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Make Your Buzz Roll Better TODAY

Wait...wrong rolls...

Ah yes, the buzz roll. A true staple in the drumming world, no matter if you're a jazz drummer, an orchestral musician, or a metal head. I've figured out that in my own playing and all of my students playing that there's a few common issues with most drummers buzz roll, and all of those problems can be grouped into one of three categories.

It's pretty often taught to wind players that with any long note, you have three parts.

1. Attack

2. Sustain

3. Release

Well, a buzz roll works exactly like that and as I mentioned, there's usually a problem in one or all of these areas. Let's talk about these parts and the common problems that occur within each.


9/10 people play the start of their roll too loud, making kind of a pseudo accent without it sounding like a true accent. I think some people call this an agogic accent. Whatever. Just don't play your first note too loud if that's not the sound you actually want! Ironically, when an accented roll is actually written, a lot of students don't play that accent nearly loud enough so that again, it sounds like a mistake.


This is the meat and potatoes of your roll. There's been a lot of really great educational resources on this already, but the idea is that you want a connected and smooth sound. Rob Knopper over at Audition Hacker has a really beautiful video on buzz rolls you can watch here

Basically, you want a few things happening here

1. The same length of buzz every single stroke

2. The same length of buzz on both hands

3. No gaps in between the sound when transitioning from hand to hand

I find that some of the younger players I work with have a pretty hard time with that third one for some reason, while some students pick it up immediately. Essentially, you want a certain "hand speed" to be happening at any given time, and that hand speed is dependent on the tempo. If the tempo is really slow, you'll need to move the hands faster to close up any gaps in the sound. If it's fast, you'll move your hands a little less.


The problems with the releases are almost always the same problems as the attacks. A lot of players will accent the release of a roll unintentionally. Another problem we have to worry about is the "untied" roll, which happens fairly often in orchestral music and standard etudes. Usually you'll just want to cut the roll about a sixteenth note shorter-again, kind of depends on the tempo. So an untied quarter note would end on the "and" instead of finishing into the next note.

So if you feel like your buzz roll sucks (we all do) then record yourself playing a long roll or a short etude from the Cirone, Albright, or Douze books (you have those right?) and record yourself. I'd bet you're making at least one of those mistakes we just went over.

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