SKF NOTE: Excerpted from my late 1983 or early 1984 interview with Freddie Gruber. I don’t know how much, if any, of this excerpt is in Modern Drummer’s Focus on Teachers interview, but this excerpt differs in one respect. These are Freddie’s words verbatim. The MD interview was somewhat edited. // This exchange took place at Buddy Rich’s kitchen table in Buddy’s New York City apartment.
Freddie Gruber: Let’s ally it to other instruments. You wouldn’t want somebody to learn the piano or the violin and have them sit down and start to play parts from a Stravinsky octet or something. It’s just ridiculous. He has to learn touch and control so he doesn’t abuse his instrument. He has to really get familiar with the instrument to the point where he can really make some music. And there has to be some way, or means, for arriving at these objectives.
So, these other instruments have histories. There are many valid persons playing piano or violin, throughout the centuries, who’ve established very valid approaches to the development of the correct way of playing those instruments. It’s up to the individual to get to the point where he sings his own song, and expresses what the composer had in mind.
They have scales. So, let’s call the rudiments the scales of the drums.
If the person is that much of a beginner, you need something. He has to use his hands. He has to make a tap-tap of some kind. You have to start somewhere. There are only so many combinations before he starts to get rhythmically inventive.
If he’s that rhythmically inventive, and he’s that fluid on his instrument, why have a dialogue with him to begin with? That is, unless it’s some particular thing that he’s expressing is a hang-up, and you’re working on a specific with a guy who’s a pro. And I do that with alot of people.
But, in general, yes, the rudiments are the scales of our instrument. They can be deleted, or creatively utilized, or thrown away and dismissed in total, later on. This is the decision of the individual player. He has option on this as he grows and develops. Nobody can make comment on that. It’s his choice.
You don’t have a person come to you, to achieve and grow with you, and have a joint venture student/teacher relationship, by showing him what you do. That invalidates the whole venture.
You show him a way to get to do what he wishes to do to express himself. To be able to play all that he can hear and feel – as fluidly as possible. And then be as sympathetic as he can to the people he’s playing with.