QuadZen

crow's picture

Here's a little perspective that I gained through a humble but an enlightening time with quad drumming. I just wanted to share it with the up and comers cause I wish someone would have done it with me when I started. When I first wrote this post it was intended for a younger audience so some of the info. may be non-applicable to some of the more advanced players here but maybe your students can learn from it. Now I realize that some of my views are personal preferences I still urge you to at least consider them as I found them to be most effective in helping with my musicianship overall.

The most enticing aspect to quads for me has always been the visual element. When I first started marching percussion I found out that there was another dimension to drumming, something that I would be able to directly apply to my drumset playing. After a ridiculous amount of time spent practicing and performing on this great instrument I found some very zen-like qualities of this thing we quad-drumming.

Step one is found in the fundamental stroke of ones playing, the straight 8th note. The player's stroke should be strong and rebounded like a basketball, as well as controlled with connected movements. The less jerky the better. This is to ensure a good quality of sound while utilizing the natural energy and motion of the stick. Every beat you play should be relative to this idea, especially when sound quality is concerned. Ideally the playing should be a blend of power and grace with strong dexterity and control. A great exercies to isolate this concept is to start with forte 8th notes at a medium tempo(130bpm-ish)and slowly decresendo them to piano, feeling every dynamic in between. This gray area in between is crucial to connecting the positions of the hand resulting in a more fluid knowledge of your technique. It's the subtle zones that can hold the most magic. When you get to the piano level look carefully to see if you changed anything in your technique. The lower level 8th's require more control so the back fingers come into play but the "look" of your stroke should be exactly the same as the forte version. This is a key point because your taps(all of them!) are variations of this idea. Go though some exercises that you "know" and see if you are approaching your taps and inner beats uniformally. It's the constant changing of your technique that can waste the most energy resulting in fatigue of the hands. Understand that if you are constantly changing your basic approach you end up making things more complicated for yourself as well as wasting energy needed for execution.

In the learning process you can view it as being in 3 main stages: formality; rigidity; fluidity. Formality is learning the technique or material, rigidity is practicing it; fluidity is mastering it. In drumming, the process is the same and the masters are generally the epitome of fluidity in both motion and musical knowledge. It's wise to keep this process in mind when learning because it's crucial to know your own tendencies involved with learning. Because of the limits of time during the season we are faced with pressures to advance quickly so knowing how to be a good student(quick learner) is usually what dictates whether you make a line or not.

Next we apply home base(forte 8's) to doubles and triples. The double stroke is simply two forte 8's in a row. Now while this seems easy to concieve, in my experience around many great drummers I found very few have grasped this concept fully. A double stroke is two 8's together, not an accent with a bounced stroke after it. If you are serious about playing then you don't throw in or drop any note in. Only in very fast tempos should the 2nd beat be bounced but the the heighth should be roughly the same. On the same token take not to overcontrol your motions, let the sticks natural energy work for you. Remember that you are responsible for every single note you play, every beat counts. A good method that I've found for unifying my double strokes is to play very fast, relaxed 8's and casually morph into double beats carefully changing nothing in technique. In the tacet time between doubles the stick will float slightly above the height of the double beat but keep it minimal as it will use more energy. The idea is to focus the movements, maintain power, relax.

Putting hands together people have a strong tendency to change the approach of your method. To battle this the tried and true method of isolating and focusing on diddles by playing one hand of a roll. Pay attention to the 8th note pulse, it's a great guide for timing purposes. Get used to the sound and feel of an isolated diddle then look for the sameness quality between the first and second note. They should still be roughly the same height even if the tempo is fast. Using only one hand start slow then speed up to med/fast roll tempo, as you increase tempo a bit more arm is incorporated but the motion of the stick (bead especially) is fundamentally the same. After you get the feel in the hands alternate back and forth between hands then eventually put hands together. All of my students change their technique in this process so be aware and critical, constantly take a hand away to check yourself and then watch to see if it changes when you return the hand. The purpose of keeping the 2nd note of the diddle the same quality as the first intitial note is to ensure a seamless full sound in your rolls. Another exercise for me is to play med/fast 16th's and alternate between singles to doubles and making them sound exactly the same. Usually the tendency is to lighten up or change in some manner when switching the sticking. It's the true test to maintain the quality no matter what. If you can't do it at all your usual tempos then you got something to work on for a while. The most basic and simple exercises can often be the most revealing.

When applied to two-height, two hand playing the flow approach is best maintained by first isolating what the indiviual hands are doing as with the rolls. There are a series of exercises that do this for flam rudiments and paradiddle variations such as: triple beats for flam taps etc. You can do it yourself by simply playing a rudiment and placing one hand on a drum and the other on anther surface (preferably quieter). Figure out what the rhythm is and take the filler hand away. Get comfortable enough to play it relaxed then see if you can retain the feeling when you bring the other hand in. I can't stress enought the importance of knowing what your hands are doing in complex patterns. Our tendency is to just cover up discrepancies and move on to something faster but most people will tell you that those errors never go away. Isolation and simplifying can be of the drummers most reliable and useful tools.

I have found that much of the time players will often work against themselves with confusion with their mind and body. There will be habits established that often bring unwanted tension in their playing that hinders their progress or real growth. I urge to always be relaxed but still play every note with the same conviction as 8's. Don't confuse control with gripping tighter or pounding, always know that your muscles and mind are more efficient when relaxed and centered. This is the zen of quad and the point that we all strive for in the end. "True virtuosity is attained not by exertion of effort but by relaxed contemplation of music's deepest structures", this means that you practice all the fundamentals with the upmost excellence until they are completely automatic and playable in your sleep. When you relenquish your ego control over every one of your actions then the mind is free to concentrate on longer phrasing. It's like getting past the alphabet in order to write meaningful stories. We've all heard the phrase "they make it look so easy", that's you should strive to embody. People should watch you play and be truly astonished on how you could do something so difficult and still be relaxed. This doesn't mean that one should ever be lazy about their playing. On the contrary it takes an incredible amount of energy to maintain control while playing quads with fluidity.

When all the fundamentals of your playing are automatic this can allow for the spiritual quality of music to come through. We've all experienced this feeling at one point in our playing and the great ones are doing it all the time. Quad Zen (the zone) is achievable every time you hit the drum but it's the amount of effort required that keeps us from staying there all the time. The time spent there is never wasted and is worth every effort spent.

crow

courtesy of webmatter.de