In practical music exams, as well as performing prepared pieces there's also a section on scales and arpeggios. In the lower brass grades for example you might have to prepare two or three major scales, a minor scale (choice of melodic/harmonic/natural) and arpeggios, and be able to play them tongued or slurred.

As you advance through the grades, you're eventually expected to be able to play all major and minor scales, diminished sevenths, dominant sevenths, and be able to play them faster than in the early grades.

So there's an acknowledged list of harmonic rudiments that musicians are expected to master as they progress through the grades.

My question is - is there a list of rhythmic rudiments that players of non-percussion instruments should be expected to master? For instance, most people are Ok playing triplets, i.e. three eighth-notes in the time of two eighth notes. But what about playing four eighth notes in the time of five? Or playing sevens against nines, or whatever.

What would be a good list of rhythmic rudiments to have mastered? Or does the fact that it doesn't appear in music exams mean it's not a useful skill to acquire?

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    Interesting. Maybe not deemed so important as a lot of music is in more standard timing, and the unusual ones are, well, unusual. With percussion, there's probably more need for these sort of questions in exams to fill the large space where little or no harmonic/melodic stuff could go. Have you checked out LCM., Trinity, ABRSM syllabi? – Tim Aug 20 '18 at 12:36
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    This depends on the instrument. On a monophonic instrument like brass, playing "triplets" should not be a big deal - after all, you are expected to be able to play in 6/8 time as well as in 4/4. On the hand, keyboard players often need to play three notes with one hand in the same time as two (or four) notes with the other hand, which is more like the skill that a drummer needs to demonstrate. (And advanced keyboard players need to be able to play "three notes against two" with all the notes in one hand, while the other hand is playing another different rhythm!) – user19146 Aug 20 '18 at 13:48
  • @Brian I could, as a percussionist, advise you to take a look the way G.L.Stone organized percussion exercises between his three books, especially paying attention to the third, "Mallet Control", in which his idea about gaining "stick control" is transfered to a melodic instrument, in particular, the xylophone. – Hatebit Nov 30 '18 at 15:58
  • Many thanks for the suggestion Agnes. Would you post an actual answer, giving some idea of the exercises as they increase in complexity? I tried looking for the book you suggested, but I cannot find any site that lets me preview page content. – Brian THOMAS Dec 1 '18 at 16:35
  • There's also the most universal exercise, so banal, it might skip anybody's mind: play progressively: 1 nps (note-per-second), 2 nps, 3 nps, 4 nps, 5 nps, 6 nps, 7 nps, 8 nps, 9 nps - and back down. It's actually all about primes and antiprimes. 4=2x2, 6=2x3, 3x2, 8=2x4, 9=3x3 (Messiaen would disagree). After nine, things stabilise, e.g. 10=2x5, 11=messiaen, 12=2x6, 3x4, 13=messiaen, 14=2x7, 15=3x5 (this IS a tricky one though), 16=4x4, 17=messiaen, 18=2x9 (tricky), 19=messiaen, 20=2x10, 21=3x7, and you get the idea. Which is, you can always simplify. Unless it's the french. Then you're stuck. – Hatebit Oct 14 '19 at 12:50

I really wish there were better sources for this.

I made a few of my own for the lack of existing sources.

This may not be exactly what you want, but I took these two concepts as my point of departure:

  • metric level
  • rhythmic unit

Both are explained at Wikipedia's Rhythm page.

Metric level

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Rhythmic unit

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My attempt to combine these two was...

enter image description here

...my intent is to use these for playing on the piano. Of course, it just my own creation. I don't claim these are The rudiments.


Here's a rough idea from Mallet Control (George Lawrence Stone).
FIRST SET diationic major scale, 4 quavers per note
do do do do re re re re
up/down, repeat in all keys, 20x per key
SECOND SET dia. maj., 4 q's/8 semi-q's alternating per note
do do do do rererererererere
THIRD SET same stuff, except alternating notes between quavers and connected (slurred) "rolls" (free reps of single note), and non-connected "rolls"
do do do do rerrrrrrrrrrrrrmi mi mi mi...
do do do do rerrrrrrrrrrrr' mi mi mi mi...
FOURTH SET ("short roll groups")
dododo * rerere *
in grps of 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 notes, SEMI-quavers
FIFTH SET ("dia.scale progs, major and minor")
quavers do re mi * do re mi * progressively adding scale notes, up/down, i.e.
do si la sol do si la sol up to full scale

and so on. Of other interest to you may be:

Grace notes, dia.maj.
quavers doMI doMI reFA reFA...
doMI reFA miSOL...
miDO miDO faRE faRE...
doreDO remiRE mifaMI...
sollasiDO * lasidoRE *...
domisolDO * refalaRE *...
dosolmiDO * relafaRE *...

quavers do do mi do re re fa re...
quavers do do do do re do do do mi do do do...
quavers do do do do re do do do mi do do do...
same as previous but chromatically

in a similar manner (permutations such as)
do do do re re re...
do re mi re mi fa... <<< this one kills it
do si do re do re... <<< this one too
do mi sol re fa la...
do do do re do do do si do do mi do do la do do fa do do...
(same as above but chromatic)
do mi mi re fa fa ...
do mi do re fa re...
do sol do re la re...

min. with added six
semi-quavers do mi(b) sol la do mi(b) sol la... mi(b) sol la do mi(b) sol la do...
in a similar manner, augmented fifth, dominant seventh

NOTE: Adapt to problems particular to your instrument, of course

I hope you get some idea ;)

Now, practice flying Dodo in GTAIII. xD

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    @Brian tell me if you want some comparison with standard drum rudiments. My attitude is that everyone could draw some conclusions from percussionist drum rudiments. These you can probably find online, they are kept "relevant" by the Percussive Arts Society, I believe, but they are just exercises. Note that in GL Stone's books, a lot of material is just hand permutations, because hand dexterity is the main problem. However, your point about playing something over something else ryhtmically is usually practised by percussionist as well, and it essentially boils down to feeling the accent. – Hatebit Dec 10 '18 at 18:20

I am a student of the banjo. My instructor taught me a series of lessons from Ted Reed's famous "Syncopation - Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer".

Although the lessons are intended for drum, they work fine for a melodic instrument. The idea is to play a scale using the rhythm in the lesson. Or, if the rhythm is vexing, even play just a single note until the rhythm is mastered, and then go back to playing scales.

The first half of the book is all non-syncopated rhythms starting with the very simplest rhythms and increasing in complexity; the second half of the book introduces syncopated rhythms which increase in complexity with each lesson.

Each lesson is in two parts. The first part is repetitive, with each line repeating the same rhythm, for skill building. The second part is not repetitive; it mixes up the rhythms introduced in the first part. This is for practicing sight reading of rhythm.

Standard musical notation is used throughout--there's nothing in the notation that is specific to the drum.

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