Drags and Ruffs – Shifting Rudimental Terminology

January 2019

Notation Examples

There has always been a slight amount of confusion when discussing drags and ruffs. At some points in history the two terms are interchangeable and at others they are entirely separate rudiments. Here we will take a look at several of the most confusing and antiquated naming conventions for ruffs and drags to sort out which is which and when.

If you learned to play after 1984, you probably learned that 2 grace notes preceding a full note is called a Drag and is played with the sticking LLR (Ex. 1) because this is how it is officially listed in the PAS 40 International Drum Rudiments. You’ll also likely recognize that the same double grace note pattern played with singles strokes, RLR is called a 3 Stroke Ruff (Ex. 2). There is no Ruff on the rudiment sheet, but the pattern is commonly referenced and widely known. This is pretty cut and dry, unless you learned to play sometime prior to 1984, or had a teacher who did. Confusingly, on the NARD Standard 26 American Drum Rudiments sheet the LLR sticking for this pattern is called The Ruff (Ex. 3) in direct contradiction of the PAS sheet. So, is Ruff the correct name? Well, not exactly. From the time of Charles Ashworth in 1812, through the Civil War, to just before Gardener Strube’s 25 Rudiments in 1870, the LLR sticking was called a Half Drag, sometimes with an accent (Ex. 4). In this terminology, a Full Drag or Single Drag was a Half Drag plus another tap (Ex. 5), similar to the modern Single Drag Tap (ex. 6). It could also be called the Drag and Stroke and it is similar to a Basel Tagwacht. Of course, in most orchestral interpretations the grace notes would be buzzed for any of these notation figures, which brings us back around to Ruffs. In the 1800s and early 1900s, a Ruff (sometimes spelled Rough) was played in the buzzed orchestral manner, as evidenced by Bruce and Emmett in 1862 (Ex. 7) and echoed by Moeller in 1925. This is also in line with the French concept of a Ruff, often written with a trill symbol, rather than 3 individual notes. One last thing about Drags, if you can have a Single Drag, there must be a Double Drag (Ex. 8), which is essentially the same as a Double Drag Tap (Ex. 9), and is similar to the Basel Double Tagwacht and the French Coup De La Diane.

In summary, a modern Ruff is a 3 Stroke Ruff, or a Single Stroke Drag, while a historical Ruff is the same as a Drag, except for when it is a buzzed orchestral Ruff or Rough. A Drag, of course, is the same as a Half Drag because if it were a Full Drag or Single Drag it would be a Drag Tap. This leaves us with the obvious: that a Double Drag is just a Double Drag Tap.