Drum roll
A drum roll is a technique the percussion
Percussion instrument
A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound when hit with an implement or when it is shaken, rubbed, scraped, or otherwise acted upon in a way that sets the object into vibration...

ist employs to produce a sustained sound on a percussion instrument. Rolls are used by composers to sustain the sound and create other effects, the most common of which is using a roll to build anticipation.

Snare drum roll

The most common snare drum
Snare drum
The snare drum or side drum is a melodic percussion instrument with strands of snares made of curled metal wire, metal cable, plastic cable, or gut cords stretched across the drumhead, typically the bottom. Pipe and tabor and some military snare drums often have a second set of snares on the bottom...

 roll is the closed (or "buzz") roll. The open roll (or "double-stroke
Drum stroke
In music, a drum stroke is a note performed on percussion instruments known as a drum. There are four basic strokes.The Full Stroke begins with the tip of the drumstick held 8-12" above the striking surface...

 roll") is played with double strokes alternating between the left and right hands; the closed roll or multiple-bounce roll is produced by applying slightly more pressure to the fulcrum
Fulcrum (drumming)
Fulcrum is a drumming term. Traditionally, the fulcrum is said to denote the part of a percussionist's grip that is the main lever for the drumstick/mallet to rotate...

 upon impact which allows for the stick to bounce many times on the drum head. One stick hits the head slightly before the other bouncing stick is pulled up from the head. This produces a near-continuous sound when the technique is mastered.

Other than the open, double-stroke roll there are many other rolls and rudiments that sound like rolls when they are played fast enough (like the freehand technique
Freehand technique
The freehand technique is a unique method used by percussion to produce a fast drum roll with a single hand. It is based around using the rim of a snare drum as the fulcrum point of the drumstick...

 or single paradiddle). In the table below, lower-case letters represent grace notes (drags, flam
Flåm is a village at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the Sognefjord. The village is located in the municipality of Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway...

s etc.) and hyphens represent rests.

RudimentSticking pattern
Single-stroke roll RLRLRLRLRL
Double-stroke roll RRLLRRLL
Triple-stroke roll (or French Roll) RRRLLLRRRLLL
Single paradiddle RLRR LRLL
Double paradiddle RLRLRR LRLRLL
Five-stroke roll RRLLR
Seven-stroke roll RRLLRRL- LLRRLLR

Also, the six-stroke roll, perhaps a misleading name, is often used in snare solo and marching percussion situations. It has four variations; each is a quarter note in length and consists of two double strokes (RRLL) and two singles (R L). Doubles:
Six-stroke rolls
R L RRLL(paradiddle-diddle) L R LLRR(paradiddle-diddle left hand based)

Timpani roll

Rolls on timpani
Timpani, or kettledrums, are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet...

 are almost exclusively single-stroked. Due to the instruments' resonance, a fairly open roll is usually used, although the exact rate at which a roll is played depends greatly on the acoustic conditions, the size of the drum, the pitch to which is it tuned and the sticks
Drum stick
A percussion mallet is an object used to beat drums and other percussion instruments. Some specialized mallets are called beaters, drumsticks.Note: See Rute .-Drum sticks:...

 being used. Higher pitches on timpani require a faster roll to maintain a sustained sound; some timpanists choose to use a buzz roll on higher notes at lower volumes; although there is no definite rule, most timpanists who employ this technique do so on a high "G", and above. In the end, it often comes down to the discretion of the timpanist.

Keyboard roll

These are similar to the timpani rolls in that they are done nearly the same way and are both single-stroked. Yarn mallets usually can be rolled much more easily on a marimba than plastic ones can be on a xylophone, because the extra reverberation of a marimba will mask the silent gaps between strokes. For this reason, the rolls can be much slower and still effective. But for xylophone and orchestra bells
A glockenspiel is a percussion instrument composed of a set of tuned keys arranged in the fashion of the keyboard of a piano. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone's bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel's are metal plates or tubes, and making it a metallophone...

 a much swifter roll is required, especially for rubber or plastic mallets. A brass mallet used with orchestra bells will add extra vibration to aid in the smoothing of the sound.

To get these faster rolls, percussionists (keyboard, snare and timpani) all often use the muscles of their fingers instead of those of the wrists. The fingers have a shorter rotation length and can move faster with less effort than the wrist. Finger muscles are usually not as well developed, so percussionists, especially of the middle or high school age, will be seen twirling or rolling their sticks and mallets through their fingers rapidly. This differs in some way from the twirling majorettes perform.

Fulcrum roll/one handed roll/gravity roll

The fulcrum roll is a roll in which the rim of the snare is used as a fulcrum for the drummers stick. To perform a consistent fulcrum roll the stick must come in contact with the head and rim at exactly the same time and then tip down towards the drummer. The drummer must then raise the stick to produce an up stroke. The wrist of the drummer also must stay straight, as if shaking someone's hand. This is one of the easier and more commonly used forms of a "one handed roll". The second common, albeit more difficult form consists of the drummer bouncing the stick alternately off of the middle and ring fingers.


In most recent music, all three types of rolls are notated as tremolo
Tremolo, or tremolando, is a musical term that describes various trembling effects, falling roughly into two types. The first is a rapid reiteration...

s, with slashes through the note stem:

One slash indicates dividing the note in two and playing those two notes.

For Example: A sixteenth note with a single slash on it indicates two thirty second notes.

Two slashes indicates dividing the note in two, and two again.

For Example: A sixteenth note with a double slash on it indicates two thirty second notes with one slash on each one, and that indicates four sixty fourth notes.

Three slashes indicates dividing the note in three, and three again.

For Example: A sixteenth note with a triple slash on it indicates two thirty second notes with two slashes on each one, and that indicates four sixty fourth notes with a diddle on each note, and that indicates eight 128th notes.
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