I wanted to share two exercises with you that have helped me keep my hands fast and strong over the years. Now admittedly, speed is not musicality… but when you hear these patterns in your mind this fast and want to express them, you are simply developing the technique to get the ideas out…

So, the first exercise has found recent popularity on YouTube, something called a “six stroke roll”. Do that search on YouTube, and you can hear/see what I’m talking about.

Here’s the pattern:   R  L  L  R  R  L

Very simple. I’ve bolded and italicized the first and last stroke, so place a little bit of accent on those strokes. It’ll help keep the sticks rolling.

You play it like a six-note triplet, not a literal six-stroke roll. It’s that rolling flow that makes the sticks fly around the drum set, and believe, if you dial this in, your hands will BLAZE.

Check out the YouTube stuff, you’ll see what I mean. I keep threatening to master technology enough to post some videos, and now that I have a Macbook Pro, this will happen sooner than later…

Okay, so after you check that stuff out, come back and look at Exercise #2…

Single Stroke Tap

I took lessons with Terry Bozzio many years ago, and he shared a version of this one as a basic warm-up he used quite a bit. Again, very simple… but the idea is to develop very strong tendons and muscles to pull the stick OFF THE HEAD.

We spend a lot of time throwing sticks to the head, but we need to work just as much with getting the stick off the head, and not just relying on rebound to do the job.

This first version is how I do it; the second is what Bozzio showed me.

I use matched grip, and very slowly, start the pattern with the stick at 90 degrees, straight up. Move the stick to the head, and then just as slowly, pull it off the head. Really feel the stick all the way down and all the way back Guide it. Don’t just throw it and forget about it for a millisecond or two while gravity and rebound do their thing.

Do YOUR thing. PUT the stick on the drum head, and then put it back in the 90 degree, straight up position…

Do five repetitions of this with each hand, and really focus on the placing of the stick on the head and then back to the starting position.


Bozzio had me do single taps, at 60 beats per minute, getting the stick to the head and off of it bu PULLING with my tendons, rather than relying on rebound. Try a few reps with each hand, and you will feel the difference immediately.

Begin with both sticks straight up, 90 degrees. Then TAP… TAP… TAP… TAP…

Get that stick down and back as fast as you can. Just like a boxer throwing a punch, he wants his hand back into position as soon as possible so he can throw another punch.

If you work on these exercises about 15 minutes a day, that’s all you’ll need to get the hands on the road to some powerful playing. I like to do the Single Stroke Tap first, like a relaxing sort of stretch. Then I build it up to the faster tapping… and then, onto the Six Stroke Roll, which again needs to be played like a triplet.

Give it a shot, see what happens… I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and pleased with the results after only a few days.