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WATCH Practising Single and Double Strokes on Stewart's Lessons Page
DOWNLOAD Practising and Testing Single and Double Strokes exercise and test sheets

What, if anything, are your drummers doing to develop their snare drum technique?

All your other instrumentalists have to focus on breathing, embouchure and fingering just to play a note. Their goals when practising are understood, and they likely have been given clear directions as to how to reach them. But the drummers? We may tell them to practise, but especially at the beginning of the year, with only the method book to work from they are all too often left scratching their heads wondering what to do.

This assignment and test, along with the video demonstration, will ensure that they have no doubt as to what and how to practise.

It focuses on the basics: single and double strokes. You set specific metronome marks as a goal, so the test can be used and used repeatedly for students in all grades and at all levels of experience. Most importantly, it emphasizes three technical points for your drum students to focus on while practising in order to develop a solid technical foundation.

Note: The exercises are designated Level l and Level ll. Level l incorporates quarter and eighth notes for reading at a beginners level. For more advanced students, who read 16th notes and have a quicker technique, assign Level ll notation.

Keep three points in mind

The exercises and test focus on three points:

1 - the wrists are kept fairly flat so the sticks can move straight up and down rather than in a circular motion

2 - both hands drop the sticks from, and lift them to, the same level above the drum, without hammering them into the drum

3 - the index, 3rd and 4th fingers remain curled under the sticks at all times (the pinky can remain comfortably relaxed off the stick)

Note that double strokes should be played incorporating two wrist motions. They should not be bounced until students are able to play 16th notes double stroked at a tempo of approximately mm = 132.

(See The Snare Drum Grip and A Relaxed Approach to Snare Drum Technique to further address questions on the grip and stroke.)

To be certain that your students are practising thoughtfully and effectively, the three points listed above are built into the test, with each one receiving a percentage of the final mark. The marking scheme on the test page clearly reminds students of what to focus on while practising. The metronome marks have been left blank as you will want provide a tempo appropriate to each student's level.

The video Practising Single and Double Strokes, found on the Lessons Page at provides both a mini-lesson for your students and examples of the exercise for your students to model.

In order to assign a reasonable metronome mark, I suggest you have your students play the exercises, check the tempo they can play them comfortably, then fill in a more challenging tempo.

Tempo Guidelines

A metronome mark of 120 for all exercises would be a reasonable goal for beginners.

In general, I recommend you simply check-in with the student, assess his/her ability to play these exercises incorporating the three points they have to focus on and assign an appropriate metronome mark.

As your students advance, they may have difficulty playing double strokes at the same speed as singles. As a point of reference, a more advanced student could be expected to play the Level ll single and double stroke exercises at about the 160-168 and 152-160 metronome ranges respectively.

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