This month we're taking the four-stroke ruff, one of my all-time favorite rudiments, and learning how to work it for maximum speed. Although the four-stroke ruff is not included among the “official” PAS 40 Rudiments, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not a good one. On the contrary, it is a valuable addition to any drummer’s bag of tricks and should definitely be included on the PAS list!
I’ve found that the best way to develop the four-stroke ruff is to first master a rudiment that is on the PAS list called the single stroke four. You may think this is the same as a four-stroke ruff, but it’s not! The difference is in the speed of the first three notes. The three initial “grace notes” of the four-stroke ruff are played at a much faster tempo than the timed triplet that makes up the first three notes of the Single Stroke Four. This gives the two rudiments a different sound, which you’ll understand when you check out the video portion of this lesson.
When I demonstrate the four-stroke ruff slowly, I actually play the single stroke four. When I play it faster, I close it into an actual four-stroke ruff. I also apply the “level system” for the accents, so be sure you follow the written “tap, up, and down” notations shown in the written notation. This helps you to get your accenting stick up and ready to play the accent one note before you actually need it, which provides you with a smooth-sounding accent no matter how fast you need to play it. Just like the top pros!
T (Tap) = Stroke starts and ends at the low level
U (Up) = Stroke starts at the low level and ends at the high level
D (Down) = Stroke starts at the high level and ends at the low level. This stroke produces an accent.
Getting Up To Speed!
Practice this exercise both with non-alternating sticking, that is, starting with the left hand (and ending with the right) and starting with the right hand (and ending with the left). Then practice with alternating sticking – start with the left hand and then switch to the right hand start and repeat that pattern. There’s more cool stuff coming with the four-stroke ruff next month, so practice regularly and get all the stickings up to speed. You'll need them for your next lesson!
Until then, stay loose!