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(Download free copy of Approaching Flams here)
(Download free copy of FLAMable here)

The two free downloads, Approaching Flams and the easy level flam duet FLAMable, were written to serve several purposes.

As an aid to learning the flam, the Approaching Flams page has suggestions for listening and exercises for practise that are often ignored in band method books. The written notes should be helpful to the educator, and the simple exercises provided will better prepare students to play flams within a line of music.

As for the duet, I have had great success with duets in my drum studio. Students enjoy them tremendously and, with their playing so exposed, they are forced to pay attention to balance, rhythm and time as never before.

TEACHER’S AID: Use FLAMable as a classroom management aid when you’re rehearsing a piece with little or no percussion, or if you’re working on instrumental playing techniques that do not apply to your percussionists. Send your percussion students to a practise room for one or two periods and have them prepare FLAMable to play for the class.

Guidelines for evaluation

If you intend to evaluate percussion students on FLAMable or a flam exercise in your method book (or any exercise for that matter), give them clear guidelines as to what you are looking for. Assign a specific skill as a focus, as opposed to just sending them off with an exercise and expecting that they will play it as best they can. (Of course you want them to play the whole piece well, but by providing a marking scheme weighed heavily toward one or two specific skills, their practising will be more focused and ultimately they will execute the flam, paradiddle – or whatever they happen to be working on – better.)

With regards to the flam, tell them what you will be listening for:

  • consistent sounding flams

  • a grace note that is placed close to the principal note

  • the volume of the two notes in each flam: that they are in clear contrast to one another

NOTE: Impress upon your students that to achieve the above points, they must pay attention to the height of their sticks, specifically that the grace note is dropped from a much lower level than the principal note. (See details on the Approaching Flams download. Check back to this site for video clips illustrating flams and other techniques.)

For a piece with flams as its focus, you might work out a marking scheme such as this:

Flams (see guidelines, underlined above): 50%

Rhythm (even 8ths, steady tempo): 20%

Attention to dynamics: 20%

Overall performance, musicianship: 10%

A duet presents problems for evaluation purposes. For the teacher, it’s difficult to process fairly what each musician is doing as they are playing at the same time. For the performers, a weaker player might throw off a stronger player due to rhythmic inaccuracies. If you are evaluating students on a performance of FLAMable, you might first want evaluate them as they play their parts separately, then add a mark for their performance of the piece together.

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