Origin of the paradiddle and its original use

Duracell

Senior Member
There's something I've been wondering for a while now. What is the origin of the paradiddle and what was it's use? As drum-set players we use the paradiddle, and rudiments derived from it to get around the kit in interesting ways and to play interesting rhythms. However, the paradiddle predates the kit. So what's the use of a paradiddle on a single surface, like a snare drum? My guess is that the paradiddle was invented simply to play faster. I can play accented paradiddles faster than the equivalent single stroke roll. The singles in a paradiddle allow for a strong accent, whilst the doubles allow for speed. I'm not sure about this though, so can anyone back me up on this?
 
M

Mike_In_KC

Guest
I believe the origin of all drum rudiments comes from communication methods used by military organizations. The drummer would play a rudiment, for example a paradiddle and the soliders knew that meant chow time, or time to suit up, etc etc. My teacher told me the origin of TAPS came from a beat that was played to tell the bartenders to shut down the taps. Cool stuff and I am curious to hear how close I am to being right! :)

MM
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
From the lads at Wiki.

The origin of snare rudiments can be traced back to Swiss mercenaries armed with long polearms. The use of pikes in close formation required a great deal of coordination. The sound of the tabor was used to set the tempo and communicate commands with distinct drumming patterns. These drumming patterns became the basis of the snare drum rudiments.
The first written rudiment goes back to the year 1612 in Basel, Switzerland.[1] The cradle of rudimental drumming is said to be France, where professional drummers became part of the King's honour guard in the 17th and 18th centuries. The craft was perfected during the reign of Napoleon I. Le Rigodon is one of the cornerstones of modern rudimental drumming.[1]
There have been many attempts to formalize a standard list of snare drum rudiments. The National Association of Rudimental Drummers, an organization established to promote rudimental drumming, put forward a list of 13 essential rudiments, and later a second set of 13 to form the original 26. The Percussive Arts Society reorganized the first 26 and added another 14 to form the current 40 International Drum Rudiments.[when?] Currently, the International Association of Traditional Drummers is working to once again promote the original 26 rudiments.[citation needed]
Today there are four main Rudimental Drumming cultures: Swiss Basler Trommeln, Scottish Pipe Drumming, American Ancient Drumming, and American Modern Drumming.[citation needed]
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I believe the origin of all drum rudiments comes from communication methods used by military organizations. The drummer would play a rudiment, for example a paradiddle and the soliders knew that meant chow time, or time to suit up, etc etc. My teacher told me the origin of TAPS came from a beat that was played to tell the bartenders to shut down the taps. Cool stuff and I am curious to hear how close I am to being right! :)

MM
True, but that doesn't answer the OP's question.

A paradidle played on a single surface should sound the same as a single stroke roll.

A listener off in the distance would not be able to tell the difference between the drummer playing R-L-R-L-R-L-R-L or R-L-R-R-L-R-L-L.

I'd suspect the purpose would be for a drummer to get used to playing on the down beat with either hand, which comes into play when playing a phrase that involves an odd-numbered amount of notes (for example, playing as series of 5 strokes rolls).
 

wsabol

Gold Member
Part of it may be for show/looks...

If you watch colonial parades you'll see that accents and technique sometimes have really exaggerated motions - especially the bass drum technique. Inserting the double stroke at the end of 4 16th notes gives your other arm time to wind up a nice flamboyant accent. Parades were big deal and making it as much of a spectacle as possible was probably high on the leader's priority list.

Also, while two beats of 16ths notes, no matter the sticking, will sound the same to a distant observer, incorporating those exaggerated accents as part of the communication aspect may provide some insight. Seeing R - L - R accents may mean something different to a distant observer than R - R - R.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I was taught that it came about through necessity. How many of you could march all day playing single stroke sixteenth notes with accents on EVERY downbeat? The hand-switching quality of the paradiddle, along with the space of two strokes to wind up for the accent, I imagine would allow for more endurance than a ||: RIGHT left right left :|| pattern...

Besides tradition being taught through word of mouth, does anyone have any references, in print or online, they could mention?
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
My guess is that it kept cadence with the march. Left rll Right lrr Left rll Right lrr. The accents are with the march just like we are trained to do when we first learn paradiddles. Most things back then were created out of necessity and practical application.
 

Souljacker

Silver Member
The teacher I used to have emphasised its usefulness in getting back to the right hand after a fill.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
True, but that doesn't answer the OP's question.

A paradidle played on a single surface should sound the same as a single stroke roll.
An unnaccented roll? Not necessarily. As a rudiment a paradiddle has an accent. As a sticking, as presented in Stick Control for instance, it doesn't necessarily.

The function of a paradiddle is that it allows the accenting hand time to prepare for the accent, which when playing at outdoor volume levels comes in handy. It also looks really nice.

Having watched and heard some Basel style drumming (incl. a trip to the Tattoo this summer) I think some of it may also be in the articulation. They didn't play them with all 4 notes evenly spaced. There's a sort of lilt to it and the diddles sound like a lead-in for the accent. Almost like Pa-ra (miniscule pause) did-dle-Pa-ra...etc. The sticking lends itself more comfortably to this articulation than would single strokes.

In a modern context, Gadd doesn't phrase his paradiddles exactly straight or like his singles and it's part of why, say, Crazy Army sounds the way it does.
 

JohnW

Silver Member
I'm not sure if I can give you a definitive answer as to the origin and function of the paradiddle. I imagine it was to switch the hands and because of the natural accent on the first beat, it kept the lead hand from tiring.

Some trivia to help if you have insomnia:

I have modern copies of Benjamin Clark's Drum Book from 1797 and Charles Stewart Ashworth's A New , Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating from 1812. In both of them, the paradiddle has accents on the first two strokes, RLrr, LRll. In Bruce & Emmett's The Drummers' and Fifers' Guide from 1861 and Gardiner Strube's Drum & Fife Instructor from 1869 (I have a reprint of Strube's list from George Lawrence Stone in his Military Drum Beats for School and Drum Corps 1931- republished 1958) the paradiddle is written as played in modern form; an accent on the first beat: Rlrr, Lrll.

However, in Phillip A. Sousa's The Trumpet and Drum from 1889, the paradiddle is listed with two accents again: RLrr, LRll.

By the time N.A.R.D. came around in 1933 and up through the PAS in 1984 to today, the paradiddle in it's traditional form has just one accent on the first of four strokes: Rlrr, Lrll.

If you want to delve into this type of stuff further, check out Jim Clark's Connecticut’s Fife and Drum Tradition from 2011:
http://www.upne.com/0819571410.html

Or James Blade's Percussion Instruments and their History from 1971. Or if you really want to sleep, but need to find out the importance of drums in during the 18th Century, try Raoul Camus' book Military Music of the American Revolution from 1975.

Boomka- I got to play in the Basel Tattoo in 2012. You must have had a blast last year; I wish I could have gone. One afternoon, before a show, we got to go to a drum work shop with Ivan Kym, a great Basel drummer. Before the workshop, there was a slideshow history tutorial which showed the oldest surviving Basel snare drum from 1571. So who played the first paradiddle and what was it for?
.
Again, I don't have a direct answer but I can send you on hundreds of leads! :)
 
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8Mile

Platinum Member
A musician I work with wants to learn the drums and asked me to show him some things a few weeks ago. When we got to the paradiddle, he asked "Why?" I stopped to think beyond the obvious stuff regarding getting around the drum set and really couldn't answer his question.

I think John W's comment regarding switching the lead hand makes sense. I fancy myself someone with a cursory knowledge of rudimental drumming, but even the experts at the Rudimental Drumming forum don't seem to know. If Rick Beckham can't answer the question, I sure as heck can't.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
AI think John W's comment regarding switching the lead hand makes sense.
In a nutshell mate.

I have no idea what its original military application was, but I do know that my primary use for it on a drum kit (aside from just liking how many of the accents work) is so that I can "get to the other side." It's as good a reason to learn paradiddles as any IMHO.
 

alqx

Junior Member
Switching leads is definitely a very good use of the paradiddle, be it to switch back to the right-hand lead after an alternating triplet/quintuplet, or just to maintain even exertion between both hands to reduce fatigue and have greater endurance as caddywumpus suggested.

I was wondering if another reason might be that a paradiddle (as opposed to alternating single strokes) was better for playing accents because it gave more space before the accenting stroke to pull the stick up and gather height/power for the stronger accent. This would probably help if you needed to keep taps really low and light while having strong accents at the same time.

As illustrated below:
Accents are in bold, underline indicates the time allowed to pull-up before each accent.

Alternating single strokes:
R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R L R
There is only the space of one left-tap between each right-tap and it's subsequent right-accent.

Paradiddles:
R L R R L R L L R L R R L R L L R
There is the space of two left-taps (right-taps) between each right-tap (left-tap) and it's subsequent right-accent (left-accent).

EDIT:
I realise that Boomka has already pointed this out.
The function of a paradiddle is that it allows the accenting hand time to prepare for the accent, which when playing at outdoor volume levels comes in handy. It also looks really nice.
 

Wavelength

Platinum Member
Could it have something to do with its close relation to the alternating open ruff? The paradiddle is like a "slurred" interpretation of the single drag tap.
 

pocketpool92

Junior Member
THe paradiddle is an extremely useful rudiment. The original name is hard to decipher, perhaps para was derived from "pair of" and double was turned into diddle. More importantly, the original use I'm thinking was probably to switch leads, which is why it is so helpful. But playing grooves with right hand on the hi hats and left hand on the snare are really fun too.
 

Duracell

Senior Member
Thanks for the interesting and very helpful replies all! Now I have another topic to talk about at jam sessions...
 
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