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I keep hearing that rudiments are the building blocks of drumming. How do you create drum fills and solos out of rudiments?

They say they're made from rudiments, are they ALL made from nothing but rudiments? Are rudiments the only way to compose them?

How do you know what drums to play the rudiments on and in which order? Is it really just random? It cant be. There has to be some music theory or compositional rules that dictate what can or can't be done and how but I can't find them anywhere.

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2 Answers 2

Rudiments are just the different basic sequences. You can play them in any order, but you will find some work well and some sound less good.

As with many aspects of music, it comes down to what you think sounds good. It is not random, but depends on what you are trying to do.

Your best plan is to listen to drummers you really like and learn their fills and solos - this will give you a natural feel for what you can do with the various rudiments.

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In the same way you'd compose any other passage of music, but ignore the elements of harmony and melody. Although, as with a lot of sound art or noise composition, you can write something with the 'idea' of melody but without precise pitches. Do you want your fill to ascend in pitch, or descend?

Think like this:

  • rhythm: Are there any distinctive rhythms in your piece you could re-use here? Make it seem more like a part of the overall piece?
    • Dynamics: Is your music loud at this point? Is it getting louder, or quieter. Do you want the fill to be winding down to a quiet point, or get louder and 'drop off'
    • Syncopation: Don't forget, this is a chance to feature your drummer's technical ability, try out some distinct rhythms, pick out some beats, try throwing in triplets or look up some latin rhythms.
    • Ending: Will your fill end, say, on a cymbal, letting it's sound over-hang into the next part, or end suddenly.
    • Feel: Is this a short drum solo? Or a part of the overall rhythmic feel, are you expecting, say, vocals or a solo instrument to be heard at the same time? If so, don't take the focus away from these.

These are all general rules which also apply to other parts of composition, always ask yourself questions about what you want to compose.

It's also worth remembering that most drummers do a lot of work without precise scores and would be perfectly happy to see an empty bar with 'drum fill' written over the top, it really depends how much you want to specify (also, if you have to, if this is a school or college composing project, specify every drum hit).

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Also worth noting with drum fills is that you don't have to hit every semiquaver, you can get more effect by leaving gaps than by making a constant attack on the kit. –  AJFaraday Jul 16 at 9:15

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