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Stick Control - A Drumset Classic
by Kevin Barrett

One of the best drumset books ever written isnt a drumset book at all.  Its a book designed to develop snare drum technique.  Nevertheless it has become a staple of drumset pedagogy.  The book Im speaking of is Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone. George Lawrence Stone was a prominent New England drum instructor during the 1930's through the 1950s.  Perhaps his most famous student was Joe Morello.  Stick Control was first published in 1935.  To quote Stone, It is an advanced book, consisting of a progressive, highly concentrated collection of rhythms, arranged in calisthenic form, which, if practised regularly and intelligently, will enable one to acquire control, speed, flexibility, touch, rhythm, lightness, delicacy, power, endurance, preciseness of execution and muscular co-ordination to a degree far in excess of his present ability.  If practiced diligently it meets that goal admirably.  The remarkable thing about Stick Control is that it also meets a similar goal when applied to the drumset.  Stick Control has been adapted and used by many teachers and players.  Its practical application to the drumset is limited only by the imagination of the player or teacher.  What follows is brief overview of some applications I have used.  They are meant only as suggestions.  Explore the book and come up with your own variations.

For those of you unfamiliar with Stick Control it is primarily a collection of sticking exercises.  For example the first 3 pages go through many of the sticking combinations available with eighth notes in 4/4 (or 2/2) time using singles, doubles, triples, and quadruples.

Here are some examples of the types of stickings the book contains.  This is exercise 6 on page 5:  (Ex 1)

Here is exercise 19 on page 5. (Ex 2)
And here is exercise 43 on page 6. (Ex 3)

These stickings can be applied to the drumset in a variety of ways.  One practical application is to play all the Rs on the bass drum and the Ls with either the right or the left hand. (Ex 4)

Practicing the stickings in this way provides useful exercises for developing coordination between the bass drum and hands.  After this becomes comfortable try using alternating sicking. (Ex 5)

This will create excellent exercises for developing the bass drum as a solo voice.  Its is also helpful in developing the coordination to play linear patterns.  A similar routine would be to practice as before, but play the Rs on the hi-hat with the left foot. (Ex 6)   Here again we are developing a high degree of coordination between the limbs.

The preceding examples were useful in developing linear and solo ideas, but Stick Control has just as much application in developing coordination as applied to time keeping.  For example the exercises can be played as rock patterns by playing eighth notes on the hi-hat with the right hand, and then playing the written part as sixteenth notes. All written Rs would be played by the bass drum.  The left hand would play all written Ls on snare drum. Often times you can phrase the left hand so that 2 and 4 is accented to give it a nice backbeat. (Ex 7)

To make it more challenging play the right hand on the ride cymbal, using quarters, eighths, or sixteenths, and play the hi-hat with the left foot, using 2 and 4, straight quarters, or straight eighths.  Play the Rs and Ls as sixteenth notes. The bass drum plays the Rs.  The left hand on snare plays the Ls. (Ex 8)
Practicing the exercises in this way will provide a wealth of useful time keeping and coordination material.  To develop touch and control pick a few snare drum notes to accent and play all others as ghosted notes (i.e. very softly, ½ from the head).

The exercises can also be used to develop what Bob Moses has dubbed the dependent technique.  In the dependent technique the bass drum and right hand are played together (i.e., in unison). In other words all Rs are played by the bass drum and right hand TOGETHER. Keep a straight-ahead pattern going with the left foot on the hi-hat.  All Ls would still be played on the snare drum.  This is great for unison coordination between your right hand and right foot. (Ex 9)

The exercises can also be played with a jazz cymbal rhythm.  Just remember to interpret the eighth notes as swung 8ths.  (i.e. the 8ths should have a triplet feel).   Play the Rs with the bass drum.  Play the Ls on the snare drum.  The right hand plays the jazz cymbal rhythm.  Play 2 and 4 with the left foot on hi-hat. (Ex 10)
Instead of playing the Rs on the bass drum you can also play the Rs on the hi-hat with the left foot.  The Ls would still be played on the snare drum.  This is a great exercise for building up coordination with your left foot (ala Tony Williams or Jack DeJohnette). (Ex 11)

These are just a few examples of how to use this great book.  They barely scratch the surface.  This book is a classic, probably one of the top 10 drum books of all time.  If you have never used it check it out.  Use your imagination and you will have thousands of hours of great material to practice.  Enjoy.

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Copyright © 2001Kevin Barrett. All Rights Reserved.