Mastering how to play a six stroke roll may seem like a tricky rhythm to tackle—I’ve been through this learning curve myself—but it’s an essential skill that’s very achievable.
This rudiment adds a wealth of variety to your playing, making it indispensable for creating those dynamic shifts that capture an audience’s attention.
In a rush? A six-stroke roll is typically played using a mix of singles and doubles (RllrrL, LrrllR), allowing for a combination of speed and nuance in your patterns.
Eager to drum this out? Let’s delve into the six-stroke roll.
What is a Six Stroke Roll?
The six-stroke roll is a percussion pattern that consists of six hits in quick succession, typically involving both single and double strokes. This rudiment can be executed within a single beat or spread across multiple beats, depending on the tempo and time signature you’re working with.
It often features a combination of softer inner notes with louder accents at the beginning and end, which makes it particularly expressive.
How to Play the Six Stroke Roll
1. Understanding the Pattern: The six-stroke roll is a combination of six notes typically played in the order of RLRRLL or RLLRRL. These patterns combine the flow of single and double strokes, providing a smooth rolling sound that is versatile in various musical contexts.
2. Starting with Singles: Begin with a single stroke using your right hand (R), followed by a single stroke with your left (L). These single strokes are usually accented, meaning they are played louder than the other notes in the sequence.
3. Moving to Doubles: After the initial singles, you play double strokes starting with the right hand (RR) followed by double strokes with the left hand (LL). In the RLLRRL variation, you would play the left hand double strokes (LL) immediately after the single left hand stroke.
4. Practice Slowly: Start practicing the pattern very slowly to get the feel of the stickings. Make sure the double strokes are played smoothly and that the transition between singles and doubles feels natural.
5. Accenting the Singles: As you become comfortable with the sticking, begin to accent the first and last note of the pattern. For RLRRLL, you would accent the first R and the final L. For RLLRRL, you would accent the first R and the second L.
Different Versions of the Six Stroke Roll
Standard Six Stroke:
The classic approach: RllrrL, LrrllR.
Double Stroke Variation:
Start and end with doubles: Rrllrr, Llrrll.
Advanced Stickings and Variations
Begin and end with strong accents: RllrrL, LrrllR.
Flip the sticking pattern for a new feel: llRrrL, rrLllR.
Fit the roll within a triplet feel: (Rll) (rrL), (Lrr) (llR).
Exercises for Mastering the Six Stroke Roll Variations
Isolation Practice: Work on each variation separately, with a metronome for timing.
Dynamics Exercise: Alternate between loud and soft rolls to gain control over your stick heights and volumes.
Speed Building: Incrementally increase the tempo while maintaining clarity in each stroke.
Accent Shifting: Move accents around the roll to challenge your control and add different expressions.
Musical Context: Incorporate the rolls into grooves and fills, experimenting with how they can be used within songs.
Creativity Unleashed: Try creating your own variations by combining different stickings and accent patterns.
Understanding how to play a six-stroke roll means mastering a pattern that weaves together singles and doubles, with the typical sticking being (Right-ll-rr-Left).
It’s a versatile tool in a drummer’s kit, exemplified by the intricate work of drummers like Steve Gadd. Aim to get comfortable with the RllrrL or LrrllR patterns and then experiment to find your own style within this classic rudiment.