THE TENOR DRUMMER Intermediate How to Play Septuplets – The Easy Way

How to Play Septuplets – The Easy Way

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Back when I was marching, I never played septuplets. Fivelets were the new hip subdivision and ninelets showed up occasionally, but never septuplets.

Times have changed though, and now septuplets are showing up more and more, so let’s figure them out!

How fast do you play them?

A septuplet is just what you think, seven notes in one count. A sixtuplet has, you guessed it, six notes in a beat, and there are eight 32nd notes in a beat. Therefore, the speed of a septuplet is faster than a sixtuplet but slower than 32nd notes.


How do you keep track of all those notes?

If we use alternating sticking, then the downbeats switch hands. Count 1 is off the right, count 2 off the left.

septuplets alternating sticking

I find that if you just try to play a bunch of notes and alternate the downbeat, you’ll probably get lost and end up playing a fivelet or ninelet, so we need a way to not get lost while we are playing all those notes.

The easiest way to do this is to say a seven syllable word, playing one note for each syllable. Any seven syllable word or phrase will work, but it helps if the word(s) are easy to say.

For this lesson, we’ll use “unconventionality”. So, as you say each syllable, play one note. “Un-con-ven-tion-al-i-ty”. Be sure to give each syllable the same length of time, just like the notes on the drum. None of notes should be bunched together, they all occupy the same amount of space.

Now, it’s time to turn on your metronome, nice and slow around 60bpm. Keep adjusting the speed of your strokes until you are saying “un-con-ven-tion-al-i-ty” evenly and right in time with the click of the metronome (on the syllable “un”).

This is really just to get your hands used to how many notes to play. Once you increase the tempo, even a little, it will become very difficult to talk while you play, so ditch the vocal once you get used to what playing seven notes feels like.

Ok, now what variations can you play?

When you can consistently play the septuplet in time with your met, now you can change up the sticking. No matter what the sticking is though, all notes are perfectly spaced. You don’t want anyone to “hear” the sticking, they should all sound the same.

Here are a few different stickings to try out:

septuplets drum rudiment

This first one will show up soon in a Blue Devils Learn This Lick post, so be sure to give it a shot!

septuplet drum rudiment
septuplets drum rudiment

That’s it for this lesson. Take your time with these, they can feel pretty odd at first, but stick with it and you’ll be throwing them down in no time!

Hey, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed my post on How to Play Septuplets!

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