September 2013
Strictly Technique
Playing the Sixes
Part 2: Speed and Orchestration

by Chris Prescott

It can be difficult to get young students to feel excited about sitting down and working on rudiments. The material in this two-part series is designed to encourage drummers to dig into some of the basic rudimental sticking patterns and think beyond single strokes.

Of course, single strokes are a huge part of the drumming repertoire, but with a little creative thinking we can find endless uses for slightly more complex patterns. As with any concept, time must be spent before you can really feel the patterns confidently in your hands. Things that may feel awkward initially can become second nature after you woodshed them a bit. The examples covered here can be quite useful, as the basic rudiments are the building blocks for everything we play.

I often use a baking analogy to describe mastering simple things: The ingredients have to be of high quality in order to produce something that tastes great. If you bake a cake using low-quality or stale flour, the end result won’t be very good. You can decorate the cake with sprinkles and make it look pretty, but it’s still based on something that’s foundationally poor. Rudiments are to drummers what flour is to the baker. If your rudiments are underdeveloped, your musical foundation won’t be solid. Even if you sprinkle your playing with some flashy fills from time to time, the core of what you’re playing is weak.

The most complex rudimental stickings can be reduced to simpler ingredients like flams, singles, and double-stroke rolls. If you make sure you have control of those fundamentals, you’ll be able to combine and reorganize the basics into increasingly complex patterns.

In the previous article (August 2013), I described some of the unique benefits to employing rudiments in your playing. It’s a vast topic, but when teaching the material I tend to simplify the concept into four categories: volume, accent character, speed, and orchestration. Here we’ll examine the topics of speed and orchestration as they relate to the rudiments.

For additional insight and exercises, be sure to check out the complete article in the September 2013 issue of Modern Drummer.

Chris Prescott is a San Diego–based multi-instrumentalist who currently drums for Pinback and the Montalban Quintet. His drum education book, Creative Construction, is available at