The Four Stroke Ruff can be a tricky thing to learn but no more tricky than a lot of snare drum rudiments. I think as long as you practice you can play anything.
The Four Stroke Ruff is comprised of 3 grace notes that precede the main note. There are several ways to play the sticking for this rudiment, but the Four Stroke Ruff is simply a very quick triplet of grace notes played before the main note.
Take a look at this video to see how to play four stroke ruffs on the snare drum
Below are four different sticking patterns that can be used to play the Four Stroke Ruff. I suggest learning and practicing them all so that you are comfortable with the different ways, but then you’ll find one that works best for you on a consistent basis. I like the first one and I’ve always been able to the Four Stroke Ruff well by using alternate sticking in the first example below; lrlR rlrL
My Trick for Playing Four Stroke Ruffs
As I said above, I like to play this rudiment with alternate strokes. To practice this I think of playing bounce strokes with both sticks at the same time, but one stick slightly ahead of the other. Start by trying to play as many bounces as you can with both sticks at once and if you start this with one stick starting from a higher position you will be able to play bounces so that they sound like a very fast single stroke roll.
- Throw the Sticks and let them bounce
- Then control the bouncing sticks so that there are only 4 notes
- Play the last note of the 4 firmly to create the rudiment of the 3 Stroke Ruff
I made this video lesson on location from one of the Thousand Islands of the St Lawrence River. I’m on the NY State side but you can see Canada in the distance behind me across the water.