Can you play a roll (and how important are they)?

Tama CW

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I've always had a decent roll since the junior high. In switching to fully matched grip the past 2 yrs....lost a bit of it. So a good reminder to keep mixing in the traditional grip from time to time....and those rolls. My rolls are considerably cleaner with traditional grip. That probably won't ever change.
 

Matched Gripper

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Instead of sidetracking a similar thread (https://www.drumforum.org/threads/rock-drummers-who-actually-used-rolls.175174/page-5), let me open another one about rolls and us.

But first, since there seems to be some definitional disagreement, let me define what I mean a roll. I mean the kind of smooth, sustained, double-stroke buzz-sounding thing, usually played on the snare, that starts the "Star-Spangled Banner." It can also show up in orchestral music, sometimes for a measure or or more, and sometimes even with a crescendo required. I'm not talking about single-strokes or short bouncing riffs.

Ringo and I will start. (OK, let's leave Ringo out of it, even though there is reason to believe that he couldn't play a decent roll.) I can't play one. I can play 5- and 7-strokes all day, but I'm not the drummer you want to cue to open the "Star-Spangled Banner."

The strange thing is that when I was a kid, sure, I could play a nice, smooth, sustained roll. I was the kid in the school band who did play the roll to begin the "Star-Spangled Banner." OK, school band isn't the highest standard, but I was also all-state and won various regional solo competitions. I'm pretty sure that I really could roll.

But about the time I graduated from high school, I switched to matched grip and never got my left hand up to doing its part in rolls. I also steadily lost the ability to switch back to traditional grip and play a decent roll that way. (Switching grips was a bad decision, but that's another story.)

I then proceeded to gig for another 15 years without needing to roll. OK, I was just a weekend warrior, more semi-pro than pro. There were also a few occasions when my inability to roll was an embarrassment. Typically these were when I was playing wedding receptions and someone called for a drum roll before the bride threw the bouquet. My bouquet-toss rolls sucked. However, except for these infrequent embarrassments, playing a roll was never required. The music I was playing--rock, pop, country, a little swing--didn't call for rolls.

In fact, the other day I listened to a rock-style song in which the drummer (who I think is great) threw in a roll. I found myself thinking that if I were in charge of the recording, I'd ask him to take it out. IMO, the drummer's jazz playing, where rolls often fit, was bleeding into his rock playing, where rolls rarely fit. I just didn't think that the roll was appropriate for that song.

Though I myself am now practicing my double-stroke roll (using traditional grip) because, for goodness sake, being able to execute a smooth, sustained roll is kind of square one for a drummer.
open roll = doubles
closed roll = buzz roll, press roll, crush roll, etc. , etc.

The difference is, when playing doubles, just press the sticks slightly into the drumhead and you will acheive a buzz roll. It takes some practice, but, it's not difficult.

These are basic rudiments that all drummers should be able to play, and play well.
 

bigbonzo

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open roll = doubles
closed roll = buzz roll, press roll, crush roll, etc. , etc.

The difference is, when playing doubles, just press the sticks slightly into the drumhead and you will acheive a buzz roll. It takes some practice, but, it's not difficult.

These are basic rudiments that all drummers should be able to play, and play well.
This. I learned how to do both back in grade school. Got really good at both by junior high.

How could you not know how to play a roll....any kind of roll?
 

Pounder

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I was in band a time or two in school, high school and college. Star Spangled banner was usually a press roll (but not always some bands do have one play a long roll for it), which is more than 2 strokes per stick bounce, not double strokes as you say in your OP. A good Long Roll which is a double stroke each stick is a nice thing to practice along with a press roll. Also I was pretty good at sight-reading marches, which utilized open rolls, although the spring Concert Band director singled me out to play snare drum in Concert band based on my playing a press roll on the snare for fall Orchestra. So there are subtleties in rolls. Open, closed, crush, etc. I think just practicing ought to get your left hand caught up. A practice pad or even on a pillow (some suggest all the bounce should be in the hands, some truth to that). They say it's all "in the hands".

I digress. What was the question? Oh yeah, "How important are they?"

I mean, depends if you play something that calls for a long smooth roll. I imagine one could find a device that you could turn on and put next to the drum and get a roll out of it. Singles and paradiddles are probably more important. dynamics are important. An amount of independence on the kit is useful. These techniques are all just tools. Do you need to whip out a hammer to fix a computer? Probably not. So whatever type of technician you are you ought to have an ability to use a tool to effectively get the result you're after. Nice discussion.

I will say most important of all is to HAVE FUN and play with JOY. If you find yourself in a situation that you need a roll to happen, maybe you'll switch to traditional grip and play it, then switch back?
 
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Seb77

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open roll = doubles
closed roll = buzz roll, press roll, crush roll, etc. , etc.

The difference is, when playing doubles, just press the sticks slightly into the drumhead and you will acheive a buzz roll. It takes some practice, but, it's not difficult.
My first teacher changed his approach to teaching the closed roll while I was his student. He explained to me that he had expected the stduenst to first develop the open roll (double stroke) up to speed, then press more, like you say. He noticed, however, that we as 12-year olds wanted to play closed rolls earlier than it took to master the open roll, so he had us learn the buzz stroke and build the close roll from that.
Still grateful that he shared this with us, not only for the fact that I could play in orchestra earlier, but also for showing me you can change your opinion upon new realizations/findings, in consequence changing your methods as a teacher, without losing credibility. To the contrary, he gained credibility in my eyes.
 

Drumbumcrumb

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I’d like them (mine) to be better, but I think they’re essential. Art Blakey used them masterfully, and I can only hope to even approach his skill someday with lots of practice. The ability to keep it smooth from a whisper to a crescendo, leading up to a big crash on the ride, beauty. If it’s done right, it’s an excellent fill.

It IS something I try to keep working on consistently, regardless of what else I’m practicing. Rolls are just always part of any practice because I really, really want to have a great roll. I struggle with the smoothness of it, trying to remove any pulse whatsoever so you’re left with just the pure susurrus. Mice scurrying on sandpaper and all that. I’m getting better, but I can still hear that it’s a (flawed) man with 2 drumsticks lol, whereas the perfect roll is just a seamless white noise. It’s one thing that I’d love to sit down with a great teacher and work on, hopefully I will.
 

Morello Man

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I understand where you're coming from that but that Art Blakey press-roll into the hit is one of the best feelings ever when it drops.
Blakey was a master of the roll; he became identified with it, short bursts used very efffectively. I understand he went deaf and can not understand how he could lead the Messengers - or anybody - while deaf.
 

JDA

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In some cities you can't join the Musicians Union if you can't perform first (for the fellow signing you in) a few rudiments... yeah I know It happened and will never forget it- had to read some drum music/notation

"they don't want no farces.."..
 

Rock Salad

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I use a buzz crescendo on the outro of one song, and am learning the rudiments. Working hard at getting usefulness out of five and seven stroke rolls.
Thanks for all the pressure and inspiration to learn rudiments!
 

JDA

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from page 24 on..
Page 38 (actual) on you can see how (skeletal) group of 5 (underlies) the 11-stroke roll
"6" a 13-stroke... "7" a 15-stoke..
It's all there. from 1935.
entire Stick Control pdf- free --> no excuse ; )

 
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Rich K.

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I've always had a decent roll since the junior high. In switching to fully matched grip the past 2 yrs....lost a bit of it. So a good reminder to keep mixing in the traditional grip from time to time....and those rolls. My rolls are considerably cleaner with traditional grip. That probably won't ever change.
I don't think it's a good idea to switch back and forth between grips. If you mostly play. matched, play your rolls with matched grip.
That switching between grips causes a constant "confused" left hand.
Watch 3 of the all time greats play. They all obviously studied traditional at an early age, then seemingly realized matched was more practical. Watch Brian Blade, Mike Clark and the later Tony Williams videos. Clark and especially Blade switch so often it seems to become more of a tick than a technique thing.
 

Slingerland3ply

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My first teacher at the music store started me on rudiments and rolls. Stick control and Podemski snare book. I would play buzz rolls continuously for 20 minutes without stopping. On a snare drum usually then on practice pad .My second teacher was a jazz player so he didn’t go over rudiments but he got my sticking more natural.
 

dcrigger

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Can I? Yes.

Is it my forte? Nope, never has been. I mean, again, I can do it. It's just not as "stunning" as I know it should be.

Which by the nature of what's been posted by others - it's declining use in popular music, etc. - that's something I've been able to get away with. But there's been a few times on gigs - where I've been left sweating bullets about it.
 

5 Style

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I could play a press roll pretty early on. Funny though that only much more recently I learned how to and have incorporated double stroke rolls into my playing. I can do even single stroke rolls pretty well too, though maybe not really sustained, super-dynamic Billy Cobham level ones (few can!). What I can't seem to nail though is playing double stroke rolls as triplet figures as the only way that I seem to be able to get that motion going is a back and fourth kind of thing and to play an odd number as in a triplet, screws that up. I've also never been able to figure out a triple stroke roll as I can't seem to get that much bounce with my stick.

I play some jazz but even in rock I find ways to throw in those kind of rolls. I always get a kick out of hearing rock drummers who can do really smooth rolls. Mind you, I'm not in any way bragging that my ability to play rolls puts me on any kind of level above other drummers who aren't so good at that. I find that since I didn't really come up imitating/studying other drummers that there are big holes in my abilities and even though I might be pretty smooth with the rolls, I find that I have trouble with other stuff that seems to be pretty basic to lots of players that I see...
 
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5 Style

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I understand where you're coming from that but that Art Blakey press-roll into the hit is one of the best feelings ever when it drops.
Blakey is far from my favorite jazz drummer (though some of his groups/records are obviously very good) but that one move, that press roll/crescendo thing that he did was pretty great, I have to say!
 

5 Style

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I don't think it's a good idea to switch back and forth between grips. If you mostly play. matched, play your rolls with matched grip.
That switching between grips causes a constant "confused" left hand.

I kind of agree with that. I mostly play matched but certain things feel better to me with trad grip... as I studied both growing up. I feel like I'm a bit awkward though when I'm playing all jazzy with the trad grip and then switch to matched to get a really even press roll. I'd be better off getting good enough with one or the other and being able to use that for everything...
 


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