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Born in Melbourne Australia, Graham Morgan studied with Joe Morello and Murray Spivak in Los Angeles in 1962.  His remarkable career has spanned five decades and has taken him from playing on the first Australian ABC television broadcast to recording a live album at Carnegie Hall with Cleo Laine.  He was the staff drummer at GTV9 for over twenty years and worked on shows for all the networks. His drumming can be heard on hundreds of albums, soundtracks and radio and television commercials.

The following interview with Graham Morgan was especially conducted for my Master of Philosophy in Music [By Research] thesis titled The Conga Drum: Development, Technique, Styles, Improvisations and the contribution of Master Drummer Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria which I completed in 2008 at the ANU in Canberra. The thesis documents the conga drum’s historical development, investigates basic hand techniques and current technical hand developments, as well as the enormous contribution of master drummer Ramon 'Mongo' Santamaria, arguably the most influential player in the history of the instrument, exploring his percussive output as well as his ensemble, composition and arranging proficiency. I conducted this interview with Graham Morgan via telephone.

PERTOUT: The rudiments are an essential component in the development of drumming skills, how did those patterns developed?

MORGAN: Well in the army they use to have drum calls for the various events of the day, such as a drum call for the breakfast call, in the same way later they had bugle calls, this is going back hundreds of years, the drummer in the army was terribly important, they would have an attack drum call for infantry, from that area rudiments developed. For example they had a certain amount of drum rolls that were employed for the breakfast call, and the player had to learn five, seven, nine, ten, eleven, thirteen, fifteen rolls. The various rudiments were named so they could be audibly heard, they could be transferred by a player to the instrument as they heard it, for example ‘pa-ra-di-ddle’, the syllables gave you the tapping sound and rhythm, or like ‘ra-ta-ma-cue’ that is the phonetic sound of a pattern.

PERTOUT: How have the rudiments evolved over the years?

MORGAN: When I first started playing as a young boy, there were thirteen basic rudiments in the National Association of Rudimental Drummers, and that was very quickly boosted to twenty six.  They were considered the norm.  Since I would say the 1980s the most recognised authority, the International Percussive Arts Society increased the total number to forty. I have the good fortune of being a close friend of Joe Morello and the last time we met he took me to an amazing seminar at Seton University in New Jersey where I heard some innovations that were called ‘21st Century Drum Rudiments’. These are phenomenally hard to play, complex patterns, for example there is one which incorporates three strokes with one hand and two with the other, we can call it a group of five, but the three is made up of practically one motion, and it’s the same motion that is absolutely required for fast jazz playing on a cymbal. There have always being other forms as well, for example in Switzerland in the Basel region for hundreds of years had their own version of rudiments, for example in the Swiss army triplets they had flams before the first note, you also had a five stroke roll with a flam at the beginning. Now a lot of jazz players naturally did things like that, while improvising, players such as Buddy Rich for example. The list of drummers from jazz to pop that incorporate the rudiments is enormous. You can hear them in so many styles from Steve Gadd on Fifty Ways to Leave a Lover to Tony Williams using Swiss army triplets on so many of his musical adventures from Miles Davis to the work with his own Lifetime group. 

PERTOUT: Do you see the rudiments as essential learning at a starting point in the development?

MORGAN: Yes I do. Personally I didn’t have much formal tuition until when I was in my 20s and met Joe Morello.  I went to the US and studied with him as well as with Murray Spivak and Jim Chapin in New York. Those players came from a very strong rudimental background. The beautiful thing technically with the rudiments is that it forces the weaker hand to develop as you have to lead the patterns both ways, and what happens in playing many styles on drum kit be it folk, funk, jazz is that you can easily lead one way only, with the rudimental approach you might play that five stroke roll right, right, left, left, right, but then you have to go left, left, right, right, left.

Telephone Interview. 29 June 2007.

© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article forms part of the thesis ‘The Conga Drum: Development, Technique, Styles, Improvisations and the contribution of Master Drummer Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria’ which was submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Philosophy in Music [by Research] Faculty of Arts, Australian National University.

© Alex Pertout. All Rights Reserved.