The Rudiments of Concert Percussion

This page directly supports my clinic at the 2022 Association of Concert Bands Convention in Santa Fe, NM on 7 May 2022, but is also useful as stand-alone information for any concert or orchestral percussionist.

Despite the common misconception that rudiments are not used in classical music (and are only reserved for marching or drum set players), there are several rudiments that show up in concert band and orchestral repertoire often enough to warrant their addition to any practice routine for the classical percussionist. Most are standard rudiments from the PAS or NARD rudiment sheets, and just a few are not represented on the sheets but have been considered rudiments by rudimental drummers, either currently or in the past.

Practicing these patterns will allow for the classical percussionist to be prepared mentally and physically for a high level performance. Ignoring these rudiments, or assuming that rudiments in general are not useful, may lead to poor performance or a struggle to prepare more challenging repertoire. Many of these rudiments are useful for timpani, bass drum, keyboards, multi-percussion setups, and other auxiliary percussion instruments, not just snare drum. Of course, excerpts, scales, chords, etudes, and other standard practice elements are also absolutely essential for the concert or orchestral percussionist to acquire and maintain the necessary artistic and technical skills. This is only a small portion of the total package.

The .pdf file here, freely downloadable, contains 10 rudiments specific to concert percussion:

Multiple Bounce Rolls

Press Rolls

Flams

Flam Taps or Inverted Flam Taps (combined as sticking is not defined in most concert music)

Ruffs (closed)

Drags (open)

3 Stroke Ruff (single stroked)

4 Stroke Ruffs (in several sticking choices)

5 Stroke Ruff (or 5 stroke rolls if you prefer)

Single Stroke Rolls

There may be classical examples of other rudiments, such as longer ruffs or other flam combinations, though they are comparatively rare. I would never advocate for limiting your practice, other rudiments are generally helpful to know and it is certainly beneficial to practice more, but these 10 are somewhat easy to locate in many percussion parts. Again, not only snare drum parts, but also parts for many other percussion instruments.

If you look at the history of classical percussion, it has definite and direct roots in military percussion. Snare drums were taken from infantry signaling. Kettle drums were taken from cavalry signaling. Cymbals, bells, triangles, toms, and bass drums were taken from Turkish Janissary ensembles. Combined, these form the great majority of our modern classical battery and, because military music in Europe was explicitly rudimental for hundreds of years, classical percussion has always had a military rudimental core. As far away from the marching band sound as classical percussion can be, learning at least a few relevant rudiments will help you master the concert percussion section.