Rudiments

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The word rudiment comes from the Latin word rudimentum which means beginning.

Rudiment – a basic principal or element or a fundamental skill. (Merriam-Webster).

The common thread with all brilliant and successful coaches and teachers, past and present, is that they all teach the three most important elements of mastering anything; fundamentals, FUNDAMENTALS, and FUNDAMENTALS!

The rudiments have been around since 1525, when they were introduced into drumming technique in Bern, Switzerland. The rudiments soon spread all over Europe from Switzerland to France, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, and surrounding areas. As these ethnic groups migrated to the new world in the 1600’s, they brought with them their own culture and variations of the drumming, rudimental structure, and notation of the original concepts from 1525. In the late 1800’s these many cultures of drumming were incorporated into the American culture of drumming. John Phillip Sousa’s USMC Band percussion instructor F.W. Lusby wrote the first version of the Rudiments to go in John Phillip Sousa’s 1886 U.S. manual for U.S. military musicians called “Trumpet and Drum”. This manual included early notation, nomenclature, and rudimental concepts. Eventually, in 1933 NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) voted on and established the 13 essential rudiments, and 26 complete rudiments. In 1984 PAS (Percussive Arts Society) presented an updated nomenclature and 40 rudiments of drumming. The drum and bugle corps culture has pushed the envelope and taken the rudiments to an extreme level with hundreds of “hybrid” rudiments.

If you teach the rudiments in the most effective logical sequence, in one “chunk” you can set a solid foundation on which every future technical demand will be based. Teachers and band directors will enjoy great success if you use the SOPA rhythm test to audition potential beginning band percussionists. This test is a free download, and is an excellent litmus test for identifying rhythmic potentials or weaknesses for all music students.

Rudiments can be easily organized into four fundamental divisions:

  1. roll rudiments (can be long or measured rolls)
    1. single strokes
    2. double strokes (open style)
    3. buzzed strokes (closed style)
  2. paradiddle rudiments
  3. grace note rudiments
    1. flams
    2. drags
    3. ruffs
  4. hybrid rudiments
    1. original hybrid rudiments are a combination of any of the NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers)
    2. corps style hybrid rudiments include hundreds of combinations, variations, and triple stroke rolls

The first five types of rudiments; rolls, paradiddles, flams, drags, and ruffs, are the primary categories on which all rudiments are based. Logic dictates that the first 4 rudiments to master after rolls are; Paradiddles, Flams, Drags, and 4 stroke ruffs. It is pointless to go on to the other rudiments in each these categories until the fundamental rudiment is mastered. The concept of open and closed rolls must be mastered before moving on to metered rolls. To learn flam taps, flam accents, or flamacues before flams are mastered is futile. Flams must be perfect before you can go on to any of the other flam rudiments. If you try to proceed too early to those other flam rudiments, you will play each with sloppy flams. Drags must be perfect before you can go on to any of the other drag rudiments. The 4 stroke ruff must be mastered before the 3, 5, 6 and 7 stoke ruffs. The paradiddle must be mastered before the double, triple, and paradiddle-diddles.

The rudiments basically only include three volumes:

  • Medium – taps – about 4-6 inches high
  • Loud – accents – about 8–9 inches high
  • Soft – grace notes – about 2–3 inches high

In the initial stage of teaching someone the fundamentals of drums, you will make things too complex if you get bogged down in dissecting the stick movements into several stick heights, strokes, upstrokes, down strokes, and rebound strokes. It is best to get them playing first, then go back and analyze the more precise stick movements, finger movements, stick heights, and nomenclature. In this stage try to not get bogged down in trying to explain all the music terms for dynamics and tempi. I simply use basic terminology or present too many musical concepts at once. Stick to simple words like medium, soft, loud, very low, etc. There is plenty of time to introduce these concepts soon after you get the students playing the fundamentals.

Since most everything that can be done on percussion instruments demands a smooth, continuous rhythmic alternation between the right and left hand, mastering the single stroke roll is a must for the foundation of everything that follows in learning to play all percussion instruments. If the single stroke roll is not smooth (fast is not important yet), then efforts on everything else is almost a waste of time.