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Flams are the grace notes of drumming. As with any instrument, a grace note is a very short note that strikes just a brief moment before a principal note. By learning to play flams, a drummer can apply this grace note principle to a variety of drum beats.

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What Is a Flam?

A flam (or flam accent) is a drum rudiment wherein a drummer strikes a grace note just a split second before striking the primary stroke. Drummers use flams to thicken the sound of notes they play, producing a longer note than they could with a single stroke.

When a drummer plays the grace note of a flam with their left hand and the primary note with their right hand, the technique is called a right-hand flam. When the grace note comes from the right hand and the primary note comes from the left hand, the technique is called a left-hand flam.

How to Play a Flam on a Drum

The key to playing a flam is to start your right hand and left hand at different heights above the drum, and then bring both hands down at the same time. The hand that starts closer to the drum strikes the grace note, and the second hand strikes the primary note almost immediately after. If you start your hands too close together, they will effectively strike the drum head at the same time. This produces a flat flam, an undesirable effect that weakens your drum tone.

Once you've mastered the basic flam rudiment, you can add a flam stroke to other drum rudiments. For instance, the flam paradiddle adds a grace note to a single paradiddle, as demonstrated below:

 flam paradiddle

You can also add a flam to an inverted paradiddle, where a double stroke comes before a pair of single strokes. This is called a single flammed mill, demonstrated below:

single flammed mill

Practice these flam techniques on a practice pad using a metronome. Turn up the speed as you build precision and confidence.

7 Drum Beats That Feature Flams

The flam is a gateway to all sorts of other drum beats. These include:

  1. Flam paradiddle-diddle: A flam note leading into two single strokes followed by two double strokes.
  2. Flam tap: Alternating left-hand and right-hand diddles (double strokes) where each diddle begins with a flam.
  3. Pataflafla: A four-note pattern of alternating drum strokes, with flams on the first and last notes.
  4. Flamacue: A four-note pattern of sixteenth notes followed by a final quarter note. The first and last notes have flams.
  5. Swiss army triplet: A triplet with a flam on the first note.
  6. Flam drag: A four-note pattern that goes eighth note, sixteenth note, sixteenth note, eighth note. A flam appears on the first eighth note of the pattern.
  7. Various drum fills: A flam can always be part of a drum fill, sometimes by setting off a single-stroke roll or a double-stroke roll.

You can play flams on any piece of the drum set, from the snare drum to the floor tom and rack toms to the hi-hat cymbal—even the bass drum via the use of a double bass drum pedal. Flams are particularly associated with snare drums, where they serve as the basis for a more complicated rudiment called a bounce roll.