Within your first couple of drum lessons, you likely started learning a few different rudiments to begin coordinating your hands with one another. What do permutations have to do with drumming, though? Certain rudiments, particularly paradiddles and paradiddle variations, can provide drummers with an expansive vocabulary. But unlocking the potential of a paradiddle involves more than just playing RLRR LRLL. What if you tried playing single paradiddles, but beginning from the third stroke in the pattern? How about beginning from the fourth stroke in the pattern? By practicing permutations of sticking patterns, one single idea can unfold into many unique combinations. Let’s work through permutations of a couple basic patterns and explore how to apply them to the drum set.
Diesel Double Strokes
You likely know what double strokes are by now, but if you’re brand-new and just learning to play drums, you might be wondering what a double stoke is. Double strokes entail playing two strokes with each hand in succession (right right, left left, or RRLL). On its surface, it’s a basic pattern. But playing through the permutations of RRLL exposes three other possible patterns. In total, there are four ways of playing RRLL:
RLLR - beginning on the second stroke of RRLL
LLRR - beginning on the third stroke of RRLL
LRRL - beginning on the fourth stroke of RRLL
Phrasing the pattern as 16th notes, play each permutation for one measure before switching to the next.
RRLL RRLL RRLL RRLL \ RLLR RLLR RLLR RLLR \ LLRR LLRR LLRR LLRR \ LRRL LRRL LRRL LRRL
When you’re able to comfortably switch from one pattern to the next every measure, try switching every two beats.
RRLL RRLL RLLR RLLR \ LLRR LLRR LRRL LRRL \ RRLL RRLL RLLR RLLR \ LLRR LLRR LRRL LRRL
Finally, switch patterns every beat. Doing so creates a totally unique sticking combination that feels far removed from double strokes, despite being built entirely upon permutations of double strokes.
RRLL RLLR LLRR LRRL \ RRLL RLLR LLRR LRRL
There are many functional combinations and orchestrations of double strokes. Try creating and practicing your own combinations to develop more of an individualized sound in your playing. Here are a few more to get you started:
RRLL RLLR RLLR LRRL \ RRLL RLLR RLLR LRRL
RLLR LLRR LRRL RRLL \ RLLR LLRR LRRL RRLL
RLLR LRRL RRLL RRLL \ RLLR LRRL RRLL RRLL
Single Paradiddle Permutations
The same concept works applied to single paradiddles, too. Single paradiddles are just one permutation of the drum rudiment, paradiddle. Beginning single paradiddles from each stroke of the pattern reveals several more patterns easily applied to the drums. All of the permutations of single paradiddles (beginning with the right hand) are as follows:
When mixed and matched with each other, many expressive phrases become possible. Try creating as many combinations as you can think of and practice each one to the point of fluidity. Locking some specific combinations into your muscle memory will allow you to improvise with these patterns and create phrases on the fly. Here are a few combinations to get the juices flowing:
RLRR LRRL RLLR LLRL \ RLRR LRRL RLLR LLRL
RLRL LRRL RLRR LRRL \ RLRL LRRL RLRR LRRL
RLLR LRLL RRLR LRLL \ RLLR LRLL RRLR LRLL
The paradiddle permutations mix really nicely with the permutations of double strokes on drums. By mixing and matching all of the different double stroke and paradiddle patterns, you can create hundreds of unique and functional combinations.
Beyond Hands: Kick Substitutions
To expand even further upon these drumming combinations, substitute the kick in place of a hand. Begin by replacing every right hand stroke with the kick. In doing so, double strokes and single paradiddles become KKLL KKLL and KLKK LKLL respectively. Practice alternating between playing the patterns with both hands and with the kick in place of a hand. The permutations of double strokes, including kick substitutions, are as follows:
RRLL RRLL \ KKLL KKLL \ RRLL RRLL \ KKLL KKLL
RLLR RLLR \ KLLK KLLK \ RLLR RLLR \ KLLK KLLK
LLRR LLRR \ LLKK LLKK \ LLRR LLRR \ LLKK LLKK
LRRL LRRL \ LKKL LKKL \ LRRL LRRL\ LKKL LKKL
The same approach works applied to single paradiddles as well. Replacing right hand strokes with the kick creates a wide tonal separation and adds more depth to fills. The permutations of single paradiddles with kick substitutions are as follows:
RLRR LRLL \ KLKK LKLL \ RLRR LRLL \ KLKK LKLL
RRLR LLRL \ KKLK LLKL \ RRLR LLRL \ KKLK LLKL
RLRL LRLR \ KLKL LKLK \ RLRL LRLR \ KLKL LKLK
RLLR LRRL \ KLLK LKKL \ RLLR LRRL \ KLLK LKKL
Just like before, combine variations of double strokes with paradiddle patterns to generate tons of unique combinations.
Working through combinations using this process will help you improve your musical sensibilities, giving you a better ability to decide what you should play versus what you shouldn’t play, and will assist you in developing a more individualized sound on the drums. Not every combination will necessarily sound or feel too good, but you’re guaranteed to land on a few “go-to” chops!