Free and Controlled Stroke Warm-Up

• Thank you to Modern Drummer magazine for their 4-star review of my book Daily Drum Warm-Ups in the September 2013 issue (the one with Dino Danelli on the cover). Also, my invention, the Manhasset Drummer Stand Hi-Hat (#53DH) was featured in the New and Notable section in the same issue. A lot to be thankful about!

• Please check out my OnlineDrummer booklet, Funk Up Your Hi-Hat Part One ( These exercises were inspired by the drumming brilliance of Carter Beauford and will spice up your backbeat while improving your coordination and rhythmic accuracy. It will, of course, also make you quite a funky individual. Again, thank you all for your continued support with my books and other projects.

The Lesson

Ever since I took lessons in college from drum guru, Don Bothwell, I have been fascinated with technique. (This is not to say that I have mind-blowing technique–just enough to get by in all of my gigs.) Recently, I have become interested in using free strokes more in my playing.

Note: My book Drumcraft gives a detailed account of strokes and taps, including controlled vs. free strokes, the Moeller technique, and the Stroke/Tap System (full strokes, downstrokes, upstrokes, and taps) and much more. This week’s lesson will make more sense to you if you have a background in this language.

Similarly, you can check out The Level System by Jeff Johnson, Stick Technique by Bill Bachman, and YouTube videos by Allen Herman and Matt Patella.

Here is a quick overview of the Stroke/Tap System:

Full Stroke–The stick starts high and finishes high (free stroke).

Downstroke–The stick starts high and finishes low (controlled stroke).

Tap–The sticks starts low and finishes low.

Upstroke–A tap where the stick starts low and finished high.


Free and Controlled Single Stroke crop


The following is a measure-by-measure description of the involved technique.

Measure 1: Seven free strokes, two controlled strokes, 15 taps, and repeat.

Measure 3: Three free strokes, two controlled strokes, seven taps, and repeat.

Measure 5: Two controlled strokes, four taps and repeat.

Measure 7: 16 taps, six free strokes, two controlled strokes, and repeat.

Measure 9: Eight taps, two free strokes, two controlled strokes, and repeat.

Measure 11: Four taps, two controlled strokes, repeat six times, then four taps and two free strokes.

Hopefully, the music notation is fairly self-explanatory. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me.

Extra Challenge

1. Play the warm-up with a foot ostinato.

2. Try to play the piece at a variety of tempos. As you go faster, make sure to experiment with using finger control while playing the 32nd notes.