Drum technique books laid on a flat surface

I had the privilege of studying with the legendary jazz drummer, Joe Morello.  While his technique was close to flawless, he was known for saying, “technique is a means to an end.”  Joe always used his technique to serve the music, not as a means of “showing off.” 

Joe also knew that many drummers would spend countless hours focusing on only one aspect technique.  For example, many people are infatuated with single stroke roll speed.  Unfortunately, single strokes are only one aspect of hand technique.  Accents, double strokes, flams, ruff, and multiple rebounds are also essential components of technique.  Agility is also needed to switch between the aforementioned techniques.  

The following books will certainly help to improve your technique.  There is no such thing as the “perfect drum technique book.”  Therefore, you many need to use more than one book at a time.  For example, since Stick Control does not contain any accents, it may be supplemented with a book such as The Level System. 

Another reason for using more than one book is the boredom factor.  Practicing the same exercise every day can become very monotonous.  While practicing one page of single stroke rolls in Stick Control can do wonders for your technique, you can alternate between those exercises and the “Stone Killer with Fill-ins” from Master Studies.

Get your sticks and practice pad ready. These books are sure to give you a workout.

Stick Control for the Snare Drummer by
George Lawrence Stone

Cover of Stick Control for the Snare Drummer book

Pianists and other instrumentalists have always had books filled with scales, arpeggios, and other technical exercises.  Unfortunately, drummers did not have such a resource. In 1935, George Lawrence Stone filled that void by writing Stick Control, a technique book specifically for drummers.

Stick Control focuses on the agility and consistency of the hands.  Single and double stroke combinations are explored.  Single and double stroke rolls are featured throughout the book.  Closed rolls and flams are also presented. Since there are no accents in the entire publication, Stick Control is great for balancing out the hands. 

The Level System by Jeff W. Johnson

The Level System drum book by Jeff Johnson

As I mentioned earlier in this article, I had the honor of studying with Joe Morello.  Joe’s teacher was George Lawrence Stone, the author of Stick Control.  Stone taught the concept of preparing one stroke in advance.  This concept is often referred to as the level system.  I documented this technique in my book, The Level System. In this system, there are four types of strokes:

  • Full Strokes – Used for accented notes in a row.
  • Tap Strokes – Used for unaccented notes in a row.
  • Downstrokes – Used to transition from an accented to unaccented note.
  • Upstroke – Used to transition from an unaccented to accented note.

The Level System is great to prepare the drummer for the accented sections of Master Studies and Accents and Rebounds.  It was the first runner up for best drum book of the year (2012 Drum Magazine Drummies! awards).  Legendary educator and jazz drummer Ed Soph said of The Level System, “It’s the most comprehensive and well-written text on the subject that I’ve seen.  I will certainly recommend it to my students.”

Master Studies by Joe Morello

Master Studies book by Joe Morello

Joe Morello and George Lawrence Stone planned to collaborate on a book.  Unfortunately, Mr. Stone passed away before that idea could be realized.  Joe Morello did go on to write the classic book, Master Studies, which he dedicated to Mr. Stone.  He even included an exercise that Stone gave him, lovingly titled the Stone Killer.

Master Studies expands upon the concepts in Stick Control such as single and double stroke combinations, open rolls, closed rolls and flams.  It also contains aspects of technique not found in Stick Control.  For example, there are sections dedicated to accents, dynamics, ostinatos, endurance studies, and unison strokes.  Mr. Morello also offers suggestions for adapting the exercises to drum set. 

Master Studies II by Joe Morello

Master Studies book 2 by Joe Morello

This is the last drum book written by Joe Morello. Many of the exercises in the book are variations of Stick Control, which Mr. Morello developed over years of teaching.  He also included warm-up exercises, endurance studies, and control studies.  The book explores sticking variations of quintuplets and septuplets as well as revised table of time (with accents). He also adapts exercises from the original Master Studies book to fit into time signatures other than 4/4. 

As with the original Master Studies, he included an exercise passed down from his mentor, George Lawrence Stone.  The exercise (lovingly titled “Joe Fingers”) includes both the original exercises from Stone and Morello’s added variations. 

Accents and Rebounds by George Lawrence Stone

Accents and Rebounds drum book by George Lawrence Stone

Accents and Rebounds is George Lawrence Stone’s follow up to Stick Control.  While Stick Control did not contain any accents, the first half section of the book is dedicated to accent studies.  Even the second half (the rebound section) includes accents within the exercises. 

Joe Morello inspired Stone to write the accent section of the book.  Morello would add accents to the exercises in Stick Control.  Mr. Stone thought it was a wonderful idea and added similar exercises to Accents and Rebounds. 

The second section of the book focuses on rebound control.  When discussing the double stroke roll, Stone states, “The drummer’s roll is only as strong as its secondary beat.”  He then presents a series of exercises that invert the roll, placing the emphasis on the secondary stroke.  Double stroke rolls are also played over a changing rhythmic framework (consisting of eighth notes, eighth-note triplets, sixteenth notes, and quintuplets).  He also includes buzz (or closed roll) exercise. 

Dr. Throwdown’s Rudimental Remedies by
John Wooton

Rudimental Remedies drum book by John Wooton

John Wooton has the “remedy” for boring, repetitive technical studies.  Instead of tediously practicing with a metronome, Wooton includes interesting play-along tracks for the drummer to use.  The tracks are presented in in a variety of styles.  Along with keeping the drummer engaged, the audio tracks ensure that each exercise is played for a specific amount of time.  Most exercises have seven audio tracks, varying from slow to extremely fast.  Wooton wittingly refers to the two fastest tempos as “light speed” and “ludicrous speed.”   

There are 25 chapters, each focusing on a specific technique or rudiment category. Supplemental videos are included, offering instruction and insight into the exercises.  Wooton also suggests the use of the “level system” style of accenting, including taps, upstrokes, and downstrokes (which Wooton refers to as “controlled strokes.”

Don’t underestimate this book.  The exercises (played with the hip audio tracks) are not only fun, but also very challenging. 

Rudimental Primer by Mitchell Peters

Rudimental Primer drum book by Mitchell Peters

This book is a great mix of technical exercises and practical applications.  Each rudiment is given its own chapter.  The first half of each chapter presents the rudiment and addresses its variation. These are short exercises, which are to be repeated.  The second part of the chapter contains short etudes, utilizing the featured rudiment.

The rudiments are first presented in their original format, then with variations.  For example, the five stroke is notated in 2/4 time, with the accent in the normal position (on the ending tap).  The roll is then written with the accent on the beginning of the double stroke.  It is then adapted to 6/8 time.  Variations such as this, combined with the longer applications, prepare drummers for longer rudimental works.

The Next Level by Jeff Queen

The Next Level drum book by Jeff Queen

This book offers a systematic approach that allows the rudimental snare drummer to gain fluency on the instrument.  Jeff Queen isolates and expands upon a number of concepts, including:

  • One Handed Warmups and Two Height Control
  • Timing Control
  • Diddle Control
  • Buzz Control
  • Flam Control
  • Hybrids
  • Backsticing and Tricks
  • Speed
  • Solo Construction

Queen expands upon many drum corps style warm ups, making them more interesting (and more challenging).  He advocates a natural, ergonomic technique which will aid the readier in attaining the facility required to play through the book.

Roll Control by Joel Rothman

Roll Control drum book by Joel Rothman

Joel Rothman is known for writing drum books based on specialized topics.  This book, of course, focuses on rolls.  Rothman utilizes thirty-second note based numbered rolls, including:

  • 5 Stroke Rolls
  • 7 Stroke Rolls
  • 9 Stroke Rolls
  • 13 Stroke Rolls
  • 17 Stroke Rolls

Rothman also includes 6 stroke rolls, which he refers to as “inside 5 stroke rolls.”  Open drags are also explored. 

Rolls consisting of a thirty-second note triplet pulse (doubled sixteenth-note triplets) are also explored.  7 and 13 stroke rolls are utilized in this context.  Rothman also uses this triplet pulse for rolls of one and a half beats in length.  These are referred to as 19 stroke rolls.  Rolls in 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 are also addressed. 

The final section of the book utilizes varying dynamics.  This section includes crescendos, decrescendos, and all dynamics ranging from pianissimo to fortissimo.

Rolls, Rolls, Rolls by Joel Rothman

Rolls, Rolls, Rolls drum book by Joel Rothman

This offering from Joel Rothman is not necessarily a technique book, but it is included in this list since it focuses solely on rolls.  Many of the concepts from Roll Control are utilized, this time in long form etudes.  The rolls are presented as numbered open rolls, but the student can also use the book to practice closed rolls.  Both tied and untied rolls are addressed, as are short press rolls.  Time signatures used throughout the book include common time, cut time, and 6/8.

Flams, Ruffs, and Rolls by John Beck

Flams, Ruffs, and Rolls drum book by John Beck

It is rare to see a snare drum technique book that does not include stickings.  Beck’s omission of stickings allows the drummer to find his or her own way of producing the desired sound.  Stickings are not the only thing that Beck leaves out.  Also omitted are tempo markings, allowing the drummer to experiment with different roll bases. 

Ties and untied rolls are presented in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time.  Beck challenges the drummer’s technique by placing flams on offbeat eighth and sixteenth notes.  Drags (which Beck calls three stroke ruffs) are also utilized in a similar fashion.  The four-stroke ruff section is especially demanding, requiring the drummer to fit the grace notes within busy rhythmic phrases.  This book will prepare the drummer for the challenging works of Cirone and Delecluse. 

Odd Meter Calisthenics by Mitchell Peters

Odd Meter Calisthenics drum book by Mitchell Peters

This book keeps drummers engaged by utilizing time signatures other than 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 2/2 and 6/8.  Mitchell Peters applies stickings, accents, flams, double strokes, and buzz strokes to odd time signatures. Time signatures used in the book include

  • 2/8,
  • 3/8,
  • 5/8,
  • 7/8,
  • 9/8,
  • 5/8
  • 10/8,
  • 11/8,
  • 7/16,
  • 9/16,
  • 11/16

The book concludes with a short section on polyrhythms, including 2:3, 3:4, 5:2, 5:3, 5:4, 7:2, and 7:3.  Those who enjoy Accents and Rebounds will find this to be a fun, yet challenging, book.

Have Fun!

Technique exercises don’t have to be tedious. Alternating between exercises from various books will keep you engaged and entertained. Enjoy the process of developing your technique!

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