Welcome to the fifth instalment of the "Five Long Minutes" blog post/video series: Five Long Minutes of Cut Fours!
When I was first taught to play a cut four (four stroke roll) there was a disconnect between the way I was taught and the way it was played. That always bugged me. I was taught to play a cut four as "tap-buzz-tap", played as a three note grouping where all the notes were of equal value--basically the same way I learned a five stroke roll except with a "tap" on the first note instead of a "buzz".
It took me a while to figure out why this was the incorrect approach. Even though a cut four is played as a "tap-buzz-tap", the three notes of the roll are not of equal length. The first "tap" and "buzz" should be played almost simultaneously, producing a sound similar to flicking that doorstop we could never leave alone when we were kids.
The final "tap" of the cut four happens in slightly different places depending on the style in which you're playing (dot/cut, triplet, straight eighth notes etc). The key ingredient to a successful cut four is the "buzz" stroke in the middle. The job of the "buzz stroke" is to completely fill the gap between the two "taps". If a cut four was an Oreo cookie, the "buzz" would be the cream filling.
Below is a picture of two waveforms. The first waveform is a recording of the "tap-buzz-tap" style of cut four. You can clearly see the two taps at either end and a separate "buzz" stroke in the middle. The second waveform is a recording of the "doorstop flick" version of the cut four. Here you see that the first "tap" and "buzz" have been combined into one sound with no gaps. This "tap/buzz" is then followed by a final "tap".
In the first waveform, there are clearly three sounds happening. In the second waveform there are only two. This "two sound" cut four produces the desired sound for the roll. As an easy way to remember to use the cut four with two sounds, just remind yourself that the words "cut four" have only two sounds and then say them under your breath as you are practicing.
The Youtube video below that accompanies this blog post will help you perfect this "two sound" cut four. The tempo of the video examples is slow allowing you to get used to combining the first "tap" and "buzz" of this common, yet misunderstood, rudiment.
Have fun perfecting your cut fours! More "Five Long Minutes" videos are in the works! Please continue to email me with suggestions for these videos. I've already used several of your suggestions. Keep them coming!
Until next week,