Accents. Is it the right technique?

alok123

Junior Member
Hey everyone. I was learning accents playing at 120 BPM quarter notes with my left. Initially I coudnt play for longer duration as my thumb started to pain a bit. Then I relaized that I was holding the stick too tight. After losening the grip I realised that except my grip(index and thumb), other fingers where not absorbing the shock of the accents . Now I have incorporated even that too(just like my right hand). I am getting better control of it. Am I doing it correctly. I don't want to damage my fingers.
 
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planoranger

Junior Member
It sounds like you're on the right track. First off...grip should NEVER be tight...that's one of the major causes of injury. So loosening your grip was a good beginning.

Now as far as accents go, there are three things that control dynamics in drumming (after all...accents are a subset of dynamics):
1) Stick height
2) Stick speed
3) "Brute force" (hitting harder)...in my opinion the worst way to go. After all, there is just so hard you can hit a drum before the sound distorts. Besides, that can also lead to injury.

First stick height. Sometimes, for subtler accents, that's all you need. Just get the stick that's going to make the accent higher than the surrounding notes. You keep a very relaxed grip...let the stick do all the work.

For more pronounced accents you use stick height AND stick speed together. Ever wonder why it's pretty difficult (at first) to play softly at fast tempos? The reason is stick speed. I play mostly jazz in piano trio settings, and when we play up tempo pieces, I keep the stick playing the ride pattern on the cymbal as low as possible (see rule #1), but sometimes I feel that it's still too loud. That's because of the stick speed.

OK...so that's theory. What's the practice? Let's say that you want to accent the first note of a straight 1/8 note pattern (like the typical thing you would play on the hi-hat in a rock tune). WITHOUT TIGHTENING YOUR GRIP, get the stick higher and accelerate the stick to create the accent while keeping the surrounding notes at the normal dynamic. You don't need to actually hit the drum/cymbal with too much force. With slow and sure practice it will become second nature over time.

Another thing you have to consider is keeping the accented note(s) in balance with the non-accented notes. For instance, under normal circumstances, you want to avoid playing a really loud accented note when the surrounding notes are pretty quiet. It sounds weird and unmusical. Of course, like everything else in music, let your ears be the guide. I like to think of accents as having more "weight" musically rather than loud-soft. That helps me keep everything in balance.

An excellent resource for all of this is Tommy Igoe's "Great Hands for a Lifetime" video. He has a whole section on accents. Plus...the rest of the DVD is packed with great wisdom and exercises.

Last...and MOST IMPORTANT: if you don't have one get yourself a highly respected and capable teacher in your area once you are able to.

Hope this long-winded post helps. Good luck.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
First stick height. Sometimes, for subtler accents, that's all you need. Just get the stick that's going to make the accent higher than the surrounding notes. You keep a very relaxed grip...let the stick do all the work.

For more pronounced accents you use stick height AND stick speed together.
Very well said. I often say that the stick height will produce the dynamic that is required. The velocity in which the stick is thrown will fine tune the dynamic.

Ever wonder why it's pretty difficult (at first) to play softly at fast tempos? The reason is stick speed. I play mostly jazz in piano trio settings, and when we play up tempo pieces, I keep the stick playing the ride pattern on the cymbal as low as possible (see rule #1), but sometimes I feel that it's still too loud. That's because of the stick speed.
I agree again! One can get very creative with this. For example, I used to play soft Basie-style shout choruses on the hi-hat with a low stick height and lesser stick velocity. While it did allow me to obtain a soft dynamic, Steve Fidyk once said to me that it was not matching the band's intensity. I realized that a low stick height and faster hand speed were the perfect combination for that particular situation. That was a game changing moment for me.

Jeff
 

planoranger

Junior Member
For example, I used to play soft Basie-style shout choruses on the hi-hat...
Can anybody say "Blues In Hoss Flat"? In my opinion, a perfect place to use that style. I used to play closed hi-hat except for the "and" of 3 in the 12th bar of the first chorus. Then I would open the hats just enough to get a slight sizzle along with a "touch" of bass drum (accent at pianissimo dynamic---you don't want to step all over the horns).

...Steve Fidyk once said to me...
Man...what a musician Steve is. He's one of those guys that seems to always play EXACTLY the right thing at the right time. A truly underappreciated drummer.

If anybody wants to see a couple of shining examples of how dynamics/balance/accents should be played in shout choruses (even though neither one uses the fine technique that Jeff was talking about), check out the original "Blues in Hoss Flat" with Sonny Payne on drums on Basie's "Chairman Of the Board" album, and Buddy Rich's "Basically Blues" from the "Swingin New Big Band" album.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
grip should NEVER be tight...that's one of the major causes of injury. So loosening your grip was a good beginning.
I use a pretty controlled grip (now) in my snare drum practice, and the word I use is light-- a controlled grip that is light. So many people associate looseness with a floppy grip, with the fingers not really being used effectively.

Now as far as accents go, there are three things that control dynamics in drumming (after all...accents are a subset of dynamics):
1) Stick height
2) Stick speed
3) "Brute force" (hitting harder)...in my opinion the worst way to go.
I try to get people away from the idea of hitting altogether-- it's all about a fast motion, and having control over your heights.

I used to play soft Basie-style shout choruses on the hi-hat with a low stick height and lesser stick velocity. While it did allow me to obtain a soft dynamic, Steve Fidyk once said to me that it was not matching the band's intensity. I realized that a low stick height and faster hand speed were the perfect combination for that particular situation. That was a game changing moment for me.
This has been my thing for a number of years-- I try to do all strokes at a high velocity, even when the height is very low.

By the way Jeff, since you literally wrote a book on this: with your students, do you ever specifically address the little habitual lift most people do before playing a note? Even if the stick is already at the right height, they'll lift it a little bit at the start of the stroke.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
To alok123...I'm not implying anything about what you are, or are not doing. I know nothing about how you hold your stick but I do know that if the end of the stick is mashed against your palm...like you're holding a hammer...that's damaging. If you're doing that, you're asking for problems down the road. The fingers should cradle the stick and act as shock absorbers in addition to helping to motivate the stick. The palm is not the place to channel those vibrations, the fingers are. Stick off of the palm and cradled in the fingers. Forgive me if you already know this.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
By the way Jeff, since you literally wrote a book on this: with your students, do you ever specifically address the little habitual lift most people do before playing a note? Even if the stick is already at the right height, they'll lift it a little bit at the start of the stroke.
Hi Todd,

I often address that with students who started drumming with a different (lift up and throw down) technique. While transitioning to this technique, they will often have that remnant of the old technique that stays with them for a while. They will start with the sticks at the desired height and do a little bit of an upward flick before throwing the stick down. As you know, it takes a while for students (or any of us) to break those old habits.

Jeff
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
The fingers should cradle the stick and act as shock absorbers...
This is the exact terminology that I use with my students.

As Todd said, the fingers can’t be too floppy - just like you wouldn’t want floppy shock absorbers on your car.

Jeff
 
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