Drumming rudiments are words you can use to create rhythmic sentences. They’re a series of hand patterns that can also greatly increase your dexterity and musicality on the drums.
In this article I’m going to share what drumming rudiments are, how to hold your sticks and 3 drumming rudiments to start improving your hands today.
According to Wikipedia, “a drum rudiment is one of a number of relatively small patterns which form the foundation for more extended and complex drumming patterns.”
More simply stated, drum rudiments are like legos. Each drumming rudiment is a differently shaped Lego piece allowing you to put them together in endless rhythmic combinations.
Like me, you might have played with Legos when you were a kid. I could spend hours creating space ships, buildings, cars and any number of other things. Legos were great because I could use my imagination to create virtually anything.
The same can be said for drumming rudiments. When we play drums, we often perform in various styles of music. We have to play grooves, drum fills, drum solos and musical kicks. Drumming rudiments are an easy and effective way to create all of those things.
When beginning to study and practice rudiments, it’s important to first hold your drum sticks in a way that will maximize both bounce and control.
The two main grips we use in drumming are matched grip and traditional grip.
For this article, I’m going to simply focus on how to hold your drum sticks in matched grip.
Hold up your right hand up and place your drum stick about 1 inch off of the heel of your hand. Touch your thumb to the side of the stick and place your index finger directly across from your thumb.
Although you may want to, don’t squeeze your index finger and thumb together. These are only stabilizing fingers.
Next, curl your last 3 fingers around the drum stick. Keep them loose and relaxed. Don’t squeeze the stick with these 3 fingers either. You will need to move these fingers freely to manipulate the stick.
Now turn your hand over so your palm is facing down.
Now use your right hand to teach your left hand how to do the same thing and make an A on the drum with the tips of your sticks in the center of the drum.
That’s the quick and dirty on how to hold your drum sticks. For more help with learning to manipulate the drum sticks, enroll in my Intro To Jazz Drumming Course. I go into great detail about how to play with both matched and traditional grips.
Snare drum rudiments
Drumming rudiments are typically called “snare drum rudiments” and played on the snare drum first for practice. You might have also heard of rudimental drumming. This is a form of drumming using only a snare drum to play complex rudimental drum solos.
If you are only wanting to learn rudiments for playing snare drum solos or maybe in the realm of classical percussion, then practicing on the snare drum will be sufficient.
If you’d like to play drumming rudiments around the drum set, then you’ll need to also practice moving your rudiment hand patterns around the drum kit.
There are 40 basic snare drum rudiments and these are a great place to start. There are countless variations and permutations but the standard 40 drumming rudiments will get you lots of mileage in your drumming.
Feel free to download the Percussive Arts Society PDF below. It has all 40 of the rudiments written out for you. This is the same list of rudiments I practiced in High School for about 2 hours 4-5 times a week.
The Percussive Arts Society’s mission is “To inspire, educate, and support percussionists and drummers throughout the world.” A great organization dedicated to supporting us all in our drumming pursuits.
40 drumming rudiments may seem like a lot. If so, I’ve also selected 17 rudiments that I think are the most useful for drum set playing. I teach this group of 17 rudiments in my drum brushes course at jazzdrumschool.com.
Drumming rudiments for beginners
I’m not going to cover all 40 of the PAS rudiments in this article but I am going to highlight 3 that I think are great for beginning drummers. They will strengthen your hands and get you going on learning the other 37 rudiments.
Without a doubt, paradiddles are the most useful of all the drumming rudiments. You can use a paradiddle as a drum fill or drum groove. It also lays nicely over many types of grooves in many styles of music.
I’ve got an entire article about paradiddles that will help you learn how to play them.
Here’s a video about paradiddles too.
Double stroke rolls will help clean up your playing in no time. The 5-Stroke Roll is the shortest of the double stroke rolls. It is also one of the most useful in drum set playing.
With any double stroke, you want to aim for both strokes being the same volume. Don’t let the first note be accented and the second note weaker. This will give you an inconsistent sound.
Instead practice getting both strokes to be the same height, volume, attack and intensity. This will make all of your doubles sound clean and even help with your drag rudiments too.
Here’s a video to help you get clean double strokes.
Here’s another video about the 5-Stroke Roll.
Flams on drums
Flams are the final rudiment I’d like to share in this article. They’re one of those motions that we think we know but actually do it wrong most of the time.
A Flam is when one stick (or brush) hits the drum slightly before the other stick. I believe the word “flam” is an onomatopoeia or a word that sounds like what it is.
The key to playing clean flams is to keep the hand that plays first, very close to the drum head. The hand that plays second can be anywhere above the first hand’s position. Keeping your hands in different dynamic levels creates at a clean flam sound.
See my video on how play clean flams. The video teaches how to play flams with brushes but stick technique for flams is the same.
Best practice pad for drummers
I think a great way to practice rudiments is with a drum practice pad. You can get a lot done with a little bit of noise. This will make those you live with and your neighbors very happy!
I’ve used countless practice pads over the years and the one I still have and I use regularly is the Evans Real Feel drum practice pad. It feels great and gives you accurate rebound as if you’re playing on a real snare drum.
I think the 12″ size is best. It’s heavier than the smaller size and doesn’t move around as easily while you practice. You can also place it on your snare drum so you can get the snare sound while you play.
Here’s an affiliate link for the practice pad. If you choose to buy through the links on this page, it’s an easy and great way to support this blog. Thank you🤙
If you’re looking for a solid beginner snare drum, here’s my recommendation too!
Marching drum sticks
If you really want to bust your drumming chops and improve your hands quickly, try using marching drum sticks. They’re heavier than normal drum sticks. These are the kind of sticks we use on the snare line in a marching band.
The marching drum sticks I have used and recommend are the Vic Firth Corpsmaster Signature Snare — Ralph Hardimon sticks.
Transform your hands and drumming
Drumming rudiments have been around hundreds of years and taught from generation to generation. Even though many of the rudiments are old, they are still relevant and useful today in our modern drumming context.
Rudiments can transform your hands in a matter of months with consistent practice. You can then take the same patterns you practice on the snare drum or practice pad and move them around the drum set. This will help you open them up to your drum kit playing.
Here’s a final video where I show how to play the paradiddle-diddle with brushes. You’ll notice that there are multiple ways I can play this rudiment to keep it fresh and interesting as a drum fill.
I encourage you to practice all 40 of the PAS rudiments and make them sound as clean as possible. If you’re having trouble with your drumming rudiments and would like some help, book a Zoom lesson with me. I’ll be more than happy to help you improve your rudiment playing. Keep rolling!
What’s your favorite drumming rudiment?
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