Great at Rudiments – Not Great on Drumset

Phil Maturano

Being great at rudiments does not make you a great drummer. It makes you great at rudiments. Playing “Drumset” is not the same as playing snare in a line. It’s a different mindset. Waayyy different and especially when it comes to world music. Why am I mentioning this? Because I see this trend lately in obsessing with hand technique. Let’s not get caught up in this “more hand technique means more freedom and more ability / expression” bandwagon with out knowing what all those terms mean. More hand technique means…MORE hand technique. It has nothing to do with the freedom of expression issue.  Or the musical ability issue. The people who say that are really oversimplifying all those things. They would like you to believe you will be able to play with precision and etc etc if you learn their way of doing things. Well…I have seen hundreds of guys across the globe who are absolutely ripping on all the latest “double flippity flip cheese this and that”… But put them on a kit and try to get them to play with music and …nope. Not happening. On the drumset this mind set just doesn’t translate. Now before I go on…please read carefully. I am not saying technique is bad. I am not saying rudiments are worthless. I am saying that the drumset has its own language. The motions required to access that language is not the same as the motion you do in a rudimental snare drum setting. Or a pad at home. To think that if you learn a few paradiddle sequences and the latest trendy tricky stick patterns, or the trendy independence books and that’s it your a great drummer, is wrong. If you still don’t believe me …I have 2 words…Bill Stewart. (Can name many more but he is one of my favs)

Musical ability, among a few other things, comes from understanding how music functions. (And I don’t mean scales) Experimenting /experience in being functional in those parameters. Not from rudiments. Freedom of expression comes from creativity and an agile mind that is thinking in different ways then usual. And vocabulary “should” come from your knowledge of rhythm and not licks. A lick is a lick. And without the knowledge of how to permutate it rhythmically it will be a stagnant sequence in time. Improvisation is a different skill set and so is drumset independence in the vast array of styles on earth. The drumset requires additional knowledge regarding hand technique to benefit from the secrets of technique. If you don’t play drumset please…try to keep in mind that its a different animal then a snare or pad. And that teaching drummers rudiments alone is an error.

So below I have just outlined a quick summary of things to keep in mind if drumset is your bag.

  1. When I was a kid, the Great Murray Spivak once told me the function of rudiments in the best way I have ever heard. “Rudiments are a series of fingerings used to create textures.” – Now that hit me like a ton of bricks since I was a major gun-ho rudimental drum corps fan and marched in High School. Haha. I love Drum corp still but….Rudiments are not the be all end all in drumming. They help you in certain areas but “Actual technique” is not only in the sequences. (LLRR etc) The motions are of utmost importance on the kit to deliver phrasing.
  2. The drumset is a massive beast of an instrument. When you open your horizons to world music (Jazz, Afro-Cuban etc etc etc) you will see that it demands its own type of technique studies on top of what you might know already. It doesn’t end with rlrrlrll!
  3. Rhythm is sadly very much ignored in many cultures. And in others it dominates. Try to find a mixture and don’t get caught up in drumming trends.
  4. Always put music ahead in your list of priorities and don’t implode into your own instrument. In your basement or practice room alone you will never achieve musicianship. That requires that you go out and play with people.

A combination of many factors makes a great drummer. Then after that you have…musician. Which involves a whole other set of factors.

I will update this as more things occur to me but for now…keep playing.

All the best



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