German Language Rudiment Names

In English, there isn’t much variation in rudiment naming conventions. A Paradiddle in the USA is also a Paradiddle in Canada, Scotland, England, Australia, etc. English-speaking drummers tend to agree about the name on most things. In other languages this is not always the case. Regional or national variations occur in the names for common rudimental rhythms and stickings, making it difficult to discuss and compare music. German is especially interesting in their rudimental terminology because of the fact that Germany as a nation state did not exist until relatively recently. Historically, Prussians, Austrians, Bavarians, Swiss, Hannoverians, Hessians, Saxons, and perhaps even other regional German-speaking populations did not always agree on the names for simple rudimental ideas like Flams or Drags, even though they shared many of the same rhythms and stickings.

Looking across the various German rudimental dialects, we can see somewhat of a spectrum of similarity. Some regions shared several common terms, and their drummers could probably communicate effectively, and some regions have almost nothing in common, meaning their drummers would have had a hard time communicating rudimental ideas verbally, even though they spoke the same basic language.

The regions for which I have a good (or at least ok) idea of the terms are: Prussia, Switzerland, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (I’ll call this Weimar subsequently), Austria, and Bavaria. I really do not know the relevant terminology for Hesse or Hannover or any other region. Due to an odd royal connection they used British drumming in Hannover for quite some time, but I am unsure of what they called the rudiments. The image is a chart of the terms over the regions I know something about.

In the above image the colors represent similarities. Two rudiments that share a color are similar in name between two or more regions. The lighter colors represent terms that are sort of similar and the darker colors represent terms that are exact matches. The actual colors used are arbitrary. Not all regions have the same rudiments in their common lists, so only these few actually overlap directly.

As mentioned earlier, the rudiment names sort of spread along a spectrum. Prussian and Swiss terms are fairly similar. Bavarian and Austrian terms are quite similar. Prussian and Bavarian terms are quite dissimilar and are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The one place all regions tend to agree is the Long Roll or Open Double Stroke Roll. Every German speaker universally seems to call it the Wirbel.

For an example of dissimilar names, let’s look at the Flam. A simple idea, the Flam is found in all German speaking regions, and pretty much everywhere else on earth, too. It actually has at least seven German names. In Prussia it is called the Doppelschlag or Schleifschlag. In Switzerland they use the names Schleppstreich or Schleifstreich. In Weimar it was the Schlappschlag or the Doppelschlag. In Austria its the Schleppstreich or Schleppen. In Bavaria they called it the Schleppstreich or Schlepper. Many of these names have common components, Schlepp, Schleif, Schlapp, Streich, or Schlag. This example does a poor job of showing the spectrum of similarity, though.

The names for the Charge Stroke do a better job of showing how the terms seem to morph over space in a sort of even spectrum. In Prussia it is called a Chargierte Schlag, which is merely a direct translation of the French Coup de Charge, which is the most common name in Switzerland. The Swiss also used the more antiquated German term Sturmschlag, which is the name for this rudiment in Weimar. Contrastingly, the Austrians called it a Doppelte Streich and the Bavarians joined them with the extremely similar Doppelstreich.

Another place we can see the spectrum in good effect is in the words for Single Stroke. In Prussia it was called an Einhandschlag. The Swiss call it an Einerstreich. In Weimar the name is Einfachen Schlägen, which is fairly similar to the Austrian Einfache-Schlag. The Austrians also sometimes use Einfache-Streich, which is similar to the Bavarian Einfacherstreich. As we move through the spectrum here, we can see that the “Single” part of Single Stroke generally gets more complicated. It goes from Ein to Einer to Einfache to Einfacher.

In General, we can pair the terms in Weimar pretty closely to those in Switzerland. They share very similar terms for five of their simple rudiments: Long Rolls, Drags, Charge Strokes, 7 Stroke, and 9 Stroke rolls. Switzerland has something like 50 rudiments, while I only know the names of eight from Weimar. But, really, even among those many Swiss rudiments, the terms only rarely align with Prussia and almost never with Austria or Bavaria, which is the other really close pairing. Bavaria only really has six named rudiments and five of them match pretty closely with Austria: Long Roll, Flam, Charge Stroke, Single Stroke, and Single Drag. The one Bavarian rudiment that doesn’t match the Austrian term is called Rücker. The Austrian equivalent is Doppelschlag, which sounds like it should be a Flam, based on the list of Flam terms above, but no, its a Double Stop. Austrians use the term Rucker, without the ü, to mean Drag or Ruff.

I am unfamiliar with the similarity or differences between these regions in normal conversational German. Perhaps the rudiment names simply mirror the general language. Perhaps not. I would be interested to hear from a German speaker if the similarities and differences here are consistent with the overall dialects or if they have their own pattern.

Today, I think that a lot of these differences have become moot, as many drummers have learned the PAS 40 rudiments and abandoned regional military styles. Switzerland, Austria, and Germany still have some differences in the way they describe and use rudiments in their traditional snare drumming, but the other minor regions have likely discarded their own variations to some extent when modern Germany absorbed Weimar, Bavaria, Hannover, Hesse, and other smaller political entities.