How to Play a Snare Drum Roll

The snare drum roll is created by playing alternating strokes R L R L etc, and letting the stick buzz on the drum head while you do this.

In order to play a buzz you have to control the stick so that it stays on the drum head with just enough pressure. If there is too much pressure the buzz will be too short or nonexistent and if there isn’t enough pressure applied the buzz will be too open sounding.

In this video I’ll talk about how to buzz your sticks and we’ll go through this exercise together.

The Quarter Note Buzz Roll for Snare Drum

Snare Drum Buzz Roll Exercise 1

snare drum buzz roll exercise 1 sheet music

  • The above exercise should be practiced with a metronome at the marked tempo. It’s not an exercise in fast playing, but an exercise to get your sticks to buzz for the right amount of time.
  • Don’t lift your stick off of the drum until just before you play the next note with that stick
  • Repeat each exercise several times before moving on to the next one
  • Play this every day so that you will develop a nice smooth buzz roll that will eventually sound like paper being torn.

Snare Drum Buzz Roll Exercise 2:

Practice the following exercises with a metronome at first, but then try them while playing along to music that has a steady beat.

  • Set your metronome to Quarter Note= 80
  • Don’t play these exercises very fast
  • Listen to the buzz of each stick and try to make each buzz sound the same
  • When you are buzzing keep your sticks on the drum until you are just about to play the next note
  • Play each line 4 times before moving on to the next one

Watch me demonstrate in the video lesson before trying this exercise on your own:

1. The 5 Stroke Roll
exercise 2: 5 stroke roll

2. The 7 Stroke Roll
exercise 2 7 stroke roll

3. The 9 Stroke Roll
exercise 2 9 stroke roll

Why are the Rolls Numbered?

Different length rolls are named for the number of strokes that are used to play them. Each buzz stroke is worth 2 and each non buzzed note is worth 1. Therefore if a roll has BUZZ BUZZ TAP it would be a 2+2+1=5 stroke roll. Likewise a BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ TAP is 2+2+2+1=7 stroke roll and so on.

Snare Drum Buzz Roll Exercise 3:

Here are some Eighth Note exercises. These roll exercises will now sound like buzz rolls

  • Set the metronome at Quarter Note = 100
  • Keep your sticks on the drum until just before they play
  • Overlap your buzzes
  • Don’t play too fast. Work on getting your buzzes to be as long as possible
  • Make sure to continue playing the rhythms but add buzzes to the notes when you see the Z on the note stem

Watch me demonstrate these snare drum buzz rolls in the following video lesson

1. The 5 Stroke Roll
exercise 3 5 stroke roll

2. The 7 Stroke Roll
exercise 3 7 stroke roll 1

exercise 3 7 stroke roll 2

3. The 9 Stroke Roll
exercise 3 9 stroke roll

4. The Long Roll
exercise 3 long roll

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  1. Hello, Andrew.

    Wow, what a great website! Now that I have retired. I am looking to get back into my drumming somewhat seriously. So, I am looking at the best system of daily practice starting with the snare drum. This won’t be easy as I am now 62 and very active, but I am determined.

    What I would like to know is what kind of routine to get into with my practicing. To start I want to practice at least half an hour each day on “rudiments” (e.g. paradiddles, rolls, etc.). Any suggestions you may have will be welcome.

    Judging by your retro Canuck’s jersey you may spend some time in BC where I live (Lake Cowichan). Ridiculously I have three drum sets, well two, since my daughter in Penticton has my Ludwig set from 1967 which I bought at Drum Village on Broadway in Vancouver.

    I still have my rudimentary books, many of them “classics”. All I want to do is make steady progress and not “waste” time just fooling around on the set drumming to CDs. I do enjoy this but it is difficult to make real progress.

    For now, I will explore your lessons and also seek other ideas as well.

    One suggestion I learned about recently, while researching one of my drumming heroes – Buddy Rich, was the idea of practicing on pillows. This will apparently help strengthen my hands/wrists and can be done quietly virtually anywhere (e.g. on the ferry).

    Thank you so much for this website.

    Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan)

    • Greg,
      Thank you for your comments and I appreciate the compliment.

      My advice is to pick a few rudiments like the Open Roll, 5 stroke, 7 and 9; the Paradiddle and the Flam and spend a few minutes with each going from slow to fast and back down to slow again. Remember to avoid tension of any kind so only go as fast as you can while remaining loose and with your motions fluid. I use this exercise for a warm up and even though the lesson is about finger technique you can use it with wrists, too. If you haven’t heard of the book “Stick Control” by George Stone I would suggest that you use that book to develop your chops. You don’t have to do the whole book; even the first page is wonderful. Practice with a metronome when you use this book and like I said before always avoid tension.
      Practicing on a pillow is a good idea I think to build your wrist muscles. I always have my students practice on a practice pad so that they can play with the high strokes that develop their technique. If you play with such high strokes on a drum you’re likely to go deaf because it will be too loud!
      I love my old Canuck’s jersey. I was born in Vancouver and have kept my allegiance to the team, but I live in Florida now.
      Thanks again for your comments and keep on drumming!

  2. Great advice on rolls. A favorite exercise I learned is to alternate between an open roll for 4 bars and each of the stroke rolls 5 through 13 stroke rolls for 4 bars continuously for a monster workout. thanks.

  3. Micah Slaton says:

    what was the day this was published i am doing a school paper about drumming abd it is asking the date

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