The Rudiment List of the Future

Posted on November 12, 2023

 Future Rudiments

Yeah yeah, another rudimental rant, but it’ll be a bit more productive. I have many problems with the PAS’ list of 40 rudiments, because of the undue importance the list gives to many licks, but even more so because of the omissions of patterns that deserve the eminence. 

The world’s first rudiment list came from NARD in 1933, followed by the more famous PAS list in 1986. That’s a 53–year gap, so I guess by that trend, we should expect another rudiment list in 2039. Only 15 more years until we get a rudiment list made for this millennium…

All jokes aside, I have wondered what the next edition of a rudiment list would look like. If we ever get one that is. Many rudimental drummers have a dogmatic approach to this discipline, treating the lists as scared and unalterable texts delivered to us from the drums gods (many of which no 21st–century drummer can name). 

Indeed: NARD is still around, but hasn’t felt the need to make a new rudiment list over the past ~100 years. The PAS is a bit more of a relevant force in the drumming world, although we could have used an updated list 15 years ago, let alone in the next decade. I truly hope there’s a new list in the works. The art form is evolving after all. 

So then, how could the PAS list be improved? What would we expect from an updated rudiment list? I guess we should start with the overall structure — the list is divided into four parts: rolls (including single strokes, multiple bounce strokes, and doubles), diddles, flams, and drags. 

It’s fine, but it’s always irked me that flams come before drags, especially considering how the flam drag is considered a flam rudiment, meaning the flam drag introduces drags before the drag section does. So in a perfect world, the order of those sections should be swapped.

Another broad topic: it would be helpful for some of these rudiments to be written in several ways, when appropriate. The seven stroke roll, for instance, is commonly played as written on the list, as the tap variation, and with triplet pulsation:

Some definitions would be nice too. “Diddle” is a source of confusion, and as such, it’s a word I rarely use. Diddle broadly means a double stroke, which I’ve always interpreted to mean a double that’s the same subdivision as the notes around it.  But many drummers think a diddle is any double stroke, including things that would more accurately be described as drags:

By that same logic, these would be paradiddles:

Let’s get that cleared up. 

I suppose now we’ll take a look at these different sections and evaluate them. Removing licks would seem odd, even though many rudiments are only relevant because they’re rudiments. At the very least, things are certainly missing from our current rudiment list.

How about the single stroke roll section? An infamous oddity is the nonsense with the single stroke four and single stroke seven:

They’re both very similar to these licks, which have been popular throughout history:

However, let’s be clear: what we get on the list of 40 is not the same, and you have to wonder why the PAS decided on this notation. It is similar, but we are in an area where you’re encouraged to be a stickler for how things are exactly written. 

So it would probably be for the best if the licks were rewritten to end with an accent. And while we’re at it, there should also be a single stroke three, five, and nine.

Another glaring omission is the puh duh duh (RLL), also known as a diddle–let and historically referred to as a side triplet. I don’t know what the exact history of this lick is, but it’s absolutely a common–sense addition.

I know many drummers are confused as to why there are so few even–numbered short rolls. Well, other rolls have been described throughout history, with the eight stroke roll being particularly common. At least, it was until NARD and the PAS made it extinct with their respective rudiment lists. The PAS did resurrect the six stroke roll in the 1980s, a rudiment that was left off the NARD list of 26, so anything’s possible.

Thinking more big picture, some more basic percussion techniques show up in older rudiment manuals. For instance, Charles Ashworth has the following in his 1812 book:*

While we’re at it, we should also consider whether or not flat flams (a.k.a. double stops) ought to be included. Might as well throw in the malf, which isn’t really a useful item, but that certainly doesn’t preclude it from being on a rudiment list. 

Drags can be played open (in time) or closed (buzzed), and older rudiment texts differentiated between the two, so it’s something else that’s been neglected by the modern list. The PAS needs to stop trying to make “closed = fast and open = slow” a thing. 

Now then… what about all those hybrids? 

Well, it’s tricky business. Some are obvious. The herta, for example, would fit in nicely with the other single stroke rudiments (even though it’s not really a roll, but that’s neither here nor there). The cheese is a true hybrid and might need its own category — perhaps a fifth one. The PAS might want to consider renaming it, since “cheese” is hilariously random and unhelpful

The eggbeater is an interesting one. It could belong in our fifth category, but it could also fit in with the multiple bounce strokes. Ditto for the shirley murphy

However, many hybrids are just variations of traditional rudiments. Think of the chutudda and the dachuda, which are just spins on the flam accent:

Consider grandmas and grandpas — here we have the single paradiddle with some accent mischief:

The book report blurs the line. You could think of it as a turbo–charged dragadiddle, but it feels so different that it’s probably a true hybrid.

I could go on, and that’s a big problem. Where do you draw the line? How many variations of more basic strokes deserve their own spots on a rudiment list?

It doesn’t help that the current rudiment list seems like it was designed to be as terse as possible. I get the desire to be economical, but consider it from this perspective: the list of 40 tries to take hundreds of years of drumming from around the world and distill it into two pages of music. Seems like it would be hard to do it all justice that way, doesn’t it? 

I think what I’m really yearning for is a return of the rudiment manual. You can often fill a single page with information about any one of the 40 rudiments. Here’s an example I whipped up featuring the seven stroke roll:

I could have made it look a little nicer if MuseScore had more capable typesetting functions, but you get the idea.

A proper manual is the way of the future, and it could be quite expansive — I wouldn’t mind at all if it was long. It probably should be, and aggressive truncation won’t be a huge concern if we’re not trying to make it as short as possible. Don’t worry about making a poster; this is a huge discipline of drumming that deserves depth and extrapolation. The more the merrier.

* You can read more about the “poing” stroke here.

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