If you’ve been around a group of drummers for more than a few seconds you’ve probably heard some strange new words. Words like “paradiddle,” “flam,” “patafla-fla,” and “ratamacue.” If this has happened to you, the good news is you didn’t mishear them. They were talking about rudiments!
Rudiments are basic hand to hand combinations that drummers study in order to further develop their technique and performing abilities. Some rudiments have unique sounds, while others are supposed to be indistinguishable from each other. Sometimes students draw parallels between scales and arpeggios and rudiments. This comparison works on the surface level in that young musicians study scales and arpeggios much like how drummers study rudiments, but a more apt comparison might be the study of intervals.
You’ll remember from our previous lessons that intervals are combined into melodies and chords to create new musical possibilities, in the same way, rudiments are combined to create interesting sounds and rhythms.
There’s not a great reason to learn all of the rudiments as a composer unless you are a percussionist yourself or you are writing a percussion ensemble or music for a drumline. However, it is helpful to know a few of the basic rudiments that will help inform your percussion writing.
The other rudiments are fun to study, but in most cases are more specific instructions than a standard orchestral or band percussionist need to accurately perform the part.