Examples of Snare Drum Notation, Part 2: 1809-20.

25 Jun

As an independent nation, the United States Congress in 1783 authorized the formation of America’s first Army. The army was directed to secure the western borders and the Great Lakes and protect the settlers of the North West territories.1 The new government was responsible for providing the army’s music instruments. Thus a tradition of military music begun during the War for Independence was continued into the next century and survives today in amateur and military fife and drum corps.2

The Militia tradition in the United States is too complex to explore fully within the context of this article, but it is important to understand something of its origins in order to explain the abundance of snare drum and fife books published  In the United States during the 19th century.

Village militias  were established prior to the war for Independence because there were not enough British soldiers in North America to protect the burgeoning colonies. They elected their officers, armed and trained themselves in the British military tradition in order to protect their communities and played important roles in the French and Indian War. When the struggles for independence began, these local militia served with varying success along side the Continental Army regulars under Gen. George Washington.

With Great Britain’s defeat came other cantankerous issues. The iconic images of self-reliant Militiamen, their deeds at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, clashed with more pragmatic ideas espoused by some powerful politicians  and former Continental Army officers who wanted to replace local militias with a standing army and arguments arose about the  Second Amendment. However, in the north eastern United States particularly, the militia idea and ideal held firm.  Thus the raison d’être for most if not all of the Fife and drum books published in the United States in the 19th century.

1809. Over Het Tromslaan. This twenty-four page book published in Amsterdam contains military drum signals and marches. It includes for example, De Kerk-Parade (Church), De Brand-Allarm (Fire), Taptoe (Tattoo), De Grenadier Marsch and De Flanke Marsch.3 In the Reveille below, the 13 and 9 stroke rolls appear to be alternating single strokes, but on an earlier page, this notation is clearly meant to indicate closed double stroke rolls. This Reveille beating is almost identical to George L. Winter, 1772 which appears in Part 1 of this posting. In Winters, however, four beams (64th notes) are used for each roll.

For technical reasons, I do not interpret the eighth notes with two stems as flams, either here or in Winters (1777, Part 1.)  Flams do not appear in the modern Swedish Army Reveille – Revelj – which is identical in all substantive aspects to Winters and this  Reveille.4 As in Winters, a small vertical line appears above each of these notes and may be a symbol for an accent or meant to designate the first and second beats of the measure. (In the mid 19th c. Dutch military music for fifes and drums profoundly influence the transformation of Japan’s Samurai military tradition.)5)

1809-De Reveille, Over Het Tromslaan, Amsterdam.
1809-De Reveille, Over Het Tromslaan, Amsterdam.

1810. David Hazeltine published his Instructor in Martial Music: containing Rules and Descriptions for the Drum and Fife, in Exeter, New Hampshire. Though I was surprised when I first saw this book, I was not completely taken aback for it brought to mind the early drum signals from England which exist only as words and which begin Part 1 of these examples. The book contains nary a note for the drum and all instructions are in English.

Reproduced below is one half page from the 9 and one half pages devoted to the drum. This begins with the Drummers Call, then the Single Drag and the drumbeating for the Irish Brigade. The Single Drag  is a rudiment, but also, as described here, a beating for tunes with dotted rhythms. For examples of single drag tunes see page 94 of Bruce and Emmett’s The Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide where the accompanying Note reads: “For the beat of a Single Drag, refer to the “Breakfast Call” (p. 37).

Hazeltine’s book contains 21 Lessons (rudiments) including the Poing Stroke.

1810-David Hazelti, Exexeterm, New Hampshire.
1810-David Hazelti, Exexeterm, New Hampshire.

NOTE: Shortly after finishing this article, I contacted Edmund Boyle, Lancraft, CT. Fife & Drum Corps fifer concerning a question I  intend to address at the end of the third and final article in this series. Mr. Boyle was gracious enough to give me his opinion and spread the word among core members. Soon I found myself in correspondence with Lancraft Corps members and my education in traditional and contemporary rudimental drumming and drum notation took a great leap forward.

And so I quote just a small part of my correspondence with Mr. Boyle and include part of the music to which it refers.

“The mnemonic method was used by Hazeltine, Robinson and others. The name of the rudiment sounded much like the beating itself:  e.g.”A nine and a half drag, and two and a half drags; then a nine, a rough, and two and a half drags” (First Part to Roast Beef).6

1861- Roast Beef or Dinner Call from Keach, Burditt & Cassidy.

1861- Roast Beef or Dinner Call from Keach, Burditt & Cassidy.

Apparently, somewhere along the line, the mnemonic method became too wordy and cumbersome for Connecticut drummers (speculation on my part), and a shorthand was developed by someone.”

1812. Charles Stewart Ashworth.7 “After carefully examining all the Drum books that have been published during the past 25 years, the author finds none to compare with “Ashworth’s Rudimental School .  .  .”  George Barrett Bruce, 1852.

Page 3 of Ashworth shown below is, as pointed out to me by music historian George Carroll,the first time the word Rudiments appears in a drum instruction book. The notation is by now familiar; the upper notes with stems up indicate they are to be played by the left-hand and the lower notes with stems down are to be played by the right hand.26 rudiments are listed in Ashworth including the “Mother or 5 S. Roll”.

The text reads: “It is necessary that the learner should first practice the Long Roll until he can close it handsomely, then go on with the lessons, One by One, as they are here placed, and by no means undertake the Second till he can with ease Close the first. –– He will find that by getting these Lessons perfect, —– every Beat he undertakes will become easy and familiar to him” —-

1812-Charles Stewart Ashworth,Boston, MA.
1812-Charles Stewart Ashworth,Boston, MA.

1812. The Robbins book is mainly concerned with the Fife, but in the illustration below the drum notation is familiar; two staves, top for the left-hand, bottom for the right-hand, and it is seen in the Revolutionary  War Drummer’s Book, Part 1. and in Levi Lovering, below.  Robins maintain is the use of the European designation for note values as Minums, Crotchets etc. and interestingly writes the drum parts in the treble clef. He stresses the long roll, the five, the seven, the nine, and 11 stroke rolls and then he notates five methods of common time for the drum. The 10 pages Robbins devotes to the drum  conclude  withsingle and double drags set to musical examples.. From page 17 to 61 are fife tunes and signals.

1812-Charles Robbins, Exeter, NH.
1812-Charles Robbins, Exeter, NH.

This book as Haseltine above and Robinson below was written for local militia. This is of historival importance and therefore I reproduve here the Preface to Robbins:

1812-Excerpt from Preface by Robbins.
1812-Excerpt from Preface by Robbins.

The Charles Robbins Drum and Fife Instructor was new to me until I contacted Ed Boyle, mentioned above.  I purchased a copy of Robbins and learned that Mr. Boyle has spent hundreds of hours digitally enhancing historic Fife and drum books. the fruits of his great labors can be seen and purchased at

1815. Samuel Potter Drum Major in the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards. According to Maurice Byrne (Part 1), The Retreat illustrated below is the one English drumbeating from the early 17th c. to survive to the 19th c. In fact, the Samuel Potter version continues to be used by the British Army to this day, the only difference being an additional bass drum part. Potter, in line with George Winters (Part 1.) and the Dutch manuscript above, wrote his drum parts with a bass clef designation, a device some composers continue to use today when writing for non-pitched percussion instruments.

Potter wrote his book as an instructional manual for boys. The first sentence of his introduction reads, “The first thing previous to a boy practicing on the Drum is to place him perfectly upright, and placed his left Heel in the hollow of the right Foot”.  Potter does not mention the word Rudiment, or even Lesson, but simply introduces each exercise by saying, “The next thing to learn is .  .  .”  There are 21 of these “next things to learn”.

Because this book is in modern notation, it is useful for sorting out many arcane drum notations and descriptions from the same era.

1815-Samuel Potter, London.
1815-Samuel Potter, London.

Potter’s preface to The Art of Beating the Drum is relevant to this presentation.

“For a length of time I have been studying in what manner to write the duty for the Side Drum by Note, as that part of Drum Beating is very intricate: And had I not made use of Appogiaturas for Flams, Drags etc. could not have accomplish’d it, but as an Appogiatura does not partake of any part of the time in such Bar  –––  it may be used only as an embellishment.  –––  At the same time that with the use of the Shake for rolls and Staccato Marks to distinguish which Hand to strike . . .”

1817-Rumrille and Holton. The Drummer’s Instructor or Martial Musician. Containing the Rudiments of Drum–Beating, on a new and improved System; the Rules for Common, Quick and Compound Time, with beats in each Mode; and the whole of the Camp Duties, consisting of the Reveille, Troop, Retreat, Tattoo, Parley, Officers calls, signals, salutes, etc. as practiced at Head Quarters of the Army and Navy, U.S.A. together with Instructions For The Base Drum, intended particularly for the militia.” from the cover of Rumrille and Holton.

This is one of the “new and improved notation” books mentioned in the prologue and there is much to recommend it to percussionists. To my knowledge, it is the first book to not only mention, but include instructions and beats for the bass drum. Though not properly a part of this presentation, I could not resist including the text on page 30 concerning the bass drum:  “The Base Drum must be tuned to chord with the Music with which it plays–The right hand Stick must not exceed 10 inches in length, with a ball at the end 6 inches in circumference, composed of sponge properly–wound–with woolen yarn and covered with Cloth of Wash–Leather.– The left hand Stick may be of the length and size of a common beating Drum Stick”.8 These instructions will be familiar to musicians having  knowledge of Janissary music performance traditions.

1817-Rumrille & Holton, Albany, N.Y.

1817-Rumrille & Holton, Albany, N.Y.

The examples of Common and Quick time are clear and are reminiscent of Thoinot Arbeau’s explanations off how the distance covered by soldiers can be determined by tempo and the length of their stride.(“Common Time-75 Steps of 2 Feet each in a minute & Quick Time-120 steps of 2 feet each in a minute.”)  The notation devised by Rumrille and Holton is elusive, but there are some wonderful fife tunes in traditional notation, which I’ve found in no other books. Rumrille & Holton present 29 “Lessons” (Rudiments) including the Paying Stroke, a name I’ve not found elsewhere.

1818. Drummer’s Assistant or The Art of Drumming Made Easy by Levi Lovering. In his introduction, Mr. Lovering makes it clear that this book is intended as a tutor, a self instructor, for Fife and Drum Corps and militia drummers, or, as he says, “Marshall Musicians”, and not strictly, like the four books immediately above, as compendiums of camp and field duty signals and calls suitable for military duty though these are included and easily interpreted. Lovering uses a two-stave system and also employs the onomatoopoeia Tou & Pou for strokes, a device we first encountered in Arbeau’s Orchesography (1589) as Tan-Tere-Fre, then in Pistofilo (1621) as Ta-Pa, and  most recently in the King Charles I Warrant (1630) as Tou-Pou-Pong. One must wonder how Lovering came to use the same two sounds -Tou-Pou – which appeared in a Monarch’s warrant written almost 200 years before he set pen to paper.

1818-Levi Lovering, Philadelphia, PA.

1818-Levi Lovering, Philadelphia, PA.

There are 17 “Lessons” (Rudiments) in Lovering, among them the  8 and 12 stroke rolls.

1820-Alvin Robinson, Massachusetts Collection of Martial Musick. Published in Exeter, New Hampshire. Only 10 years after Hazeltine, above, this book has the same look and layout and was written for the same constituency, the home militia. Below in its entirety is page 6. The last entry in the left-hand column is the single drag, this time, described as the rudiment.  Robinson describes the  Camp Duty Beats and Signals, and important for historians of the period, he describes in some detail the duties of the Musicians, Orderly Drummer, a Right Hand Corporal Drummer, the  Drum Major, the Fife Major, etc.

1820-Alvan Robinsonjr, Exeter, MA.
1820-Alvan Robinsonjr, Exeter, MA.

Robinson contains 24 “Lessons” (Rudiments).

Footnotes to Part II:

1. In 1791, General Arthur St.Clair (pronounced Sinclair) led this army into the Northwest Territories – now the state of Ohio – and on the banks of the Wabash River near present day Fort Recovery was attacked by a confederation of Indian nations led by the Miami tribe’s Little Turtle and Blue Jacket of the Shawnees. In the ensuing battle, the United States army, numbering 1200, was massacred, losing 900 men and 100 camp followers. General Sinclair escaped and his defeat provoked the first Congressional investigation in U.S. history. When the investigation began to probe the men closest to President Washington, it was disbanded. Gen. Sinclair, disgraced, lived to be 82 years old and died in 1818 when he was thrown from his pony cart.

2. Shortly after the War for Independence began, General George Washington ordered the construction of a field drum manufacturing plant in Carlyle, Pennsylvania. Carlyle was an important staging area for traders heading west over the  Allegheny Mountains. As President, Washington wanted a military academy built in Carlyle, but lost a political battle to New York State and Carlyle Barracks became the second oldest army training center after West Point Military Academy (1802).

3. I wish to thank Jan Pustjens, Principal percussionist of the Concergebouworkest, Amsterdam, for translating some of the book’s written instructions. Unfortunately, the book’s Dutch is archaic and much of the text defied his efforts to translate.

4. I am indebted to David Lindberg, principal percussionist with the Swedish Army Band, Stockholm, for providing me with the music and history of the Swedish Army Reveille, and other important information about Swedish Military Music. According to Mr. Lindberg, the Swedish Reveille was composed by German court musician Johann Heinrich Walch (1776-1855) and published around 1834. It was accepted as the Swedish Army Reveille-march in 1846 by King Oscar I.

Walch was a composer of quadrilles, quicksteps, marches and other military music. The War of 1812 ended, with the allies of Austria, Prussia and Russia marching into Paris on March 31, 1814 to the tune of “Pariser Einzugsmarsch”. This tune was also used during the climactic Victory parade of the Germans through Paris in 1940. Although attributed initially to Beethoven, Walch is the composer.

Walch visited the United States for a time during the 1830s.  Daniel Decatur Emmett used one of Walch’s compositions, Waterman Quickstep, published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1837, as a “Tag” for a version of his famous Dixie published in New York City in 1862.  In the same book The Drummers and Fifer’s Guide, Drum Major George B. Bruce and Dan Emmett include five other tunes by Walch.

5. See my article Western Military Music in Japan.

6.Roast Beef/Dinner Call does not contain a dotted rhythm in the Bruce and Emmett version.

7. During a visit to the United States Military Academy, friend and Hellcat drummer Warren Howe introduced me to the librarian in charge of the Academy’s rare books and manuscripts. Warren and I  were seated in his office and the conversation drifted among various subjects. For some reason, we lighted upon John Bell Hood’s campaign in central Tennessee – a campaign historian Wiley Sword called The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah. I mentioned an oft overlooked detail which had significantly undermined Hood’s campaign and our host, obviously impressed, immediately stood up and gestured for Warren and me to follow him. We entered the library and the librarian opened a glass case from which he took a rare original copy of the Charles Stewart Ashworth System of Drum Beating. He made a photo copy of the book and presented it to me. The reproduction above is from that original copy.

8. See: The Marching Drummers Companion, a collection of marches and quick steps for the drum containing all of the earliest American march drumbeats together with instructions for the Base Drum, and five original beatings. Rendered into notation suitable for modern drummers, from original manuscripts of 1810–1820, by George Kusel. To which is added the original descriptions of the rudiments of drumming; published by the author, Williams Grove, PA, 1970.

This small compact book (50 pages measuring 5 1/2″x8 1/2″) contains in modern notation all the rudiments and beatings harvested from all the drum manuals of the early 19th century.  Along with the work of Maurice Byrne, Raoul Camus and Henry George Farmer, this  book, now out of print, has proven most useful in providing me with an understanding of early 19th c. drumming notation and technique.

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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


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