How to Improve Double Stroke Rolls on the Drums

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums. Drummer, featured image.

The double stroke roll is arguably one of the most important rudiments we have for drumming. So with that being said, let’s dive into how to improve double stroke rolls on the drums.

As with many exercises presented throughout this website, I recommend practicing double stroke rolls for at least ten minutes each day. I say that because they are such an important part of playing the drums.

Even when you have become rock solid at playing doubles at various tempos, it’s still important to incorporate them into your warm-up routines to keep your muscles strong.

For new students, I recommend using the matched grip, at least until you gain some proficiency playing the double stroke roll before moving on to the traditional grip if you so choose.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: practicing with a metronome

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums. Metronome.

If you’ve read any of my other drumming articles, you’ll realize how much of a proponent I am of practicing with a metronome as you see here.

I think they are a very important part of any drumming practice session including the double stroke roll.

If you are a beginner drummer, make sure you start out practicing at slow tempos as you practice your doubles, then work to gradually increase your tempo. Technique is much more important than speed.

As you get more proficient with your double stroke rolls, you can then begin experimenting with playing at faster tempos. Keep in mind that it’s still good to change up the tempo of your practice routine from time to time, and play at all kinds of different tempos. Yes, even the glacially slow tempos.

If you are an absolute beginner to drums, you will want to start learning the double stroke roll by playing quarter notes. You would count it like this, one-two with your right hand, and then, three-four with your left hand. Don’t worry about accents.

It’s important to note that at these very slow tempos, you will actually be playing two single strokes as opposed to one double stroke. As your technique improves and you begin increasing in tempo, you’ll begin playing two eighth notes with each hand, before eventually graduating to sixteenth notes and even thirty-second notes.

As your speed and control begin to increase, you’ll naturally start getting the two bounces you want from each hand.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: practice double stroke rolls on a consistent basis

Ideally, you should be practicing your double stroke rolls daily, striving for at least ten minutes per day.

But we all know that life tends to get in the way of everything. It’s not like we can bring a full acoustic drum set with us when we finally take that week-long vacation to the Bahamas right?

So don’t kick yourself if you miss a day here and there. The point is to practice this rudiment regularly.

The main thing to take away here is that the double stroke roll is the building block for many of the other rudiments, and it’s well worth practicing this one as much as you can.

By practicing the double stroke roll for at least ten minutes per day, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your skill level as the weeks go by.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: practice with a locked grip on a pillow

This one works best if you use something like a down pillow that is fluffy, but you can use just about anything that has little to no rebound. The goal here is to get our wrists moving and get them familiar with the motions of the double stroke roll.

To start, place the end of the drumsticks in the palms of your hand. Basically, we’re eliminating the fulcrum that is naturally present when we hold the drumsticks normally. Think of the drumsticks as extensions to your arms, and make sure you aren’t gripping them too tightly.

This exercise is about removing the fulcrum aspect, thereby placing the focus solely on our wrists.

Since the pillow (or whatever object you are using) doesn’t provide any bounce, this forces our wrists to do all the work. Think of it as a jumpstart to building the muscles and motion required for great double stroke rolls.

This puts us in a situation where any double stroke roll we perform is a result of our wrists making the movements.

While this will not be the technique used when actually performing a double stroke roll, this is a great way to begin learning those motions that you will be using.

Lastly, this is an exercise that can be done while watching your favorite television show or podcast, which means you can get a lot of practice time in without even realizing it.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums. Snare drum with drumsticks.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: use your fingers in addition to your wrists

It might not feel natural in the beginning, but using your fingers will give you a more solid roll.

You want to let the stick bounce back from the drum head after the first stroke and then immediately pinch your fingers down on the stick which will snap it back down for the second stroke. Then rinse and repeat for the other hand.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t seem easy or natural, trust me, it will become a very natural motion after a little practice.

Something else you can do is play the double stroke roll but remove some of your fingers. In fact, you can try playing the roll with just your thumb and index finger.

I know it might feel awkward but it’s going to help you be more aware of how you’re gripping the stick as you play. What I mean by that, is you’ll become more unconsciously aware of when you are playing with some of your fingers off the stick.

How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: practice at different volume levels

By practicing at different volume (or dynamic) levels, it will give you so much control over your rolls. It will ultimately help you play your doubles faster and they will sound smoother.

This means working on doubles at a very soft volume, and then at a very loud volume, and everything in between. If you think about it, to playing something loud on the drums means you’ll naturally have to hit the drum harder. This typically means you’ll need to make the stick travel farther to build up sufficient speed before it strikes the head.

What all this does is teach you to be proficient at doubles with minimum stick movement (low volume), as well as be proficient with more stick movement (high volume).

BONUS: How to improve double stroke rolls on the drums: try playing inverted double strokes

This is for drummers who have a little experience under their belt. It’s nearly identical sounding to a regular double stroke roll but there is a subtle difference and it’s much more obvious with a beat being played behind it.

It’s called an inverted double stroke, and it means the first right stroke is going to get removed and then added back again as the very last note.

If that’s confusing, then this should clear it up.

A normal double stroke roll looks like this: RR LL RR LL RR LL RR LL etc.

An inverted double stroke roll looks like this: R LL RR LL RR LL RR LL R etc.

All I did was take the first right stroke and put it on the end. The reason I say this exercise is best suited for those who have a bit of experience on the drums is that the counting gets inverted as well.

Instead of playing one-and, two-and, three-and, four-and etc.

Inverted doubles are counted one, and-two, and-three, and-four etc.

As I mentioned earlier, this gives the feel of the double stroke roll a different vibe when there is a steady beat to compare it to.

So all you intermediate players out there, your mission is to begin playing this on the kit and experiment to see what kind of cool sounds you can come up with.

I’ll add a couple of YouTube videos below which should help solidify your understanding of what an inverted double looks like.

What to do next?

If you are brand new to music, music production, or are interested in learning to play the drums, you can check out my article: What is a DAW? – What Does DAW stand for?

You might also want to check out this article: Acoustic Vs. Electronic Drums – Which One is Right for You?

If you are looking at buying your first drum set or any other musical instrument for that matter, take a look at Zzounds. They have a variety of acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets for purchase.

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Andrew has been a life long lover of music. Although starting his musical journey on the guitar, (we won't talk about his skills on that particular instrument) he found his true passion was for drumming and making music to share with others. He also enjoys writing blog posts about off the wall subjects that are very much real—such as Bigfoot, UFOs, and what's up with European mayonnaise. Why is it sweet???
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