Rudiments are part and parcel for all grooves, fills, and technical playing in general. Even if you have learned many of these prior, applying them to the kit can be challenging, yet crucial to developing and finding your voice as a drummer.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate drummer, taking the time now to learn all 40 drum rudiments will open up your drumming to new possibilities and combinations.
Whether you want to march snare drum in a drum corps or want to invent new and technical drum fills on the kit, rudiments will be an essential component of the process.
Table of Contents
- What are drum rudiments?
- Single Stroke Rudiments
- Drum Roll Rudiments
- Diddle Rudiments
- Flam Rudiments
- Drag Rudiments
What are drum rudiments?
In percussion, rudiments are short patterns that involve various stickings and rhythms. These patterns form a foundation for more elaborate and extensive parts. Drum rudiments are basic, but also fundamental to playing.
Rudiments are not to be confused with the style known as rudimental drumming. In general, different forms of field drumming are associated.
The percussion world has somewhat split on the definition of rudimental drumming. The PAS (Percussive Arts Society) defines it as studying rudiments first as a particular method of learning drums.
As a side note, if you’re already proficient and confident in your rudiments, check out these drumming tips for more helpful knowledge.
RudimentalDrumming.com however, describes it as the study of “coordination.”
No matter which camp you choose, I like to believe it’s both.
Rudimental drumming uses rudiments. However, other types of drumming that include the use of rudiments are not always rudimental drumming. Confusing, I know.
Drum rudiments are similar to guitar scales and arpeggios. Before learning a piece of music, a guitar player learns these essential foundations.
With the definition out of the way, let’s dive into all 40 drum rudiments.
Single Stroke Rudiments
The most basic of all rudiments are the single stroke variants.
Single Stroke Roll
As the name implies, the single stroke roll utilizes one stroke per hand. The rudiment consists of alternating strokes played between the left and right sticks.
- R L R L R L R L
The illustration above details the single stroke roll beginning with the right, as well as starting with the left.
For the sake of simplicity, I have used sixteenth notes to notate the rudiment. With that in mind, the single stroke roll can be any note value, provided it is a R L alternating pattern.
If you’re new to drumming, begin the single stroke roll with your dominant hand. It’s essential, however, to be fluid leading each rudiment with both hands, so be sure to practice both ways.
Single Stroke Four
The single stroke four is a bit more complicated, as it requires a sense of rhythm to play correctly. The notation is three sixteenth note triplets and one eighth note.
The sticking is as follows:
- R L R L R L R L
- L R L R L R L R
Again, it is vital to practice your rudiments, leading with both the left and the right. Try switching it up! Play the first triplet leading with the right hand and the second leading with the left.
Single Stroke Seven
The last of the single strokes is the single stroke seven. This rudiment builds on the other single stroke rolls. As the name implies, there are seven notes.
Utilizing sixteenth note triplets once again when notated, the single stroke seven is a remarkably popular figure, especially in rock drumming. Here’s how it looks on paper:
- R L R L R L R
- L R L R L R L
Drum Roll Rudiments
We’re all familiar with the sound of a drum roll, but playing one can be rather complicated for new players. Let’s dive into the roll rudiments.
Multiple Bounce Roll
The multiple bounce roll, more commonly referred to as the buzz roll, is mainly associated with the snare drum in an orchestral setting. However, the buzz roll is also widely used in jazz, rock, and Latin drumming.
The act of a buzz roll involves controlling alternating bounce strokes, which are represented by the double diagonal lines on each note stem when written out.
There is no set number of bounces a stick needs to make; instead, they need to sound natural and even. Think of the spectrum of a multiple bounce roll between open a tight.
A tight buzz roll will sound closed up and intense, whereas, an open buzz roll with be looser and have more space. The amount of pressure applied to a bounce roll, via your fulcrum, determines the number of bounces generated by your sticks.
In general, buzz rolls require a significant amount of pressure on the stick’s fulcrum to create a natural-sounding roll.
A common mistake new drummers make when learning the multiple bounce roll is having uneven pressure from the right hand to the left hand. This uneven tension leads to the rudiment sounding lopsided.
The key here is to ease into the buzz roll and let the stick do the work. Relax a bit on the fulcrum and use your thumb and forefinger to apply the pressure.
Be careful not to squeeze the back end of the stick too much with your back fingers, as this will choke the rolls. However, don’t play the roll with “tea fingers” either with your pinkies off the sticks.
Double Stroke Roll
The double stroke roll is arguably the most common drum rudiment for beginners to learn. The double stroke roll translates to so many other rudiments, so it’s vital to master this before moving on.
Similar in nature to the single stroke roll, the double stroke roll is a sequence of alternating strokes. Instead of one stroke per hand, you now play two strokes per hand, as shown below.
- R R L L R R L L R R L L R R L L
- L L R R L L R R L L R R L L R R
Start with this rudiment slowly. It can be challenging to develop the muscle memory to play the double stroke roll consistently and up to speed.
Transition to bouncing
As you work with a metronome to develop your double stroke roll, at a certain speed, the roll will eventually transition to a double bounce roll. At faster tempos, the roll is similar to a buzz roll, but with more control of bounces.
On a snare drum, double bounce rolls are easy, given the tension of the head. On other drums, like toms and floor toms, rolls are not so easy. To effectively play a double bounce roll up to tempo, you must use full wrist motions to execute the roll.
Developing the bounce
If you’re having trouble transitioning from full strokes to bounces, a great exercise I used is the inverted double stroke roll.
Inverted Double Stroke Roll
The inverted double stroke roll forces your wrist to work in a way that teaches you how to bounce the roll. Here is the notation:
- R L L R R L L R R L L R R L L R
- L R R L L R R L L R R L L R R L
Triple Stroke Roll
As we move forward with rolls, the triple stroke roll’s name describes itself. Just like with the double stroke, the triple stroke implies three hits per hand.
- R R R L L L R R R L L L
- L L L R R R L L L R R R
I recommend learning and mastering the above two rudiments before jumping to this one, as it will be much easier.
At slower speeds, you can still use full wrist motion, but at quicker tempos, you will need a controlled bounce. Finger technique can be useful to achieve all three strokes, but don’t rely on this exclusively.
Five Stroke Roll
The next drum roll-based rudiment on the list is the five-stroke roll. Common to many pieces for beginning percussionists, the five-stroke roll is the most natural-sounding rhythmically when played in time.
The five-stroke roll is an alternating four-note double stroke roll, led with either hand. Here is the notation:
- R R L L R
- L L R R L
Again, as the tempo increases with this rudiment, you’ll begin to bounce the sticks, rather than use all wrist motion.
Six Stroke Roll
If you’re a new drummer, I’d suggest you skip over the six-stroke roll until you’ve mastered the five, seven, and nine stroke rolls first.
The six-stroke roll is complicated, in that you need to use a single stroke followed by a double stroke roll.
Six stroke rolls are highly prevalent in jazz drumming, as they are instrumental around the toms for solos and fills. The notation is as follows:
- R LL RR L
- L RR LL R
The notation written in the official Vic Firth 40 Essential Rudiments guide uses eights and sixteenths.
When I play the six-stroke roll, I like to imagine it as a sextuplet, as I’ve found much more use out of the rudiment this way.
The six-stroke roll was a eureka moment for my playing. I began using it almost exclusively (don’t do this; be sure to vary up your drum fills). I thought it was such a cool-sounding fill and one that was remarkably fun to play.
One tip for learning: place accents on the single strokes and bounce the inner un-accented notes of the roll. Practice the rudiment very slowly and gradually increase the tempo of your metronome by 5 BPM as you become comfortable.
Seven Stroke Roll
As you can most likely guess, the seven-stroke roll contains seven notes. The roll is one of the 40 rudiments that can be alternated when written. Here is the notation:
- RR LL RR L
- LL RR LL R
Now, if we were to flip the rudiment, we’d get something like this:
- R LL RR LL
- L RR LL RR
In my experience, the second variation is far more useful than the first. It’s an immeasurable practice to learn both.
Moving forward, the rest of the # stroke rolls are similar.
Nine Stroke Roll
Ten Stroke Roll
Eleven Stroke Roll
Thirteen Stroke Roll
Fifteen Stroke Roll
Seventeen Stroke Roll
The drum rudiments known as diddles are arguably the most powerful tools at your disposal as a drummer. Diddles are an extremely versatile rudiment, in my opinion.
They can be combined, both between feet and hands to create some of the most exciting fills and linear drumming (listen to Lenore by Chick Corea; Steve Gadd is phenomenal).
Starting simple, we have the single paradiddle. A good tip for mastering this rudiment is to accent the quarter note heavily when first learning. Play the inner notes as taps. Also, start slowly, as usual.
The double paradiddle is just like the single, only with a few more notes interestingly enough. I find the double paradiddles to be much more complicated than the single.
The triple paradiddle is far more comfortable for me because of its sort of “groove” element. You can hear it as R R R rest L L L rest.
Its usefulness? I haven’t found much utility for the triple paradiddle, especially on the drum set. I suppose it’s still good to know!
When I was learning in high school, the paradiddle-diddle quickly became my favorite rudiment (next to the six-stroke roll). The paradiddle-diddle is just as the name suggests: a paradiddle followed by a diddle.
- R L R R L L
- L R L L R R
Once again, I do suggest learning both the left and right variations. Learning both allows you to mix and match paradiddles, enabling you to be fluid when improvising.
My favorite practice pad warmup is a variation on these rudiments I coined, namely Paradiddle 7s. It works both the left and right varieties in a pattern of 7/8. When mastered, you should be ambidextrous.
This rudiment is one of the most impressive, and with practice, you can get it up to wild speeds. While speed isn’t always a necessity, it can be fun.
The flam is most notable in rock music, especially in bombastic fills before a big chorus. Flams involve the use of a grace note and a regular hit.
Tap the drum lightly (grace note) and follow it with a regular velocity stroke. There are three ways to play the flam depending on the situation:
- Loose – Generally reserved for rock fills. Allow more space between the grace note and the regular stroke.
- Tight – Better suited for orchestral music. Tighten up the space between the two notes.
- Together – Not recommended, though can be useful in marching situations. Play the two strokes at the same time.