A Brief Note on Drum Rudiments

20 Jan

Forty-nine snare drum Rudiments (exercises) exist in the six drum manuals written during the 11 years between 1810 and 1820, but some are referred to by different names, e.g. the Ruff was sometimes called the Half Drag, the Drag or the 3 Stroke Roll. Some of The National Association of Rudimental Drummers – N.A.R.D. – and the Percussive Arts Society rudiments are not found in the manuals written between 1810 and 1820.  They are Triple Ratamacue, Drag Paradiddle No. 2, 13 Stroke Roll and the Flamacue.

Bruce and Emmett, “The Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide”, (New York, 1862) and Gardiner Strube’s “Drum and Fife Instructor”, (New York, 1869) eventually became standard texts for most “Rudimental” snare drummers: Bruce and Emmett for drummers of the western states* and Strube for north-eastern drummers.  In 1933, N.A.R.D. adopted the 25 rudiments of Strube (1869) and added the single stroke roll to create what they called the “26 Standard Rudiments”.  From this standard 26, the “Thirteen Essential Rudiments” were selected and used to test drummers for membership into the “Thirteen Club”.

In 2002, Ed Olsen, Curator and Archivist for The Company of Fifers and Drummers in Ivoryton, CT asked the author of this document to ascertain whether or not the minutes of N.A.R.D. were extant because he thought they would contribute significantly to the drumming history of North America. I called Bill Ludwig, whose father had been the secretary of N.A.R.D. and asked him if he had the old records. He replied, “Oh, I threw all that junk out years ago”.

Today the Percussive Arts Society has compiled a list of 40 rudiments plus an additional 24 “Contemporary Hybrid Rudiments” making a total of 64 rudiments.  Presently, they seem to have the prize for rudimental abundance.  The cycle of experimentation begun sometime in pre-history continues.  It all seems rather excessive for a craft that utilizes only three or four strokes.

In retaliation to the excesses of modern drummers, John S. (Jack) Pratt began the “International Association of Traditional Drummers”, an organization dedicated to more traditional drumming practices. Also, there are serious discussions taking place among snare drum pedagogues about whether or not to standardize the notation used by Strube, and common to Swiss drummers: a staff line for each hand.  Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and Mao Zedong (1893-1976) were in agreement and thoroughly contemporary when they said the revolution must forever be renewed.

Bruce based his beatings on Charles S. Ashworth: “A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating”, Boston, 1812; stating, “The author (Bruce) has therefore adopted Ashworth’s system, which he has himself taught, adding to it the results of his own knowledge and experience, and rendering it better adapted to the modern styles of Drum Music”. At the top of page 3 in Ashworth, the word “Rudiments” appears for the first time in reference to drum strokes.

Copyright 2005 by Robin Engelman

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Posted by on January 20, 2009 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


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