Dave's Blog | #2:
The Drag is a Drag

The Drag is a Drag

A Monster Blog Series by Dave Bullard


Oh man...the Drag.

I have never once worked on anything remotely like the Pipe Band Drag.

Of all of the many differences between DCI and Scottish Pipe Band Drumming, this is one has been the most difficult for me to come to terms with.




I could handle that I needed to disconnect my thumb and first finger on my left hand and I could break the open roll monotony, (I always felt they were cheating anyway), but this was something else entirely.

Trying to play the Pipe Band Drag made me feel like I was in high school, learning Inverts again*.


The American Left Hand thumb-to-index connection


Inverted Flam Taps

* Learning Inverted Flam Taps can be a difficult rudiment for many Drummers, as it requires the Invert Motion: a Tap followed by an Accent in a single motion. ST1006- The Drummer's Alphabet breaks down this and all the other singular hand motions



Approach and Exercises

I needed to go back to basics.

Check this out- Rhythm Monster breaks down the Single Drag & Single Drag Tap:


The Snare Drum Tutor Volume 1: Physical Fundamentals is a great set of class videos and original exercises designed to help you in your quest to develop the motions necessary for the Drag (and a bunch of other stuff). 

Michael Eagle breaks it down really well, and drilling these exercises will get you playing them with a great groove, accompanied by great drum set & hand drum grooves. The Snare Drum Tutor Volume 3- The Level 1 Scottish Pipe Band Rudiments has a breakdown and killer exercises for all of the basic rudiments including ST3008: 25 minutes of awesome clarity on the Drag and Drag Tap. 




As I worked these classes into my practice routine, I began to focus more and more on the Drag as a ‘touch’ as opposed to a ‘stroke’.


Pretty soon after that, I began to get it. Eagle says, "It's a poke, not a stroke." 


I got that I was so focused on resisting the Buzz that I was choking the life out of the stick and putting WAY too much energy into the Drag, specifically the Dead Stroke. 

I got that I had to unclamp my death grip before I would ever be able to pop the stick with my ring finger in order to get the bead moving again.


It’s just about impossible to go from full strength (American) grip to a delicate pop in a 10th of a second.

I needed to learn to relax.

When I’m relaxed and focused on the sound, I can play into the Drag pretty ok now.

Sometimes there’s no buzz at all, not even a tiny bit.

That’s all well and good, but I’m still struggling with coming out of the Drag cleanly.*


*An awesome exercise for this is the Dead Stroke Permutation Study, seen in ST2007- The Dead Stroke. 





Relax and Recover

I’m calling the stroke played by the hand immediately after it plays a Drag the “recovery stroke”.** I think of it as ‘recovering’ the momentum that you lose when you stop your Dead Stick. They show up in patterns like this:

Or this:

Or heaven forbid, this:

The American death grip just will not fly here. There’s really no way that you can pull these off gracefully when you are having a stick fight with a kevlar head. Working on the Double Drag Tap has helped me learn to chill out on the stick and let it breathe a little bit.


**These rudiments require a Double Stroke from the primary hand and a Double Dead Stroke from the secondary hand. Dave is referring to the secondary hand 'recovering' from the Double Dead Stroke and immediately playing a Single Stroke. Reid Maxwell's class, The Pipe Band Drag, covers this process beautifully. 


And ultimately, it turns out that relaxing, taking it slow and plain old repetition is the key.



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Progress Report

I wish that I had some ‘before’ footage to share here.

I wasn’t thinking about writing this when I started learning, or I would have recorded it.

I can say that it was pretty much like you imagine.

Rough, stiff, grippy, choppy, inelegant etc.

All these descriptions apply. Here’s where I’m at currently: 



Cool, Choppy Drag Exercise: 


The woodshedding has clearly made a difference, but I still have a long way to go. Tune in next week for more! 





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