You may well have heard of the drum set rudiments if you are researching or learning drums. The rudiments are essentially a series of 26 sticking patterns that give us a comprehensive series of musical options on the drum set. Whereas other instruments have scales that a musician must understand in order to play competently, we drummers have rudiments. If you are studying Marching Band or Drumline at school or college, there are over 40 rudiments to learn - they are mostly hybrid versions or variations of the original 26. Before we dive deeper, there is also a video blog on this hotly debated topic.
During lessons at my studio in San Diego, I am frequently asked about the importance of these rudiments by beginner drummers. Let me preface this by firstly emphasizing that it depends on your goals. If you are an aspiring Drumline or Marching Band student - they are essential. If you are beginning drumset and your goal is to have fun and play along to songs, then you might take a different approach.
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Conventional drum wisdom will tell you that it should be the starting point of your studies, and indeed, some of my early drum instructors made me practice rudiments endlessly before I was even allowed to sit behind a drum set. While I could certainly see the value in practicing them and the benefit to my fledgling drum stick control, I openly admit that I found them boring. I was very new to the drums, and wanted to play beats and play along to my favorite bands, and while appreciating the importance of these sticking patterns, I needed more inspiration and motivation to play. I was willing to work on my technique, but it had to be fun - after all, that's why I initially wanted to learn the drums - for fun. (That, and also because I secretly wanted to be Roger Taylor from Queen).
I recently received an email from a Drum Ambition Community Member that reminded me of this experience. She explained that a previous teacher had told her that rudiments were to the drum set as letters are to the alphabet. While that may make sense for more intermediate and advanced level drummers, I don't believe it is necessarily the case for beginners - particularly if your goal is to have fun and play along to your favorite music. Learning from my own early experiences, my approach has always been to teach students how to play basic drum beats and drum fills, read music and understand basic non-rudimental sticking concepts, and then show you how the rudiments can further embellish and transform your drumming. There's several months of fun to be had before that point, and when you do reach the stage that you are ready for rudimental study - you will be ready for it, and you will have a better handle on how they will elevate your playing. Also, the technique that you have developed over months of playing will put you in a better position to more effectively play the rudiments - at this point they become fun to practice and even more fun to implement.
I like to use a car analogy when talking about rudiments with beginner drummers. When learning to drive a stick shift car (or manual for my UK readers) you must first understand how to go from first gear to second gear. To me the first gear is basic grooves, second gear is fills, third gear is reading music and understanding non-rudimental sticking, and the fourth is playing along with music. The fifth gear (and nowadays 6th gear) that further enhances our musicianship, is a culmination of the previous gears, and the practical application of the rudiments. To get from gear 1 to 6 you must go methodically through all the gears - you can't jump from 1 to 6 or you will stall. There are many teachers that believe that the rudiments should be the first gear, and I respect this view - I have just found that it didn't work for me, and it doesn't work for the majority of my beginner students either. Your own thoughts may be different as music, after all, is wonderfully subjective.
When you do eventually turn your focus to rudiments after becoming competent with beats, fills, music reading and non-rudimental sticking, they will be life changing. A good teacher will show you how to apply these patterns to beats and fills, and this will open up a whole new world, and will help make you a controlled and musical drummer.
There are some rudiments that will naturally come up during your early learning days - particularly single strokes (alternating sticking: Right / Left, abbreviated to R L R L R L etc) and double strokes (R R L L R R L L etc). If you decide that you would like to start looking at some rudiments while you go through the beginner process, then I recommend that you focus on what I call the "core four". These are single strokes, double strokes, drags and flams. The reason I recommend these four is because the remaining 22 rudiments are all made up from one or a combination of these. Plus, you can do a lot with the core four alone. If you are ready to do this, reach out to me, and I can point you in the direction of some credible free online resources.
Understanding the drum set rudiments is an essential part of being a well rounded drummer, and following the Drum Ambition Module 1 Curriculum will prepare you for them. The opening comments in video 20, available to our Community Members, further explains my views on this, and why you should not stress out on these rudiments in the early days.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email [email protected].