How do you practice low-volume rim shots?

marc3k

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Hi fellow drummers

Do you have good exercises or tips on how to practice low-volume rim shots?

I play matched grip and usually use something between an american and french grip in my left hand on the snare. Since I play mostly accoustic jazz in a trio, I always play with tip of the stick on the snare when comping, not with the butt end! I really like the different textures I get when doing rim shots, especially at lower volumes. However, I'm very inconsistent and often only hit the rim and not the head at all, which always annoys me.
My snare is a Gretsch Broadkaster, which came with the kit.

I appreciate all inputs!
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I prefer Rim shots with the stick pointing outwards as opposed to the butt. Either way, I usually take a pair of sticks and experiment as to the best sound for each stick and mark that location with the Sharpie going along the circumference of the stick. This way when I'm playing I just need to land of stick at or near that line to get the best sound.

As for volume, just hit softer. Or you can experiment with different stick markings so you have one that's a loud click and one that's a thin softer click.
 

afwdrums

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I often position my snare in such a way (at just the right height) that when I strike a rim-shot, the backs of my fingers on my left ever so slightly touch the top of my thigh...this serves as a sort of guide, where if I'm not feeling my hand hitting my leg at all then I know I'm striking a little high and I'm probably getting more head than rim...and if I feel my hand whacking my leg more than it should, then my stroke is too low and I might end up hitting just rim...you just have to find that sweet spot as far as the height goes, and be mindful of how hard your hand is hitting your leg, I have come back from gigs before with a decent bruise on the top of my thigh because I had my snare too low and so I was essentially punching my leg with every rimshot, in this position it was nearly impossible to hit just the rim though, as my leg is in the way of going any lower, if that makes any sense
 

Sonar Dave

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I often position my snare in such a way (at just the right height) that when I strike a rim-shot, the backs of my fingers on my left ever so slightly touch the top of my thigh...this serves as a sort of guide, where if I'm not feeling my hand hitting my leg at all then I know I'm striking a little high and I'm probably getting more head than rim...and if I feel my hand whacking my leg more than it should, then my stroke is too low and I might end up hitting just rim...you just have to find that sweet spot as far as the height goes, and be mindful of how hard your hand is hitting your leg, I have come back from gigs before with a decent bruise on the top of my thigh because I had my snare too low and so I was essentially punching my leg with every rimshot, in this position it was nearly impossible to hit just the rim though, as my leg is in the way of going any lower, if that makes any sense
I do something similar. But is he talking about when the butt of the stick is already resting on the snare and you kedep it there while you bring the tip down to the rim?
 

afwdrums

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I do something similar. But is he talking about when the butt of the stick is already resting on the snare and you kedep it there while you bring the tip down to the rim?
sounds like you're describing cross-stick? or something else? he did mention the butt end, but I read the question as how to do proper rimshots, just without the typical volume associated, which is do-able, but a bit tricky perhaps since you need to get the stick angle just right, with much less force to the stroke
 

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Pretty sure OP is talking about a rimshot as commonly understood, not a cross-stick or rim click.

It IS a good idea in jazz comping to be able to catch rimshots at low volume while having good tone.

I usually just sit there and practice that stroke until it starts to feel automatic, while paying close attention to the tone I'm getting. Things like this seem to simply need to work their way into muscle memory.
 

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Find the most comfortable height and angle for your snare. Once you have the drum set where it is COMFORTABLE, then practice consistency with your rimshots. Your body (aka arms and hands) need to learn where this position is and what it feels like.
 

Matched Gripper

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Hi fellow drummers

Do you have good exercises or tips on how to practice low-volume rim shots?

I play matched grip and usually use something between an american and french grip in my left hand on the snare. Since I play mostly accoustic jazz in a trio, I always play with tip of the stick on the snare when comping, not with the butt end! I really like the different textures I get when doing rim shots, especially at lower volumes. However, I'm very inconsistent and often only hit the rim and not the head at all, which always annoys me.
My snare is a Gretsch Broadkaster, which came with the kit.

I appreciate all inputs!
2 tips I can offer:

1) If you are playing a double bounce (ie: a shuffle), or any time you want to rimshot the second bounce of a double bounce (ghost note/rimshot), the open/closed method works very well.

2) Hit the stick against the rim at about 1/3 of the way from the tip of the stick. It produces a lighter shot and is easier to hit accurately.
 
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toddbishop

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I learned to do it on the job, never really practiced it. My baseline position is with my hand very low to the drum, so I only have to drop my wrist slightly to make a rim shot-- like half an inch or less. I play with the left stick backwards basically all the time-- I don't think that makes any difference.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I was questioning my earlier post and of course I'm an idiot. I described cross sticking.

For a rimshot it's a similar idea though. You have to know at what point of the stick and at what angle you can achieve that sound. Then practice as noted above so you can play it pretty much at will and then you just simply have to work on a lighter stroke. I think you'll get more of the rim and less of the snare sound if you do with softly but I don't have a drum in front of me.
 

Drumbumcrumb

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Practice yes, but also drum position. If you find yourself hitting just rim by accident too often (and boy, you can’t miss that sound! Expecting a little Whomp, and you get a *click* lol) it might be time to analyze your snare position/height. Slightly tilted towards the bd works for me, but depending on your grip, seat height, etc ymmv. Tilted toward you might be just right, idk. Try angling the drum until YOUR typical light rimshot movement makes good contact. But seriously, practice and muscle memory are important. A consistent rimshot and consistent tom hits are the mark of the practiced drummer. If you look at the wear pattern on a masterful drummers heads, it’s often only worn in a very small area or two. They’re accurate. From practice.

You may not like this part, but if you’re playing jazz trio/quartet - it might be time to start practicing traditional grip. If you watch your favorite jazz drummers you’ll likely find 99% of them using traditional. And they USE it. They’re using techniques that just can’t be done otherwise. Especially at lower volumes, I feel like the trad grip is indispensable. Combined with a slightly angled snare drum surface, it’s IDEAL for just what you describe (plus a bunch of other essential sounds). From a traditional grip, you can just drop the stick into a light rimshot (or a quick ruff, or a soft double, etc) in a very natural motion. I think it offers more control on the lighter side of things and allows you to utilize the movements that jazz players have been using for decades. It certainly feels absolutely wrong at first (when coming from matched grip), but quickly becomes second nature. And when you can play BOTH grips, you’ve added a powerful new tool to your toolbox.
 

Rock Salad

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I have a Remo practice pad with a rim on it. Practicing rimshots with the pad on my lap, on a chair, on top of my snare and wherever else has helped a whole bunch. Just like the drum, rimshots are way louder on the pad so balancing them out translates very well to playing on the drum.
The practice has helped my ride cymbal spanks too
 

marc3k

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Great answers, thanks!

Yes, I'm talking about playing soft strokes on the head and in between playing some strokes which catch the rim for a different sound. So I guess my issue is going from one to the other. Doing loud backbeat rim shots with the butt end seems easier to me.

As much as I would love to be able to play with traditional grip, in my opinion it's just not worth to invest the time for that. I'm already working hard enough to improve my left hand, even with matched grip :)

Good points about the height and angle of the snare - I may look into this!
 

mfk252

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I use the thigh as a guide (mentioned in several prior posts). I tend to let the stick drop almost straight down (versus pivoting at the wrist). This also allows me to dig the stick into the head for a different sound (if desired) and can also be used for a quieter dynamic. Try this on different parts of the head and you can get a wide range of tones, from loud and wide open to quick and soft.
 

Pat A Flafla

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Q: How do you practice low-volume rim shots?
A: With focus pills in your stomach, and sadness in your heart.

I recently played a piece for field drum and flute in a recital hall. Shots were notated, and I practiced them endlessly, but I wound up replacing most with stick shots since I had to play all the dynamics down two levels to not dominate the flute (f to mp, etc.).

Tips: ZERO fingers, all wrist--even maybe all arm. You need to minimize variables as if your plane is losing altitude over the ocean and you're tossing out every gram of cargo to stay alive. I didn't have the luxury of sitting, but if I did, I'd set up so that my legs would stop my wrists at the perfect shot point.
 

Drumbumcrumb

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Q: How do you practice low-volume rim shots?
A: With focus pills in your stomach, and sadness in your heart.

I recently played a piece for field drum and flute in a recital hall. Shots were notated, and I practiced them endlessly, but I wound up replacing most with stick shots since I had to play all the dynamics down two levels to not dominate the flute (f to mp, etc.).

Tips: ZERO fingers, all wrist--even maybe all arm. You need to minimize variables as if your plane is losing altitude over the ocean and you're tossing out every gram of cargo to stay alive. I didn't have the luxury of sitting, but if I did, I'd set up so that my legs would stop my wrists at the perfect shot point.
Now that at least a couple people have mentioned using your leg as a kind of index for the rimshot - How high or low ‘should’ a snare be? How high or low should we be sitting?

I hope OP considers this on topic, I feel like it relates to the original question since we’re talking about positioning and repeatable motions and such. Snare height especially seems to me to have a big impact on ease of rimshottability. It’s interesting that we’d likely all agree that position in relation to the kit is important, but then you’ll see every possible different approach to it from different drummers - this guy sits waaay low with his snare at his knees, while that guys sitting super high and his snare is up at his elbows. But both will tell you why it works!
 

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Keep your grip loose. Stay close to the head. Aim for the rim and head at the same time.
 

Pat A Flafla

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Now that at least a couple people have mentioned using your leg as a kind of index for the rimshot - How high or low ‘should’ a snare be? How high or low should we be sitting?

I hope OP considers this on topic, I feel like it relates to the original question since we’re talking about positioning and repeatable motions and such. Snare height especially seems to me to have a big impact on ease of rimshottability. It’s interesting that we’d likely all agree that position in relation to the kit is important, but then you’ll see every possible different approach to it from different drummers - this guy sits waaay low with his snare at his knees, while that guys sitting super high and his snare is up at his elbows. But both will tell you why it works!
A drummer's physical proportions play a huge part in this. I have long arms and not-as-long legs and a long torso, so after setting my throne height for optimal pedal performance, I place my snare totally flat and low enough to use my leg as a shot stopper. I also play mostly rock gigs, so hat stomping isn't a big problem for me. If I'm playing jazz, which is rare, I'm likely to set my snare a bit higher for that reason, but consistent shots aren't as high of a priority as hat technique in that situation. The only issue I run into is with eighth note double kick patterns where my left leg is coming up when the snare hand is going down. At that point I either don't do shots or move the left hand over a bit if off center shots will sound fine. I tend to do hat lifts heel down to maintain the shot stopper effect.
 

Seb77

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Tips: ZERO fingers, all wrist--even maybe all arm. You need to minimize variables
I like that idea,I just think in order to play patterns mixing rimshots and doubles etc., you need to have the wriststroke RS down.

Center rimshot, not to mention even more length of stick over the batter head, is more difficult than timbale-type ones closer to the rim, with only a short part of the stick over the head (stick neck/shoulder on the rim).

I used to unconsciously tense my lower arm with the triceps muscle, not a good idea, caused some elbow pain. For wrist strokes, keep the lower arm /wrist in exactly the right height but loosely. With arm strokes, think of dropping the stick rather than accelerating/pressing actively. If you are tense, try practising one hand only and feel the triceps upperarm muscles with the other hand, they should be loose.
 


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