How to Play a Flam? Dive into Basics

November 15, 2023

Let’s face it:

Mastering the flam on drums can be perplexing. That subtle yet significant difference between the grace note and the primary note often becomes a rhythmic riddle. 

Good news:

With 18 years of drumming experience, I’ve honed the art of flam to a delicate nuance. In this article I will teach you how to play a flam and together we will explore some basic concepts concerning flams.

Quick Overview:

A flam comprises a soft grace note followed by a louder primary note. It’s all about the technique, where a relaxed yet precise approach leads to a perfect flam.

how to play a flam

What is a Flam?

In essence:

A flam is a two-note rudiment, a softer grace note preceding a louder primary note, adding a rhythmic flourish to your drumming.

How to Play a Flam?

Unlock the Flam Magic:

  • Positioning Mastery: Begin with your sticks equidistant from the drum head, hands relaxed yet with a firm grip on the sticks.
  • Grace Note Grace: Initiate with a grace note, letting one stick fall gently onto the drum head. This soft and swift note is your gateway to a flam that speaks volumes.
  • Primary Note Punch: Almost immediately, strike the primary note with the other stick, louder and with intent. This note is the flam’s crescendo, its rhythmic statement.

A right flam is initiated when the grace note is played by the left hand and the primary note by the right hand. On the flip side, a left flam happens when the grace note is struck by the right hand, followed by the primary note played by the left hand.

Mastering the flams

The journey to mastering the flam is often sprinkled with common missteps. Being aware of these and knowing how to steer clear is your ticket to a crisp, articulate flam. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch out for and how to avoid these flam fumbles:

The Flam Gap:

A common hiccup is creating too much of a gap between the grace note and the primary note. The essence of a flam lies in the closeness of these two notes.

Pro Tip: Aim for almost simultaneous strikes, with just a whisker of time separating the grace note from the primary note.

Volume Control:

The beauty of a flam springs from the contrast in volume between the grace note and the primary note.

Pro Tip: Keep the grace note soft and let the primary note ring out. This contrast is where the flam finds its voice.

The Unwanted Drag:

Sometimes, the grace note drags too long, morphing into a drag rather than a flam.

Pro Tip: Keep the grace note short and sweet, letting the primary note take center stage promptly.

Overthinking the Flam:

Over-analyzing each movement can lead to a stiff, mechanical flam.

Pro Tip: Relax, let your hands flow naturally. It’s about feeling the rhythm as much as it is about precision.

Go Step Further: Flam Exploration

Once you have the basic flam down, it’s time to explore its variations and applications. Several flam-based rudiments and techniques can significantly broaden your drumming vocabulary. Here are some steps to take your flam game to the next level:

Flam Variations

Flam Accent

The flam accent is a triplet-based rudiment with a flam on the first note of each triplet. It’s notated and played as follows:

  • Rhythm Notation: (Flam R L) (Flam L R) (Flam R L) and so on.

Flam Tap

Flam Tap introduces an additional tap with the same hand that played the primary note of the flam. It’s a great way to get used to alternating flams.

  • Rhythm Notation: (Flam R) L (Flam L) R and so on.
  • Stick Notation: Fr L Fl R

Flam Paradiddle

The Flam Paradiddle incorporates a paradiddle sticking pattern (RLRR LRLL) with a flam on the first note.

  • Rhythm Notation: (Flam R L R R) (Flam L R L L) and so on.
  • Stick Notation: FrLRR FLRR

These notations illustrate the hand movements, where ‘R’ represents a right-hand stroke, ‘L’ represents a left-hand stroke, and ‘F’ represents a flam.

Learn more: 

How to play a flam drag

How to play the pataflafla

Incorporating Flams into Your Playing

Taking the flam beyond a practice pad and integrating it into your playing can be a game changer. It adds a nuanced touch to your beats, making simple rhythms sound more complex and exciting.

Starting with Basic Beats

The beauty of the flam lies in its versatility. Let’s delve into how a flam can alter the character of basic beats.

Example 1:

Consider a basic rock beat:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – Snare – Kick – Snare

Now, replace the first snare hit with a right flam:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – R Flam – Kick – Snare

This small change adds a subtle complexity to the beat, giving it a more nuanced sound.

Example 2:

Consider a pop beat:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – Snare – Kick – Snare

Now, replace both snare hits with flams:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – R Flam – Kick – L Flam

By alternating right and left flams, you’re not only adding a flavorful touch to the beat but also working on your ambidexterity.

Example 3:

Consider a funk beat:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – Snare – Kick – Snare

Now, add a flam before the second snare hit:

  • 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
  • Kick – Snare – R Flam – L Flam – Snare

This modification adds a rhythmic hiccup, making the beat funkier.


Knowing how to play flams is significant in the modern drumming landscape. Its subtle complexity offers a canvas for drummers to paint rhythmic narratives with a broader stroke. 

Modern drumming is replete with instances where flams are employed to add a touch of finesse to a beat or fill, making it a skill worth mastering for every aspiring drummer.

Notable drummers like Neil Peart of Rush, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and Carter Beauford of Dave Matthews Band have often incorporated flams into their playing, showcasing the versatility and richness this rudiment brings.

Songs like “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin or “Tom Sawyer” by Rush showcase flam fills that not only punctuate the music but also highlight the drummer’s technical prowess. These classic tracks testify to the timeless relevance of flams in drumming.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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