: : : Lessons : : The French military drum rudiments

Napoleonic grenadier drummer The rudiments are the techniques or "micro-phrases" that are the basis for military drum compositions (or snare drum).

Most are undatable and emerged over centuries of practice of anonymous military drumming, in Europe, and probably at the start medieval court musicians, "troubadours" or other "baladins", travelling musicians, as evidenced by the imagery of the time (but they often played with a stick in one hand and a flute in the other, which is in opposition to the principle of the rudiments). Oral transmission of these rudiments was the rule in the army (the drum was "beaten" to walk ("marcher", in French, hence the word "march") in pace in the infantry, consisting of "commoners", "soldiers", non-literate), except for a few scores for instructors (as the "Instruction pour les tambours" ("instruction for the drums") 1754, in France). Some think they are of Swiss origin, because the oldest European military use is Swiss (XVth century, initially for the march of pikemen and halberdiers mercenaries' battalions). Yet Thoinot Arbeau, a Frenchman, has written scores (with music notes and onomatopoeia) of drums of the French army in "Orchésographie" already in 1588, making it the first written drum method in the world. In addition, the drumming was played with two sticks long ago by the Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian and Turkish, the latter bringing their military practice in Europe (Ottoman Janissaries), already since the Capture of Constantinople in 1453.

While Genghis Khan was already using the drum in the army, the "naccaras" (ancestors of classical timpani ("timbales" in French)), at the side of dromedary (one on each side, for balance, hence the pair of timpani), to signal riders ambushes, its inconvenient use should be simple and without rebounds, which are typical of the rudiments, and without trying to "pace" (the cavalry of the "Garde Républicaine" ("Republican Guard" in France) created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, will adopt the horse timpani following this model, but Louis XIV had also adopted them, which requires a particularly difficult horses dressage, but also accustomed them to the sounds of rifle or cannon shots).

Since 1515, following the victory against the Swiss Army at Marignano, François Premier (Francis first of France) integrates Swiss battalions and their drums in the French army (first use of drums in the French army).

The Swiss, as in almost all armies in the world, yet also have specific national rudiments because the function of the rudiments was also to distinguish nationalities by ear on the battlefield, or even a specific regiment for the most prestigious (which was supposed to frighten the enemy, the more complex rudiments being naturally reserved for elite regiments (the most experienced), such as the "grognards" ("Grunts"), veterans of the Napoleonic "Old Guard" (photo: Napoleonic grenadier drummer, engraving of that time)). On the opposite, the rudiments were also kept secret and different (or with different meanings) for each nationality to prevent the enemy recognizing the orders here musically given (hence the multiplication of different "retreat marches" (called "variations") and types of rudiments used under Napoleon Bonaparte and again oral teaching). Hence the expression "tambour d'ordonnance" ("ordering drum") which was also used to punctuate the life in the military camps ("réveil" ("Wake Up"), "Assembly" (troops), "general" (call to arms), and even "supper" or "curfew" for some countries or ceremonies such as funerals, prayer or even entertainment as the "Rigodon d'honneur" ("Rigodon of Honor") of the grognards, "drumming of the highest difficulty" according to Robert Tourte, using juggling with stick ("stick tricks") inserted in the rudiments). In fact, each regiment had its own song accompanied by drum to be able to find themselves by ear during the night marches, but most of them have never been written (especially the drums part) and fell into oblivion. Some historians also believe that musicians soldiers accompanied the songs of their region and their time in the evening in the camps, for entertaining, which lets imagine the possible variety of rudiments and compositions used which then should be improvised (we are already not very far from jazz, as it is known that popular music, folk, anywhere in the world, has always practiced more or less improvised accompaniment of familiar songs and to encourage dance, not just for walking, which naturally leads to more syncopated and fancy rhythms typical of jazz drumming).

The rudiments also now serve as the technical basis for performing all kinds of melodies on the modern drumset (with pedals), whatever the style. Indeed, all the rudiments first answer to purely logical and non-cultural considerations (in opposition to African, Brazilian and Cuban percussion phrases) which gives them an universalizing character, applicable to any instrument (obviously other percussion (first the Latin timbales, which are also played with wooden sticks) but also melodic instruments (tuned)). Any good drummer should know them at least in theory, even if he does not fully control them in practice.

Note that the basic principles of military drumming are:

1: The two-handed play: it implies that all these exercises are transposable for to two limbs in general, for the modern drumset. Examples: inversion of the hands, right foot and left hand, right foot and right hand, only the feet, etc.).

2: the rhythm (illusion of play with one hand), which is why it is recommended as a first step, to attempt to strike with the same strength with each hand on a snare drum (or a "practice pad"). This is a difficult exercise at the biginning, not only for reasons of coordination, but because the guiding ("right") hand is necessarily more muscuclar and controllable than the other. You must therefore acustom yourself to compensate this difference by a greater attention to the left hand and a more "forced" stroke with this same hand.

Finally, all these rudiments, originally coming from oral transmission, corresponds to a very specific vocabulary (jargon, different in French and American most of the time (I quote the two when it does exist, and quote here all French rudiments only, but first in american jargon for this translated page in English), and I'm trying here some litteral original translations too), consisting mainly of onomatopoeia to "sing" drum phrases at a high speed (which may be useful for communication between musicians, the concentration of the drummer, and even in a purely artistic point of view (we know that the Indian tabla players do the same with another vocabulary, which was often used by Trilok Gurtu (Indian tabla and drumset player) and John McLaughlin in improvisation, in concert)). Some of these onomatopoeias entered in common parlance in France: "patatra" (expresses a fall), "flagada" (fatigue), "taratata" (distrust).

Nomenclature (notation key):

  • R: Right hand;
  • L: Left hand;
  • - : Silence (a rest beat).

NB: All this exercises must be played in loop "ad libitum" ("as you want" for the number of repetitions) and start on the first beat of a measure.

1: Single stroke roll ("Frisé" ("friezed") or "coup simple" ( "single stroke") in French, formerly called "bâton rond" ("round stick" or "round wand" )) or "tapatapa" (in French drum singing):
RLRL (etc.);
2: Single stroke rolls with rest (ornamentation by single strokes):
a: single stroke 3 ("3 strokes friezed", binary: commonly sung "tagada" in French):
RLR - ;
b: same with inversion of hands:
RLR - LRL - ;
c: Single stroke 4 (with triplets):
RLRL - - ;
d: Same with inversion:
RLRL - - LRLR - - ;
e: Single stroke 5 (back to binary):
RLRLR - - - ;
3: The double stroke roll ("roulement" ("roll") in french, formerly called "broken stick", "papa-maman" ("daddy-mommy") for its elementary work, slow ("detailed") or designated by an "r " rolled (" Rrrr ") to sing the drum):
4: The "mixed sticks" (literally translated from "bâton mêlé" in french: a single stroke with one hand and a double stroke with the other, alternated with each other, in the same flow (thus asymmetric), used for the "Rigodon d'honneur, divertissement des Grognards dans leur camp" ("Honor Rigodon, Entertainment of the Grunts in their camp"); little appreciated in the French military drumming for its syncopated and asymmetric appearance, the "mixed sticks" will see a revival especially important with the freedom of jazz and syncopated, dancing, African music and all its "descendants": Brazilian, Cuban, "New Orleans", jazz "fusion", etc.):
The most basic, with 3 strokes and in triplet, like in the Napoleonic "Rigodon d'Honneur":
5: The flam ("fla" in French), that is to say an accented stroke by a hand preceded by a stroke with the other hand very close (inspired the shuffle: ta - gata - ga):
R - - LR - - L ;
R - LR - L (silence duration depends on the tempo (speed));
6: "Inverted flam" ("fla inversé" or "flafla" used in fast tempos for the "Pas accéléré" ("Accelarated step") and the "Retraite de pied ferme" ("Firm footing Retreat"), which can also be played in "coups anglais" ("English stroke") by virtuoso drummer):
R - RL - L ;
7: The "Charge stroke" ("coup de charge", the inverse of fla: that is to say, a soft hand stroke after the stroke of the other hand accented: "Tala" or "Pata"):
RL - - RL - - ;
8: The "English stroke" ("coup anglais" or "Langlais", named after his French inventor, but also refers to the "retreat" under Bonaparte (ironically!)) Fla preceded by a single stroke (perhaps the inspiration of swing " chabada "): " tafla "):
a: without hands inversion:
R - - R - L ;
R - - - - - R - L;
with inversion (used in a variation of the "Firm footing retreat" by the Grenadiers de la Garde du Premier Empire ("Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard of the First (French) Empire"), called "inverted flam tap" in American P.A.S. (Percussive Arts Society) rudiments):
R - - L - RL - - R - L ;
9: The "bastard" ("bâtard", "tafla" with double strokes used in the retreat marches of the Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard of the (French) First Empire):
a: starting with the same hand (without inversion, asymmetric):
R - - L - L ;
b: linked with inversion (the typical "flam tap" in American N.A.R.D. (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) rudiments), for learning in France :
R - - R - RL - - L - L ;
c: traditional French combination with "English stroke" and inversion:
R - - L - RL - - R - RL - - R - LR - - L - L ;
10: The "ra" (no simple word in American: double stroke roll with rest and the last stroke, single and accented on the beat):
  • a: three stroke roll or "Drag" ("tra" in French, or formerly called "Ruff" in American old N.A.R.D. rudiments):
  • R - LLR - LL ;
  • R - - - LLR - - - LL ;
  • R - - - - - LLR - - - - - LL ;

  • b: same with military traditional inversion (symmetry):
  • R - RRL - LL ;

  • c: "4 stroke roll" (logical continuation not in American rudiments, "ra de 4 (coups)" in French ("ra of 4 (strokes)") (with "triplet")):
  • R - - RLLR - - RLL ;

  • d: same with inversion (can replace the "flagada", traditionally in French drumming):
  • R - - LRRL - - RLL ;

  • e: 5 stroke roll ("ra de 5", used in "Marche des éclopés" ("March of the lame men") for slow tempo):
  • binary: R - - - RRLLR - - - RRLL ;
  • Ternary: R - RRLLR - RRLL ;

  • f: the reversed 5 stroke roll (used for "Rigodon" and "Champ d'honneur" ("Field of Honor") at very fast tempo, more efficient) :
  • R - - - LLRRL - - - RRLL ;
  • R - LLRRL - RRLL;

  • g: real 6 stroke roll (in logical continuation ("ra de 6" in French): in quintuplet):
  • R - - - - LRRLLR - - - - LRRLL ;
  • h: reversed 6 stroke roll:
  • R - - - - RLLRRL - - - - LRRLL ;

  • i: 7 stroke roll ("ra de 7"):
  • in "sextuplets" (French):
  • R - - - - - LLRRLLR - - - - - LLRRLL ;
  • in "septuplets" (linked, like in N.A.R.D. rudiments):

  • j: binary 7 stroke roll (with "irregular" traditional syncopation, used for a retreat march of the Grenadiers of the Guard of the First Empire: the "Roulée"):

  • k: inverted 7 stroke roll (French for studying):
  • R - - - - - RRLLRRL - - - - - LLRRLL ;

  • l: ra de 8 ("septuplets"):
  • R - - - - - - RLLRRLL ;

  • m: The binary 9 stroke roll ("ra de 9": 2x2x2 = 8 beats cycle):
  • R - - - - - - - RRLLRRLL ;

  • n: The ternary 9 stroke roll (with irregular syncopation, used in "la Diane", combined with Diana stroke, for the camp "réveil" ("wake up call", called "Reveille" in other European countries, which shows French origin and long before Napoleon)):
  • D - - - DDGGDDGG ;

  • o: 11 stroke roll ("ra de 11", binary with irregular syncopation: start with left hand, used in "le Rigodon" played also for the "réveil" combined with two "ras de 5"):
  • R - - - - - LLRRLLRRLL ;

  • Etc.

  • NB: the different "rolls" in american rudiments, begin on first beat, so the accent is in syncopation, which was the way to play drum marches first, as described in "orchésographie", which has a very mathematical approach of the different rudiments without giving fingering. "Instructions pour les tambours" from 1754 used again other rudiments (like the "drag flam" and "tap drag") and Luly had composed the "Marche des mousquetaires du Roy" (1705) under Louis XIV, which seems to use "slipped strokes" or "ras de 4".
11: The "jumped friezed" or "jumped single stroke roll" (translated from French "frisé sauté") with binary single stroke 5 here: doubling the single stroke roll "tagadagata - pa"):
RLRLR - L - ;
12: The "flagada" (fla followed by two single strokes and then rest, here with inversion used for the "Marche des éclopés" ou "La Boiteuse" ("March of the lame men" or simply "The Lame") to push the stragglers and wounded):
R - - R - - L - - - - RL - - L - - R - - - - L ;
13: "Flam accent" ("Patafla" in French), here linked with inversion, ternary used in the "Batterie d'Austerlitz" ("Austerlitz drumming", 1805), composed on order of Napoleon First the next day of this battle and reserved to regiments who have participated in this battle:
R - - L - - R - RL - - R - - L - L ;
14: "Slipped stroke" (literally translated from French rudiment "coup coulé": double stroke and "charge stroke": "Papatala" or "tatatala" or "tatapata"):
a: slow tempo (binary):
R - - - - - - - L - - - L - - RL - - - - - - - R - - - R - - L ;
b: fast tempo (ternary):
R - - - - - L - - L - RL - - - - - R - - R - L ;
c: very fast tempo (without "flam" feeling, in triplets, as a "ra de 4" but with accent in syncopation (very "jazzy" before the term existed, probably transmitted in New Orleans carnival drumming when it was a French colony)):
R - - LLRL - - RRL ;
15: the "Pataflafla" (named as in French, missing in traditional military American rudiments (of the N.A.R.D), integrated in P.A.S. rudiments):
a: simplified version without inversion:
R - - L - RL - RL - - ;
b: traditional version with inversion of the flams:
R - - L - - R - RL - L ;
16: The "single paradiddle" (called "moulin" ("mill") in French: alternation of two single strokes and one double stroke, with inversion of the hands (8 beats) used for a retreat march of the Grenadiers of the Guard of the First Empire and in the "Champ d'honneur"):
17: The "double paradiddle" (called "volant" ("wheel") in French: same but with 4 single strokes instead of two (12 beats), used for a retreat march of the Grenadiers of the Guard of the First Empire):
18: "Linked" or "detailed 5 stroke roll" ("ra de 5 détaillé" in French): in quintuplets, used again in a retreat march of the Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard of the First Empire, all executed for the first time on the previous day of the coronation of the Emperor (1804), presented in N.A.R.D. rudiments but not the P.A.S.:
19: The "jumped ruffed" (literally translated from French "raté sauté"):
a: of 3 strokes (binary doubling: "patatra", only called "Lesson 25" in the N.A.R.D. rudiments):
R - LLR - L - ;
b: of 5 strokes (binary reversed and quadrupled: "taratata" used in the "Champ d'honneur" ("Field of Honor") "batterie" (composition only for drums) which served only to present arms to Napoleon Bonaparte):
R - - - LLRRL - - - R - - - L - - - RRLLR - - - L - - - ;
20: the "rigodon" (a single stroke roll with a doubling double stroke inserted (ternary "jumped ruffed": "trata", "single drag (tap)" in american rudiments in binary flow) and with symmetry (6 beats) based on a ternary French dance, used for the "Réveil au bivouac" ("camp awakening", before a battle) during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte):
R - LLR - L - RRL - ;
21: "double drag (tap)" ("Coup de la Diane" ("Diana stroke"), ra of three followed by a single stroke and then another ra of 3, with hands inversion (12 beats): "tratatra" used for the camp awakening traditionally in French army (Diana = goddess of the hunt and the moon)):
R - - - LLR - L - RRL - - - RRL - R - LL ;

Marc De Douvan, December 2005, revised in November 2011 and January 2012 and August 2014 , translated in English in November 2012.

Contemporary demonstration (reconstitution for the show) by the drum corps "Batterie des Grognards de Haute-Alsace", who play the First Empire "Batteries" (compositions for solo drums (because it was used to say "beat ("battre") the drum" in French, and not "play the drum") even now among the most sophisticated and virtuosic ever composed (by one or several anonymous authors), including stick against stick rolls or on the drum hoop or even with stick butt stroke against the skin (by turning over the stick), or crossing a stick under the other or around, gestures not described in the French rudiments):

October 2011 Note: for fast tempos, the use of rebound or alternate strokes is necessary for the double strokes (for the second stroke with the same hand).

The rudiments described here come from the official method of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris ("Méthode de tambour et caisse claire d'orchestre" ("Drum and orchestra snare drum Method ") by Robert Tourte (1946), which also describes the "Batteries du Premier Empire" ("Drummings of the First (French) Empire") and the "Marches Réglementaires de l'Armée Française et de la Légion de la Garde Républicaine" ("Regulation Marches of the French Army and the Legion of the Republican Guard") and were called "coups de baguettes" ("stick strokes") in France. The old basic distinctions "round stick" (one stroke per each hand) "broken stick" (two strokes per hand) and " mixed sticks" (two strokes or one per hand) are already present in the "Dictionnaire universel" ("Universal Dictionary", which presents the terms of the artistic and scientific jargon) by Antoine Furetière (published in 1690, four years before the publication of the first dictionary of the French Academy) see the passage. The use of the word "rudiment" for the drum comes from the U.S. but do not confuse the French rudiments, which are more basic and therefore more universal and logical, with the official rudiments of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers (the "26 rudiments "of the American N.A.R.D., which some of them are taken from the French with other denominations (see above in brackets), but not all). For further explanation of these distinctions see the article on Sanford Moeller. More complex rudiments (original from my practice and African, Brazilian, Cuban, Oriental, jazz and even jazz "fusion", techniques and rhythms, or again from the Robert Tourte method (virtuosic drumming or orchestra snare drum exercises or for preparatory work) but also those of the N.A.R.D. rudiments and 40 (increase of the previous) of the Percussive Arts Society (see links below)) are shown in my method for advanced level "Return To The Sources" (coming soon tranlated in English) with countless applications on the drum set and with the feet (modern drumset). My method for beginner and intermediate level "First Steps" presents the French military rudiments the most basic (those that a modern drummer should absolutely know and mastery), with elementary exercises again coming from the method of Robert Tourte or my own practice, and basic applications, or even classics today (for rock, jazz and Afro-Latin styles) on the modern drumset.

The 26 U.S. military drum rudiments on the official website of the N.A.R.D. (National Association of Rudimental Drummers):

The 40 American "international" rudiments (the previous 26 augmented) on the official website of the P.A.S. (Percussive Arts Society):

© 2005 Marc de Douvan Crédits Mentions légales