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What do great drummers like Tony Royster Jr., Mark Guiliana, Dennis Chambers, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chris Coleman and Jeff Hamilton have in common? Paradiddles.
The simple and effective paradiddle is the secret sauce in every great drummer’s bag of hand patterns. What really separates the pros from the amateurs is how we use those hand patterns in creative ways around the drums.
What is a paradiddle in drumming?
It’s probably safe to say that the paradiddle is the most used hand pattern in all of drumming. So what is a paradiddle? In its most basic form, a paradiddle is the sticking pattern RLRR LRLL, but that’s nowhere near where it ends.
The sky’s the limit for how you can use these little drum morsels in your playing. Regardless of which style of drumming you enjoy, you will find tons of uses for the paradiddle.
It’s actually hard to imagine drumming without the paradiddle and in some ways it seems impossible to not use them in our drumming. They often just show up naturally in our playing anyway without even trying.
I use them in Jazz drumming and in funkier stuff like Smooth Jazz. Below is a pic from a Smooth Jazz gig with two great musicians in Osaka, Japan. I often use paradiddles when playing me some funky drummin’.
How to play a paradiddle
Consistency in spacing, timing and any accents are key to making this drumming pattern sing on your kit. To me, the paradiddle, is the perfect hand pattern as it’s a combination of singles and doubles.
If you are good at double strokes it will help you get better with your single strokes. If you are good at singles, it will help you get better at doubles. The paradiddle also helps you get better at mixing single and double strokes.
You can use matched grip or traditional grip, drum sticks or brushes. Incidentally, I have a complete course on drumming with brushes at my online drum school. In my course, I also break down the use of paradiddles in drum brushes playing and teach traditional grip.
Beginner paradiddle exercises
Start slow with your metronome maybe at 60 BPM (beats per minute). Play one stroke (R-L-R-R-L-R-L-L) with each click. When that feels comfortable, gradually increase the tempo. Eventually, you can go back to 60 BPM and double time your playing. Meaning, play 2 strokes for every metronome click.
Start on the snare drum or a practice pad and then as soon as you can, play your paradiddles around the drumset. Use your toms, hi-hat and play single strokes on cymbals while also kicking your bass drum at the same time.
A really great book that many drummers, including myself, worked through is Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone. Pages 5-15 are all variations on the paradiddle, singles and double strokes. These variations move the doubles and singles around forcing us to get comfortable with a wide variety of stickings.
On pages 5-7, the book combines basic paradiddle variations to create hybrid paradiddle hand patterns. This book is an absolute must for you if you want to naturally infuse paradiddles into your drumming.
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My recommendation is to use a metronome throughout your practice with this book. Start off slow so you can play things right and really teach your brain how to do things correctly the first time.
Playing things too fast and making mistakes will only teach your brain to play it the wrong way. At first, the paradiddle variations won’t feel intuitive but keep at it. They’ll slowly but surely become a part of your drumming vocabulary.
The paradiddle is the ultimate drums pattern that will allow you creative flexibility to interact with the music and other musicians you play with. As I stated above, using Stick Control is a great way to take you through many paradiddle variations.
If you’d like to learn 4 paradiddle variations I often use in my drumming, you can also check out my article on The 4 Best Paradiddles.
I’ve found these 4 paradiddle variations to be particularly useful in a wide range of drumming styles and musical situations. They can also be shaped and molded with accents and dynamics to create endless creative combinations.
Learning drum rudiments
Paradiddles are part of the drum rudiments family. Drum rudiments are like the words we use in our drum fill sentences. A stronger command of drum rudiments allows you to play with more creativity and expression.
I wrote another article all about drumming rudiments too. Learn 3 easy drumming rudiments to start improving your hands today.
Practicing drum rudiments and paradiddles will help you develop strong hand technique and facility on the drums. When I was starting out, I used to practice Stick Control, Accents and Rebounds (another great George Lawrence Stone book) and my drum rudiments almost daily for 1-2 hours.
Paradiddles will become one of the drum rudiments you’ll use the most if you don’t already. Often, they will act as the glue to connect different ideas in your drum fills and even some of your drum grooves.
Have fun paradiddling around the drums. I know you’ll find 1000 uses for them in your drumming as I have in mine. Keep grooving my friend!
How do you use paradiddles?
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