Drum rudiments are those beat groupings and phrases underlaying particular drumbeats that are associated with a certain drumming style or tradition. Essentially, rudiments are building-blocks of drumming styles which, over time, have been standardized and institutionalized by experts or have been constantly practiced and played by musicians.
Creating standard rudiments
Drumming was not always organized as we know it today. According to Paul Schmidt, “By the year 1918, professional drummers were taking drum rudiments seriously enough to argue about them”. He further explained that it was within this period that drumming pundits and enthusiasts expedited efforts to improve the craft.
This move, Schmidt explains, was welcomed because, “drumming students felt content to take shortcuts and neglect rudiments,” and as a result, “there was a wanton proliferation of below-par percussion sections, which handicapped the progress of bands and orchestras.
Creating good drummers
Schmidt outlines that as a result of this, there was a growing demand for better drummerseverywhere.Thanks to the efforts of Sanford A. Miller, an expert of the day who was inspired into action, a comprehensive rudimental book called The Moeller Book was published. It started a natural response by other master drummers and instructors; music as we know it today is greatly indebted to this. Moeller’s tutelage was instrumental in shaping Gene Krupa’s illustrious career along with Jim Chapin, and others.
Drumming education and tuition
Nowadays, courtesy of the ready availability of drumming instruction via a plethora media comprising schools and colleges and regular drum lessons, there is a far larger and better pool of technically sound drummers to pull from.
Can’t read drum charts?
Within my circle, I have found that many professional and gifted drummers never received formal training, yet they know how to play and manipulate rudiments masterfully. This is because they have listened to recordings and have taken wisdom from them. Plenty of them also have no clue how to interpret drum charts. These individuals however have developed all the other skills which are in demand e.g. smooth time, feel, proper placement of fills and the ability to improvise in a musically tasteful manner.
World music and drumming
If you should listen to recorded beats from several recognized genres of music around the world, and compare them to each other, they will absolutely be driven by different feels, grooves, and even time signatures. But thanks to the prevalence of standardized international rudiments, there is a strong level of coherence among them.
Savvy drummers may recognize that triplet rudiments are commonly played in jazz, and that its defining feature is the use of syncopation along with the triplet or sometimes eight-note ride beat. Another marker of style could be the common application of paradiddle rudiments to funk and rock drumming.
Personally, in my own study of reggae drumming, I realize that the phrasing of fills and drum parts bears a direct jazz influence. Note that reggae drummers use a lot of syncopated strokes along with rim-shots.
They also apply triplet, eight-note and drag rudiment concepts to fills. in terms of its feel, the beats and fills are most times laid-back in a swinging manner, in a way that they lock in with the bang and shuffle of the accompanying keyboard or organ. Another characteristic of reggae is the steadiness and metric simplicity of its hi-hat pattern, whether it be triplet, eight-note, accented quarter notes, 16th notes, or any mixture in-between.
The study of the rudiments which mostly characterize a particular genre is probably the best way in mastering or authentically reproducing beats and fills. Also quite a few genres utilize the various Latin clave patterns, or variations of each. I’ve recognized both the rumba and son clave rhythms in reggae applications. Learning these universal rudiments also helps in better understanding various drumming styles.
Rudiments used in different styles however may not directly mirror any standardized rudiments, but may be identified as being hybrid rudiments of a specific genre. I have also noticed that, in reggae songs over the years, these patterns are repeated in recordings like motifs, and may be short-lived or may be used on a continuum over the years as new drummers go into the recording industry.
For better drumming results, I would encourage any drummer to be very mindful of the various standard rudiments out there for your manipulation, and also the ones which are specific to your own genre of specialty which you must learn quite well.
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