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Ben's Challenge to do a Drum Roll

ben learningI recently challenged Ben Hargreaves of Splashlight Magazine www.splashlight.net
to Learn how to drum roll and sustain the roll for the duration of the National Anthem in under two hours.

The challenge was accepted! As you can imagine it turned out to be quite a noisy one!!

Ben was recovering from a previous challenge and this one appealed as there was very little chance of injury!

We could probably have completed the challenge in under an hour if it hadn't been for all the questions Ben asked, which I had to answer of course... but knowing the history behind the instruments we were using and why certain rhythms were used made it all the more interesting for Ben.

Initially I explained to Ben what a drum roll is. For those of you not yet in the know, the drum roll is similar in theory to a tennis ball being bounced on the floor... the closer to the floor the ball gets the more bounces there are (pitch) ... NOT moving your wrists extremely fast ... the drum does the work ... not you. Lesson 1 over!

Next Ben had to learn to bounce the sticks evenly on the skin of the drum with each hand, 4 - 5 bounces, control and limit these bounces with the grip in the fingers, then bring it all together with both hands and bouncing them one after the other with a 1 - 2 beat overlap. This way you get a constant 'roll' of noise. Once mastered, you can then vary the pitch and tempo.

After nearly an hour into the challenge, Ben decided to go for it in the hope it would all click into place ... I said "Ben, I think we might do this you know" – Ben lost the tempo and stopped – "Nigel, you put me off! But yes I think so too".

We took a short break and discussed how we thought Ben was doing and where Ben was going wrong - the main problem was tensing up and the key is to relax and let the drum do the work; don't think too hard, just get on with it. I suggested to Ben that he needed to get a picture in his head of what it was he was trying to achieve, similar to an actor or a professional musician feeling the music – so he did ... "I am imagining myself wearing a gorilla suit, with a big cheesy smile, hammering away to Phil Collins' 'In the air tonight'". Not quite what I had in mind, but we gave it a go anyway.

Then, 10 minutes with Ben imagining he was the World's best drummer paid off. Gradually, each attempt got better and better, not consistent, but the basis was there for a drum roll – "Ben, you're about 95% there, brilliant" – "Nigel, lets go for the extra 5% and get this in the bag". On the next attempt, it clicked, Ben relaxed and did a very commendable drum roll.

I then joined in and the two of us, playing on the snare drum I designed, firing out a drum roll for the length of the National Anthem (it felt like 10 minutes to Ben but was actually just under one!). ben drumroll4sIt wasn't perfect but Ben did it. "Nigel, that was brilliant fun - Challenge complete!".

Playing the drums requires a lot of practice and if you have close neighbours the noise can be very irritating for them. If you don't already know how, you can have a go at learning to do this – quietly to start with, by using a 'Practice Pad' which will be on sale in our online shop www.Percussionzone.co.uk keeping your neighbours happy!

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