How to Master Single Stroke Roll?

November 15, 2023

Wondering how to play a single stroke roll with precision and speed? I get how daunting it can seem when you’re starting out.

By reading further, you’re on the path to nailing this essential rudiment that’s a staple in every drummer’s skill set.

In a hurry? The single stroke roll is an alternating stroke pattern (R L R L) and the most basic drumming rudiment.

Stick with me, and let’s start your journey to drumming fluency.

What is a Single Stroke Roll?

A single stroke roll is the simplest form of drum rudiment, consisting of consecutive strokes alternated between the right (R) and left (L) hands. It’s the percussionist’s bread and butter, used across all styles of music and a key element in developing rhythmic versatility.

How to Play a Single Stroke Roll

To play a single stroke roll, begin with your sticks held at a comfortable angle above the drum or practice pad. Here’s the step-by-step approach:

  • Start Slow: Initiate a stroke with your dominant hand—right for most people (marked as ‘R’), followed by a stroke with your left hand (‘L’). Keep the alternating pattern going: R L R L.
  • Even Strokes: Focus on producing even and consistent strokes. Each hand should strike the drum with the same intensity, creating a uniform sound.
  • Relaxed Grip: Maintain a relaxed grip on the sticks, allowing them to rebound off the drum head or practice pad naturally. This will help you to play with less fatigue and more speed as you progress.
  • Use Your Wrists: The motion should come primarily from your wrists, not your arms. Your arms stay relatively still while your wrists provide the action, offering greater control and efficiency.
  • Control the Bounce: As you strike, allow the stick to bounce back up to its starting position. Control the rebound to prepare for the next stroke.

Mastering the single stroke roll is all about consistency and control. Start slow, and focus on perfect execution with each stroke

Different Versions of Single Stroke Roll

The single stroke roll is arguably the most versatile rudiment, and it can be adapted in several ways. The basic sticking remains constant—alternating hands—yet it can be played at various dynamics and speeds to suit the musical context.

  • Standard Version (Alternating Singles): Simply play RLRLRLRL… or LRLRLRLR… continuously, alternating each hand. This is the most common version you’ll see.
  • Accented Version: Add accents to certain beats to create different patterns. For example, accenting the first stroke of every set of four: Rlrl Rlrl Rlrl…
  • Dynamic Version: Vary the dynamics by playing soft (piano) and loud (forte) strokes: RlRl RlRl… or rLrL rLrL…
  • Open/Close (Buzz) Version: Begin with buzz strokes (multiple bounces per hand) and gradually transition to distinct single strokes, then back to buzz strokes.

These variations can help you keep the single stroke roll interesting and musically engaging.

Exercises for Mastering Single Stroke Roll

To gain proficiency in the single stroke roll, practice is key. Here are some exercises:

  • Slow to Fast to Slow: Start playing the single stroke roll slowly, gradually increase your speed to the fastest you can play cleanly, then slow back down. This helps build control and muscle memory.
  • Metronome Practice: Use a metronome and play at different speeds. Start at a comfortable tempo where you can play with perfect technique, then increase the tempo in small increments.
  • Accents and Dynamics: Practice the single stroke roll with varying accents and dynamics. This not only works on your control but also on your ability to inject expression into the rudiment.
  • Doubles and Singles Combo: Combine single strokes with double strokes in practice routines, such as playing four singles followed by four doubles. This helps to improve your overall hand technique and prepares you for more complex rudiments.
  • Play Along to Music: Choose songs with different tempos and play single stroke rolls along with the music. This builds your ability to use the rudiment musically.
  • Repetition and Consistency: Repetition is the mother of skill. Practice the single stroke roll daily, focusing on stick height and bounce to ensure consistency.
  • Endurance Exercise: See how long you can maintain a single stroke roll at a consistent speed and dynamic. Push for longer periods to build endurance.
Check out this exercise to create 100 rhythms with single strokes.

Wrap Up

Curious about how to play a single stroke roll? It’s a basic yet vital drumming pattern, alternating between hands (Right, Left, Right, Left). Essential for speedy transitions and fills, start with simple RLRL stickings. To hear it in action, check out Neil Peart’s work in Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”, where the single stroke roll is showcased brilliantly.

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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