Breaking Down Rudiments, Go Slow to be Great for a Lifetime

November 18, 2009 7:10 pm in Marching by JeffQueen

It seems to me that there is a strong desire for instant gratification in young players these days.  Unfortunately this desire is usually coupled with the lack of understanding on how to truly achieve the desired skills these players are looking for.

There is no secret, no magic dust, incredible teacher or group that can help you become better if you as an individual are not willing to put in the time to make yourself better.  In this article I will talk about a sure fire way to learn how to play virtually anything with EXCLELLENT QUALITY for pretty much the rest of your life.

So, how do you do that?  What process should you take to learn something the right way or relearn it without any mistakes or flaws?

You go as slow as you can for a long time.  Remember when you learned how to ride a bike?  Training wheels, going slow, then without the wheels and someone holding on to you, then gradually faster until, “Look ma, NO HANDS!!!”  Same method applies when learning any new skill with the sticks/mallets/feet etc.

Odds are pretty good that if you are of high school age or have been drumming for about 3-6 years you have some very good skills but there are some things you could stand to improve upon.

In order to break any habit that you have, you must “erase” it by reprogramming yourself.  You do this by retraining your brain, muscles, and hands to move correctly.  This also works if you are just learning a specific skill, go slow and learn it right the first time, you will thank yourself later, I promise.

I will use a Flam Accent as an example on how to do this.  Check out this video I recorded a while ago detailing how to break down a rudiment and the specific heights and motions involved:

flam accent in 34

Play the rudiment at quarter note = 35 beats per minute for five minutes.  This could be a challenge for many students as it requires a lot of patience and focus, but is something you have to do.  Remember learning how to ride that bike?  Probably fell a few times along the way, but I am sure you got back up and kept at it.


• Play with EXACT heights

• Practice with a METRONOME (it’ll keep you from cheating)

• The sticks should move slightly more staccato at first, getting more legato as the tempo increases.

• Do a full 5 minutes at one tempo, then increase by 3 bpm.  Rinse, repeat.

You can also split your hands to play on different surfaces (one hand on your leg/rim and one hand on the drum etc.).  You will find that that any rudiment is just a combination of some very basic strokes, but that is the topic for my next post.

If you go through this process and break the rudiment down from a very slow tempo, always playing it with the correct interpretation, you will never have to do it again, and will more than likely be able to play the rudiment (or any other skill you have learned this way) for the rest of your life with really good quality and consistency.

I would be interested to know how many of you out there either a) learned this way and/or b) teach this method of learning rudiments?

Hope this is helpful and be sure to check out my book for tons more exercises dealing with perfecting your rudimental chops!TNL-front-cover