A BRIEF HISTORY OF RUDIMENTS
Definition: “Rudiments” comes from the Latin word “rudis,” which was a wooden practice sword used by gladiators. Rudiments are some of the basic building blocks or patterns used in drumming vocabulary and can be combined in a great variety of ways.
Tip: Most of the stickings on the duplet and triplet matrices are also rudiments.
When I was in the fifth grade, as a part of a history lesson presentation, I chose to do a report on the history of my first love: the field drum. Here is a brief history, starting in my homeland of Switzerland:
On a hot summer day on July 9, 1386, at the Battle of Sempach, Luzern, the Swiss troops were successfully defending themselves from the “Habsburger” (The Austrian/German Empire). They increasingly used drums and fifes to signal the troops in battle. Their drums and fifes signaling system spread throughout Europe, since the Swiss troops were deployed as mercenaries in Western Europe.
The first rudimental publication, Orchesographie, came from Dijon, France, by Thoinot Arbeau in 1588. The publication included Swiss rudiments. Also, the first written rudiments go back to the beginning of the 1600s in Basel, Switzerland. I can prove that, as a student of Jakob Otter from the Tambourenverein Laupersdorf-Thal, sources are always mentioning the importance of the Swiss Basler trommeln. We studied and always honored the Basler trommeln (probably the highest level of all). The birthplace of rudimental drumming is said to be France since, in the 17th and 18th centuries, pro drummers became part of the King’s honor guard. During the rule of Napoleon I, the craft was perfected. The march, “Le Rigodon,” and its different interpretations in the 18th century,
is still one of the cornerstones of modern rudimental drumming. But let’s not forget Scottish pipe drumming and American drumming. (I also think that the Americans are always taking it to the next level.)
America’s first published basic rudiments came via Baron Friedrich von Steuben. Outlining drum signals for the revolutionary troops, his book Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States was published in 1779. Although they were not exactly rudiments, the development was clear.
Known as the Father of Rudimental Drumming, Charles Stewart Ashworth is said to have originated the concept of rudiments. His 1812 book probably has the longest title of any drum publication ever: A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating Including the Reveille, Troop, Retreat, Officer’s Calls, Signals, Salutes and the Whole of the Camp Duty as Practiced at Head Quarters, Washington City; Intended Particularly for the United States Army and Navy... Wow... what a title.
Here are some of my favorite books connecting rudiments to drum set playing and applications. This list is by no means complete—these are some classic titles that are also personal favorites that help delineate some of the modern trends of rudimental development:
1935 1938 1941 1942 1983 1996 1997 1998 2000
(George Lawrence Stone)
Gene Krupa Drum Method
Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer
Buddy Rich’s Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments
(Buddy Rich and Henry Adler)
It’s Your Move
(Dom Famularo w/Joe Bergamini)
The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary as Taught by Alan Dawson
(Alan Dawson/John Ramsay)
The Complete Drumset Rudiments