sticking concept and are confident 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; 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 in 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.

In summary.

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 dive into sticking concepts, you will need a basic knowledge of music notation and a good handle on counting notes. We cover this in our courses in a careful and considered step-by-step approach.

The biggest takeaway is that sticking will help build control, and when you have control of 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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