What is a Flam in Drumming? Unveiling the Truth

By Evan C

What is a Flam in Drumming? The What you Ask?

What a weird name! So, what is a flam in drumming? A flam is a fundamental rudiment that adds some finesse and complexity to any drummer’s rhythm. It is characterized by a softer stroke immediately followed by a primary or main note, creating a flam sound.

This sound is not a singular note but a combination of two distinct strokes, with the initial hit being quieter and sometimes referred to as the ‘grace’ note. Ghost note is another name you’ll hear drummers use.

The primary note that follows is louder and more pronounced, giving the flam its unique characteristic.

The quality of the flam depends largely on the timing and velocity of both strokes, which can alter the flam’s sound and feel. Dynamics and speed go hand in hand to make this a really cool rudiment!

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Building With Blocks And Stuff

Drum rudiments serve as the building blocks for percussionists, and the flam is one of the essential patterns drummers learn to perform.

It is used across various music genres, from orchestral to marching band to rock and jazz drumming, because of its versatility.

The integration of the flam into different rhythms and beats easily enhances the dynamism of any piece, offering a layer of sophistication to a drummer’s chops.

Understanding and mastering the basic flam are crucial for any drummer looking to improve their technique.

The type of sound of the flam can vary greatly, not just in volume but also in resonance and effect, depending on the drum and the context of the music.

This potential for variation makes the flam an invaluable component in a drummer’s repertoire, allowing for expressive and rhythmic diversity in their playing.

I can help you MASTER your flams. Check out my course by clicking here.

Understanding the Basics of Flams

Defining a Flam

A flam consists of two notes played so closely together that they create a single, lengthened sound. The first note, called the grace note, is a lighter, softer stroke.

It’s followed by the primary note, which is struck with more force, producing the main accent of the flam. These notes are played in rapid sequence with only a little space between them, essentially sounding as one.

Drum Rudiments and Flams

The flam is an essential component of the 40 standard drum rudiments, forming the basis for more complex flam-based rudiments.

Proper technique and execution are vital for developing a drummer’s control and dynamics. Practicing flams within various rudiments helps drummers achieve consistency in both timing and the dynamic relationship between the grace and primary notes.

Proper Technique for Playing Flams

What is a flam in drumming?
What is a flam in drumming? This is what my Alfred’s Music playing card says.

To execute flams with precision, a drummer must focus on hand position, stick heights, and quality of the flam. Mastery comes with practice and a clear understanding of technique.

Hand Position and Stick Heights

An essential aspect of playing flams is the hand position. The drummer holds the sticks in a way that allows for a controlled and relaxed motion.

Your stick grip should be neither too tight nor too loose, providing a perfect balance. Firm and relaxed is better learned through repetition.

The height of the sticks is pivotal—the primary stroke reaches a greater height than the soft grace note, creating the distinct sound of a flam. Consistently practicing on your snare drum or a practice pad helps in developing muscle memory for appropriate stick heights.

It helps to over-exaggerate the primary note’s stick height and then vice versa (like I did in the first video above) when you switch from your right hand to your left hand.

Achieving Consistent Flam Quality

The quality of a flam hinges on the timing and dynamic contrast between the grace note and the primary stroke.

To maintain consistency, one must ensure the grace note is played softly and closely to the primary stroke, yet distinct enough to be audible. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. 👻

The stroke produced by the main hand should be the louder, dominant sound while the grace note is softer and quieter. As you alternate and get faster, it can be difficult to keep that grace note a grace note. Our typical inclination as drummers is to get louder and we get faster. lol

Just hold on there, we have some exercises to help you!

Flam tap, flam paradiddle, and flam accent playing card by Alfred's Music

Exercises to Develop Flam Technique

There are several following exercises designed to improve flam technique:

  1. Flam Taps: Alternating between a flam and a tap, maintaining consistent stick heights and dynamics.
  2. Flam Accent: Playing a series of 8th note triplets with flams every 1st note
  3. Flam Paradiddles: Combining flams with paradiddle patterns to challenge coordination and timing.

It is recommended to start slowly, focusing on precision and gradually increase the tempo as comfort and fluency with the technique improves. Practicing these exercises regularly will refine your ability to execute flams with ease and consistency! Trust me, it can be difficult!

Flam Variations and Combinations

Advanced Flam Rudiments

Flam Paradiddle-Diddle: Merging the flam with the paradiddle-diddle, this rudiment is known for its unique sticking pattern—namely, a flam followed by one single stroke and a double stroke x 2 (2 doubles RR LL or LL RR):

  • Right hand flam
  • Left hand stroke
  • Right hand double stroke
  • Right hand double stroke

It is a challenging rudiment that utilizes control and timing, often found in technical drumming passages. It’s especially difficult alternating between your hands because there is a flam every first note of each sequence! Talk about a workout..

Swiss Army Triplet: The Swiss army triplet is a flam rudiment where each triplet comprises a flam followed by two strokes. It is distinguished by its doubling because it’s essentially just RRL RRL or LLR LLR, but with a flam:

  • Right hand flam
  • Right hand stroke
  • Left hand stroke
  • (Next triplet starts with a left hand flam)

The Swiss army triplet is fun when you get it smooth and your flow and hand independence are leveling up with this one.

Single Flammed Mill: This pattern is a varation of an inverted paradiddle pattern (RRLR LLRL) that combines flams, followed by the same stick and then 2 alternating strokes.

  • Right hand flam
  • Right hand stroke
  • Left hand stroke
  • Right hand stroke
  • Then: Left hand flam – left hand stroke – right hand stroke – left hand stroke

It requires a higher degree of stick control than the others (I’d argue), serving as an effective exercise for refining dynamic control!

Flam Drag: A flam drag pairs a flam with a drag. The drag consists of two grace notes before a primary stroke. This intricate rudiment is presented as:

  • Right hand flam
  • Left hand double grace notes (drag)
  • Right hand primary stroke
  • Then: Left hand flam, Right hand double grace notes (drag), left hand primary stroke)

Common in marching band music, the flam drag adds a unique taste to any drummer’s chops. Any hybrid rudiment is a win to learn.

Flams in Different Musical Genres

Different genres may implement flams in a unique way. In rock, flams are often played on the snare to deliver that mean backbeat drummers may be after.

In contrast, jazz may utilizes flams more sparingly and subtly, often weaving them into intricate snare and floor tom strokes. Latin and Afro-Cuban styles may have different needs for flams based off of what the music calls for. It’s all in the music and what it needs.

Example Patterns with Flams

Here are specific examples of flam patterns employed in drum beats and solos:

  • Rock Beat: A standard rock beat between the kick and snare may see a flam on each snare stroke adding power to that upbeat. For instance:1+2+3+4+Flam (Snare)
    Kick — Flam (Snare) — Kick Flam (Snare)
  • Jazz Solo: A jazz drummer might use flams to transition between different parts of the drum set, often moving from the snare to toms to create some dynamic variations and also the sporadic nature of Jazz!
  • Funk Groove: In funk, flams may be used in a syncopated fashion within the groove, breaking up the predictable pattern with unexpected accents (think Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Practice and Resources

Mastering the flam requires consistent practice and the right stick.. I mean the right resources, but you will master it! 😂 There are plenty of lessons online we can take advantage of.

Free Drum Lessons and Online Resources

Numerous online platforms offer free drum lessons focusing on flams and other rudiments. You can also find a variety of sheet music exercises tailored to practicing flams on sites like:

Recommended Practice Routine

A solid routine is crucial for progress. It should start with slow, deliberate strokes, gradually increasing in speed while maintaining control. Be sure to breathe and stay as relaxed as possible!

Spending 10-15 minutes daily focusing solely on flams can lead to significant improvement. Additionally, incorporating flams into a drum fill and/or beat can help drummers become comfortable using them in various musical scenarios!

  • Example of Daily Practice:
    1. Warm-up (5 minutes): Moderate speed single stroke rolls – RLRLRL – nothing crazy
    2. Flam exercises (5 minutes): slow to fast repetitions, taking care of that grace note
    3. Application of flams in beats or fills (5-minutes): using sheet music or improvisation

Utilizing Play-along Tracks for Improvement

Play-along tracks are a great and engaging way to apply flams. They can also help you focus on timing and how flams may fit within different genres.

These tracks often come with sheet music that outlines where to place flams in the song structure.

  • How to Use Play-along Tracks:
    • Listen to the track multiple times to understand its structure.
    • Practice the track’s flams using the provided sheet music.
    • Play along with the track, focusing on the precise placement and quality of flams

What Is A Flam In Drumming? Now You Know!

What are your thoughts on the flam? Do you like this rudiment? Did you find any of this helpful at all? Let me know in the comments below!

Want to DOMINATE your flams and increase your drumming creativity? Check out my course below, it will help you get on the right track.

Get it by clicking here.

Until next time, stay attuned!

-Evan C.

About the author

Hi there, I'm Evan and I love drums.. Also, I love music! I've been playing drums for most of my life and nothing beats the thrill I get from it. I hope to be able to provide you with insightful tips and reviews on things within the drum and music world!

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