"The rudiments are the “words” that drummers speak on the drums. They help us to communicate on the drums."

Introduction to Drum Rudiments

Table of Contents

Introduction–the Drum Rudiments

Let’s say you’re just getting started on the drums.

You’ve been hearing about the rudiments. Drummers talk about them. 

You might hear about rudimental drummers or rudimental snare drum solos. The 40 Essential rudiments. And on and on and on.

  • But what ARE the rudiments and why should you care about them?
  • And beyond that, there seem to be a lot of rudiments, so can we prioritize them somehow?
  • Which rudiments are the most important to learn?
  • Which rudiments will really make a difference in my playing?
  • These are excellent questions. I will address them all. Read on, drummer friends.

What Are The Drum Rudiments?

The rudiments are a series of drumming patterns that have their origins in the military. The history is quite complex and spans hundreds of years. But for our purposes, we’ll forgo much of the history and deal with practical matters instead.

The Drum Rudiments are the language of drumming

For our interests, think of the Drum Rudiments as a collection of patterns that create a structure for drummers to create music on the drums. In that sense, the rudiments are the “words” that drummers speak on the drums. They help us to communicate on the drums.

The Drum Rudiments form the basis of hand technique

Equally important, the drum rudiments form the foundation of any drummer’s hand technique. Through the practice of the rudiments, a drummer will develop facility with his or her hands. If you hear a drummer who can solo, chances are that they are very well versed in at least a selection of important rudiments.

The Big Picture of Rudimental Classifications

There are three different ways in which the rudiments are classified as collections of patterns. These three groups of the rudiments differ based on the number of rudiments included. There is a collection of 40, a group of 26 and a selection with just 13 rudiments included.

Let’s talk about each of these.

The list of 40 Rudiments was published by the PAS (percussive arts society) in 1984The list of 26 Rudiments was published by NARD (national association of rudimental drummers) in 1933.

The list of 13 Essential Rudiments is a subset of the 26 and also published by NARD in 1933.

These lists were put together by drummers who felt there should be some sort of list of these patterns to help drummers have a way to organize this stuff. But this means that there is some real human judgment at work here. Whether one rudiment is more important than another is a total judgment call.

And yes, I am going to make some judgments about this stuff later in this article and present you with a list of what I believe are the most useful rudiments.

Just for reference, below are lists of the rudiments in each of the three groupings discussed above.

The Lists: The 40 PAS Rudiments, The 26 Standard Rudiments, and The 13 Essential Rudiments

dark-blue-night-drums-bang-the-drum-school

This first grouping of the 40 drum rudiments is listed below. Note that #’s 1 through 15 are the “Roll Rudiments,” #’s 16 through 19 are the “Diddle Rudiments,” #’s 20 through 30 are the “Flam Rudiments” and #’s 31 through 40 are the “Drag Rudiments.”

In addition, note that the “Roll Rudiments” are mainly comprised of three common types of rolls: 1) The Single Stroke Roll Rudiments, 2) The Multiple Bounce Roll Rudiments (which really means the “Buzz Roll” also known as the “Press Roll” and  3) The Double Stroke Roll Rudiments.

In order to make things a bit easier to see and organize, since the 26 and 13 rudiment groupings are both subsets of the 40 rudiments, the list of 40 includes the other two lists within it. If a rudiment in the list of 40 is bolded, that means it is also one of the list of 26 rudiments. In addition, if the bolded rudiment has an asterisk after it, then it is ALSO one of the 13 rudiments.

Here are the 40 rudiments, in order:

  1. Single Stroke Roll
  2. Single Stroke Four
  3. Single Stroke Seven
  4. Multiple Bounce Roll
  5. Triple Stroke Roll
  6. Double Stroke Roll aka The Long Roll*
  7. Five Stroke Roll*
  8. Six Stroke Roll
  9. Seven Stroke Roll*
  10. Nine Stroke Roll
  11. Ten Stroke Roll
  12. Eleven Stroke Roll
  13. Thirteen Stroke Roll
  14. Fifteen Stroke Roll
  15. Seventeen Stroke Roll
  16. Single Paradiddle
  17. Double Paradiddle*
  18. Triple Paradiddle
  19. Single Paradiddle-Diddle
  20. Flam*
  21. Flam Accent*
  22. Flam Tap
  23. Flamacue*
  24. Flam Paradiddle*
  25. Single Flammed Mill
  26. Flam Paradiddle-Diddle
  27. Pataflafla
  28. Swiss Army Triplet
  29. Inverted Flam Tap
  30. Flam Drag
  31. Drag (aka The Ruff)*
  32. Single Drag Tap (aka The Single Drag)*
  33. Double Drag Tap (aka The Double Drag Tap)*
  34. Lesson 25
  35. Single Dragadiddle
  36. Drag Paradiddle #1
  37. Drag Paradiddle #2
  38. Single Ratamacue*
  39. Double Ratamacue
  40. Triple Ratamacue*

 

Now, just for the sake of completeness, here is the list of the 26 “Standard” Rudiments:

  1. Single Stroke Roll
  2. Double Stroke Roll (aka The Long Roll)
  3. Five Stroke Roll
  4. Seven Stroke Roll
  5. Nine Stroke Roll
  6. Ten Stroke Roll
  7. Eleven Stroke Roll
  8. Thirteen Stroke Roll
  9. Fifteen Stroke Roll
  10. Single Paradiddle
  11. Double Paradiddle
  12. Flam
  13. Flam Accent
  14. Flam Tap
  15. Flamacue
  16. Flam Paradiddle
  17. Flam Paradiddle-Diddle
  18. Drag (aka The Ruff)
  19. Single Drag Tap (aka The Single Drag)
  20. Double Drag Tap (aka The Double Drag Tap)
  21. Lesson 25
  22. Drag Paradiddle #1
  23. Drag Paradiddle #2
  24. Single Ratamacue
  25. Double Ratamacue
  26. Triple Ratamacue

 

And, now, finally, just to relieve my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the 13 so-called “Essential” Rudiments are listed below:

  1. Double Stroke Roll (aka The Long Roll)
  2. Five Stroke Roll
  3. Seven Stroke Roll
  4. Flam
  5. Flam Accent
  6. Flam Paradiddle
  7. Flamacue
  8. Drag aka The Ruff
  9. Single Drag
  10. Double Drag
  11. Double Paradiddle
  12. Single Ratamacue
  13. Triple Ratamacue

How Useful Are the Drum Rudiments to The Drum Set Player?

Drum-pedals-at-mark=feldmans-music-studio

Well, to be quite honest, all rudiments are not created equal when it comes to drum set playing.

In fact, the selection of the 26 “standard” and 13 “essential” rudiments as whittled down from the larger group of 40 are suspect.

Now, I’m not saying that those who made these selections were wrong. But, since the 13 rudiments list was created in 1933, and since the focus was on marching snare drum players, how applicable could this really be to us drum set people?

Therefore it’s not surprising that there are omissions from the list of 13 that drum set players might argue about.

 

 

For example, “The 13 Essential Drum Rudiments” does not include the Single Stroke Roll.

It seems pretty clear to me that in the modern age of drum set playing the Single Stroke Roll should be on the list of the most important techniques to learn.

Further, the list of 13 does not include the paradiddle.

Again, it’s pretty clear—at least to an experienced drummer or drum teacher—that the paradiddle and some of its inversions are very important to the repertoire of the drum set player. But alas, it’s not included on the 13.

By the way, in case you’re thinking, “inversions? What does that even mean?” I’ll quickly explain.

The Single Paradiddle is simply: Right Left Right Right followed by Left Right Left Left. Abbreviated, it looks like this:

RLRR LRLL

An inversion just means we maintain that pattern but start it on a different note of the pattern. So, for example, the most commonly played “inversion” is the Inverted Paradiddle which is: RLLR LRRL

If you look at the “regular” Single Paradiddle, and begin the pattern on the 6th note of the 8 notes, you’ll see that it will result in RLLR LRRL, which is an Inverted Paradiddle.

OK, back to earth again.

All of the above begs the question: “What rudiments are important for beginners to learn?”

drummer-playing-on-drum-kit-music-performing

What Rudiments Should Beginners Learn?

One good way to think about this is to ask some pro drummers who are held in high esteem in the drumming world. A good example of someone who fits into this category is Dave Weckl.

In Weckl’s very first instructional video, Back to Basics (released in the late 1980s) he talks about the rudiments. His favorites?

  • Single Stroke Roll
  • Double Stroke Roll
  • Flam
  • Single Paradiddle
  • Double Paradiddle
  • Buzz Roll (Multiple Bounce Roll)

 

I specifically recall Dave talking about this. I don’t remember for certain whether it was in this educational video or in his online school.

But, the gist of what he said was that he never really obsessed about learning ALL of the rudiments. Rather, he focused on the few really useful ones that would help his playing the most as a drum set player.

I like that approach.

It’s how I like to prioritize my practice time. What’s useful?  What will I be able to apply in my playing on the drum set?

Honestly I did learn all 40 at first, but I quickly trimmed them down to a list similar to what Weckl talks about.

So, Weckl has a pretty good starting place there. 

My Recommendations for Rudimental Practice

Eventually, I do think it’s important to look at and work on all of the rudiments. The reason is that you don’t know what ideas you’ll come up with when you try to apply them to the drum set; some obscure drag rudiment might yield the best soloing lick you’ve never yet heard. But, it’s very important that the first word of the previous paragraph is “eventually.”

I believe that trying to learn all 40 out of the gate could be overwhelming.

So, instead, focus on the rudiments that will give you the most useful technical facility.

I believe those to be:

Singles 

  • Single Stroke Roll
  • Single Stroke Four
  • Single Stroke Seven

Doubles

  • Double Stroke Roll
  • Five Stroke Roll
  • Six Stroke Roll
  • Seven Stroke Roll
  • Nine Stroke Roll

Multiple Bounce

  • Buzz Roll aka Press Roll

Flams

  • Flam
  • Swiss Triplet
  • Single Flammed Mill

Diddles

  • Single Paradiddle
  • Double Paradiddle
  • Paradiddle-Diddle

My list has 15 rudiments. You’ll be in good shape if you start there.

Before we finish up here, I want to mention a few important things related to technique.

Important Considerations on Technique as Related to the Rudiments

The rudiments are simply patterns. They are—for the most part—combinations of single strokes and double strokes. Sometimes they are played at different volumes and often accented notes are placed on particular notes.

They are words we can use to express ourselves on the drums.

They are used to help us develop our hand technique.

But, these patterns–on their own–do not inform us on the matters of technique in terms of the movements and physicality involved.

That is a different matter.

It is a crucial matter, however.

So, my point is that the rudiments are only as good as your grip and body mechanics will make them.

Mindlessly pounding out the rudiments will do you absolutely no good if you don’t have the proper mechanics behind them.

So, my advice is to seek out that instruction. Technique is based on good physics, natural body movements and secure but loose grips using your hands.If you combine the proper body mechanics with the rudiments, you will be unstoppable.

Onward!

Free E-Book Gives You 5 Must-Know Drum Licks.

Enter your information below to receive your free digital copy of 5 Killer Drum Licks now.

You’ll also be added to our email list which is highly regarded as the most entertaining and helpful email list in the drumming community.