Rudiment Builders

This page concerns itself with rudiments that are not doublestroke rolls… these exercises mainly cover singlestroke, paradiddle, flam, and hybrid applications.

Check Yo’Self (Paradiddle-Diddle exercise) uses simple diddle figures to prepare your ears to listen for inconsistencies in paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles. It’s a very simple exercise, but it should make your bad habits really apparent. It’s all right hand lead, so be sure to rehearse this one off the left.


Drag Control runs through some different interpretations of the tap drag and flam drag rudiments to build mastery over doublestroke attacks and spacings. The main idea is that “if you can do it wrong, then you can do it right.” By exploring some extremes of how a rhythm can be incorrect, you learn to hear and feel the difference between correct and incorrect attacks and spacings.

I pulled this exercise off the cutting room floor of the NC State Drumline exercise packet… I recently found a very early handwritten draft that included several exercises which, despite not making the cut, are actually quite versatile and worthy of study. This exercises was probably not included because the Tap Five builder covers the same ideas and then some. The slurred tap drags in measure 2 are not intuitively easy to read, so it was easy enough to work on different tap drag variations by rote, and leave the Tap Five builder as the thing people needed to read, prepare, and use to develop fulcrum awareness. For more rudimental interp exercises like this, check out Rudiment Control.


Flam Taps ‘09 was incorporated into a larger ensemble warm-up performed by the NC State Drumline, but it is a neat little exercise on its own. It is built like a straightforward flam-taps builder, but it starts with the nonlead hand in order to create a driving upbeat feel that gives the hugadigs (three-note series on the same hand) a sense of urgency and a need for precision.


Invert Motion works on inverted flam taps—with an optional cheese invert variation—by contextualizing the rudiment with other rudiments that have the same one-handed breakdown: the “invert motion” (two taps followed by a quick upstroke to an accented third note). Pataflaflas and same-handed flam paradiddles have the same one-handed breakdown, although the precise timing of the three notes will vary with the taps’ role as either grace notes or proper taps (within the rhythmic grid).

I pulled this exercise off the cutting room floor of the NC State Drumline exercise packet… I recently found a very early handwritten draft that included several exercises which, despite not making the cut, are actually quite versatile and worthy of study. This exercise was ultimately thrown out in favour of one that focuses more on filling in the breakdowns of the inverted flam tap rudiment; however, the idea for juxtaposing rudiments that have the same one-handed breakdown as each other formed the basis of the Off-Hand Control chapter in the Rudiment Control packet.


We Got 2 Kinds of Threes compares the hugadig rudiment (one-handed breakdown of a flam-tap) with the triplebeat rudiment (where all three strokes are attacked in the same way). The goal is to challenge your application of fulcrum/finger assistance and efficient use of wrist turn and rebound. Confronting the dramatic contrasts that manifest in the pairing of these two approaches will help you to build better habits for the application of good fundamentals.


Chugga-Chugga-Wuggas is an introduction to some fun flam, flam-tap, and inverted flam-tap combinations that can function as hybrid rudiments. They require a great deal of control, finesse, and advanced flam fundamentals, where raw chops have to meet mature touch awareness. Enjoy!


Place The Grace 1 is a flams builder that challenges you to experiment with grace-note placement by starting with a rhythmic grid, altering the timing of the rhythmic grid, transitioning to true flams, tightening to flat flams, and ultimately settling on a true flam interpretation.


Place The Grace 2 is a flams builder that challenges you to keep a consistent pulse on one hand while the other hand plays isolated taps that either serve to fill in the rhythm, to create true flams, or to create flat flams.


Waltz mainly works on paradiddles, using different variations to draw your attention to the various mechanical demands of the rudiment. Additional variations open the door to numerous new possibilities to test your accent-tap fundamentals and fulcrum control.


Nine on a Hand (Flam Drag Builder) is similar to Eighteen on a Hand (directly below), but it focuses on the distinction between taps and grace notes while drawing your attention to different features of the flam drag rudiment. Ideally, grace notes are played from the tacet height in order to create the best sounding flams possible; i.e., the grace note does not speak as powerfully as the taps or diddles. This approach is the flams equivalent of “doublestrokes consist of two equal attacks.” While the ideal will not always be feasible, understanding it and being able to apply it where it is reasonably achievable will improve your execution across the range of rudimental contexts.


Eighteen on a Hand (Paradiddle-diddle Builder) is a twist on the traditional 8 on a Hand. By adding a huckadig (one-handed breakdown of a paradiddle-diddle) to the measure of legatos, this exercise opens the door to many great variations for combining and refining doublestroke and accent-tap fundamentals, in service of building excellent paradiddle-diddles. It is a simple concept, but there is a lot that you can do with it.


Odd Singles consists of variations to the classic 7/8 Singles exercise. The variations change the beat-long into into something subtly slower or faster than the sixteenth-note triplets that set it up.


Herta Henry is a fun singlestroke and herta étude that is a lot more challenging than it looks. You will have to mind what I call the “herta paradox”: hertas consist simply of legatos on one hand and doubles on the other hand, but putting them together in the herta rhythm mysteriously creates a tendency to unnecessarily tense up on both figures in order to achieve correct timing. The skeleton variation will give you a benchmark of how the as-written exercise should feel if you are truly relaxed.

To see this piece performed, check out the YouTube Video!


Smoooves is a simple pattern for fitting five-note rudiments into a juxtaposition between sixteenth notes and fivelets. Included are some example rudiments that are well-suited t this pattern, as well as some accent variations to play around with. Despite all the effort changes involved, keep it smooth!

For a short lesson on this exercise, check out the YouTube Video!


Ready to reef some fast beats? Painkillers presents three variations for pushing your speed and relaxation at the same time, with fours, paradiddles, and singlestroke rolls. The demand eases up as the exercise goes on, but you should not take that as an excuse to lose quality or precision. The pattern is inspired by the drumming of Scott Travis on the ripping opener of Judas Priest's 1990 Painkiller album.


I came up with Movin' Diddles during a hack session in Saint-Faustin–Lac-Carré, QC, on a summer road trip I took to the Atlantic provinces of Canada. While I may not be the first to formulate this grid, I have not seen it anywhere else. It starts with double paradiddles and moves the doublestroke backwards through the rudiment, creating a challenge for maintaining strong and precise doublestrokes and relaxed accents as the spaces between doublestrokes, taps, and accents vary.


Movin’ Mills is a simply-created grid that makes for a lot of weirdness with the hands. Get picky about your grace note placement and get comfortable with the stickings… then speed things up and try to keep everything nice and relaxed. I dare you!


Floppy Ernie was written for the 2015 Weber State Indoor Percussion snare line in order to counter bad tendencies with technique on paradiddle-diddle figures: particularly, the tendency to achieve the second note of the doublestroke with a very weak bounce as you lift the lead hand for the next accent. Players with this tendency look "floppy" on paradiddle and paradiddle-diddle figures, and there is a lot of uncertainty in second-note timing on the doublestrokes. 

The doublestroke should consist of two powerful taps (even if the tempo precludes the use of two equivalent wrist turns) that occur completely before the upstroke for the accents. This exercise aims to establish the approach by starting with bucks (focus on a strong tap before the upstroke) before adding diddles that are more closed (requiring more fulcrum pressure) than the ones in the paradiddle-diddles. As the doublestrokes open up from the 16th-note diddles to the paradiddle-diddles, you should be able to apply more wrist turn to the doublestrokes, leading to a more deliberate rhythm, as well as the follow through to finish the doublestroke before worrying about upstroking to the next accent.


Sloppy Jessee was written for the 2015 Weber State Indoor Percussion snare line, initially to work on two-accent paradiddles. The rudiment does not appear in music especially often, but this will still be a beneficial exercise to work on for the control over doublestroke quality and accent-tap contrast it can facilitate. The challenge added by the second accent is that each hand must upstroke quickly after playing a low doublestroke. This challenge is like what appears in paradiddle-diddles; however, paradiddle-diddles have a longer space between the doublestroke and the following accent. 

So a figure that looks fairly trivial on paper ends up looking (and sounding) sloppy in practice, because the demand for an open and legato second accent interferes with the demand for a low and well-timed doublestroke. Having the control to realize a quality doublestroke, an aggressive upstroke, and then a relaxed and legato accent (without doing unnecessary work or adding unnecessary tension to your grip) will pay off across a range of rudimental contexts.


Huevos Huackos is an eggbeater exercise that works the rudiment in the context of straight 16th-notes before adding 5:4 and 5:3 tuplets and ultimately throwing in backsticks. 

Backsticks in eggbeaters are a little tricky, but they can be a lot of fun. The secret is to relax the left-hand fulcrum (where you clamp the stick in the web of the hand between the thumb and forefinger) and let the stick slide out a little bit, so that your fulcrum consists more of the actual thumb and forefinger gripping the stick. This allows you to still get the diddles with the bead of the stick while being able to flip to the butt and engage the back fulcrum to get two quality backsticks. Backsticked diddles generally require a back-fulcrum approach, because the front fulcrum doesn't have enough stick in front of it to get a good rebound. By moving the fulcrum for the non-backsticked diddles, you make it easier to make a quick switch to that back fulcrum to get diddles with both grips.


Take a look at the fulcrums for backsticked diddles


Grace-Notes Under Pressure is an alternative to hardcore gridding as a means of getting comfortable with different grace-note and diddle combinations. It's a basic 7/4 pattern with a systematic walkthrough of flam and drag combinations. The juxtaposition of flam-paradiddle variations with flam-accent variations should challenge you to stay loose and relaxed as you add the "ornaments" (grace-notes and diddles) with variable amounts of fulcrum pressure.


Chocolate Mitchells 2015 was written for a specific context of show music, hence the overly-specific height definitions when the different rudiments are all put together. "Chocolate Mitchells" were our name for the rudiment you get when a paradiddle or paradiddle-diddle figure gets an extra note that is accented, and it is filled into the same amount of space. Mitchell Barnard wrote quite a few of these figures for WSIP's 2015 production, so we used this exercise to build the rudiment and then apply it to the musical context.


2/28 Spree is a spree that I wrote with the help of the WSIP 2015 snare line after a particularly brutal visual block. I wanted to keep the performers off their feet, so we hashed out this piece using sticks on a carpeted floor, and it turned into something quite cool. So here is the WSIP 2015 snare line spree.


Hucka Dig Deep is a fulcrum teaser that challenges your mastery of diddle speed control.  Varying diddle speeds as well as varying spaces available for upstrokes will expose your shortcomings in the complicated marriage of accent/tap fundamentals and doublestroke fundamentals that paradiddle rudiments demand.


Cheese-5-Gritty is an exercise for building precision and consistency with flam-fives... and getting down to the nitty gritty of flam-fives. It focuses on the second diddle releasing on an eighth-note upbeat and works on the slight contrast between grace-note height (tacet height, or "1/2 inch") and tap height (often called "3 inches"). While achieving this contrast is infeasible as tempo increases, it is an important ideal to understand, build on, and strive for. 

The analogy I use is that, with doublestrokes, we strive for two completely equal motions at slower tempi, even though that becomes infeasible as tempo increases.  And even at the quicker tempi, by thinking about those two equal motions and getting more sound out of the second note, we get more doublestroke quality without actually reaching that ideal of "two equal motions". Flams are the same way. Oftentimes, by simply thinking about that grace-note being "underneath" the taps, we control it just that little bit more to get it low enough and early enough to create a good-sounding flam.


Flam Factorial is something to work on flam/cheese inverts in a fun way. As you walk down the number of notes in a bar, the even-time bars have inverts, and the odd-time bars just alternate hands. There is a strong tendency to approach accents and diddles differently when you're having to upstroke quickly, versus when you're playing comfortable, alternating sticking patterns. 

There's an extra layer of difficulty, too, in throwing inverted flam-taps or cheeses into an otherwise open and comfortable check pattern... a lot of invert exercises (Susie, for example) allow you to maintain a base level of tension in your hands without noticing how it affects tap sound quality, because it's a lot of inverted flam combinations. Throwing contiguous taps in between the cheese inverts should open your ears to how much the invert motion can cause tension that distorts the tap sound and diddle quality.


Lead-Dubs Chuggada is an exercise inspired by the 5/8 Chuggada which runs through three rudiments that all have [roughly] the same lead-hand breakdown: Swiss triplet, off-hand Swiss w/ kick, and hertas. The idea is that most of the brain-work happens with the off-hand, although there is slight variation in timing and stick height with the double-beats on the lead hand as well.


Not Hugadigs works on three-beat series that are not hugadigs (the one-handed breakdown of a flam-tap): i.e., the strict accent-to-tap (Rrr) and tap-to-accent (rrR) figures that are the breakdowns of pataflaflas, inverted flam taps, and accented single-stroke figures.


Grace Note Control requires that the lead hand in a series of same-handed flams crescendo or decrescendo, while the grace-note hand remain steady. This is a very challenging exercise that requires a great deal of control over grace note placement.


Ratama-Who? juxtaposes different accent patterns of paradiddle-diddles with their ratamacue analogues. Have fun with it!