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Terminology

 

Accent                         – a note or beat which stands out because it is played considerably louder than the average volume of notes in a music piece or phrase.

Bpm                             – beats per minute, the unit of measurement for speed or tempo in music, found on many metronomes.

Chops                          – or licks. Musician’s slang for specific skills or things that can be played that are impressive. Can also refer to any drumming ability, even just playing plain grooves.

Diddle                          – two strokes played with one hand (onomatopoeic), the second stroke is often played as a rebound of the first. A paradiddle: RLRR consists of two single strokes followed by a double stroke or diddle.

Drag                             – or ruff. There is an ongoing debate about which word is correct. In terms of this book, a drag is similar to a flam, but instead of one soft note played directly in front of an accent there are two, usually as a fast diddle.

Flam                             – two notes played as close together as possible, without actually being played at the same time. The leading note should be played softly from a low stick height, followed immediately by an accented note with the other hand from a high stick height.

Ghost note                    – the opposite of an accent, a ghost note is considerably softer than other notes in the bar or measure. As a guideline, your snare ghosts should be softer in volume than the normal hihat notes in the groove. Sometimes they are described as just, or barely, being audible.

Groove                         – sometimes called a drumbeat. This is a repeating arrangement of drum notes, which supports and adds to the music played by other band members. Groove may also refer to a feeling created by a drummer, or how well what they are playing suits the song.

Heel-toe technique             – a bass drum technique that allows a drummer to play a single bass pedal with fast, even strokes and great endurance. As the name suggests, the toe and heel are each responsible for playing a beat as the foot moves in a rocking motion on the pedal. See the many video descriptions of this technique on the Internet, or the excellent description in Steve Smith’s DVD: ‘Drum Set Technique/History Of The U.S. Beat’.

Inertia                           the resistance a mass, such as an arm or a drumstick, has to changes in its state of motion – its resistance to start or stop moving, or change its direction.

Mills                             – a permutation of a paradiddle where the diddle is in the front of the four stokes. RRLR LLRL

Mnemonic                    – an aid to memory that involves words or letters.

Onomatopoeic              – describing a sound with a word that actually sounds like that sound. E.g. crash, bang, sizzle, splash, boom, bang, tick etc.

Orchestration                – in drumming, this refers to where or how a pattern is played or spread out over a drum kit.

Ostinato                       – a musical phrase that is repeated over and over without change. It may sometimes only refer to some of the notes in a bar, against which others are played in different patterns. E.g. the Jazz ride, bass and hihat ostinato, against which the snare plays various comping patterns.

Permutation                  – in drumming, this usually refers to changing where you start a pattern. For example LRRLLR is a permutation of a paradiddle-diddle (RLRRLL), made by starting it on the first left stroke.

Roll                              – a texture in drum music created by playing many even notes quickly in succession. This can be single strokes or double strokes (using bounces).

Showmanship               – an important aspect of drumming that refers to the visual spectacle of live performance. It can be anything from facial expressions, how you move your arms (telegraphing, see1.6), stick twirling and throwing; to using gimmicks like rotating or upside-down drum risers, or wearing a flaming helmet (Chad Smith).

Structure                      – an element of music referring to how a song is set out or organised into parts such as intros, verses, choruses, middle-eights, bridges, drop-downs, solos and endings. Fine structure in drumming can refer to bars and measures, and where fills and crashes might fit in.

Tempo                         – the speed at which a piece of music is played. Sometimes given as bpm and sometimes described with words such as Allegro (120–168 bpm) Moderato (108–120 bpm) Largo (40–60 bpm) etc.

Timbre                         – (pronounced tam-bir) refers to the distinctive voice of an instrument. While certain instruments may be able to play exactly the same tones, you would be able to tell if the notes you were hearing were played on a flute, piano or saxophone because of the timbre of each instrument.

Tinnitus                         – is a long lasting ringing, booming or popping sound that is perceived inside the ear, and which is not related to any external source. It is often heard in the quiet of the bedroom after spending the evening listening to very loud music and is a symptom of potentially permanent hearing damage.

Woodshedding             – drummer’s slang referring to practicing. It may come from the fact that many drummers practice in garden sheds (made of wood) or that, as we practice, our sticks chip and leave splinters on the floor around our kits – we shed wood.