Reply To: Teaching beginners the flam

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I teach the “tin soldier technique.” The main note is your high stick, and the grace note is your low stick. Both sticks start moving at the same time, resulting in a flam. Upon impact, the sticks switch positions: the low stick is now high, and the high stick is now low. Thus, the student is prepared to play another flam, or a single note. I have students exaggerate at first, and insist that they keep the low stick quite low to the drum.

Students can easily recognize a bad flam, or a “clunker,” that results from both sticks hitting the drum simultaneously. It is important to demonstrate what this sounds like, as well as what it looks like in a mirror.

Schinstine and Hoey’s “Basic Drum Book” has an exercise called “That Left Flam” followed by “That Right Flam.” These are the same exercise, with opposite stickings. Exercises like these students understand how to use alternating sticking, which can be confusing when beginners start learning flams. It may also show them that their non-dominant hand needs extra attention, which is often the case.

Hope that helps!