“Natural” Tempo Theory
Updated: Oct 25, 2018
This blog is a theory that I have developed over the last 15 years. This content is designed for our more advanced players and drumlines. Have you ever had music that you played and it was really clean the first time even though it encompassed difficult rudiments? What about the music that took months to master and even when you did, it felt terrible on your hands to do correctly? There are a lot of factors that contribute to this phenomenon. One of which I call, Natural Tempo.
Here’s the game: I tell you a rudiment to play and you drum 4 repetitions of the rudiment (doesn’t matter the rhythm) immediately at a tempo that is most comfortable. If you had to think twice before playing the rudiment, then you are overthinking the exercise.
1. Flam Drags
Now let’s review each one. When I have done this test with advanced players during lessons, clinics or at groups I teach, I find most players will drum the flam drags between tempo 140 BPM (if the rhythm were triplets), plus or minus 20 BPM. The paradiddles are drummed at 165 BPM (if the rhythm were 16th notes), plus or minus 30 BPM. The inverts are drummed at 135 BPM (if the rhythm were triplets), plus or minus 15 BPM. Of course there are always outliers who do their rudiments instinctively outside of the common bell curve, but they are the exception.
So why does this matter?
In my 20 year experience as a performer and educator, I have found the music that is played clean and confidently immediately tends to be designed within the natural tempo range. If the tempo is 168 BPM, the instructor wisely writes triplet rolls instead of 16th note rolls, because triplet rolls feel better in the hands at this tempo. Rudiments written outside of their natural tempo range take more focused energy to deliberately hold back or push through the rudiment and rhythm combination.
Now that you understand the theory, go ahead and test it out and let us know what you think. Maybe that paradiddle phrase at the end of the opener is thick because the tempo is 210 BPM, well outside the natural tempo range of paradiddles. In order to be successfully, each player will need to drive the rudiment with more energy and velocity. This will take mastering the paradiddles with a Rule of 16, a primer for the music, and other tools to develop familiarity with the passage at an unfamiliar tempo. The benefits to mastering rudiments at unnatural tempos is making you stronger. You may notice the IQ music is full of unnatural tempos. This is intentional to take you out of your comfort zone and further develop your rudimental range (with regards to tempo).
Let’s Drum Smart.
Author: Matt Regua