- Dec 29, 2014
- Reaction score
- Dallas, Texas
Like words in language, rolls are simply part of your drumming vocabulary. When used in the right place at the right time, they are a beautiful thing. Some music(symphonic & marching) requires more rolls. Other music may not(country, rock). To ask if they are necessary isn’t the right question. The question should be, “when should you use them?“. The answer is likely, “when it serves the music”.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.