The NARD Founders’ Personal Rudiments

August 2021

The National Association of Rudimental Drummers (NARD) was founded by 13 prominent rudimental drummers in Chicago in 1933. They eventually decided upon 26 Standard American rudiments for the teaching and performance of the snare drum, which were then the pedagogical gold standard for American drumming until the publication of the PAS 40 in 1984 (the 40 include all 26 of the NARD selections). Many rudimental drummers who learned to play in the NARD era rigidly treat these 26 rudiments as immutable truths that may neither be altered or amended. Some drummers believe that NARD actually invented the rudiments from scratch and thus they are the only “real” rudiments (a categorically and blatantly false notion). Of the 13 founding fathers, William F Ludwig, Edward B Straight, George L Stone, and J Burns Moore published prominent rudimental instruction books , which lend some insight into their personal rudimental repertoire. It turns out that they did not treat the 26 as holy canonical absolutes, nor had they personally always limited their playing repertoire to pieces that include only the 26. All 4 of these NARD greats either used alternative naming conventions or included non-NARD rudiments in their instructional books, even after the formation of NARD and the selection of the 26 in some cases, giving us insight into the “runners up” of the rudimental selection process — rudiments that were quite important to some founders, but were ultimately not selected.

Perhaps regarded as the best rudimental player of the group, J Burns Moore published his only book, Art of Drumming, in 1937 with the W.F.L. company. Moore stuck extremely close to the NARD 26 and elected to include just one additional pattern, the Triple Paradiddle. This may have been the original American publication of the pattern as a rudiment, or at least is the oldest reference to it that I have found.

The most famous NARD founder must be William Ludwig, due to his prominent drum companies: Ludwig & Ludwig, W.F.L. Drums, and Ludwig Drums. Of his many rudimental publications, the 1942 Complete Instructor is the most comprehensive, featuring 31 rudiments. Of course he lists the NARD 26 by number, but then sprinkles in a few more non-numbered additions throughout. The 5 named non-NARD patterns include the 3 Stroke Ruff, 4 Stroke Ruff, 6 Stroke Roll, Triple Paradiddle, and Flam Accent No. 2. None of these are Ludwig inventions and the only one that is even remotely “new” to drumming was the Triple Paradiddle, published just 5 years earlier by Moore in the above mentioned Art of Drumming.

George Stone is most famous for his book Stick Control in 1935, though he did have an earlier publication Military Drum Beats in 1931, prior to NARD. Stone must have been thrilled with the final NARD list because in Military Drum Beats he praises Gardner Strube and lists his 25 Lessons along with an asterisked 26th, the Single Stroke Roll. These are, amazingly, the exact NARD 26 that would be selected years later. Perhaps he was a persuasive orator at the founding meeting. The book does contain a 17 stroke roll, explicitly numbered, but it is not listed as a “rudiment” in the front with the others. Interestingly, buried toward the back of Stick Control are a few references to 3 Stroke Rolls, which would today be assumed synonymous with Ruffs, yet he uses the alternative non-NARD (and non-Strube) term. 

Of these 4 founders, the hardest author to analyze is Ed Straight. His books published before 1933 do not contain easy to assess rudiment lists. Sprinkled throughout the books are references to various rolls and other simple rudimental patterns. Notably, the rolls are listed by the number of gross hand motions, not by actual number of strokes heard. For example, a 5 stroke roll, that contains an obvious 5 notes, is listed as a 3 stroke roll containing 5 taps. This makes it quite confusing to read from a modern perspective. Unfortunately, the only Straight publication I have not yet been able to get a copy of is his 1936 Drum Corps Method. This is also his only publication from after the foundation of NARD. My ability to examine his rudimental inclusions in the NARD era is, so far, incomplete. (if you happen to know what rudiments he included, please let me know)

The compiled list of founders’ non-NARD choices so far is thus:

3 Stroke Ruff

3 Stroke Roll (ruff by another name?)

4 Stroke Ruff

6 Stroke Roll

17 Stroke Roll

Triple Paradiddle

Flam Accent No. 2

Of these, the Triple Paradiddle, 4 Stroke Ruff (as the Single Stroke 4), 17 Stroke Roll, and 6 Stroke Roll would ultimately reappear on the PAS 40 sheet. None of these rudimental inclusions is earth-shattering or completely off the wall. They are somewhat underwhelming, in fact. 6 of the 7 existed well before NARD, with only the Triple Paradiddle being potentially newer.  It is quite fascinating, though, that NARD founders would not adhere to the 26 verbatim. I believe that any strict adherence to a canonical set of rudiments is unproductive, as evidenced by my large collection in Encyclopedia Rudimentia, and I think that the NARD founders would agree that limiting your practice repertoire is not inherently helpful.The 26 were simply the rudiments that all 13 members universally agreed upon from a much larger catalog of possibilities that individuals still regarded as important. From this simple exploration, the takeaway is: be flexible, learn as much as you can, use what works, and try to improve your drumming with any available resource. The 26 are a great resource, but even the NARD founders were unwilling to limit themselves to just the 26.