Home      Tips & Tricks
Disclaimer: I am not a professional drummer merely an enthusiast and it is this spirit that these 'tips' - quirky things that I've picked up over the years - are presented.
How to simulate a press/crush roll using brushes
Provided that the fan of your brush has a decent spread - this method doesn't work for all brushes! - then the above is a good way to approximate a press/'crushed' roll.  Rotate your right-hand brush anticlockwise so that it forms an angle of almost 90 degrees in relation to the drum head.  With a light strike, the uppermost wires of the brush vibrate and can then be brought down sequentially onto the head using a smooth, clockwise rolling-motion.  All movement comes from the wrist and your grip should be kept loose at all times.
The pattern in the video is a shuffle (originally played using sticks) from the Swing era and it is a good vehicle for practicing this technique.
Tips: hold the brush by the end of its handle and concentrate on 'rolling' only the end portion of the wires.  If you try to roll the majority of the fan's length you'll most likely end up clipping the head with the handle, or clicking the handle on rim.  You can also roll the wires anticlockwise if it makes life easier.  It's also possible to perform left-hand rolls, though slightly harder to do using traditional grip.
How to play a 5 stroke roll
This is an easy way to play short rolls that utilise doubles.  Rather than relying on rebound (which is often poor with brushes) this technique used a 'tip-to-tip' approach.  Although many brushes are available these days that have decent rebound, this method not only sounds lusher, but greater speed can be obtained.
To play a double (with either hand) dip the furthermost tip of your brush downwards.  Upon contact with the head, relax your grip so that the other tip follows in quick succession. There should be a very slight 'rolling-a-cigar' motion between the thumb and first two fingers (although most movement comes from the wrist).  Move the left-hand's thumb outwards to do this and with the right hand it helps if you play slightly 'palm-up'.  As you increase speed, then the amount of roll needed becomes less (unless your brushes are particularly 'bunched'); it helps if you point the fans of the brushes in more of a forward direction. By alternating doubles between each hand, simple, short rolls can be played with ease.  Needless to say the technique also works well for 'drags'.
Tips: practice with a metronome.  Start slowly and try to ensure evenness from stroke-to-stroke.  Be certain that you really are playing tip-to-tip (look out for that rolling motion in each hand) and not relying on rebound - as the tempo is increased you'll find this roll harder to perform if that is what's happening. Also, leave the left-hand brush on the head after performing its double (I find that this results in cleaner strokes and makes the roll easier to play).
Alternative Brushes Rim Roll
This method combines both the crush-roll and the tip-to-tip techniques.  Gently rim-shot the furthest tip of fan and then 'roll' the rest of the wires onto the head seqentially.  Keep the tips of each fan close to the head as you roll.  Rim-shot the wires near to the point where they join the handle.
How to simulate a true drum roll

Not much to explain here.  If you hold both brushes at an angle of 90 degrees in relation to the head and then drum the wires on the rim, close to the handle, you get a decent amount of rebound.  Enough to play a proper roll.  Don't expect much volume - after all, these are brushes!
Tips: There's no need to use any special grip, but keep both brushes loose in your hands.  If you feel any tension, then you're probably trying to play too loudly.  It's difficult to build up to a loud crescendo as the brushes tend to bounce all over the place, but you can compensate for this somewhat by angling the wires into the head slightly (not shown in the video), so that both fans reduce.  If your brushes have poor rebound to begin with, or are of the 'bunched' type, then try holding them at a slightly shallower angle and 'doggy paddle' on the rim.  Long rolls are a good way to fill a bar or two and sound great starting and ending on backbeats.
An alternative way of playing Jazz at fast tempos

The above video outlines an easy way of playing brushes at breakneck tempos without breaking into a sweat! It simply involves doggy-paddling single sweeps, leading with the left-hand. However, just after playing the backbeats, a part of the right-hand brush crosses over the tips of the left only to be 'flicked' upwards as the left-hand brush leaves the head. In this way the 'catches' of the traditional spang-a-lang 'ride pattern' are played.

Unlike other 'cheats' methods, this one gives the illusion of continuous swish. It also doesn't rely on rebound, so (once you get the hang of the technique) the moves are very easy to perform. The only downside is that the attack of the 'tapped' rhythm can be a little on the soft side, depending on your brushes (the bunched type are slightly better in this respect). Said tapped rhythm can be also be displaced by crossing the left-hand over the right. And by sweeping the hands slightly wide of each other, so that they don't cross, one (or both) of the catches can be omitted (not shown in the video). This enables further phrasing possibilities.
Tips: experiment with crossing different portions of each brush until you find the sweet spots that work for you. The pattern sounds poor at slow tempos, but once you work it up to speed the rhythm really starts to happen.
'Hat Click' and 'Canbell' demo
By and large it's difficult to get decent rim-click with a brush. Plastic or rubber handles don't produce a solid sound and even if you go for brushes with wooden shafts they often feel awkward to use. If you happen to have an auxiliary hi-hat however, then there's light at the end of the tunnel!
Providing that the end of the handle is hard enough, your brush can click the hi-hat instead of the rim of your snare. I find this easier to do and the sound is very similar to rim-click, only with a little 'chick' from the hi-hat thrown in for good measure.
Tips: moving the handle closer to the bell of the top cymbal produces more click in the mix (experiment!)
Handle Shot - a useful stroke for accents

By laying the flat of your left-hand brush against the head and hitting its handle with the handle of your other brush, it produces a beefy rim-click/pseudo rim-shot sound. 
Tips: avoid brushes with rubber handles??  Actually, this technique works well with flix classics, so plastic handles are definitely in the running.  Varying the amount of pressure in the left hand produces different tonal variations, as does the positioning of the brush when its handle is hit (experiment!)
Accented 8th Note Patterns

This is a simple way of playing accented, 8th note 'hi-hat' patterns. Using German grip (palm down), bend the wrist on each downbeat, bringing the brush down on to the head so that it 'hits the deck running'. This lateral, part-swish-part-tap motion results in a short, lush-sounding accent. Leave the brush on the head and on the off-beats, reverse the motion so that the brush slides off the head, creating a light swish as it leaves. In this way, a sawing, 8th note pattern is established - ideal for light Pop and Latin music.

The video shows this technique being used to play a Cha-Cha rhythm. The last two 8th notes receive equal accent, so there are two, light taps on beat 4 instead of the usual single tap (as on all previous beats). This is done so that the brush doesn't mute the 'tom-tom' hits on beat 4 , which in this case are played on the snare drum with the snares off (this is a 'cheats' Cha-Cha).

To play a 8th note pattern with the accent on the off-beats the same approach is used, only the direction of the sweep reverses - imagine pulling back on the throttle of motorbike and you should get the idea.
Alternative Hi-Hat Techniques

The above is based on a technique outlined in the Gene Krupa Drum Method, only applied to hi-hat instead of snare.  Using a pen-grip, or traditional grip if you prefer, hold the brush almost vertically to ensure maximum transfer of energy from each stroke.  This results in a familiar 'chick' from the hi-hat, rather than the pathetic results obtained by hitting cymbals with the flat of the brush.  Although it might look awkward this technique is surprisingly easy to execute, with most of the movement coming from the wrist.  The downside is that the wires will often retract with cheap brushes.  Regal Tip Model 561A, Aluminium Handle Brushes are excellent, however (no slippage).

Canbell Guiro

Just a throwaway vid demonstrating yet another use for the Canbell.  The wires don't do much, but I like the sound of the metal hook against the ribs of the can.  Quieter than a normal Guiro because you don't have the normal length of travel, the Canbell works rather well for situations that require brushes.
Brushes Rim-Click
This video demonstrates a simple way of playing rim-click with wooden-handle brushes:
Flip your left-hand to a palm-down position and bring it down on to the head with the wires slightly off-centre.  Use tumb to raise the handle.  Apply pressure with 1st and 2nd finger while releasing the thumb to create a downstroke.  3rd and 4th finger remain on head.
Downside is that the up-down motion creates a little noise from the wires, but this is the easiest way I've discovered (so far) for playing rim-click with short handles.
12/8 Brushes Pattern

This is a simple way of creating a nice 12/8 groove.  Similar to the above 8th note pattern, the brush slides back off the head after making the initial downstroke, which is dead-sticked.  The brush then returns to create the third 8th note of each pulse.  However, this time it only glances the head, continuing past the point of impact in a pendulum motion.  The whole pattern is then reversed.  Use German grip throughout, and keep all motion minimal and from the wrist.
Brushes Rimshots
The following video demonstrates how I play rimshots.  
Quite often it's not the volume of brushes that prevents them from cutting through the sonic mix, but their tone. This method helps to create crisper backbeats that remedy the problem.  By leaving the tip of the brush on the head the rimshot is more controlled. The handle is lowered so that the wires hit the rim where they join the handle. If you allow the arm to drop past the drum head, the wires lift and create a more open,ringing rimshot. Not much energy is required to create a decent backbeat.