What are open/closed rolls?

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
"Rolls" actually refer to double strokes.

If they are played in the rudimental fashion so that you can hear every note (no matter the tempo) they are open. There are two definite hits per strokes. This is the classic machine gun effect.

The closed or buzz roll is when multiple hits are produced by each stroke. The multiple strokes, when played at tempo, blend into each other. The result is that you cannot hear every stroke but rather a buzz.

Watch Buddy Rich videos to see the best closed roll of them all. He was able to play that from a whisper to a roar.
 

BassDriver

Silver Member
What Jeff said.

Remember, that when you do a closed roll you naturally lock up - or close - your hands to get the buzzes to blend into one another, while the hands are loose and relaxed for doing the open rolls.

An open roll is an open roll at any tempo, while buzz rolls have to be adjusted at different tempos to sound smoothly.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
What Jeff said.

Remember, that when you do a closed roll you naturally lock up - or close - your hands to get the buzzes to blend into one another, while the hands are loose and relaxed for doing the open rolls.
I don't think it's necessary to "lock up" the hands to play a buzz. I play my buzz rolls with my hands as relaxed as possible. Granted, a certain amount of pressure at the fulcrum can help with buzzes depending on volume and the texture desired, but I'm not so sure giving the impression that you need to "lock up" your hands to get a good buzz stroke is good advice. If you're too tight, your buzzes will remain short and scratchy sounding - which can be useful - because your tension is actually impeding the stick from moving/buzzing. So for long velvety rolls, it's useful to back off on the tension and let the sticks breathe a little, in my experience.

Try playing eighth notes at 50-60 BPM as buzzes, trying to get the strokes to overlap. Drop the buzzes from a low height and let the drum head do much of the work. You may find that after the initial pressure to keep the first rebound from being too wide that you actually have to let go and "surrender the sticks to the head" -- as one of my teachers has said -- to get them to buzz long enough to join together. Also a good thing to remember when learning buzzes is to think of your rolls starting from nowhere and crescendoing up. There is a tendency (like with doubles) to strike the initial stroke hard so the stick has enough energy to buzz for longer. But, this makes for "pulse-y" rolls in which you can hear every initial attack. I've found I get better results by striking that initial stroke with less impact and using relaxation to lengthen out the buzz.

Some players (me included) sometimes use a slightly angular or sideways motion to help lengthen out the buzzes and deal with the pulse issue. You can see Buddy Rich and lots of the old-school guys who played a lot of buzzes do it sometimes. I don't play all my buzzes that way, but it's a useful technique. Check out Ted Atkatz' video on the Vic Firth site entitled "The Chicken Wing" for an example of this kind of technique.
 
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JPW

Silver Member
But, this makes for "pulse-y" rolls in which you can hear every initial attack. I've found I get better results by striking that initial stroke with less impact and using relaxation to lengthen out the buzz.
Sometimes though I hear even the greats do pulsey buzz-rolls. It might be good in some band situations when a 'clean' closed roll could lose the pulse of the song. At least that's how I have interpreted it. It could be also a matter of taste or they might just not be able to do it more cleanly in the given situation and energy, I don't know. But I have heard it many times. What do you think?
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Sure. I play pulsed rolls on purpose, too. And anyone who's watched/heard guys like Stanton Moore play pulsed/accented buzzes knows it's an awesome sound. I wasn't really speaking about pulsed rolls as much as learning to control the initial strike for a smooth sounding roll. It's necessary to be able to do either. In a lot of circumstances, a pulsed roll ruins the entire effect of a buzz roll.

Put it this way: a player who's taken the time to get their buzzes sounding like someone pouring sand across the drumhead is likely to be able to add a pulse to their roll if they want because they'll have control of their fulcrum pressure, etc. If your rolls are pulsed because you can't do them any other way....
 
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