Flam - Drum Rudiment
The flam was one of the patterns chosen to take part in the 26 American Drum Rudiments by members of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers (N.A.R.D.) in 1936. The flam was also featured in the 13 Essential Drum Rudiments. This was a subgroup of the 26 drum rudiments that encompassed the essential drum rudiments any drummer should know how to play. In 1984, the 26 drum rudiments were joined by 14 other drum rudiments, giving birth to the 40 International Drum Rudiments.
The flam is a thicker and longer sounding note that can be found in almost every style of music there is. This note is produced by lifting each drumstick to a different height before coming down on the surface at almost the exact same time. The highest and loudest stroke is called the primary stroke while the lowest and softest stroke is called the grace note. It's because of this difference in heights that the primary note hits the surface of the drum slightly after the grace note. It's worth mentioning that although it's possible to notate grace notes they have no rhythmic value. We encourage you to learn how to play the single stroke roll and the double stroke roll before going through this lesson. Along with the flam they are essential drum rudiments any drummer should learn how to play.
Playing great sounding flams is a hard task. To do so, it's very important you keep the grace notes as close as possible to the primary stroke and to the surface of the drum. Playing the grace note at the exact same time as the primary note is called a "flat flam" or a "double stop".
The following exercise is great for practicing flam quality and consistency. The smaller notes are the grace notes and the bigger ones are the primary strokes. The flams where the primary strokes are played with the left hand are called left hand flams. The flams where the primary strokes are played with the right hand are called right hand flams. As you practice this exercise, focus on getting consistent sounding grace notes and primary strokes as you move from hand to hand.
Once you feel confident with the flam, you can move on to learn how to apply it to drum beats and drum fills.
Exercise #1 is an 8th note drum beat. Taking a look at the sheet music below, you can see that this is basically an 8th note rock drum beat where the snare shots on counts 2 and 4 are flammed. We encourage you to master the hand pattern first, and only then should you add the bass drum in.
Exercise #2 is a variation on the previous one. You can start by taking the hand pattern on exercise #1 and adding an extra flam to the "and" of counts 2 and 4. Only when this feels natural to you should the bass drum strokes on the "and" of counts 1 and 3 be added in. Try playing the flams as hand-to-hand flams for an added challenge.
Exercise #3 is a 16th note drum fill. This pattern combines a single stroke roll with a flam. The most challenging aspect of this drum fill is the transition between the "ah" of count 3 on the floor tom, to the flam on count 4 on the snare drum. Practice this pattern slowly at first. Don't sacrifice flam quality for speed - speed will come with control.
Exercise #4 is a variation on the previous one. Counts 1, 3, and 4 are played in exactly the same way as on exercise #3. The only difference between the two drum fills is founded on count 2. The four-note single stroke roll on the mid-tom is subbed by a flammed snare shot. This exercise presents the same type of challenge as exercise #3. Use the tips we gave you there to help you perform this drum fill with greater ease and accuracy.
The drum fills on this free drum lesson are a great example of how mixing up drum rudiments can hail very cool sounding patterns for you to spice up your playing. Once you're able to play the flam and the exercises herein accurately, you can move on to further expand your knowledge on the 40 drum rudiments. We encourage you to learn how to play the flam tap and the flam accent next.