Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 | Page 62


Applying the Rudiments of Drumming

By Jerome Jarvis

The 26 standard rudiments comprise the vocabulary of the drummer ’ s language . They are the most basic exercises for the snare drum , having evolved from the elementary beats used in marching bands . They come with a variety of comical names : ruffs , drags , flamadiddles , and the measured rolls ; but in essence they can be reduced to a few sticking patterns in combinations of single and double strokes . So , let ’ s see what this toolbox of sounds contains and if there ’ s anything we can make use of today .

These rhythm studies can be practiced on any drum , practice pad , or a firm cushion . The important thing is the feel of the sticks connecting with the playing surface and rebounding . We use the natural bounce of the stick to reduce the effort needed to play those speedy riffs .
The drummer ’ s musical vocabulary is a limited one . We can vary the tempo of our notes and their relative volumes and that ’ s about it . Until you get behind a full kit with more tone colours , cymbals , and a range of toms in various pitches , you ’ re playing a one-note instrument , so each note has to count .
The very first rudiment is simplicity itself : the long or single-stroke roll . ( Steady eighth notes at an even tempo )
This is where we begin developing the hand movements that will become habitual over time , so pay close attention to what is happening here . If performed correctly there will be no variations in volume or tone from each of the beats — just a monotonous meaningless pulse . Perfect for putting the mind to sleep .
To bring some music into this exercise we will need to create some kind of variation in the sounds that we can use to build a discernable pattern within the framework of the bar . For drummers , the handiest type of variation is an accented note and the most natural place to feel it would be on the first beat of the bar .
Change the accents and a pattern emerges with a new feel
( Here the accent is on every third beat , so the accented note switches from right hand to left hand : ONE and a TWO and a …)
But what ’ s this about “ accents ”? If every beat is played full force , your music will not have much in the way of nuance or subtlety .
We ’ ll use just two distinct dynamic levels in playing these exercises . Find a comfortable position with the stick 2 or 3 in . above the skin for the light or ‘ tapped ’ beats and a higher position with the stick pointing straight up to prepare for playing an accented beat . You don ’ t need to use a lot of force as the high hand will hit harder . Twist the wrist with a flick of the fingers and snap the elbow in close to your body to lift the stick .
Now let ’ s examine the different kinds of stroke we use . Playing an accented note requires a “ full stroke ” — meaning , beginning with the stick in the upright position , pointed straight up , and arcing down rapidly with appropriate force . The stick is then returned to upright if the next beat on that hand is also to be accented , or it is captured and held in the low position if the next beat is to be a tap . You ’ ve probably been doing this instinctively , but if you intend to progress , you need to be fully conscious of the mechanics involved . This means anticipating your next stroke as soon as the stick hits .
So we have four types of stroke to deal with in order to play combinations of accented and unaccented notes : Full Stroke is an accented
beat , to be followed by another accent ; Downstroke is an accented stroke finishing in the low position to play a tap ; Upstroke is a tap with the stick quickly raised to play the next , accented beat ; and Tap is a “ normal ,” unaccented beat , which starts and finishes in the low position .
Take some time to work each hand separately , using these four types of stroke to alternate playing taps and accents . This may seem like a giant step backwards , but focusing on these simple exercises will help you develop the ingrained , automatic movements without straining , so that all the necessary muscles can come into play effortlessly as you execute any set of accented patterns .
( Note : The quick “ pickup ” or raising of the stick is the secret of playing accented notes . Immediately after striking , the stick is “ snapped ” up and into position to play the accented downstroke . Keep control of the stick so it doesn ’ t wobble and make the upper and lower positions clear and well defined . Remember , you can only play as fast as you can lift your sticks .)
And don ’ t forget to count out loud .
Jerome Jarvis is a composer , author , teacher , producer , and session musician . Over the 50 + years of his professional career he has performed and recorded with artists such as Stan Rogers , Perth County Conspiracy , Pied Pear , Valdy , and more . He is currently recording and constructing an online interactive musical / theatre work “ The Great Library ”. www . jeromejarvis . com .