Rudiments and rhythm

Yesterday I tried some percussion rudiments practice on my hammered dulcimer. Last weekend I had a workshop on the topic at the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Fest; I’d done some visiting afterwards and got home Thursday, and recovering from the trip and other things kept me busy over the weekend.

The first thing I worked on was the single stroke roll, RLRLRLRLR, increasing tempo to find the point of control.

Then I tried a few paradiddles (RLRR / LRLL), but my left hand was so uneven I decided to work on some partial paradiddle exercises instead. The right-handed ones — like RLRLRLRL / RLRRL — were easy enough but not likely to develop my left hand. (Duh.) So I did a bunch of left-handed ones. It’s difficult to keep my left hand relaxed, especially when it sometimes bounced too many times or just stuck to the string. I was tempted to try funny angles or do weird things with my thumb or fingers to try to control a nice double bounce. The other thing is that when I use left hand lead, I usually flick the back of the hammer with my middle or ring finger, which has generally helped me keep the hammer straight and get a clean, consistent, strong sound. Perhaps the combination of tension, weird movements, and the flicking are responsible for the fact that I had to quit because my left wrist hurt. I don’t think I was actually moving the wrist all that much.

I noticed that there’s a different timing principle for paradiddles than for another exercise we’d done in the workshop. This exercise is an alternation between a bar of single hits: R L R L R L R L, and a bar of double bounces: RRLLRRLLRRLLRRLL. In this exercise, the hands move with the same timing, so that the individual bounces are twice as fast as the singles. The partial paradiddles, though, involve the hands moving more quickly with singles, so that each individual bounce takes up the same time as a single.

This morning I played a bit more with the 7/8 pattern I’d learned in a workshop on odd-time tunes: R L R L R L R / L R L R L R L. I started out playing the pattern with my right hand on a note on the right side of the treble bridge, and my left on the left-side note opposite. Then I experimented with letting the accents fall on other notes, which was fun and actually a bit easier, because the left hand accents felt more purposeful. I could see a simple tune come out of this if I keep playing with it.