Video transcript
Creative use of rudiments for the drum kit

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Welcome, everybody, to this video on creative ways to use rudiments on the drum kit. This is a wonderful instrument that's been developed over the last 100 years or so. But it still maintains its roots in the root of mental history of percussion playing. And what I mean by that is our ability as drummers and percussionists to use these sticks, to develop the coordination to control them and the way that they bounce on whatever instrument we're playing on.

I want to show you today two applications of the standard rudiments. And I'm going to concentrate on a few specific rudiments for you to this instrument, two ways that you can use the rudiments that you might be studying with your teacher if you've got a good teacher, that you should be practicing every day on practise pads to develop your hands and your stick control, ways that you can apply those fundamental rudiments to the drum kit and use them in musical settings.

So let's get straight into it. Here's the first one. I'm going to use what's called a single paradiddle. So for those of you who don't know that or have forgotten or aren't quite sure, a single paradiddle is that one where we combine a single single-- in my case right, left-- immediately followed by a double, right, right.

So that sticking looks like this-- right, left, right, right. And then of course if you reverse that and keep going you get left, right, left, left. Now there are a couple of things that happen as a result of that sticking pattern. And they're both a result of what we can do while one of the sticks is doing the double.

So let me just show you. If I wanted to get from here the snare drum over you would here going on my floor toms and I didn't want to have to suddenly lurch or cross over, what I would do is I'd play right, left, right, right, left right. And while I do these left, left, I've got all the time in the world to move the stick over.

[drumming]

It's very different than going--

[drumming]

And the other thing that it allows us to do during that double stroke is to move the stick and prepare an accent. This is a full strike one that starts here and goes

[drumming]

It's the loudest sound we have as percussionists, the full stroke.

[drumming]

And so while I'm doing that double stroke, I can get up to a half stroke with the [inaudible] stick or I can get all out to a full stroke or, like I said before, I can move to another part of the instrument. Have a watch and have a listen.

[drumming]

There's another great use of the single paradiddle, and drummers since Steve Gadd first really brought this to life have been messing around with this in all sorts of different ways. Steve Gadd, of course, was a rudimentally trained snare drum player, studied classical percussion at college, at university, and then went on to become probably one of, if not the most, widely recorded drummers in the history of modern music. And you can tell by the way that he plays any sort of music that he's got this incredibly solid rudimental background to the way that he plays.

Anyway Steve Gadd developed this style of drumming in the late '70s which we now refer to as linear drumming. And linear drumming is where essentially there's only one sound happening at a time. So in linear drumming, you wouldn't get the snare and the high hat playing together. [drumming] Rather you would get the high hat followed by the snare drum.

[drumming]

And for those of you that were watching carefully just then, you would have noticed that I played a single paradiddle. I'll do that again. Right, left, right, right, left, right, left, left.

[drumming]

And just by adding a bass drum on each beat the snare drum doesn't accent-- so beat one and beat three, in this case-- we get quite a nuanced groove, a groove with different volumes in the hi-hat, different volumes in the snare drum, because of those softer notes and those accents. And you get a solid grounding from the bass drum, or the kick drum.

[playing drums]

So hopefully, you can see already some direct applications for those often dry and seemingly unconnected rudiments that we are told that we should be practicing on a practise pad or a snare drum. What I want to get into next is probably the most life-changing discovery I ever made as a drum kit player. And this happened to me when I was travelling around North America in 2003, checking things out, seeing lots of music, getting some lessons.

And I went along to a masterclass that was being run by a man by the name of Yoron Israel. Yoron now, I believe, is the chair of the percussion drum kit department at the Berklee school of music in the USA in Boston. And he ran this session that I went along to, just because I thought the name of the session looked a little bit interesting, on the rudimental ritual.

And as the name suggests, the rudimental ritual is something that I'm sure you, just as I have, will end up doing every day as part of your daily practise. This is something that you can go through, you begin it, you play it with my best friend, the metronome. And you try to develop the ability to play this from memory, so that it forms this fundamental part of your practise that takes care of a lot of the maintenance that we need to look after as players.

So the rudimentary ritual was something developed by another drum teacher from Boston, Alan Dawson, who taught many, many people, notably people like Tony Williams. Vinnie Colaiuta had lessons with him, Terri Lyne Carrington. And what he would do with his students, apparently, is that he would develop step by step, week by week their knowledge of, first of all, the 26 American drum rudiments and then the second group of rudiments that we all learn called the Swiss rudiments.

And then he would also add these things that he called innovations, followed by some things that his students had introduced to him, different ways of using the stick. And by introducing them week by week, his students, after a certain period of time, would then develop all of the rudiments into this routine, which you would play on the snare drum over the top of a repeated phrase with your feet. A repeated phrase, another name for that is an ostinato. The ostinato, the foot ostinato in the rudimental ritual goes like this. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

And what we do in the ritual is we play all 26 American drum rudiments, all of the Swiss rudiments, and then those other groups-- the innovations and the things that were brought to him by his students-- over the top of that ostinato in different rhythmic groupings, all in four bar phrases. And I just want to-- before I show you, I just want to explain why that is so useful to us players.

Number one, it encourages us-- if we use a metronome it encourages us to develop a good sense of time-- steady tempo, the ability to play in the same speed without moving, which is fundamental for drum kit players. Number two, we're going through the rudiments. We're developing our stick control, our hands, our ability to move potentially around the drums. And I'll show you a little bit of that.

Number three, it develops our balance between different parts of the instruments. And number four-- and this is something that I find really useful for students and for myself as well. Number four, it builds into us some very useful, and often quite complex, independence-- independence being the ability that us drummers need to have to play something in one hand, something different in the other hand, maybe a third different thing in the feet, or a fourth different thing in both feet, and not let those three, four elements distract each other.

So for example, if I was to play quavers here, and if I was to play, I don't know, 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' here. And I'm just going to imagine that. I don't want what I'm doing here to interrupt or mess up what I'm doing here.

[playing drums]

So let me show you how this works the ritual. I'm going to use single strokes-- right, left, right, left. And I'm going to play that foot ostinato. And over the top of it, I'm going to play quavers, or eighth notes, with my single strokes.

[playing drums]

We do a four bar phrase of that, four bars of quavers. And then what we do is we play triplet quavers. So inside each beat, we're now fitting three notes.

[playing drums]

123, 123, 123. Before, it was two notes. 12, 12, 12, 12. Now, we're playing three notes. 123, 123, 123, 123. And again, still single stroke rolls, still for four bars. Let me do that for you. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

And then you can probably guess what's coming next. Next, we divide each beat into four parts, or semiquavers. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

I'm going to put all of those together-- so four bars of quavers, four bars of triplet quavers, and four bars of semiquavers, all over that ostinato. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

And of course, if we can do that with single strokes, we can also do it with double strokes-- right, right, left, left. For this one, I'm going to be a bit creative around the drums. So instead of just staying on the snare drum, just whenever I feel like it, I might go to another drum.

And you can kind of make this up as you go, once you've figured out the coordination and the independence between your hands and your feet. So this is double strokes over that same ostinato with the same phrases, four bars of quavers, full bars of triplet quavers, four bars of semiquavers. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

And then of course, we can do this with all the rudiments. For example, the single paradiddle that we started with today-- right, left, right, right, left, right, left, left, exactly the same four phrases. 1, 2, 3, 4.

[playing drums]

There's an order to the way that the rudiments are introduced in Alan Dawson's lessons. And there's an order in which they progress in the ritual. And there's some beautiful things that happen. There are, I guess you'd call them rhythmic modulations, moving between duplets and triplets and back again. And they set up the next rudiment.

They're quite logical in the order that they go through in the ritual. And an important aspect of the ritual itself is to memorise it, to learn how to play it from memory. That's probably something to discover in another video, or maybe something for you to discover yourself.

But I just want to leave you with one further thing. And this is something that Alan Dawson made all of his students do for a really good reason. He made them play it with these. These are brushes. These are part of the weaponry of any drummer, most percussionists.

And we use these a lot in playing jazz. We also use them in different types of music. In fact, they came from vaudeville originally. They came from the variety shows with the orchestra pit down the front, where the traps player-- and this set of instrument was originally called the traps, because they were the trappings that you would bring in.

The traps player would have to try and find ways of creating sound effects for all of the various things in the vaudeville show, also to accompany different types of music, different types of dancing, to try and have duets with something like a tap dancer. And these brushes became something that all of these traps players started using in vaudeville. Originally, apparently, they were fly swatters. People were using fly swatters to, for example, on a snare drum, try and sound like a train.

[playing drums]

And of course, then jazz drummers started using them instead of playing the ride cymbal.

[playing drums]

They would play that same thing here and do sweeping sounds--

[playing drums]

--or when playing slow music in a jazz setting, ballads we call them.

[playing drums]

So Alan Dawson would get all of his students to memorise the rudimental ritual, play the rudimental ritual with sticks over this ostinato, and then do it with brushes. And I can tell you, on days where I play the ritual with brushes, once, maybe twice through, and then go back to playing music with drumsticks, I feel like I have the ability to play anything.

My ability to execute ideas with my sticks after playing the ritual with these seems endless. I'm sure it's not. But that's the way it feels. And the reason for that is that, unlike sticks, which bounce back from the surface of a drum, you have to work really hard to get these brushes to do the same thing.

[playing drums]

I hope you've been inspired by some of the ways that we can use the 26 American drum rudiments, and eventually the Swiss rudiments, around this wonderful instrument, the drum kit. If you want to find out more about the rudimental ritual, there's plenty of information online about it. There's also a book written by and published by John Ramsay, one of Alan Dawson students, that you can find, where the rudimental ritual is printed.

You can hear a recording of the ritual played by John Ramsay. And there's also a recording of Alan Dawson playing the rudimental ritual himself at breakneck speed. You'll love it.

Good luck with your rudimental mental studies. Good luck with your application of them onto the drum kit. See you again.


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