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Building Monster Chops
In the first two segments you learned how to execute "Free Strokes" using the Gladstone technique, which is used by the world's fastest drummers. For this third and final part of this series, I'll show you how to perform "Controlled Strokes" and how to apply the technique to your everyday playing.
Controlled Stroke Exercises
Full Stroke to Half Stroke (Down)
The only difference between this Down Stroke and the Free Stroke type Down Stroke from last week, is instead of beginning at the Full Stroke position (photo 1) and ending in the Full Stroke position (photo 1), you begin at the Full Stroke position (photo 1) and end in the Half Stroke position (photo 2). This is accomplished by stopping your wrist at the Half Stroke level. Remember, don't grab the stick to stop it from moving because that creates tension. Simply stop your wrist at the Half Stroke level and the stick will (eventually) stop as well.
If you're using the Gladstone technique correctly, the stick will flop around a little before stopping at the Half Stroke level. Also, remember to hold the stick only as tightly as you must to avoid dropping it. What makes the Gladstone system so devastatingly fast is the lack of muscle tension in your fingers, wrists, and arms.
Repeat the previous exercise with each hand separately. Start at the Full Stroke level and stop at the Half Stroke level as explained. Then, move your stick back up to the Full Stroke level starting position and repeat the exercise. Repeat this process until you get comfortable with the technique of stopping your wrist at the Half Stroke level. Once you are comfortable with each hand, continue with the next exercise.
Half Stroke to Full Stroke (Up)
Start with the stick at the Half Stroke level (photo 2) and throw it down to the drumhead with enough force to allow it to rebound, bringing your wrist back up to the Full Stroke position (photo 1). Move your stick back down to the Half Stroke level (photo 2) and repeat the exercise, just like you did with the Full to Half Down Stroke exercise before.
Putting It All Together
You have just executed a Down and a corresponding Up stroke in the Gladstone system.
The Rest of the Story
Start at the Low Stroke level (photo 4) and throw the stick down toward the drum with enough velocity to bring your wrist up to the Half Stroke level (photo 3). Stop your wrist and the stick will wiggle itself to a stop. If the stick doesn't move but stops immediately, you're applying pressure to stop the stick. This is NOT what you want to do. It creates unnecessary tension that will slow you down later, when you're working for speed.
Once you perfect the Down and Up Stroke separately, put them together and play the Down Stroke followed by the Up Stroke. First practice the right stick alone and then practice with your left stick, like you did with the previous Half to Full / Full to Half Combination.
The final Controlled Stroke you need to practice is the Full (photo 5) to Low (photo 4) Down Stroke and Low (photo 4) to Full (photo 5) Up Stroke. Work these the same way as in the prior exercises. The only difference will be in the Low Stroke to Full Stroke exercise. You'll find that you'll need to apply a slight (very slight) upward pull on the stick to help bring it all the way back up to the Full Stroke position (photo 5).
Now, I'll give you some examples of how to apply the Gladstone technique to your playing.
Applying The Gladstone Technique
Take a look at figure 2, which shows how you would apply the Gladstone technique to the Single Paradiddle. Again, use the DUT Key from the previous Triplet study.
I recommend that you practice the Triplet and Paradiddle stickings slowly until you understand the reason for each D, U, and T designation. If you examine them carefully, you'll see that the Gladstone technique prepares you for accenting a note by having you raise the stick to the proper level (Full Stroke Level) at least one note ahead of time. This is the key to playing effortlessly and is the technique that allows great drummers like Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, and Joe Morello to play so effortlessly - Making their accents appear to fly in from out of nowhere.
You're On Your Own
Take a book like George Stone's Stick Control and apply the Gladstone technique. Begin by playing each exercise slowly and then work them for speed.
In the beginning, you'll probably have to write down the DUT's under each sticking combination but after a while, you'll be able to figure them out automatically as you play.
Although it's a shame that the Billy Gladstone technique is not more widely known, taught, or accepted, I (along with some of the world's greatest drum technicians) have found it to be the best technique available. And it can easily be applied to every style of drumming. Give it a shot and you too can have Monster Chops.
Until next time: Stay loose.
Click the following link for Building Monster Chops: Part 1!
Click the following link for Building Monster Chops: Part 2!
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