RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • Tuesday Tips: Buzz Roll Basics by Josh Gottry

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Feb 16, 2021

    There are three critical elements to a quality buzz roll. Each of these can be developed in the first weeks for a beginning percussionist, but are also worth revisiting by the most experienced professional. A quality buzz roll consists of individual buzzes that are thick, sustained, and consistent.

    Each stroke in a quality buzz roll must be thick. A buzz roll with too much space between bounces doesn’t have the characteristic texture required to sound smooth and full. With the stick held securely between the index finger and thumb, the middle finger is the digit most responsible for controlling the degree of pressure to create a thick buzz stroke. Practice multiple buzz strokes with one hand at a single dynamic level, consistently evaluating the thickness of each buzz stroke and adjusting as necessary. Repeat the process with the other hand, then repeat at a variety of dynamic levels, both with repeated strokes in one hand and with alternating hands. The space between bounces will necessarily become wider as the volume increases, but the buzz of snares at that volume will fill in some of that additional space.

    Each stroke within a quality buzz roll must be long—or at least long enough to fill the space between strokes by the opposite hand. Most younger percussion students try to roll too fast, choking off the length of each buzz stroke and working far too hard for too little benefit. To practice the length of your buzz stroke, set a metronome no faster than 60 bpm and play one buzz stroke per beat, striving to sustain the buzz (still with a thick texture) until the next stroke. A controlled, long buzz will allow for more options in the underlying rhythmic framework of your roll without sacrificing a full, smooth sound.

    A quality buzz roll must consist of consistent strokes. It is necessary for each successive stroke within a buzz roll to be similar in thickness, length, volume, and rhythmic spacing for the roll itself to sound smooth. A series of quality buzz strokes that are long and thick, but vary from stroke to stroke, even to the slightest degree, will create a choppy buzz roll. Both by practicing individual buzz strokes with each hand and alternating strokes between hands, strive to make each stroke identical to the previous one at all times.

    Again, while these concepts are suitable for beginning percussionists, they are worth incorporating in your practice routine, regardless your level of proficiency. The buzz roll always has room for improvement!

  • Tuesday Tips: Setting Up Your Practice Space by Josh Gottry

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jan 19, 2021

    Just like setting up a space to do homework or configuring the recliner and television for ideal movie watching, setting up your practice space in a way that is conducive to focused and successful practice sessions is critical to advancement as a musician. Particularly as more of us—professionals and students—are working and studying from home, taking a little time to review some key priorities in your practice setup is very worthwhile. Even for those who have access to a school practice facility, many of these suggestions still apply.

    First, and most importantly, consider the height of each instrument and music stand. Your body position and posture are key to your physical health, which in turn is key to your ability to practice and perform efficiently and pain free. Make sure each instrument is set at an ideal height for your arm position and good upper-body posture. Make sure the music stand is close enough to you to avoid straining your eyes, at a height that doesn’t require you to lean to misalign your neck, and consistent with the position it would be in for rehearsals or performance.

    Second, as much as is possible, minimize distractions within your line of sight and in terms of background noise. If the pile of work you need to do or the video game console is staring at you from around your music stand, you may be inclined to cut your practice short. If your practice space is in a room immediately adjacent to where roommates or family members are frequently watching television, you may find yourself eavesdropping in an effort to find out the score of the game rather than being focused on your technique exercises. Switch your phone to airplane mode, especially if you are also using it as a metronome, so that incoming texts or messages that quickly add up don’t eat away at little chunks of your practice time.

    Third, keep ear protection handy and use it faithfully. Your hearing is priceless, and most at-home practice areas are not acoustically designed to protect it. Unless you are exclusively using silent heads, low-volume cymbals, and a practice pad, ear plugs are a necessary part of practice.

    Fourth, as financial opportunity allows, gradually add instruments to your at-home space. Unless you are or are planning to be a university professor or school music teacher, you likely won’t have easy access to a full complement of percussion instruments, so investing small amounts over time to expand what you own for practice, recording, and performance is always a good idea.

    Finally, start each practice session with two goals. The first goal should be how much time you intend to practice. Committing consistent and substantial time is necessary to allow the opportunity for musical growth. The second goal should be what you intend to accomplish in your practice time. If you start each session with a specific objective and end each practice by evaluating your success in meeting that objective, the time spent won’t be wasted on just going through the motions.

    Happy Practicing!

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