Flam rudiments are the most complex rudiments facing a marching percussionist. They are challenging to play and even harder to master. A random person on the street may not even be able to tell the difference between tap drags and flam drags. So why should you care about flams?
Flams are what separate good from great. When adjudicating a drum line, a judge will look to make sure your drum line looks the same, uses the same technique, has good sound quality, plays clean and plays musically. What then sets apart all the good drum lines is which one is playing the most demanding music. And there’s nothing more demanding than flams. Besides that, flams are just a total blast to play.
Focus on Flam Accents
The flam rudiment that all drummers should start with is flam accents, which are triplets with flams on each downbeat, with alternating sticking. Good flam accents include a strong accented flam followed by two low inner beats. Most complex flam rudiments like flam drags, cheeses, flam fives, pataflaflas, etc., are all based on flam accents. Just like you can’t run before you walk, you can’t play flam drags if you can’t play good quality flam accents.
Improving Flam Quality
The best way to improve your flam accents is not to practice flams at all but to practice each hand individually. During a flam accent, your right hand plays an accent followed by a low triple beat. Turn your wrist, play a strong accent and hold down the rebound for that low triple beat. Do this at a slow tempo, making sure that you are successfully holding down the rebound and playing with good sound quality on your triple beat. Do the same on the other hand, then with both hands, and increase the tempo. Now apply this into your flam accents and watch your quality soar.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the marching percussion arranger for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. Over the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University, Marian Catholic High School and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps, where he was percussion caption head in 2003 and 2004.