Periscope Snare Lesson 1: 4-2-1

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Even the most difficult solos and sprees can be broken down into fundamental building blocks layered on top of each other. By using a 4-2-1 system, we can organize our practice, and systematically ensure that we’ve dried and cleared every inch of our “window” of technical preparation.


Watch a typical average middle school or high school student practice by themselves, and it’s like turning on the television and flipping through the channels: there’s no telling what you’ll see, and each practice chunk lasts 30 secs long before moving to the next spree or ram-a-jam that comes to mind!

Watch any professional player perform beautifully, and what you don’t see behind all that finesse and artistry are the countless hours of practice they spend on the basic, fundamental building blocks of playing their instrument.  Reps upon reps of the most rudimentary basics executed consistently and accurately.  How many times have you heard your teacher tell you that the foundation has to be solid before building a house?

One way to help you keep your practice structured and organized is to use a framework or system to guide your practice.  Think of a professional window cleaner and their squeegee: you won’t see them wet the glass, and then skip around between random parts of the window.  What you will see is how they begin in the upper corner and systematically draw the squeegee from one side to the other, move down a tier, and then repeat.  By the time they reach the bottom, they know every inch of the glass has been dried and cleared.

Music is just the art of organizing various tonal and rhythmic groupings. Even the most difficult solos and sprees can be broken down into fundamental building blocks layered on top of each other. We have an infinite number of pattern permutations and variations to practice, all in preparation for the demands and challenges we’ll ultimately see in the music. Furthermore, as percussionists, we are responsible for strengthening both hands evenly.  4-2-1 is a framework of organized practicing. Our goal is to possess the physical, technical, and mental acuity necessary to perform the music before we find ourselves face to face with learning and performing that music.  By using a 4-2-1 system, we can organize our practice and systematically ensure that we’ve dried and cleared every inch of our window of technical preparation.



Music is just the art of organizing various tonal and rhythmic groupings.


4-2-1 is where you take a 4 beat or 4 pattern grouping (called the 4’s) and play the following:

                 4’s once                4 x 1

                 2’s twice               2 x 2

 And the 1’s four times     1 x 4

4 x 1 = 4

2 x 2 = 4

1 x 4 = 4

Notice that each row adds up to the same amount of music.



We can apply this to an exercise like Eight on a Hand:

The 4’s would be

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The 2’s would be

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And the 1’s would be

Screenshot 2016-02-23 01.58.18.png

The entire exercise would look like this:

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The advantage of 4-2-1 is that it might reveal some rhythmic and height discrepancies you may not notice when you’re playing just groups of 4’s.  For example, a common tendency is rushing groups of 3’s when going back and forth.

What other exercises can you apply to 4-2-1?  Click at the bottom and download a free PDF of 4-2-1 examples applied to 8’s and some basic Bucks patterns.

Do your hands sound the same, right hand compared to left hand?
Are there any gaps or noticeable changes when you switch hands? It should sound like one hand playing the entire exercise.
What are your tendencies as the patterns get shorter (2’s and then the 1’s)? Rushing, dragging?
Can you mark time through all the patterns?

Practice with a metronome to keep yourself honest.
Play in front of a mirror.
Listen for quality, your sound is a huge part of your musical identity.
Correct repetitions are the priority – don’t go too fast too soon.  Slow and correct is better than fast and wrong.
Listen critically and strive for perfection!



  1. Watch the video lesson
  2. Download the free Periscope Lesson 1 – 421.PDF Handout and play through each variation at 108, 120, 132, 144, 160, and 180bpm, 20 correct reps at each tempo.  This can be done over multiple practice sessions if needed.
  3. Track which tempos you are successful at, and which ones need more work.
  4. Make a list of 3 other exercises you can 4-2-1, and try them!


Thanks so much to everyone who tuned in for my first Periscope video lesson!  If there’s one thing I am learning as I explore Instagram and Periscope, it’s how positive and supportive group the percussion and drumming community is towards each other.

Thanks again to Live Viewers: Beetle Percussion, Jack.stlouis, Patrick Knight, Azionmoore, Kayson Player, The Grid Book Series, Anahy Estefania, It’s Not a Xylohone, Tevion Brown, Sundance Tostino Ramen, Ariana Saltarelli, ierstenfultz, Mark Voils, Henry the Pooh, Luke Pigman and the other 91 Live Viewers!

And thanks to Replay Viewers: Zack Zandi, Reginald Alignay, Derrick D., Alison Duksta, Lucas Clark, Gabriel Flores, danielpardina, Mason Johnson, Myles Thomas, KevinKevinKevinKev, Jordan Hayes, Darian Lewis, Trevor Kabobtrain, Haley Graves, Andy and the other 44 Replay Viewers!

If you enjoyed the Scope or have any additional questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below.  Also, I’m making a list and collecting ideas for future Scope lessons.  If you have something you’d like help on, find me on Instagram or send me the question on Twitter. You can find me @ hueiyuanpan, social links below.

Tune in on Wedneday, 2/24/16 for an evening hang with Karl Drum Tech. Next video lesson will be on Sunday at 7pm Central!