Scottish drumming – rudiments Vs drum scores

It’s the age old question – what’s more important, rudiment development or learning new and challenging music? I think every pipe band drumming teacher faces the same dilemma on a regular basis.  I mean, if you don’t enforce the rudiment execution, then the scottish snare drum student wont be able to handle a pipe band drum score.  However, if you hand them out a piece of music without the rudiment knowledge and skill, then they wont be able to progress or play it well.

During my travels teaching pipe band drumming in North America, New Zealand and Australia I met several drummers who had been drumming for 6 months to a year. They knew 5 or 6 drum scores and had competed with a pipe band! To me, I found it quite shocking to be honest.  I mean, these players were literally coerced into learning the music so that the band had enough drummers to compete.  I totally understand the predicament these pipe bands are in. However, would it not be better to take a year or two off from competitions, and build the ranks through education and non-competitive performances?

Provided the situation allows you – I suggest that rudiment development is the key to short term and long term success in scottish snare drumming.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that rudiment practice is a lifelong journey that every pipe band drummer must follow.  Talking with many of the worlds top pipe band drummers, they say that they spend 60-95% of their practice time on rudiments, execution and technique development.

I personally practice more rudiments than drum scores. In fact, I can honestly say that 80% of my practice is purely on rudiments.  I generally lock the pipe band drum scores in my head and then practice them when I am out for a walk – mentally rather than physically.  Nowadays, more and more people are realising that scottish drumming, and bagpiping are very mentally challenging – not just physically or technically.

If you are ever asking yourself why you have to practice rudiments so much – remind yourself that your drum scores will flow much better for doing so. And in doing so, you will develop the correct technique to execute the score to a greater level.

n.b. Pipe Band drummers – rudiments are king.


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7 thoughts on “Scottish drumming – rudiments Vs drum scores

  1. I have seen and dealt with the repercussions, (no pun intended) of putting drummers into performance too early. Rudiments become almost meaningless to them, they just want to work on that new score or salute. If they grow an ego around their abilities, they are lost. I love rudiments. The challenge of working through Reid Maxwell’s No Short Cuts or the George Lawrence Stone books. Another great book is Jim Blackley’s Syncopated Rolls. I would hope if a drummer is neglecting rudiment learning and execution, they might encounter a strong teacher who believes in building the foundation and will not accept their attempts at musical performance, without their first learning the foundation.

  2. Thank you so much for your response Bruce. I spent a lot of time on Reid’s book when I was a kid, and while I was in SFU, and it was incredible. I will check out the Jim Blackley book that you suggest. It sounds interesting. All the best.

  3. I see notation as a language. First you take letters (strokes and independent rudiments), then after understanding the sound of letters you form words (rhythm combinations and exercises), sentences are formed (musical phrases and parts), and finally you read books (The musical piece) and challenge yourself to read more difficult stories and enjoy the plots of thorough development. The most important part to rudiments is that in reading language, when we don’t know a word we go all the way back to sounding it out, and I believe the same solution is accomplished with slowing the musical passage down and applying the rudiments. If you would like to be proactive, then learn new combinations of rhythms and rudiments/ornamentations. Just like those who actively seek new words before reading and end up understanding passages as soon as they are read; rather than rereading a passage after they look up the misunderstanding.
    There are many additional parts to becoming an efficient musician; like ear training, notation development, and physical development, but these are my thoughts on rudiments.

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