How to Read Drum Rudiments

Drum rudiments provide essential practice for aspiring and professional drummers alike. These basic exercises help develop technique, ensure precision playing and teach you to play the most commonly used rhythms in rhythmic notation. Once learned, the drummer may take these rudiments and combine them in original ways to create interesting new rhythms. Reading drum rudiments becomes less overwhelming once you know what each symbol stands for. Four symbols exist in addition to note values to indicate how to play drum rudiment.

Step 1

Learn about the first symbols of basic note values used in drum rudiments: whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Whole notes look like a hollow circle and held for four beats. Half notes look like whole notes but have a stem and are worth two beats. Quarter notes look like filled in half notes and are worth one beat. Eighth notes have a flag on the stem and are worth half a beat each and 16th notes have two flags on the stem and are worth one-quarter of a beat.
Step 2

Begin with the "Singe Stroke Roll" drum rudiment. This rudiment alternates between hitting the right stick against the drum and the left stick against the drum. The "R" and "L" symbol above each note indicates which hand to use and constitutes the second set of symbols. The R and L above standard note values are the most commonly illustrated drum rudiment symbols. They appear in most rudiments to help clarify the proper hand to use.

Step 3

Learn to play the "Double Stroke Open Roll" drum rudiment. This roll alternates between two double right strokes and two double left strokes. Allow the drumstick to relax and use the momentum achieved from the initial strike to create a bounce for each stroke. Gradually increase the tempo until you can play four double strokes per second. Again, this rudiment will consist of regular 16th notes and have an L for left stick and R for right stick above the notes.

Step 4

Practice the "Flam (Single)" next. This is the third symbol and looks like a miniature note referred to as a grace note. Grace notes are very tiny notes that come right before the main, regularly sized note head. The small grace note indicates a flam that plays as close as possible to the regular stroke. Start by bringing the left stick down to the pad and almost simultaneously hit the right stick. Then alternate the strokes to use right followed immediately by left.

Step 5

Master the "Paradiddle" next in the series. The paradiddle uses a pattern of left and right strokes to create steady 16th-note patterns. The first set of 16th notes is R - L - R - R followed by L - R - L - L. Use a steady rhythm and start slowly before gradually increasing the speed. This rudiment has the drum strokes written above the regular notation.

Step 6

Learn how to play the "Roll." The roll is the fourth symbol and looks like a series of three slashes that strike through the stem of the note. To play a roll, alternate quickly between left and right strokes.

Step 7

Continue to learn all 40 drum rudiments. By learning to play the initial four rudiments listed above, you will have the ability to read and understand any drum rudiment you come across.


Read all drum rudiments with a metronome set at a moderate pace. Choose a pace that allows you to play each note without getting behind. It is OK to set the metronome at a low speed. A good recommended beginning tempo is 52 to 60 beats per minute.


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