Ninja Drummist - Official web site of session drummer and teacher Lewis Partridge. Free Drum Lessons, Drum Rudiments and Other Educational Resources.

The official web site of session drummer and teacher Lewis Partridge.


Drum Roll Guide

Probably the most widely known rudiments of them all are drum rolls. Even if you are not a drummer, you probably have some idea of what a drum roll should sound like.

I have created this page as a very easy, introductory guide to drum rolls for drummers either encountering drum rolls for the first time or attempting to improve their knowledge in this area.


What is a Drum Roll?

A drum roll is a continuous succession of evenly spaced notes, usually intended to produce a sustained sound on percussive instruments.

The three most common types of Drum Roll are Single Stroke Rolls, Double Stroke Rolls and Buzz Rolls (see below). The Single and Double Stroke Rolls produce a relatively similar sound whereas the Buzz Roll creates a smoother, more sustained effect.

The Buzz Roll is usually the easiest for beginners to play at speed.

(Note: Reverse the sticking for Left Handed Drummers.
For Example, R L R L becomes L R L R etc.)

Single Stroke Roll

Single Stroke Roll

Alternating single strokes (i.e. R L R L, etc) of any speed or length leading with either hand. Though...

Double Stroke Roll

Double Stroke Roll

Alternating doubles strokes (i.e. RR LL, etc) of any speed or length leading with either hand. As with...

Buzz Roll

Buzz Roll

One hand plays an unspecified number of bounces before the other hand takes over. Should sound smooth...


Drum Roll Theory

Some roll rudiments involve measuring the number of strokes or duration of the roll itself. These rolls are combinations of double strokes and are usually followed by one or two accented single strokes.

There are two basic patterns for odd and even numberd rolls:

  • Odd numbered rolls are followed by one single stroke.
  • Even numbered rolls are followed by two single strokes (except the Four Stroke Roll).

See tables below.

For example, a Five Stroke Roll consists of two double strokes followed by one single stroke, making five notes in total. A Six Stroke Roll also consists of two double strokes but followed by two accented single strokes instead, making six notes in total.

However, the Four Stroke Roll does not contain any single strokes at all and instead the accent is placed on the last note of the last double stroke.

I'm often asked by beginners why there is no Three Stroke Roll. This is because there is already a rudiment that consists of one double stroke followed by an accented single stroke, known as a Drag.

Odd Numbered Rolls

Even Numbered Rolls


Drum Roll Notation

Some of the notation used to indicate a drum roll can be confusing to beginners as it uses Tremelos or "abbreviated notation".

While this is confusing at first, these abbreviations are often used for drum rolls as they are an easier alternative to writing all of the notes in a roll.

A slash through the stem of a note divides it into two faster notes. (eg. A Quarter Note becomes two Eighth Notes). Two slashes through a note divides it into four faster notes (eg. A Quarter Note becomes four Sixteenth Notes). Three slashes through a note divides it into eight faster notes (eg. A Quarter Note becomes four Thirty-second Notes), and so on.

A "Z" on the stem of a note incates that the roll is played as a Buzz Roll.

Rolls can also be written using a Trill instead of a Tremelo, this is common in orchestral percussion. The abbreviation "Tr" sometimes followed by a wavy line indicates a rapid alternation between two notes.

One Tremelo

One Tremelo

Two Tremelos

Two Tremelos

Three Tremelos

Three Tremelos

Four Tremelos

Four Tremelos

Buzz Roll

Buzz Roll

Trill Example

Trill Example


Open vs. Closed?

Roll Rudiments can also be played Open or Closed (as with most rudiments that contain double strokes).

To play open, use double strokes. To play closed, replace any double strokes with buzzes.

For example, an Open Five Stroke Roll consists of two double strokes followed by an accented single stroke. Whereas a Closed Five Stroke Roll consists of two Buzzes instead, followed by an accented single stroke. (See examples below).

A good way to tell if a roll is open or closed by listening to it is that an open roll has more space between the notes and therefore sounds more "open" than a closed roll.

Also, the amount of buzz used on the closed rolls can be varied by adjusting the pressure applied to the drum head. This varies exactly how "closed" the roll is and can allow for smother transitions between open and closed rolls.

Open Five Stroke Roll

Open Five Stroke Roll

Closed Five Stroke Roll

Open Five Stroke Roll

Open Nine Stroke Roll

Open Nine Stroke Roll

Closed Nine Stroke Roll

Open Nine Stroke Roll


Other Drum Rolls

As mentioned previously, a drum roll is a continuous succession of evenly spaced notes. With this in mind, a drummer is not simply limited to using Single Strokes, Double Strokes and Buzz Rolls to create a drum roll effect.

Single Strokes, Triple Strokes and Paradiddles are among some of the many sticking patterns that can also be used to create a roll sound. The possibilities are endless!


The Next Step?

Please take a look at my other educational resources on drum rolls and rudiments below:


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