Fast, Quality, Triple Stroke rolls

Hello all!

After enjoying my new marimba for the last few weeks, I thought I would dust off the old rudimental snare chops and I have a question about triple stoke rolls.

If I'm playing sextuplets at around 80-100bpm, i can stoke with my wrist. From 90-105ish I can use a triple-diddle type approach (or just my fingers) But I can't seem to do any of these at around 110-130 bpm. I'm forced to just use the fulcrum to achieve these speeds.

I've tried slowing down videos of  really great players, but I can't really tell if they are just using the index finger fulcrum, or middle finger fulcrum, or if they are actually using their fingers to get each stroke out at fast tempi.

Do I just need to build up more speed in my fingers or is the fulcrum approach the way to go at quarter note = 110-130 ?

This is a great question and I'm interested to hear any response from the great players out there...

If you are getting back into the rudimental swing of things you should considered taking a look at Bill Bachman's Rudimental Beats. He gives a great treatment of how to play rudiments and how technique changes slightly with increase in speed. I found the video very educational...

Now if only I could get my hands to cooperate!
I personally am a huge fan of the three point fulcrum - using the thumb, index, and middle fingers - with more emphasis and strength placed between the middle finger and thumb.  So when I play faster triple strokes, I feel like it's a matter of adjusting the amount of pressure I use when ";pulling"; on the middle finger.  I don't think you actually try to play all three notes, but more or less use the rebound of the stick and pressure being exerted upward by the middle finger to regulate the amount of bounce that is produced or allowed to happen.

That may sound slightly redundant, but that's how I explain it to my students and it seems to get the message across.  There is obviously no substitute for finger strength - which will help you at faster tempos.  Once you understand the relationship between pressure and rebound as it pertains to your own hands, you can start to work on controlling the rhythm more and focus less on the mechanics.

Hope this helps shed some light... if nothing else, a different perspective.
Thanks Bryan for the input!

I appreciate the details. The better I get the more I'm OCD about every little detail going on in my fingers/hand :)

I spent a good 15 minutes or so studying this video of Casey Brohard

It appears to me that he's using a middle finger fulcrum at the fast speeds, I just can't tell if he's using constant middle finger pressure on the stick and letting the rebound do the work, or if his middle fingers are squeezing each note out ever so slightly (at the really really fast tempi)

I guess the whole reason i'm so interested in the topic is because when I do the roll with just the first finger fulcrum, I can get it to sound really good and even, but I HATE the way it looks, not to mention that it seems like an excessive amount of pressure for just one finger to have to handle.

I guess that brings me to another question..... If you were judging a line and they kids played a tripple stoke with the back fingers off the stick by and inch or two, would you count it against them? Or would the cleanliness be all that you cared about? <sound of another box opening>
In regards to rolls, I always have my index finger wrapped, but most of the pressure is on my middle finger.

As far as the judging thing goes, I personally judge more based on sound than appearance, so that issue wouldn't be the determining fact for me.  If the judging sheets had an area for technique, I would only address if in each kid had their own interp on their attempt at a technique AND if it had a negative effect on the aural side of things.  I think technique is a means to an end, but not the end all, be all to good ensemble playing - just one of the many pieces of the puzzle.

I guess the reason I'm not a huge sticker for things like that is because I've seen plenty of lines look exactly the same but their balance and blend from player to player was substandard.  Then you'll see some lines who have great balance, blend, timing, rhythmic interp, etc. but they all look a little different.
I'm also a huge fan of the middle finger when executing a double stroke roll. (except uber fast rolls)

I'm glad to hear you're more of an aural guy. I walked into this one program where all the kids had come from a variety of instruments and had played in an after school line for 2 years with a guy who was never around. So their bad habits were virtually impossible to break. Many of them had jobs and couldn't really put in much practice time at home so I decided that it would be better to teach them to use their ears since there wasn't much I could do with their hands in a very limited time span. They played well that season all things considered. They really learned how to listen to each other and were soon catching things that I wasn't picking up.

Then we went to an indoor show where the PA judge, for the whole duration of his tape, talked about how he didn't like how everyone's hands looked different. Virtually nothing was said about cleanliness or sound quality (good or bad comments, just plain ol nothing) Man that was frustrating. I already knew their grips looked different :) I wanted to hear how they were playing....

Anyhow. I'll try some things out and see what happens with the triple strokes :) If I can pull myself away from my  marimba one....
Learn to play fast four-stroke rolls and the three-strokers will figure themselves out.

Also, I wonder if you're distantly related to the guy who invented basketball, Dr. James N[b][i]ai[/i][/b]smith.

Or maybe this handsome devil:
The reality is that if you want even-sounding triple strokes you have to inject more energy into the system.  Just like bouncing a basketball, energy is lost during impact and each successive bounce has less energy/height.  Similarly, if you just throw your stick down and hope for 3 even strokes your third stroke will likely be weaker than your first.

I've never found a good way to explain exactly how this works, but do an open to closed double stroke rudiment.  At the point of transfer where you're stopping single strokes and beginning to bounce focus on what that feels like.  It's utilizing rebound, but at the same time you're using minute muscle movements in your hand.  That is what most people refer to when they say to ";squeeze"; or ";support"; triple-strokes.  Replicating that towards the end of you triple stroke really helps with clarity.

The traditional exercise to help with that is 1e&, 2e&, etc. with accents on &'s.

Of course this applies more to moderate tempos and not those of the reefed variety.  At ludicrous speed there's not a whole lot you can do outside of efficiently manage the rebound and hope for the best (in my experience). 

Hope that helps.
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