Drum rudiments are the foundation of every fill, pattern or beat you play in your drumming. There are 40 rudiments in all. They can be broadly categorized as Single Stroke, Drum Roll, Flam-based, paradidde and drag based rudiments. They’re the standard of basic rhythmic patterns found in Western music. Rudiments were often named after their sound, which accounts for some of the unique names.
Rudiments have a history that is tied directly to use of the snare drum in the military. The Swiss were the first to chronicle the use of drums to signal troops in battle. In the early 15th century, many elite Swiss fighting forces were employed throughout Western Europe as mercenaries. This practice was quickly adopted for use in other European countries. Baron Friedrich von Stuben, working for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1778, wrote “Regulations” which specified drum signals for the Revolutionary Troops.
The original use of the term, rudiment, was by Charles Stewart Ashworth. He used the term to classify a group of drum patterns and established himself as the father of rudimental drumming. In 1812, he published his drumming manual, “A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum-Beating.” Later, in 1869, another book contained drum rudiments – “Strube Drum and Fife Instructor.” It was published by the National Guard of the New England States. By the 1880’s, John Philip Sousa, Director of the U.S. Marine Band, wrote a manual of instruction called “A Book of Instruction for the Field-Trumpet and Drum.” The book soon became a guide for military drummers in all branches of the armed services and had also a wide civic distribution having contained a collection of drum rudiments. After the turn of the century, Sanford (Gus) Moeller’s book, “The Moeller Book,” published by The Ludwig Drum Company in 1918, sparked a renewed an interest in rudimental drumming.
Also during this time the American Legion began organizing national contests for the Drum and Bugle Corps. However, there were problems with these competitions because of the differences between the udiments published over the past century. Spearheaded by the American Legion and the Ludwig Drum Company, the most influential drum instructors from across the country came together at the American Legion National Convention in Chicago and created a set of 26 rudiments. This also led to the creation of the organization NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) in 1932. Membership in NARD required a performance test on the 13 essential rudiments. The 13 additional rudiments of the 26 were not required.
Today there are 40 recognized drum rudiments broken into four categories: I – Roll Rudiments (17 rudiments); II -Diddle Rudiments (4 rudiments); III – Flam Rudiments (12 rudiments); and IV – Drag Rudiments (10 rudiments).NARD dissolved in 1978 leaving The Percussive Arts Society (PAS) to be the remaining advocate for rudimental drumming.
Diligently practicing drum rudiments are the basis for every drummer’s success as a musician. Knowing them well will expand your playing capability.