How to Play Marching Tenor Drums, part 5 of 7: Sweeps & Scrapes


[drum line cadence] Hello, everyone. I’m James Christian,
and we are here today for video #5 of the
tenor drumming “Essentials” series. With today’s video, we’re going to focus
on one of the aspects of tenor drumming that is a lot of fun,
but also quite challenging. And these are sweeps, or scrapes. Sweeps get their name
from the sweeping motion– or scraping motion–
that is created when you play a double,
and you split it between two drums. So here’s one slowly,
and I’ll speed it up: [demonstration] As you can see, as you get faster,
it makes a sweeping or scraping motion. I prefer the word “sweep.” Some people like calling them “scrapes.” It’s the same thing though
if you hear it in different places. Now before we get into the
actual breaking apart of the double, I want to focus on just
getting good doubles first. So what you want to do
is make sure both notes are nice and solid, and
you get a full sound on both. Now, what you don’t want
is to drop the second note of the double,
which a lot of people do. It sounds like this when you do it poorly: [demonstration of a weak sound] Hear how uneven that sounds? It just doesn’t sound good. What you want is a full sound like this: [demonstration of a full sound] The way to get a fuller sound
primarily comes from the fingers. A lot of times I tell beginners when
they’re first learning to play doubles: Have you ever had your mom, or a sister,
or an aunt, or brother, or somebody come up to you and say,
“Oh, you’re so smart!” –and they do that two
little pats on the cheek? It’s basically that same motion,
except you put a drum stick in it, and you move your fingers around it. So you get
those two quick motions from the doubles, and you get
a much fuller sound that way. So when you’re doing these,
really focus on the sound. With all the exercises today,
I’m going to take them slow to start with and then speed them up,
just like we did in the third video. If you can barely get doubles out right now,
don’t stress out about the speed. Just focus on a good sound. If you can play double stroke rolls
really fast and for long periods of time, then go for it and just get better at it. And hopefully this video will offer
some helpful tips for players of all levels. Now, in discussing sweeps,
I feel that the current terminology is not wrong, but inadequate. We need more ways
to talk about it– to really talk about the motions
and movements we’re making. So I approach sweeps
from two main directions: One is: the distance covered. And two is: the direction of motion. So the first one I call “adjacent sweeps.” And those are covered between drums
that are adjacent to each other, that are right next to each other. So drums #2 and #4,
drums #1 and #2, drums #1 and #3– those are all adjacent to each other. The second type of sweeps
are “non-adjacent sweeps.” So this would cover drums #1 and #4–
because there’s a drum in between, so they are not adjacent to each other–
drums #2 and #3, and drums #3 and #4. Those last two are the hardest, because
that’s the widest stretch that you have to do. Now, you’ll notice I have not
mentioned the spock drum yet. I consider those their own category. So “spock sweeps” are the other one. Because when you’re playing
between drums #1 and #2 and the spock drum,
it feels a lot tighter. And then when you’re playing
between drums #3 and #4 with the spock drum,
it’s not as tight as an adjacent sweep, but it’s also not as wide
as a non-adjacent sweep. So I feel like spock drum sweeps–
they kind of are their own category, and it’s helpful to think
of them slightly differently. And I’ll get into that more in a minute. Now, the directional approach
for sweeps has three ways of doing it. It’s outward, inward, and push-pull. So for “outward sweeps” with the right hand–
you’re pushing away from your body, so that would be #1 to #3,
#2 to #1, and #4 to #2. [demonstration] With the left hand, that would be
#2 to #4, #1 to #2, and #3 to #1. [demonstration] With the non-adjacent outward sweeps,
you would have #2 to #3, #1 to #4, #4 to #3, #3 to #4, and so forth. So the same idea–
you’re pushing away from your body. With the inward sweeps with
the right hand, that would be #3 to #1– because you’re pulling it toward yourself–
#1 to #2, and #2 to #4. [demonstration] With the left hand, it would be
#4 to #2, #2 to #1, and #1 to #3. [demonstration] You have to change your technique
slightly on that, and I’ll get into that
a little more in a minute. Now, again, you’ll notice
I didn’t use the spock drum yet. This is where what we talked about
in the first video comes into play. So your Y-axis is up-and-down;
your X-axis is side-to-side. And now we have our Z-axis,
which is front-and-back. So when you’re sweeping between
your spock drum and drums #1 and #2, you have to do a pushing motion
or a pulling motion. So something like this: [demonstration] All right, we’ll break all
of those down in just a minute. For today’s video,
I’m just going to focus on the adjacent sweeps
and the spock sweeps. You can take the same concepts
and apply them to non-adjacent sweeps, but I’m not going to cover that in this video. In my book, “The Art of Multi-Tenor Drumming,”
I have about 24 pages dedicated just to sweeps with the text
and exercise sections. Plus lots more examples
where you can do sweeps across three drums
and incorporating sweeps into paradiddles and other rudiments. So as you can see,
sweeps are very common in tenor music, and it’s something that you really have
to practice to get good at. So I’m going to start
with outward sweeps, and we’re going to do it
with adjacent drums first. Focus on smooth doubles
between two drums. So your right hand is going
to be over drum #1; your left hand is going
to be over drum #2. And I’ll just practice doubles for
a second and get those sounding good. [demonstration] All right, now we’re going
to sweep the right hand. So you’re going to go #1 to #3. Again, I’m going to start these
slow and speed them up. [demonstration] Now try the same thing with the left hand. You’re going to go #2 to #4. Keep the right hand over drum #1. [demonstration] All right, now we’re going to do
the same thing on the top two drums. So keep your left hand over drum #2. And you’re going to move between
drum #2 and drum #1 with your right hand. [demonstration] Now reverse it. Do your right hand on drum #1,
and your left hand is going to go between drums #1 and #2. [demonstration] You can also do it with drums
#2 and #4 with the right hand and #1 and #3 with the left hand. But I’m just going to leave it
at that for now. So those are your primary outward motions. Now let’s look at inward sweeps. So you’re going to put
your left hand over drum #2. And your right hand is going to start
on drum #3 and go to drum #1. Now, I struggled with these for years–
getting them to sound good. I would hit a lot of rims and everything. I was trying to keep a good solid
up-and-down motion with keeping the bone mass
of my arm and hand over the stick. And I was just finding
it didn’t work as well. So I finally realized I could get
a much better accuracy if I shifted to French grip
for the first note of an inward sweep. So French grip is where your thumb
is right on top of the stick, and it faces up toward the ceiling. So bring it down
on the first one, and then you’re going
to twist it onto that note. [demonstration] It takes a little bit of practice
to get that technique down. But you will find your accuracy
increases considerably, and it helps you to clear the rims. Now, I’m not going
to get into the debate on German grip versus
American grip today. Personally, I prefer German grip,
but there are a lot of great players who use American grip on tenors. If you don’t know the difference,
basically French grip faces all the way up with thumb on top. German grip is thumb
all the way on the side. And American grip is halfway in between
at kind of a 45 degree angle. Now, I believe this same principle
works either way if you go to French grip and then
go to your default grip. Whether it’s American grip
or German grip, either way you’re going to still
get a more solid sound. So that first note with French grip
tends to be kind of weak if you’re trying to get
a double out of it. Or the first note is solid,
but the second note is weaker. So this helps you get
the best of both worlds. You hit solid there, and then you get
a solid note on the second note as you’re getting the momentum
of flipping into it. So just practice that technique
of turning into it, and you’ll find that
it helps pretty quickly. All right, so let’s try the same thing
that we did a minute ago. Now we’re going to do inward sweeps. So right handed first: [demonstration] Now try the same thing on the left hand: [demonstration] Sorry, not a very good ending there. But that’s the idea. All right, so now let’s do the same thing
with drum #1 and drum #2. So before, we went outward. Now we’re coming inward. Also, I should point out that, when you
go out to the farthest drum on the ends, you have to exaggerate
that French grip motion. As you get inward a little more,
you don’t have to do it quite as much. And then as you come
over here, it’s even less. So definitely solid French grip when you’re
on drum #3 going to drum #1. You can do it a little less
on drum #1 to drum #2. And even a little less
on drum #2 to drum #4. But it’s still the same
general motion on that. So here you go–
drum #1 to drum #2: [demonstration] Same thing with the left hand. We’re going drum #2 to drum #1: [demonstration] All right, now we’re going to combine
the right hand and the left hand. So first, we’re going to go
outward with both hands. [demonstration] Now we’re going to do the same thing
with drums #1 and #2. [demonstration] Now let’s try doing inward sweeps combined. So you’re going to start
on the outer drums and move in. So drum #3 to drum #1
and drum #4 to drum #2. [demonstration] Now do the same thing
with drums #1 and #2. And this gets a little bit trickier,
because as you’re going right to left, the next hand is starting
on the same drum. And so you have to clear it
as you’re going along. So make sure you’re getting
the other hand out of the way and back to its original drum quickly,
or else you’ll run into your sticks. So here we go: [demonstration] All right, so those are the essential motions. Let’s break it up just a little bit. We’re going to practice some
coordinative challenges with these now. So the first one: you’re going to go
outward and then inward. And you’re going to alternate
between the two with both hands. So here we go: [demonstration] Now we’re going to do the same
with drums #1 and #2. And this does get tricky. Because you’re going to go right, right,
left, left, right, right, left, left– and then when you repeat it,
that right hand is going to do a slight crossover on the left,
and you have to get the left out of the way quickly so that
you’re not running into your hands. Here we go: [demonstration] That gets kind of tricky,
but it’s fun to play. All right, now let’s do
a combination of the two where they’re going
opposite directions. Let’s start with the right hand going inward
and the left hand going outward– and then you’re going to switch. [demonstration] So then trying the same thing
on drums #1 and #2: right hand is going to go inward, left hand
is going to go outward, and alternate. This one gets rather tricky,
so be careful not to run into your sticks. It’s also very difficult to play fast, so I will
probably not take this one quite as quickly. [demonstration] All right, those are
the essential motions for the most common adjacent
inward and outward sweeps. Let’s talk about the spock drum and
push-pull sweeps for just a little bit. So like I said, when you’re
coming toward yourself, that’s a pulling motion. That’s a bit easier to do. That pushing out motion is much harder. Because if you think
about your anatomy, you have some back muscle
and a little bit right here, but you really don’t have
as much muscle power to do that. So it’s a lot harder to do. But let’s start with right hand
hitting drum #1 going to the spock drum and left hand hitting drum #2
and going to the spock drum. We’re going to come inward. [demonstration] Now let’s do the same thing going outward. So you’re starting on the spock drum
and going out to those drums. [demonstration] With those, you can kind of get
somewhat of an outward motion. It’s not as much of a pushing motion. But now, when you cross it–
and your right hand is going to drum #2 and the spock drum
and your left hand is going drum #1 and the spock drum–
that gets a lot harder. So we’re going to start with
the pulling motion first: [demonstration] Now the pushing motion is probably
the hardest of all the sweeps. So here we go.
You’re going to push out now: [demonstration] If you want to see examples
of those in a musical context, I do have it in my–
The push and pull sweeps, I have those in my
2006 and 2007 DCA solos. And there’s also
a brief moment of them in a solo I posted
this last year called “Fibonacci.” If you know of another person
who has done that, please post a link
to the video, because I’d love to see how other people
have integrated that into their music. To finish off this video,
I’m going to show one exercise which I call a “Sweep Builder.” And you can do this
for any sweep pattern– whether it’s adjacent, or non-adjacent,
or inward, or outward, or push-pull,
or whatever it may be. But basically, the reason I
came up with this exercise was: As I was practicing
a lot of sweep patterns and I’d hit rims and I’d
struggle with my accuracy, I realized that what you have
to be able to do is: Of course, always make
good sounding double strokes. But as you’re moving around,
there’s a momentum you’re getting, but then you also have to be able
to halt that momentum immediately if you go to one drum and you’re not
just constantly moving– where you have to change directions. So this exercise helps you practice
the momentum of a sweep and then immediately controlling it
as you go back to a single drum. And you also play doubles
on a single drum for a while, so it helps you focus
on your sound quality. And then when you
put the sweep into it, it helps you to create solid
sounding sweeps as well. Like I said, you can
do this with any of them, and I have every single
possible combination in an appendix in my book,
“The Art of Multi-Tenor Drumming.” But I’m just going to do
the first one here with the right hand and
then with the left hand. We’re going to do the #1/#3
and #2/#4 combination. And so what you do is: you just do the first sweep,
and then you come to another drum. And then you do the same sweep,
and you go to a different drum. And you do that whole pattern going
down the drums and then coming back up. And what that does is it helps
you practice the momentum and then being ready
to go to any other drum. So if you were going to do a sweep
and then come there, or a sweep
and then come there– You train your brain
to feel what that feels like. And so as you’re doing that, focus on
hitting in the exact correct playing zones. And over time you’ll gain
muscle memory and spatial memory, and you’ll notice that your sweep accuracy
should increase substantially. It definitely did with me. So here we go. I’m going to do the right hand
and then the left hand. [demonstration] So that’s it. That’s an introduction to sweeps. Like I said, you can combine these
with triple strokes, and quadruple strokes, and do paradiddles with the double in it
with the sweep, and all sorts of things. The sky’s the limit on this. Everything we’ve done today
you can practice with non-adjacent sweeps
and different combinations. So that will hopefully
give you a few ideas and get you started
on building coordination. If you have other ideas
on how to build sweeps, or you have some exercises
you really enjoy playing, please–by all means–post comments
and links down in the comments below. And I would really enjoy reading
what you guys think on all of this. Let me know too: Is this helpful
to think of it in the inward/outward and the adjacent/non-adjacent–those ideas?
Are those helpful? They seem helpful to me, but I’m curious
to know what other people think of this. I haven’t heard anyone else discuss it
quite in that detail before. So hopefully this gives
a few ideas to everyone. All right, the next video is going
to focus on a potpourri of tenor ideas. We’re going to cover helicopters, and butterflies,
and figure eights, and candy apples, and cross fives,
and who knows what else? We’re just going to cover
the standard vocabulary for tenor drums out there. And it’s just going to be
kind of a mix of all sorts of ideas and just stuff you need to know if you’re
going to excel on playing tenor drums. So I hope you’ll join us for that. And once again, you know the spiel. If you like it, click “like.” Share this with other people
who you think will find it helpful. And again, I would really like to hear
your feedback on this particular video. I’m just curious what
other people think on it. So thank you very much. I appreciate your watching,
and I will see you next time. Bye! [drum line cadence]

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