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Stickings and You -- Making Parts Flow
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NoPance  
 




Joined: 19 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 5:30 pm    Post subject: Stickings and You -- Making Parts Flow Reply with quote

1. Overview

Sticking refers to a standard percussion subnotation that denotes which hand to use for a given note. It is a simple notation where R represents the right hand, and L represents the left hand. For many, thinking about drum parts at this level is somewhat overkill ("They're just notes on the screen, it doesn't matter what hand I use to hit things so long as I hit them"), but you'll often find that many tricky or awkward parts become instantly easier if you approach them with a different sticking.

Experienced drummers (particularly those with experience in symphonic or marching literature) have the advantage of seeing familiar patterns of notes and knowing which sticking to apply, but to the beginning percussionist it's more of a trial-and-error process and can be frustrating.

The purpose of this guide is to outline a few common patterns you'll find in Rock Band drumming, and some suggestions for applying different stickings to make them easier and flow more naturally.

NOTE - For brevity's sake I am going to reference all examples in this guide from the vantage of a right-handed drummer. If you are a lefty you need only to completely reverse anything I say and it will apply to you. Stickings such as RLLR would become LRRL for a left-handed drummer and so on.

Changelog
[12/10/07] - Initial Authoring
[12/11/07] - Added section 7: "Figuring Out Which Sticking to Use"

2. Natural (RLRL) Sticking

Natural sticking is the most basic type of sticking consisting of alternating right and left strokes. A vast majority of Rock Band fills and patterns are best played with natural sticking.

When you're playing rhythms on one drum you can essentially use natural sticking for everything, but a drumset and its multiple playing surfaces brings about a logistical problem. Since the toms increase in size from left to right (and most drum fills go down the toms), you'll often find that natural sticking can cause your hands to get crossed up as you move from drum to drum. Because of this configuration, natural sticking works best when you're dealing with even groupings of notes on every pad. With the last note of an even grouping being played by the left hand, your right hand is freed up to move to the next pad uninhibited.

Some examples of patterns that work best with natural sticking:

(fills with even groupings)

(16th-note hi-hat patterns).

2.1 Right-hand/Left-Hand Lead Natural Sticking

One last consideration of natural sticking is what hand to lead with. Most of the examples we outlined above used a right-hand lead (since we're using the example of a right-handed drummer for this guide). This simply means that the right hand starts the pattern of alternated strokes (RLRL). Sometimes though patterns work best if you do them left-hand lead instead (LRLR).

Consider this fill:



If you started this fill with your right hand, you'd soon find yourself crossed up unless you were playing at a very slow tempo. This is because your right hand will get in the way of your left playing the first yellow note. Instead, if you had started this pattern with your left hand on red, the rest of the fill would flow perfectly in natural sticking.

So before you give up on sticking a pattern naturally consider leading with the other hand to see if it makes things easier for you.

3. Right-Hand Lead (R RL R RL) Sticking

This variation on natural sticking can be very handy in certain RB patterns, namely gallops. The basic idea is that your right hand keeps a steady beat, while your left hand fills in the gaps to create syncopation.

Let's look at this hi-hat/snare pattern:



A lot of you will recognize this as Run to the Hills on hard. This gallop would not be hard to play with natural sticking if you started the pattern on your left hand, but there's an easier way to do it (with a built-in check to keep you playing in time).

Try doing the above pattern with this sticking: R RL R RL R RL R RL. During this sticking you may notice that your right hand is keeping constant 8th notes, and that's really one of the best reasons to use this approach. To see what I'm talking about, let's take out all the left-hand hits in the above pattern:




You see that all of the notes in the above pattern are played with your right hand, and it's a steady stream of 8th notes. Adding in your left hand in-between every other gap will give you the gallop your looking for, and in a pinch you can just focus on keeping your right hand in time to make sure you don't blow combo.

There are several variations of this concept, and alll provide you with an underlying check to stay in time. Many will find approaching these rhythms with these sticking is a lot more comfortable than natural sticking.

4. Paradiddle (RLRR LRLL) Sticking

The paradiddle has origins in rudimental drumming and although possessing a silly name it is one of the most frequently-used techniques in all of percussion. The idea behind the paradiddle is that certain patterns (particularly patterns of accented notes) get increasingly harder to do at breakneck speeds with natural sticking. By bouncing two notes on one hand the other has time to lift for the accent, and thus the paradiddle was born.

Coincidentally, the paradiddle also makes certain patterns of notes a lot easier to play. Consider the following fill:



At a faster speed going from blue to yellow will cross your hands up a bit because you have to move your left hand out of the way to hit the first yellow. Instead, consider playing the above fill with paraddidle sticking (RLRR LRLL). This makes the motion flow a lot better, and no hand is in the way of the other.

This sticking works best with even groupings of notes (4 or more is ideal) that feel awkward with natural sticking. The paradiddle does not have to be limited to just gourpings of 4 however, as you can play a paradiddle for six notes (RLRLRR - called a double paradiddle), eight notes (a triple paradiddle) or another other logical grouping of even notes.

It's worth noting that typically the doubled notes in paradiddles are executed with a controlled double-stroke bounce, but because the rebound of the RB pads is so weak you should likely just stroke out the doubles instead.

5. Puhduhduh (RLL RLL) Sticking

Yes that's its name--strange names are just part of drumming (telling a drummer "you really need to pound out that inverted grandma" is not uncommon). The puhduhduh (named roughly for what it sounds like) works almost exclusively in groupings of three notes, and it will become your best friend during Foreplay/Long Time:




A lot of people saw that pattern and freaked out, and others might have just played it with RLLRLL sticking naturally, but this is the perfect application of a puhduhduh. Playing the entire pattern (even the initial three snare notes) with RLL sticking really makes things flow nicely. Doing so lets you only aim for the right-hand notes, which are hitting quarter notes conveniently doubled with the bass drum (which your left brain definintely appreciates) while the left hand fills in the space on the snare.

Think about how tough this pattern would be if you didn't use this sticking. If you tried to do it with natural sticking, you'd likely have to actually cross your left hand over your right to make it to that crash. And that's no good.

The biggest hurdle to overcome when mastering this sticking is making the inner beats even. The left hits have to form three perfectly even strokes in between the right hits (triplets in this case). If your left strokes are too close together, you will actually get a "galloping" sound of 1 &a 2 &a which will likely drop your combo.

This sticking can also come in handy in some drum fills:



Again natural sticking at fast tempos can cross you up since the right hand is in the way of the left hand getting to the first yellow pad. Playing this fill with RLL RLL RLL R instead results in no crossings and a smooth flow.

5.1 Variation: Swiss Sticking (RRL RRL)

A similarly-related sticking to the puhduhduh is Swiss sticking. It pretty much follows the exact same uses and applications with puhduhduhs, except that the pattern will have two notes on a drum followed by one on another. It is also just as good for playing fills in groupings of threes.

6. Double-Stroke (RR LL) Sticking

The double-stroke roll is another ubiquitous rudiment, and it actually does find some use in RB. Essentially it consists of two notes per hand, and it is often bounced to allow the player to achieve impossibly fast speeds compared to naturally-stroked notes. Some songs in particular (such as Train Kept a Rollin') have long sequences of fast red notes that you might find easier to play with double-strokes. Again, the rebound of the pads is a severely limiting factor, but if you don't have the chops to stroke the notes out it may be your only hope of passing the song.

It also finds some use in awkwardly-arranged fills in groupings of two:



Playing this fill RR LL RR LL is a lot less awkward than RL RL RL RL.

HUGE NOTE - Unlike the closed (or pressed) roll which mimics the sustain of other musical instruments, the double-stroke roll represents an actual rigid rhythm. Why does this matter? Well you need to know what the rhythm is that you're trying to roll, otherwise you're going to blow your combo.

If you are trying to play a double-stroke roll for fast 16th notes, your hands will be moving in 8th notes (two strokes a hand). In contrast, if you're trying to play a double-stroke roll for fast sextuplets (24th nootes), your hands will be moving in 8th note triplets. Confusing one for the other will result in being too fast or too slow and having no chance of landing the sequence.

6.1 A Sidebar to Quad Playing - Sweeps/Scrapes

Quads (often also called tenors, quints, sexes, six-packs, etc) are a marching instrument that plays the role of middle/melodic voice in the marching battery. Quads have four to six drums arranged in an arc, and because of the need to move around the drums efficiently a special technique was developed called "scrapes" (or sweeps, depending on what part of the country you're from). Essentially a scrape is a double-stroke, but the first hit is on one drum and the next on an adjacent drum.

That's great and all--but what does this have to do with RB?

Well, the RB drums are set up in a similar configuration. The drums are on the same horizontal plane, and there's very little space between the pads. This means in some tough parts you can perform scrapes to really make things easier to get around.

How about everyone's favorite morale killer, Run to the Hills on expert?



For those of us with nasty single-stroke chops that part is no big deal, but what if it's totally beyond you? Well you could look at that entire pattern as a double stroke roll: RR LL RR LL RR LL RR LL. But what about the yellow hits? Well that's where scrapes can come in. The first 4 red hits will be RR LL, but then the next two notes (yellow then red) can be scraped with RR. Just start the bounce on the yellow pad, then move your hand over so that the second bounce is on the red pad. It takes some practice and it doesn't help at all that the pads have such poor rebound, but with a little support in the diddle from your back fingers this might be just the thing to help you with some parts your struggling in.

Some other fills can take advantage of this as well:



This fill can really get your hands crossed up if you try any combination of natural sticking and double-strokes, but what if you tried left-hand lead puhduhduhs and a scrape on the last two notes?

Look at that pattern and try this sticking: LRR LRR. Nothing's crossed up, and everything flows smoothly because those last 3 notes use a scrape for the last 2. Easy as pie.

7. Figuring Out Which Sticking to Use

I'll preface this section with a simple axiom: "the right sticking to use in any situation is what feels best to you, and what you're most successful with." When it's just you and your kit no one cares if you play something one way vs. another, and the same holds true in Rock Band.

In this section I'm aiming to give you a few analytic approaches to find a comfortable sticking under most circumstances. Basically, I'm trying to abstract some of the knowledge percussionists have from experience to give you the ability to know what sticking to apply under what situations. We'll start with looking at how rhythms are a subset of a check pattern.

7.1 Rhythms and Check Patterns

As right-handed drummers we are almost magnetically driven to hit the important notes (starts of phrases, ends of phrases, downbeats, beats, off-beats) with our right hand. Sometime this tendancy works well for us--if we keep our right hand relatively on the beat there's a good chance we'll stay in time and maintain combo. This habit can come to haunt you when you encounter odd rhythms or fills of different note groupings, and if you use the wrong sticking you can quickly find yourself crossed up or having to spaz out at the end of the rhythm to get back in time. There is a way to ensure with relative consistency that this never becomes a problem, and that has to do with how rhythms can be built from underlying check patterns.

Someone in a reply asked about the fill in In Bloom, where you have RRR YY BB G. For me, I never gave this fill a second thought because where the notes occured in the beat told me exactly what sticking to use. Let's look at why this is the case.

Even though the yellow and blue hits are in groupings of two, the underlying rhythm of the entire phrase is triplets (which simply means three even notes per beat). If this entire measure was triplets, it'd look like this:

Code:

01-la-le  02-la-le  03-la-le  04-la-le
x  x  x   x  x  x   x  x  x   x  x  x
r  l  r   l  r  l   r  l  r   l  r  l


Notice the natural sticking below the notes--that's how you'd play a measure of triplets. Let's consider that measure of In Bloom. There's a bass hit on the off-beat of 1, followed by a snare/hi-hat on beat 2, and then the RRRYYBBG fill. If we leave the sticking in place above, we can fill in the rhythm to get a look at how it relates to that check pattern of triplets:

Code:

01 - &    02-la-le  03-la-le  04-la-le
          R     R   R  R
          Y               Y   Y
                                 B  B
     K   
--------------------------------------
r  l  r   l  r  l   r  l  r   l  r  l


Do you see how those notes relate to the underlying triplet check pattern? The first red note falls under the left-handed note, and by doing the fill with that sticking you ensure that you will end the fill on your right hand--ready to smack that crash on the downbeat of the next measure.

This technique can be applied to essentially any rhythmic permutation to figure out which hand to use. It just involves a few simple steps:


  1. Find the lowest common-denominator note duration in the fill (for example, if the fill has 16th notes anywhere, your check pattern should be an entire measure of 16th notes)
  2. Place the actual rhythm on top of the check pattern, to see how both the actual and missing notes of the check pattern form the rhythm
  3. Consider what sticking would be used in the check pattern, and apply that to the rhythm
  4. Adjust approach if necessary due to the arrangement of drumpads/notes required


You'll notice that the right-hand lead sticking we discussed in section 3 is essentially this approach in practice. The gallop pattern of 1 &-a 2 &-a is built on the check pattern of four sixteenth notes with the 2nd note missing (1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a). If you applied the same approach to this rhythm, you see why the sticking is R RL instead of R LR--the note we're leaving out is the 2nd note which is on the left hand.

Clear as mud? Well I'll admit that this is a lot more complicated to explain that it is to simply just do it, and you'll find the more rhythms you play the more this type of thought/reaction process will become second nature to you. In the meantime, consider it another tool in your aresenal of dissecting parts and feel content that one day you'll be able to do this type of processing in real-time without even having to think about it.

7.2 Even/Odd Groupings

A slightly less analytical approach is the simple notion of looking at how many notes you have per drum. Below you can find a few scenarios, and common approaches for each:

All drums have an even number of notes
This is the most simple scenario, and in rock drumming it actually comes up a lot. If you have an even number of notes on each drum you usually need only consider which direction the notes are going. If they are going left-to-right, then likely you'll just want to stick the drums naturally starting on your right hand. Conversely, if you are going right-to-left, you'll likely want to stick the drums naturally starting on your left hand. If the drums jump around a bit (are not adjacent) then consider using double-strokes or paradiddles.

Think of the paradiddle as a tool for a direction change. Say the fill goes YYYY BBBB RRRR. You'd certainly play the first 8 notes RLRL RLRL, but what about those last 4 snare hits? You were travelling left-right but now the fill requires you to change directions and head right-left. A paradiddle will help you do this. What if you played the blue notes as a paradiddle? The double rights would enable you to change directions and make it to the red pad smoothly, so the pattern could be sticked as: RLRL RLRR LRLR. Assuming you'd end the fill on a crash (another direction change), the last four notes could be a paradiddle as well: RLRL RLRR LRLL R.

This concept also applies to groupings of two notes, where a double (RR or LL) will provide you with the necessary change in direction. So YYYY BB YYYY RR G could be stroked as: RLRL RR LRLR LL R.

All drums have an odd number of notes
When you have all drums in groupings of three chances are you're dealing with triplets or sextuplets. This means that depending on the direction you're going you may consider employing a puhduhduh or swiss triplet to make sure your flow stays smooth, but oddly enough natural sticking is what you use to change direction in groupings of three.

Consider the fill RRR YYY BBB YYR RRK G. You may think about approaching this fill with a puhduhduh or swiss triplet but a puhduhduh on BBB would place your left hand in the way of the next yellow. Instead, you'd likely use a RLR on BBB to allow a smooth change in direction. That fill could be sticked like this instead: RLL RLL RLR LRL RL(f) R. Similarly, LRL will provide a direction change from right-left to left-right. Again, this is probably a lot deeper than you'd want to go to dissect a rhythm, but I'm merely explaining why certain things like these work--not necessarily implying that you have to think at this level of granularity every time you encounter them.

There's some mixture of even and odd groupings, or the pattern is broken up by a rhythm
In this case it's a little bit of trial an error. Consider the check pattern technique outlined in 7.1 first if you're dealing with a syncopated rhythm. If that doesn't work, try natural sticking with both hand leads, and finally consider using doubles, paradiddles, or natural sticking groups of three to smoothly handle changes in direction. If there's enough space between notes there's nothing wrong with starting each subrhythm between the right hand, but you'll just have to use your best judgement with these edge cases.

In general though, don't overthink the pattern. Try it once with natural sticking, see what parts of the fill feel awkward, and dip into your tool bag to make things smoother. It's a bit of a puzzle, but the last thing you need to remember in a 5 minute song is a different baroque sticking for every fill you encounter. KISS is a good principle to follow, and a great band.

8. Conclusion

I hope this has given you a few tricks in your bag to approach awkward drum patterns. There are a LOT of rudiments and permutations that weren't covered in this guide, but it's a good start if you've never played percussion before.

As a general rule, if anything doesn't seem to flow comfortably you'd be well-served to try to figure out a different sticking to make it more natural. Consider the number of notes per grouping, what hand you need to lead with, and if all else fails what technique you're most successful with.

It's worth emphasizing one more time that the RB pads really do have poor rebound, so most of the double-stroked or bounced applications we talked about need some practice and concentration to pull off. Even with experienced drummers the quality of their double-strokes (both notes sounding like two even legato strokes) is always a point of contention--so if you decide those techniques are the way to go for a certain pattern make sure your bounces are even and supported by your back fingers, otherwise you'll find yourself back down in 1x land.

And finally the best thing you can do for yourself is to relax. It's a natural tendency for everyone to tense up when parts get fast, but save those veins in your forehead for sex or powerlifting--drumming's all about being smooth.
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Last edited by NoPance on Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:50 pm; edited 5 times in total
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GurnKiller  
 




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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post! Sticky?
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rude95841  
 




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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

totally needs to be stickied this has some very very extremely good information in it.

to the OPer thank you thank you thank you.

I hope by learning these techniques i'll be able to finish hardand expert drums soon.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice job.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sticky, please.
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ocelot11  
 




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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow that's some very helpful information you have there.

Going to have to hit up practice mode and apply some of these techniques.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks!

I was just thinking earlier tonight about asking when to use a paradiddle. Absolutely fantastic post!
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

great post. I beat foreplay on expert thanks to this. Now i just need dont fear the reaper.
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NoPance  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

puck wrote:
Many thanks!

I was just thinking earlier tonight about asking when to use a paradiddle. Absolutely fantastic post!


They come up in some weird places. It's just an interesting pattern, so a lot of times you find drummers that will play them between different limbs just because of how it sounds.

The chorus in Vaseline has paradiddles between the foot and the snare, for example.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this excellent guide. Stickied.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice. i really like the examples given.
Now if we had a song fact to recommend particular sticking.

According to this i used a butched inverted puhduhduh on hard run to the hills.
was LLL LLR LLL LLR
I had a combo a couple times but the goal was to win and not look pretty doing it.
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NoPance  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheGlow wrote:
Nice. i really like the examples given.
Now if we had a song fact to recommend particular sticking.

According to this i used a butched inverted puhduhduh on hard run to the hills.
was LLL LLR LLL LLR
I had a combo a couple times but the goal was to win and not look pretty doing it.


Personally I think the right hand lead sticking is the best for that gallop in RttH on hard. This lets you keep steady 8th notes to stay in time.

So the pattern would be like this:

Code:

R   R R     R R R   R R     R R
        Y               Y
-------------------------------
r   r l r   r l r   r l r   r l


Try playing that pattern slow with that sticking (invert the sticking if you're a lefty) and you should see what I'm talking about with the steady right hands.

Stickings are good to know, but it's also important to not let them overcomplicate what you already have to think about. It should be something that frees you up to think about less, not the other way around.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, this guide is really good.

In Bloom on Expert has a fill that goes R R R Y Y B B G, should I play that R L L R L R L R? I had tried to start doing L R L R L R L R but it kept messing me up.

Also giving specific song sections for each style to practice would be amazing!
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NoPance  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huwonk wrote:
Wow, this guide is really good.

In Bloom on Expert has a fill that goes R R R Y Y B B G, should I play that R L L R L R L R? I had tried to start doing L R L R L R L R but it kept messing me up.

Also giving specific song sections for each style to practice would be amazing!


RE: Specific song sections that's a good idea, and I wrote most of this article away from the game working from memory--so I might take some time to do just that.

Personally, I play that In Bloom part with the second sticking you mentioned (L RLR LRL R) b/c it just feels good that way. You could certainly try playing those first 3 reds RLL, but it might feel a little awkward because the first red is a pickup (a trip-a-let trip-a-let crash). You'll usually find that pickup notes are played with a non-dominant hand just so your dominant hand stays on the beat.

But yeah man try it out and see if it feels better to play it RLL. There's no "right" way to do anything, so whatever you find is most successful for you is what you should use.
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GurnKiller  
 




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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huwonk wrote:
Wow, this guide is really good.

In Bloom on Expert has a fill that goes R R R Y Y B B G, should I play that R L L R L R L R? I had tried to start doing L R L R L R L R but it kept messing me up.

Also giving specific song sections for each style to practice would be amazing!


I do R L L R L R L R for that part.
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