How to Play the Single Stroke Four Drum Rudiment


It’s one of the most iconic drums sounds there is. Just play one and images of soldiers marching into battle with muskets pop into the mind of everyone who can hear. It’s called the single stroke four. Not only is it iconic but it is also a stepping stone and therefore should be one of the first rudiments you learn.

Single Stroke Four Drum Rudiment

What is the Single Stroke Four Rudiment?

What is the single stroke four? It is comprised of four alternating strokes with the first three played as a triplet. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is very similar to a single stroke roll. The change in stroke is that added fourth. If you are still struggling with the single stroke roll, continue practicing that before moving forward with the single stroke four. Don’t be discouraged if you still need time to practice. These patterns are the building blocks of drumming and just like professional ballerinas always go back to their bar work, or pianists practice their scales, practicing these habits is an essential part of staying sharp as a drummer.

Once you are comfortable with the single stroke four, it’s important to do a quick assessment. Ensure that you’re using the correct drumstick grip. If you aren’t correct and then practice the pattern some more. Besides just learning these patterns you are teaching yourself habits, so for every time you use the incorrect form, you’ll want to play it correctly at least twice as much. Use this time to force yourself to be diligent and strive for perfection.

Once you are comfortable with the roll, it’s time to challenge yourself and try putting the roll in context. If you started with a right-hand lead, switch it up and practice with a left-hand lead. Practice until you are equally comfortable starting with each hand. Don’t forget to use your metronome to make sure that you are maintaining a steady rhythm.

After you are consistent with both hands, try putting it in a context. Create a steady beat that includes the roll. The more comfortable you are, the more complicated the rhythm you surround the roll can get. Keep in mind where in music the single stroke four is commonly used. It’s used in basic solo patterns, different combinations, and drum fills. Challenge yourself and put the single stroke four in each of these contexts. Don’t forget to continue to alternate between a left-hand lead and a right-hand lead. The time you spend strengthening your non-dominant hand now will pay off as you become more ambidextrous. Better to force yourself to develop this skill on simple patterns than to wait till more complex sequences require it.

Taking Each Rudiment at a Slow Pace

If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed right now don’t panic. Relax and try again and if you still need additional help just know that there are extensive resources and tutorials available online. A lot of websites have videos or audio tracks that you can play along with to practice these patterns. Just stay vigilant, hold yourself to the highest standard and don’t be in a rush to outgrow the metronome or to drum at too fast a pace. The more ingrained these necessary skills are in you, the better and more spectacular you will be as your talents advance.  If you haven’t learned the first drum rudiment, start there first.

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