Drum rudiments are the basic tools of the drummer. They are the accepted standard in the performance of the basic rhythmic patterns that comprise many of the rhythmic patterns found in the common compositions in Western music. Rudiments are used as exercises for performers to practice and hone their technical skills. All rudiments have very specific sticking patterns, or the order in which sticks (right-hand or left-hand) are used to strike the drum. For example, the multiple bounce roll (Long Roll) has a pattern of two strokes of the left stick (L) followed by two strokes of the right stick (R), repeated over and over (LLRR, LLRR or Left Left Right Right, Left Left Right Right, etc.). Typically in the performance of rudiments, the pattern is started slowly (or open) in strict rhythm and then is gradually sped up to where the patterns become very fast (close) and then gradually slowed to the original starting speed (or open). Rudiments were often named after their sound, which accounts for some of the odd names.
Rudiments have a rich history that is tied directly to the development of the snare drum, known earlier as a side drum or military drum. The Swiss were the first to clearly document the use drums to signal troops in battle. The Battle of Sempach in 1386 was the first recorded use of fifes and drums as signals by the Swiss in a military campaign. By the early 15th century, many elite Swiss fighting forces were employed throughout Western Europe as mercenaries. Their signals and marches using drum & fifes were quickly adopted for use in other European countries. Baron Friedrich von Stuben, working for the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1778, wrote "Regulations" which specified drum signals for the Revolutionary Troops.
The first use of the term rudiment was by Charles Stewart Ashworth. He used the term to classify a group of drum patterns, thus establishing himself as the father of rudimental drumming. In 1812, he published his drumming manual, "A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum-Beating." In 1869, another book containing drum rudiments, "Strube Drum and Fife Instructor," was published by the National Guard of the New England States. By the 1880's, John Philip Sousa, Director of the U.S. Marine Band, wrote a manual of instruction called "A Book of Instruction for the Field-Trumpet and Drum." This book became the guide for military drummers in all branches of the armed services and had also a wide civic distribution because it contained a collection of drum rudiments. After the turn of the century, Sanford (Gus) Moeller's book, "The Moeller Book," published by The Ludwig Drum Company in 1918, helped to renew an interest in rudimental drumming.
It was about this time that the American Legion began organizing national contests for Drum and Bugle Corps, but there were problems with these competitions because of the differences between the rudiments published over the past century. Spearheaded by the American Legion and the Ludwig Drum Company, the most influential drum instructors from across the country came together at the American Legion National Convention in Chicago and created set of 26 rudiments. This also led to the creation of the organization NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) in 1932. Membership in NARD required a performance test on the 13 essential rudiments. The 13 additional rudiments of the 26 were not required to be performed.
Today there are 40 recognized drum rudiments broken into four categories: I - Roll Rudiments (17 rudiments); II - Diddle Rudiments (4 rudiments); III - Flam Rudiments (12 rudiments); and IV - Drag Rudiments (10 rudiments). NARD dissolved in 1978 leaving PAS (The Percussive Arts Society) to be the remaining advocate for rudimental drumming.
Aside from the 40 standard rudiments, there are a growing number of rudiments that are used in conjunction with Drum and Bugle Corps competitions. These rudiments tend to be combined patterns and some of more complex rhythms used in drum cadences unique to Drum and Bugle Corps.
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