Drummer's Weight Room: Tap Timing Exercises

Most young players struggle at some point with getting both hands to play evenly, at the same volume and with the same sound. There are many exercises which address these concerns, and this is one of my favorites because it is both simple and versatile. Like most classic drumming exercises, this one has roots that go back a century or more, and can be applied to the limits of your imagination.

The “Tap Timing” exercise is simple. Play the rhythms and sticking as written, with metronome or music, and strive to make each stroke look, sound and feel the same. Start slow enough to play it accurately, and count out loud – at least at first.

As you can see from the ending markings (1 through 5), the first measure is a, “Check Pattern,” to be played before each of the variations.

There are two major performance goals of the exercise:

  1. Make all notes sound the same.  This is tougher than it first appears, and will take some concentration at first. You may want to video/record yourself to make sure you’re getting this goal done.
  2. Maintain the 8th note, “flow,” of each hand. As you can see, each of the variations drops one 16th note. Mentally, this may create a stopping point at first. The goal is to keep the hand that doesn’t drop a note playing strokes normally – exactly as played during the check pattern.
Once these two things are happening consistently, gradually crank up the tempo until it becomes smooth, natural and easy. At a minimum, you should be able to comfortably play the entire exercise with no mistakes or stops at 100 bpm or higher.

At this point, here are a few variations you can try:

  1. Invert the sticking.
  2. Leading with the right hand, strictly alternate every note. This will force you to switch lead hands every beat during the variations.
  3. Invert the alternating sticking (number 2, above), beginning with the left hand.
  4. Play any of the above variations (including the original) at the drum kit over the foot pattern(s) of your choice.
  5. Move the exercise around the kit. Start with one count per drum, moving clockwise (or counter-clockwise) around the kit.
  6. Get more creative, moving around the kit one note at a time or right hand on a certain drum, left hand only on cymbals, etc.
  7. Add in flams, diddles, double-note singles, accents, etc.
  8. Substitute certain notes with kick/hat.
  9. Play the entire exercise (and variations) with your feet.
Again, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Last thing – this exercise is more calisthenic than achievement. Spend a few minutes on it daily, and it will pay dividends over time.

Happy drumming!

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