In my formative years of learning to be a drummer, the paradiddle seemed to be perhaps the most important rudiment of all to learn. Why? Well, it's a combination of single and double stroke sticking patterns, which really builds your technique because you become better at switching from double strokes to single strokes quickly, which not only helps your dexterity a lot, but also can help you to get around the drums a lot easier, without having to do a lot of awkward crossing of arms. For example, if you want to do repeated 4-note groupings of fast 16th notes back and forth between the floor tom on the right and the snare drum or small tom on your left. It will be much more awkward to do that quickly in single strokes than it would be to do it with paradiddles.
Classical timpanists also make much use of paradiddles to get from drum to drum. It becomes even more necessary for them since the drums are so big.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the sticking patterns of the various forms of paradiddles, including double, triple, and inverted paradiddles, offer interesting rhythmic/melodic possibilities around the drums – rhythmic because even though you may be playing only 16th notes, each hand in and of itself has its own rhythm which becomes more prominent when the two hands are on separate drums, and of course, you have several drums to work with, which gives you many melodic possibilities as well, since each drum approximates a different pitch.
And, if you incorporate the bell of the ride cymbal, the closed hi hat, or the shell of the floor tom into your sound palette, you can get some very authentic sounding Latin grooves emerging. How?
Well, let's start with the triple paradiddle. We're going to make it sound like a very convincing Samba groove.
Simply play the right hand on the bell of the ride cymbal, and the left hand on the snare drum. To get the feel right, play the snare drum very lightly so that the cymbal bell is most prominently heard. You will find that the rhythm you hear on the cymbal is actually a Samba, or a variant of Samba. (There are a few different ways to play Samba)
And the light snare drum filling in on all the alternate left hand strokes makes it very Samba - like in style, if you do it right. Listening to great Latin jazz drummers like Airto Moriera or Horacio Hernandez can help you get the feel better. Or just listen to some traditional Brazilian Samba bands, although with them, you will be listening to percussion ensembles, rather than to one drum set player. But the whole idea of the the drum set, originally, was to simulate a drum ensemble anyway, so it can't hurt to hear that as well.
Now, we have created a Samba groove with the hands, via the triple paradiddle. Add to that the classic Samba Bass Drum pattern (dotted quarter followed by eighth note, repeatedly), and you have yourself a very authentic sounding Samba groove, which you can tweek any way you wish to, or just leave it as it is.
R = cym bell, L = snare drum: RLRLRLRR LRLRLRLL
* = bass drum * ** * * ** *
Now try it with the Double Paradiddle – again, right hand on cymbal bell, and left hand on on snare. This will have will have a very authentic Afro Cuban 6 feel. For style purposes, you may want to switch the snares off for this one.
R = right hand cym bell, L = left hand snare (snares off) RLRLRR LRLRLL
* = bass drum * * * *
You'll notice I have the bass drum occurring every 3 strokes. That works very well, but you can experiment with different bass drum patterns.
Also you might consider doing cross stick on the left hand snare drum, for all the single strokes, but play the last double stroke of each double paradiddle on the small tom tom, above the snare drum. This will simulate the typical conga pattern that happens all the time in this type of music.
Now, let's get into the possibilities of using inverted paradiddles in Latin drumming styles. We'll start with the single paradiddle. Single paradiddles themselves, whether “inverted” or not, have a built-in inversion to begin with, because RLRR is an inversion of LRLL. It's like if you had a black and white photo, and switched all the blacks to whites and all the whites to black.
But you can create inversions of a different kind by shifting the order , or placement, of the sticking. In a single paradiddle, you have a single R followed by a single L, followed by a double R (RR), so you have RLRR. Then that is followed by the same pattern, but with the left hand leading: LRLL.
But what if we were to put the double strokes first instead of last, basically reversing the pattern? Then you would have: RRLR LLRL. Well, that's one inversion. But there are two others: RLLR LRRL and RLRL LRLR. In this last one the double stroke goes “over the barline” so to speak, meaning it crosses from one group to the next, rather than being contained within one group.
So, now let's take one of these inversions and turn it into yet another version of Samba!
(Again, Right hand on ride cym bell, and left hand lightly on snare drum - * = bass drum)
RLLR LRRL RLLR LRRL
* * * * * * * *
Cool, right? It works particularly well on this inversion, but it works pretty well on the others too, and it's always good to be free enough to vary it at any given moment, so experiment with the other inversions as well. It will be good for your drumming coordination in general.
Once you have this down with the hands, you can add the left foot hi hat too – putting it either on the downbeats or the upbeats. You can also experiment by playing the right hand on the closed hi hat instead of the ride cymbal bell, or, on the shell of the floor tom.
And of course, all this can be applied to the double and the triple paradiddles with their inversions as well. In fact, since those are longer patterns, you actually have more inversions to work with:
Double Paradiddle Inversions (in an Afro/Cuban “6” feel)
(a) RLRLRR LRLRLL
* * * *
b) RLRLLR LRLRRL
c) RLRRLR LRLLRL
d) RLLRLR LRRLRL
e) RRLRLR LLRLRL
f) RLRLRL LRLRLR
Some of these you may feel work better than others. My favorites are a, b, and f.
Finally, let's now explore the possibilities of using inversions of the triple paradiddle in Samba.
And for this, let's try a different bass drum pattern that can work equally well with this. (See where the asterisks are placed. In musical notation, it would be: dotted quarter - dotted quarter – quarter)
a) RLRLRLRR LRLRLRLL
* * * * * *
b) RLRLRLLR LRLRLRRL
c) RLRLRRLR LRLRLLRL
d) RLRLLRLR LRLRRLRL
e) RLRRLRLR LRLLRLRL
f) RLLRLRLR LRRLRLRL
g) RRLRLRLR LLRLRLRL
h) RLRLRLRL LRLRLRLR
I wish to mention here the fact that Afro Cuban and Salsa are a bit of a different kind of musical language than Brazilian Samba, even though there are plenty of similarities. It's kind of like the difference between the Spanish Language and the Portugese language. Similar, but not quite the same.
I find that with the exception of the double paradiddle, these patterns work best for Brazilian Samba. But the double paradiddle does lend itself very well to Afro Cuban “6” feel.
Well, that's it for now, folks, but I will be back with more, so, stay tuned!