I've been playing Rock Band off and on since the first incarnation, with most of my time spent playing the drums.

I think I've reached a plateau and haven't seen much improvement in my scores. I can sight read gold star almost any 2 difficulty song, and most of the 3 difficult songs. However, I almost always fail out if playing solo (or need saving if playing in a group) songs of difficulty 5 and higher.

I've read online about something called "sticking"? Can anyone explain what that is? And is that what I need to learn improve?

Anything else I should be doing to improve?

  • I'm voting to close this as being non-constructive. It feels a little too much like 'I'm losing; how do I win?' to me.
    – GnomeSlice
    Jul 4, 2012 at 23:52

3 Answers 3


Sticking is simply the combination of hand swings that you use to play a pattern. For example, when you play a simple eight note roll on the red pad or two notes across all four pads, you would usually use the sticking RLRLRLRL, where R indicates using your right hand and L indicates using your left hand. On a more complicated roll, where there are triplets thrown in, it's often easier to use your left hand twice to hit the latter two notes of the triplets. For example, on a stream of triplets, the sticking becomes RLLRLLRLLRLL. As Chad Birch notes, it's a technique that is more developed naturally rather than something that is taught.

However, learning proper sticking is primarily important when you want to start aiming for high scores, as odd stickings mainly show up in drum fills. If simply passing songs is your main focus, the main thing to do is practice. High tier songs like Bodhisattva and Painkiller are absolutely killer on your arms and legs until playing on the RB kit becomes more natural for your body. Make sure that you keep a light grip on the sticks(although not too light; dropping your sticks is the worst) and routinely practice swinging your wrist gently to get that natural stick movement you'll need to play faster beats. It's also important to keep the bass pedal pressed in-between stretches of bass notes, as opposed to released, so your foot can rest and you don't have to put so much energy into hitting each bass note. Welcome To The Neighborhood is a good song for developing endurance.

Other high tier songs such as Panic Attack and Shoulder To The Plow feature lots of interesting patterns that are difficult to decipher for an unadjusted eye. There are two things you can do that I can think of to drastically improve your performance on these songs.

1. Practice Mode

If you simply don't understand what's happening in a pattern at all, taking the song into Practice Mode and playing it at half-speed can give you an initial impression of the beat and the spacing of each note. Use the initial half-speed plays to figure out what sort of sticking you should use. If your sticking feels even slightly unnatural at half speed, it's not going to work at full speed.

2. Watch A Video

Many people have uploaded FC videos to YouTube that show a split-screen view between the RB kit and the drummer. This can give you an impression of how the beat or fill should sound at full speed. Try to commit that sound to memory and try to replicate it. Smooth out your replication, note their sticking and you've got it.

In the end, though, none of this is really vital; keep playing songs and smoothing out the sections where you lose the most points, and you'll definitely see your stars increase at a rocket pace.


I think you've probably reached the point where you have to do a bit of a mindset switch. Instead of just being able to play the game and gradually get better at it, to progress much further you're probably going to have to deliberately practice.

So find a song or section that you have trouble with, and load it up in the game's practice mode. Slow it way down, and figure out how to play it properly (instead of just "flailing" your way through it like you would if you were playing). Repeat, repeat, repeat, turning the speed up gradually, until you can play it at full speed consistently. Then move on to other songs or patterns that you find difficult.

"Sticking" would definitely be helpful, but it's not really a general technique you can learn, and it should be something that you pick up naturally while practicing sections repeatedly. It basically just refers to figuring out the best way to use your right and left hand for particular patterns. For example, in a particular pattern of fast notes, whether it's better to start with your right hand and alternate for all of the hits, or start with a double-hit on your left hand for some reason, things like that. Many patterns can be played using similar stickings, and the correct way will often be obvious, but you'll usually have to figure it out for each pattern individually.


On top of what's already said before me by Mana and Chad, I have found that having the games' soundtrack on your portable music player and increasing song listen and familiarity count that way also helps, esp. with some of the tricky basslines. I have looped many times through all of the drummable music games' soundtracks for about a year now just being on the move to wherever. It really lifted my ability to kind of put 2 and 2 together on the screen quicker and more accurately.

This probably won't work if you don't actually like the soundtracks or like only a few songs etc. For me, these RB and GH games have been a complete eye-opening experience to music that I never would've even thought about or had a reason to be listening to before esp. some of the hard metal bands like Dream Theater (not even counting the DLC).

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