The flam is one of the three basic strokes, alongside the single stroke and the double stroke. It has the purpose of producing a thicker and longer sounding note, when compared to a single stroke. A flam is comprised of two singles strokes that are played at different heights. The highest and loudest note is called the primary note, while the lowest and softer note is called grace note. Due to the difference in heights, the primary note should hit the surface of the drum or practice pad slightly after the grace note. It’s this that gives it that thicker and longer sound. The grace note has no rhythmic value. This is so because it can be played more close or open, depending on the type of sound you wish to achieve.
The flam is actually a very though drum rudiment to play with great quality. Although you can play a grace note as far apart from the primary stroke as you wish to, for developing flam quality, you should practice this rudiment by playing the grace note as close to the primary stroke as possible. The secret for having great sounding flams is to keep your drumstick low whenever you’re prepping for executing a grace note. Also, you’ll want to avoid playing “flat flams” also known as “double stops” – when grace and primary notes are played in unison.
In the sheet music below you have a very good flam exercise for practicing flam quality and consistency. It’s called hand-to-hand flams. The smaller notes are grace notes which are always connected to the primary note through a tie. When playing a right hand flam, the primary note is played with the right hand. A left hand flam is the exact opposite – primary note played with the left hand.
As you practice flams with this exercise, focus on keeping your sticks down when you’re about to perform a grace note and to keep the strokes played between the primary and the grace notes as close as possible. Consistency is also a big one here. Listen to your flams and check for any inconsistencies in volume and stroke distance between the grace and primary notes. Once you feel you can play the flam with consistency and quality, you can move on to learning how to apply it to drum fills and drum beats.
The first flam drum beat is a rendition of the basic 8th note rock drum beat. Start by playing a basic 8th note rock beat - bass drum on counts 1 and 3, hi-hat on all 8th notes, and the snare drum on counts 2 and 4. After you can play this comfortably, instead of playing a unison figure between the hi-hat and snare on counts 2 and 4, play a right hand flam on the snare drum.
Flam drum beat #2 takes the use of flams a bit further by adding 8th note flams to the mix. To help you get this pattern down, start by playing the previous drum beat with two extra bass drum strokes on the “and” of counts 1 and 3. Once you can play this with great ease, add extra right hand flams on the “and” of counts 2 and 4. For an added challenge, try playing the 8th note flams as hand-to-hand flams.
Playing loud grace and primary strokes is something very common in rock and funk music, for instance. This type of flam is known as “power flam”. On the next drum fills, Lionel gives great use to this type of flam for spicing up the patterns.
Exercise #3 is the first flam drum fill. Until count 4, the drum fill is played as a 16th note single stroke roll drum fill going down the toms. On count 4 there is a left hand flam played on the snare drum. The transition from the “ah” of count 3 on the floor tom to the flam on the snare drum is a very hard thing to do, since you’ll be playing both hands at almost the same time on count 4.
Start working on this drum pattern slowly at first. Watch out for the transition from the floor tom to the snare drum, and don’t sacrifice flam quality for speed. Speed will come in time, with control.
The last pattern in this free drum lesson incorporates the flam into a single stroke roll drum fill. You start by playing a four-note 16th note single stroke roll on the hi-tom on count 1. On count 2 you play a left hand flam. On count 3 you play a four-note 16th note single stroke roll on the floor tom. On count 4 you play another left hand flam. The transitions from the single stroke rolls to the flams add the same level of challenge we discussed on the previous exercise. Use the tips we gave you on that exercise to guide you through this one.
The drum fills on this free drum lesson are a great example of how mixing up the drum rudiments can hail very cool sounding patterns for you to spice up your playing. Once you feel you have nothing to take from this lesson, feel free to check the free drum lessons on the Flam Tap and Flam Accent drum rudiments.
Flam Based Rudiments
|Flam||Flam Paradiddle||Inverted Flam Tap|
|Flam Tap||Single Flammed Mill||Flam Drag|
|Flam Accent||Flam Paradiddle-diddle||Pataflafla|
|Flamacue||Swiss Army Triplet|