Freddie Gruber: Is It Necessary to Know Drum Rudiments?

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
SKF NOTE: Excerpted from my late 1983 or early 1984 interview with Freddie Gruber. I don’t know how much, if any, of this excerpt is in Modern Drummer’s Focus on Teachers interview, but this excerpt differs in one respect. These are Freddie’s words verbatim. The MD interview was somewhat edited. // This exchange took place at Buddy Rich’s kitchen table in Buddy’s New York City apartment.



Scott K Fish: Is it necessary to know the rudiments?

Freddie Gruber: Let’s ally it to other instruments. You wouldn’t want somebody to learn the piano or the violin and have them sit down and start to play parts from a Stravinsky octet or something. It’s just ridiculous. He has to learn touch and control so he doesn’t abuse his instrument. He has to really get familiar with the instrument to the point where he can really make some music. And there has to be some way, or means, for arriving at these objectives.

So, these other instruments have histories. There are many valid persons playing piano or violin, throughout the centuries, who’ve established very valid approaches to the development of the correct way of playing those instruments. It’s up to the individual to get to the point where he sings his own song, and expresses what the composer had in mind.

They have scales. So, let’s call the rudiments the scales of the drums.

If the person is that much of a beginner, you need something. He has to use his hands. He has to make a tap-tap of some kind. You have to start somewhere. There are only so many combinations before he starts to get rhythmically inventive.

If he’s that rhythmically inventive, and he’s that fluid on his instrument, why have a dialogue with him to begin with? That is, unless it’s some particular thing that he’s expressing is a hang-up, and you’re working on a specific with a guy who’s a pro. And I do that with alot of people.

But, in general, yes, the rudiments are the scales of our instrument. They can be deleted, or creatively utilized, or thrown away and dismissed in total, later on. This is the decision of the individual player. He has option on this as he grows and develops. Nobody can make comment on that. It’s his choice.

You don’t have a person come to you, to achieve and grow with you, and have a joint venture student/teacher relationship, by showing him what you do. That invalidates the whole venture.

You show him a way to get to do what he wishes to do to express himself. To be able to play all that he can hear and feel – as fluidly as possible. And then be as sympathetic as he can to the people he’s playing with.

-end-

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
this is what I live by as an instructor of music .... right here ... 100%

"You don’t have a person come to you, to achieve and grow with you, and have a joint venture student/teacher relationship, by showing him what you do. That invalidates the whole venture.

You show him a way to get to do what he wishes to do to express himself. To be able to play all that he can hear and feel – as fluidly as possible. And then be as sympathetic as he can to the people he’s playing with."
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
As a person who has never taken a lesson in my 20+ years of drumming, I like that a drum legend like Freddie acknowledges that its all about the individuals journey more than some strict regimen that must be adhered to. I can see what he is saying about the rudiments being a good way to introduce the instrument to new players. That makes a lot of sense. I wish I had that introduction. I learned by watching others and beating on things until it sounded right. Kind of the Buzz Osborne school of though. Make up your own sound, and when that sound matches the one in your head, you have succeeded.

I think the drums are a little different than other instruments in that there really is no high-water mark if you will. As a pianist you may be able to play a Mozart piece perfectly and beautifully and others will acknowledge that you are a great piano player. As a drummer what is that equivalent? When you can play Tom Sawyer perfectly? I don't think people know what makes a good drummer. They just know one when they hear it.
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
I think if I'd learned rudiments as a kid, I'd be a lot better player today. After 40+ yr. I'm just now learning the dbl. and triple stroke rolls. Lol. I didn't have any self discipline though, so it may not have helped.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I've also never taken formal lessons, but have never been shy about picking other drummer's brains over the more than three decades since I started playing in earnest - so I would feel like I was misrepresenting myself if I tried to claim to being self-taught.

But I think I remember reading there were something like 26 rudiments. I really couldn't tell you what most of them are, but I'm pretty sure I'm using a fair number of them anyway. Singles, doubles, 5-strokes, 7-strokes, flams, flam taps ... those are the ones that I use the most, and often as hybrids. I also use a fair amount of triplets, and 5 groupings, though I don't know what they're called (quintuplets?). Probably the single rudiment I see other drummers practice the most - paradiddles - I almost never use despite being one of the first ones I learned, although I suppose it's possible I'm using them more than I think. It seems to me their biggest benefit is in getting that double-stroke to smooth out as if it were a straight single stroke. There are ways to get fragments of them in musically, but at some point they get so modified that they stop being that rudiment.

My own little opinion FWIW, is that there isn't really a strong parallel to be drawn between rudiments and scales. It's not a very strong or apt comparison, and upon dissection, actually weakens the argument to learn and practice rudiments.

In the last year or two, I've been playing far more bass and guitar than drums, and while I've always been ambivalent about studying and working on rudiments, I've felt no such reluctance when it comes to learning and practicing scales.

Scales are absolutely crucial (for the type of player I want to be) and there's just no getting around it. I've played with far too many players over the years and witnessed first-hand the massive limitation that happens when a muso doesn't know their scales. Try having a jam session with a couple hacks who can't identify what key they're in, or the corresponding chord tones and you'll quickly feel what it's like being wedged hard in the ditch right outta the gate. It's practically impossible to get two musicians on the same page in real time without having that common language down. And that's before any of the common rhythmic considerations where we as drummers have overlap with them. But that said, many of those players were still very good at what they did (usually as composers, oddly enough), one isn't automatically a "nothing" without, but it makes it extremely difficult to make timely progress in a collaborative band setting.

Drums simply don't have a "scale" equivalent. If there's any comparison to be made between drums and guitar or bass, it's in the picking hand and getting those rhythmic pieces sorted out.

Sorry for the nitpick, and I really do agree that it's the job of the good teacher to equip the student to express themselves as they see fit in whatever musical path they choose to take.
 
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