Drill the Skill: The Ratamacue

Hmmm... it doesn't look very intimidating... but there is sits, the DREADED RATAMACUE: one of the most maligned and complaint inducing rudiments we play. It is a simple rudiment to understand yet one of the toughest to execute consistently. Starting a ratamacue on the left hand (commonly found in music at the grade 3 level) is one thing but playing it on the right hand is another thing altogether. Ratamacues are also tough because they are played differently in each style. Practising ratamacues hand to hand is merely a good first step. To achieve mastery of this tricky rudiment it is very important to play it within its stylistic context. Let's start with the 2/4 march.


Ratamacues start appearing regularly in 2/4 march scores beginning at the grade 3 level. In Europe, you'll see it in the more advanced Juvenile bands as well. When a ratamacue is written, at first glance it appears  to lack any swing (the 32nd notes all appear in a row denoting equal space between each note). In performance this is not the case. Instead, there should be a slight delay before starting the first double. This delay will depend on the degree of swing with which the corps and the pipe section are playing. The first Drill the Skill sheet deals with ratamacues in the march context.



When placed into a round reel, however, there is no room for interpretation. Each of the sixteenth notes should be played exactly the same way with the same amount of space between each one. Playing ratamacues in a round reel should feel completely different and should be easier to execute. Below is a sample of the exercises for ratamacues in round reels.



In a strathspey, ratamacues are generally (but not always) placed on the third note of a triplet. The swing feel (or lift) for a strathspey is often achieved by accenting that third triplet note. If started on the third note of a triplet, the accent at the end of the ratamacue will also fall on the same location in the triplet, accentuating the upbeat and creating lift. Notice the location of the ratamacue in the examples below.



It is not often that you'll find ratamacues in a jig until the advanced grades but they can be an interesting addition to any jig score. In a jig, the double of the ratamacue is played at exactly the same speed as the remaining five notes. Depending on its location in the drum score, ratamacues can provide some unique textural and syncopated alternatives to a run of singles. In the example below, the ratamacue is located on the third note of the triplet.



As I struggled through my math classes in high school a question kept popping into my head (especially where trigonometry was involved): "When will I ever use this in life???" The same question has been posed to me hundreds of times by drummers in my organization regarding why it is necessary to learn rudiments like the ratamacue on both hands. The answer is simple: learning rudiments on both hands makes you a better drummer! Even though ratamacues on the left are far more common, practising them on the right hand will improve your overall control and execution. Embrace the nausea these exercises will induce and work on them until both hands sound equal. Remembering that the point of practicing is to PLAY CORRECTLY, find a tempo on your metronome that allows you to play the exercises flawlessly and then spend some quality time in the woodshed.

As always, the full exercises are available at no charge to subscribers of pipebanddrummer.com. Subscribe on our home page for access to a growing list of resources for drummers of all levels.

A sincere thank you to those of you that have contacted me regarding errors on the site. Try as I might there are always some things that fall through the cracks and I'm always thankful that someone lets me know. 

"Enjoy" working on your ratamacues and happy drumming!

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