Category Archives: Fifes & Drums

Edmund Boyle, Passion and Patience: restoring historic documents.

Ed Boyle
Ed Boyle

I first connected with Ed Boyle while researching part three of my Examples of Snare Drum Notation. Doug Kleinhans a former Hellcat drummer, composer and teacher  from Medina. New York had sent me a manuscript obtained from a former student and member of the Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps of North Haven, Connecticut, with a notation he called “the Connecticut Code”.  I visited the lancraft website, looked for a contact and discovered Ed’s name. We exchanged e-mails and,though himself a fifer, Ed recruited a half  dozen Lancraft drummers to further my inquiries into “the Code”.1

After I’d finished my article, Ed and I continued to communicate. As I began looking over the historic manuals for Fife and Drum offered on his website, I noticed many of these manuals were advertised as “digitally enhanced”.  I asked Ed to explain and he sent me a copy of the 1812, Charles Robbins Drum and Fife Instructor as an example of his work. What I saw was revelatory.2

My collection of historic fife and drum manuals consists almost exclusively of copies made from original editions. Some of them were given to me by friends. Others I photographed or purchased in libraries. But for the most part, they had been obtained from purveyors of fife an drum accoutrement. These books are xerox copies, too often faint or indecipherable and poorly bound. When Ed’s book arrived and I saw the quality of his reproduction, layout and binding, I asked him to explain the process necessary to achieve such exemplary results.

In response to that question and others posed by me, Ed wrote the following:

“I am 71 years of age and began fifing at age 11 in New Haven, Connecticut. Over the intervening years, I have lived in Maryland, Virginia,and as a member of the US Air Force,  all over  the United States. I have been a resident of Pennsylvania for about 40 years. I started in a corps at my parish church and joined Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps in 1957. I have been a member ever since. With the late Bill Reamer, I founded Independence Fife and Drum Corps (Broomall, PA) in 1974, just in time for the Bicentennial. I presently own and manage Philadelphia Fife and Drum, which performs at Independence Hall daily every summer and opens many conventions, etc, in eastern Pennsylvania. We have performed in England and Italy.

It seems as if I have always taught. I have attended many a reenactment over the years, teaching young and old fifers in the process. This is what really got me going: At most reenactments, I would be approached a few times by people asking where they could get fife lessons. I responded in the affirmative, volunteering my services, only to find that they lived hundreds or thousands of miles away. Consequently, I wrote my Tutorial on the Fife and created an audio CD to go with it, so my students could actually hear how a lesson should sound. I created a website, to sell it. I am happy to say that, to date, I have created close to 2000 fifers worldwide! Over the years, I have added various products useful to fifers and drummers alike.

During my fifing career I have often seen photocopies of various music manuals and tutorials for sale at sutlers tables that were of pretty dismal quality. Some of them must have been 10th or 15th generation photocopies some probably dating to when thermal paper was used.

One day  in 2003 or so, I was visiting the Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin. While digging around, I happened to run across Willig’s Compleat Tutor for the Fife. I recalled that a 20th century friend of mine once told me that he used that very book to learn the instrument. So, I sat there in wonderment, roped in at a special table in the library, wearing white cotton gloves, holding a piece of history in my hands. History had not been good to it. The paper had the brownish hue of a cigarette filter, had rips, tears, stains, and was extremely faded, almost to the point of total illegibility. In short, it was shot. I had copies made on a special copying machine at a stiff price, took them home and scanned them into my computer.

Using the finest graphical software of the day, it was impossible to automate what I did. It still is. The 30 pages of Willig took me an average of about ten hours per page to restore. Page 30 took me three days. I had to redraw lines, stems, clefs..the whole works. . . for the entire book. Below are the before and after images.

Since then, I have restored 21 other manuscripts. The process begins by scouring the world’s libraries for a good quality original, copy, microfilm, or microfiche. Sometimes, I have resorted to devious means, but no harm done…I would never reveal my co-conspirators. Often, because one copy was of poor quality or missing pages, I had to use multiple sources. On average, it requires 300 – 500 hours per book.

Some books took me years to complete. In every source of Massachusetts Collection of Martial Music, a few notes were missing in the first line of Robinson’s March. Since the book was compiled by Alvyn Robinson, I assumed that he wrote the tune. He didn’t! I set it aside for 2 – 3 years. I was digging through a pile of loose pages of various music that predated the book by at least 50 years and found the missing notes! Delighted, I completed the book.

Beyond any doubt, the hardest part of what I do is cleaning up text, simply because it is the definition of tedium. I can start anywhere. Find a letter in whatever ancient font was used, like a lower case “e.” Look around through the entire book and find a good looking “e.” Magnify it, and clean it up manually. Then cut and paste that “e” replacing all the “e”s that turn up in a 65 page book. I then do the remainder of the alphabet, upper and lower case. There is a very thin line between determination and insanity. Restoring calligraphy on the front covers can push one over the top.3

In every copy I have ever seen of Hart’s Instructor for the Drum (1862), there are seven pages at the end  that were blurred beyond comprehension and in a very small font. It took an inordinate amount of permutations and guesswork to figure it all out, but now any historian knows the duties of a Civil War drum major in consummate detail.4

There are no “trade secrets” to what I do. It is just hard work. Since I don’t do much performing, I usually work on the books in the winter. I am probably not going to restore any more, anyway, because about a year ago I received an email with an Adobe file attached.  The file was a a book I had restored. The message was “Here is a copy of Strube. Print it, sell it, or give it away.” It is a different world nowadays, where copyright means nothing and intellectual property can be stolen at will.

Oddly enough, the bills aren’t paid by fifers or drummers. They are paid by guitar players, collectors and owners of old Les Paul, Telecaster, etc. Guitars. It is a strange story.

For most of my life, I have encouraged all woodwind players to oil their instruments. A proper oil preserves the tropical hardwoods from which they are made, makes the bore hydrophobic, and the instrument is easier play and sounds better. Fifers just don’t listen. However, almost a decade ago, owners of rare 50s and 60s guitars learned that the oil I carry, named Bore Doctor, was great for preservation of their Ebony and Rosewood fret boards. I had it packaged in larger bottles and called it Fret Doctor. I sell thousands of bottles per year all over the world.

It is also used on wooden clarinets, oboes, bassoons, English horns, knife handles, cutting boards, wooden sculpture, pistol grips, bagpipe drones and chanters and even marimba bars. Maybe some day the fifers will catch on.


A few days later Ed sent me this follow-up which to me reads as a perfect Post Script to the story above.

“Just came home from Philadelphia’s new Sugarhouse Casino, which opened today. I provided the fife and drum music.

While there, with my trusty PDA, I set up a meeting between a fifer in Johannesburg, South Africa, with another fifer in Pretoria, both of whom I taught. They may have located a drummer. By any measure, that’s a corps!

Yesterday, I shipped 30 plastic fifes to a woman in South Australia. When she was a kid, her school had a fife and drum corps, but girls were not allowed in. Now, she is a teacher in the same school, and she is getting even. I will be teaching the teacher.

A lady in Maryland lost a ferrule on an old Ferrary fife. I made arrangements for its repair. A lady in Denver, Colorado wants the proper fingering for high C natural. I gave it to her. A kid in Malaysia wants to know how to finger a G#…

This is what I do.



1. Bill Maling, Ken Mazur, James Laske, Dave Delancey and Jack McGuire are some of the drummers associated with Lancraft who helped me by providing examples of the code and explaining their interpretation and use.  My thanks to all of these men.  See the footnotes to Part 3, Examples of Snare Drum Notation on this blog Or visit the Lancraft  Fife and Drum Corps website for the names of other legendary Lancraft drummers.

2.  Since receiving this book, I have  replaced all of my flawed drum manuals with Ed’s publications.

3.  An example of “front cover calligraphy” can be seen below on the photocopy of Charles Stuart Ashworth’s Drum Beating from 1812.

4.  See notes on Hart in Part 3, Examples of Snare Drum Notation.






Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


Examples of Snare Drum Notation, Part 1: 1589-1797.

PROLOGUE to Examples of Snare Drum Notation:

I have studied military snare drum manuals published during the 18 and 19 centuries. They provide insights into the beats drummer’s played and the type of  drum instruction available 100 or more years ago. They have their own personalities and the diaries written with quill pens, books printed with crude type, hand made paper, colorful, antiquated language and interesting notation provide glimpses into the life and times of their authors.

As I turned pages, I became fascinated with their unique and sometimes indecipherable notations. Had these been invented to assist drummer boys learning the military camp duties, boys who were often unable to read music, or had the teachers, grappling with the intricacies of a drum beat, been forced to invent their own notations, or both? But those theories didn’t make complete sense.

For example, music notation had become highly evolved and standardizeds during the Baroque era (ca. 1600-1750), well befor the first drum manual was published in America in 1810. An extensive set of symbols, particularly for keyboard and string music, was developed for embellishments ranging from single grace notes to trills and complex ornaments. Thomas Arne (1710-78) wrote in traditional notation, eight and five stroke snare drum rolls for March with a side drum in his Masque Alfred (1740).

So, why did teachers of the drum develope their own unique notation and sometimes nomenclature, while all the music surounding them was using a notation familiar today.  I believe the answer is rather mundane. The authors wanted to sell books. It is interesting to note how often the words best, authentic, most, easiest, true, approved, complete, etc. appear on their front pages immediately after the title.

The war for independence had just ended and the tradition of local militiamen  was still very strong. In New England where all of these books were written, every hamlet, village, and town maintained an armed militia and at least one fifer and drummer.  This area of the United States was still sparsely settled particularly outside a large town such as Boston. Competition among teachers and teaching methods and rivalries between militias and their fifers and drummers must have existed, as they continue to do.

Today, Much effort has been expended by teachers and instrument manufacturers in attempts to standardize sound, methods and nomenclature. In Examples of Snare Drum Notation one will encounter not so much an evolution of the drummers craft as his independent spirit. As the reader will discover at the end of Part 3, there are drummers still marching to a different notation.


Until the early twentieth century, instruction books for snare drummers were written to conform with military protocol.1 These books contained names for drum strokes, signals for camp duty and field maneuvers,  exercises or ‘rudiments’2, and often, appropriate tunes for fife, the instrument most commonly paired with the field snare or side drum.  They did not tell drummers how the drum was played,3

Creating symbols for the snare drum strokes, signals and exercises, and staves upon which to put them, has occupied players and teachers of military drumming for at least 350 years. The examples of drum notation which follow, are arranged as closely as possible in chronological order and represent all extant drum manuals or fragments thereof in my possession from the period of time covered

1555? The first mention of military drum signals in English history, date from the reign of Queen Mary (1553-58).  They applied to foot soldiers and were titled March, Alarm, Approach, Assault, Battle, Retreat and Skirmish. However, these seven signals survive as names only, no music notation for them is known to exist.4

1589. The earliest extant music notation for military drum is in Orchesography, a treatise on the honourable exercise of dancing by Thoinot Arbeau, published by Jehan des Preyz, Langres, France.5

1589-Orchesography,Thoinot Arbeau, Langres France.

1589-Orchesography,Thoinot Arbeau, Langres France.

Arbeau’s notation is easily understood today if one reduces each note by half, i.e., a half note (minum) to a quarter note, a quarter to an eighth, etc. There are no grace notes or rolls in Orchesography. The right hand plays the first note of each group and both hands together play the last note. The right hand stroke coincides with the left foot, and the fifth note-hands together-coincides with the right foot, thus completing one stride. This sequence of right hand-left foot, left hand-right foot, “keeps the player in balance” while marching.6 Some scholars believe the 16th c. minum was a relatively quick beat much like the quarter note today; perhaps 115 beats per minute”

1627. Bonaventura Pistofilo’s, Torneo (Bologna, Italy,), a book of illustrations instructing Cavaliere (Knights or soldiers) in postures for weapon’s drill, 7 contains, according to James Blades (1901-99), the first  drum beats actually used in a military context.8 In the example below, lines one and three show the drum beats, while lines two and four dictate the soldier’s movements in response to the drum. The notation is similar to Arbeau, but the bar lines, typical of the age, do not mean what they mean today.*9

1621-Torneo, Bonaventura Pistofilo.

1621-Torneo, Bonaventura Pistofilo.

There are other mysteries as well.  What is the relationship between “Primo tempo” and “Secondo Tempo”?  What is the meaning of the dots over some notes, the + (‘crosses’) and the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, which appear only under the soldier’s staves? These remain to be deciphered, but the onomatopoeia device, here, ta – pa,  was also used in Arbeau and will be familiar to modern military drummers.10 So too is the stem down, stem up notation which may make its first appearance here, and probably indicates right and left hands, a device in use to this day.

1632. Charles I of England(1625-49), issued a Warrant directing the restoration of the English March to its original rhythm as it had suffered from improper interpretation. Copies of the march and warrant have appeared in various texts. The original has not been found.

1632-Warrant, English March.

1632-Warrant, English March.

At first glance, the deciphering of this beat seems to be at our fingertips: the notation in Arbeau and Pistofilo are similar, but how this march was played, has been argued since its actual sound faded from memory.11 Note the use of both single and double bar lines, fermatas, and the onomatopoeia, here pou and tou, with a final poung.12 The capital R, appears with intriguing regularity and may indicate a roll or a ruff; perhaps a key to deciphering the March.

1634. After these tantalizing examples of almost decipherable drum notation,two  unique and aggravatingly obscure manuscripts appear. The first is a version of The English March shown in the Warrant above and published by Thomas Fisher in Warlike Directions or the Soldiers Practice.13

1644-Warlike Directions, Thomas Fisher.

1644-Warlike Directions, Thomas Fisher.

1= Left Hand,   I= Right Hand,   r= Full Ruff,   2= 1/2 Ruff,   Ir= Stroke and Ruff,    r2= A Ruff and a half joined together. (6 Rudimenss in this beating.)

The Preparation. which precedes the drum beat is, in Charles’ Warrant,The Voluntary Before the March

In the sentence below the drum beating, Fisher says, “I have insisted somewhat long in the office of the drummer, so that I find a great deficit in that place, and would wish a more general reformation.” Fisher is petitioning King Charles I for a job as drum instructor throughout the kingdom, and if the credentials he gives for himself in his book’s preface are believable, he may well have been qualified.

1650-90. And then, this curious document. Discovered glued to the inside of a book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England, it is referred to as the Douce (pronounced Dowse) Document after the book’s original owner. Shown below is one page of the document titled “The Grounds of Beating Ye Drum”. Under this title, arranged from left to right, are 11 symbols or pictographs representing drum strokes or rudiments.

1650-90 (ca.)-Douce, Grounds for Beating Ye Drum.

1650-90 (ca.)-Douce, Grounds for Beating Ye Drum.

The interpretations for these symbols read as follows:  “one stroke and a touch”, “Is a plain stroke”, “Is 4 strokes beginning easy and ending hard”, “Is a half ruffe beginning loud and ending loud”, “Is a whole ruffe which is 5 strokes ending loud”, “Is a ruffe and half which is 8 strokes”, , “Is a stroke with both sticks together”, “Is a stroke with both sticks and a touch”, “Is rolling two sticks with one hand and two strokes with ye other”, “Is continual rolling”, “Is a bang by ye hoop” (a Pointing, Poung, pong or poing stroke?  There is a similar instruction in Levi Lovering’s 1818 book,page 9.See my posting “What was a Poing Stroke?”)

1777. Reveille from Trommel Spielett, George L. Winters,(Berlin); according to the late James Blades,the earliest military drum manual in existence. The upward slanting being this on all the roles indicate crescendos. (A combination of upward and downward slanting beams appear on other pages in the manual.) The beating below is identical to the Reveille in use today in the Swedish and Dutch armies. (see Part II)

1777-George L. Winters, Berlin.

1777-George L. Winters, Berlin.

1778.   The Valley Forg (sic)drum beating below, is from A Revolutionary War Drummers Book, a possession of the Massachusetts historical Society. It’s twenty nine pages were written entirely with a quill pen, and contain much to recommend them to drummers. On his opening pages the anonymous author lists 20 exercises (rudiments). He begins with what he terms “The Rule of the first roll or Gamut for the Drum” i.e. closing the long roll.Included also is a Twelve stroke roll.

In the example below, the very first note is an eighth note with a backward beam. This is a 7, and indicates a seven stroke role, the first six notes of which precede the downbeat, but are not shown. “The letter R signifies A roll”. The two staves which separate Right and Left hands, are, to my knowledge, the earliest extant example of this device, a variant of the single stave with up and down stems in The Young Drummers Assistant from the same period.

1778(ca.) A Revolutionary War Drummer's Book.

1778(ca.) A Revolutionary War Drummer’s Book.

Above is my interpretation of the Valley Forg beat. Every drum beating in the book was named for a tune it was meant to accompany. (The Valley Forg(e) is a catchy tune.) Finding these tunes, many existing under different names,and transcribing the drum beatings into modern notation,was often a challenge, but always exciting.

1779-84. With the appearance of  The Young Drummers Assistant (London), illustrated below, drum notation appeared to be continuing in the mainstream of common practice, and the Thomas Fischer and Douce manuscripts appeared to have been anomalies.

1784(ca.)-Young Drummers Assistant, London.

1784(ca.)-Young Drummers Assistant, London.

The Young Drummers Assistant may well be the first drum manual published in the West utilizing three line notation;  the notes on the middle line indicate the primary beats, in this case, the end note  of rolls. Stems up indicate the Left hand, stems down, right hand.

“Mother”, is the five stroke roll.(See Ashworth, Part II) This book contains 12 “Marks” (rudiments), but the 5 stroke roll is not among them.  Interestingly, “Roll Continued” is listed recalling the “Roll Continuing” in the Douce Document from approximately 100 years earlier.  Also included is a “Pointing Stroke” Which cannot help but remind one of the “Poing Stroke”.

ca.1780-90. This Book titled Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings is part of the Thomas Shaw–Hellier collection devoted to mid to late 18th-century music manuscripts in possession of the Music Library, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, England. The  staff of the  Shaw–Hellier collection has not been able to date this manuscript, but agreed with me that based on its similarity to The Young Drummers Assistant above, it probably dates from the same decades,  The Scotch Duty Beatings’s staves are printed, but the notation is by hand and made with quill pen.  I have chosen to reproduce a similar section of Mother and three Camps Reveille from both books. The book contains 12 rudiments including a Six stroke roll.

ca1780-Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings

ca1780-Scotch (sic) Duty Beatings

1788. Die Erste Tagwacht, (Reveille.) The text reads: “The First Morning Call. To every measure of this morning call belongs a step. One will always beat the first and second part twice.” (repeat both parts always.)

1788-Swiss notation, Reveille.

1788-Swiss notation, Reveille.

A totally phonetic approach to teaching drummers. This Tagwacht drum beating “from the Berner Ordommanx1788. Likely even earlier, it appears as the identical French drum call, ‘Premier Reveille’ with the pretty melody, ‘Goddess Diana at the Break of Day.’ The oldest known morning call”.14

1797. Below is a reproduction of one page from Benjamin Clark’s Drum Book Titled Rules for the Drum.  The notation is similar to The Young Drummers Assistant and the Scotch Duty aboveexcept for the direction of the note stems, and lists rolls of varying lengths – the long roll, 10, 9, 7, 5, and  3 stroke rolls, as well as drags and ‘ruffe’.  Clark’s book was discovered in 1974 by Kate Van Winkle Kellerand subsequentlySusan Cifaldi collected and transcribed the fife tunes to match the books drum beatings transcribed into modern notation by Bob Castillo.15

1797-Benjamin Clark drum book.

1797-Benjamin Clark drum book.

Clark’s book contains nine exercises (rudiments) including a Three stroke roll..

Footnotes to Part 1:

1. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, two men wrote instruction books for percussion instruments which deviated from the military norm.  Harry A. Bower, who played in the Boston Symphony(1904-07), was first in 1899 with his  Imperial Method for the Drums, Timpani, Bells Etc.. The John Church Co., Philadelphia, PA., and followed in1911 with his System for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Timpani., Carl Fischer, N.Y.

Carl E. Gardner was next in 1919 with his  Modern Method for the Drums, Cymbals and Accessories,  Carl Fischer, N.Y.  Gardner had also played with the B.S.O. and, at the time he wrote his books, was Supervisor of Bands and Orchestras in the Boston Public School System.

Though the books of both men contained some of the essential rudiments–flams, ruffs, and short rolls– Bower and Gardner wrote primarily to train percussionists for symphony orchestra, Vaudeville and theatre orchestra snare, timpani and mallet playing.

2. The word ‘Rudiments’ first appears in print on page 3 of A New Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating by Charles Stewart Ashworth, published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1812.  A complete list of exercises or rudiments shown in each book will be attached to the end of Part II. (Also, see my article, A Brief Note on Drum Rudiments posted on this blog.)

3.  In his Imperial Method for the Drum (1899), Harry A. Bower included three very simple line drawings intended to show the right and left hand grip and the proper angle for setting a concert snare drum. In his System for Drums, Bells, Xylophone and Timpani (1911), Bower used photographs to more clearly show the hand, arm and playing positions for the snare drum.

4.  Grosse, Military Antiquities, 1801, in Henry George Farmer: The Rise and Development of Military Music, 1912-1970. These seven signals (commands) do, however, suggest a rather sophisticated drum technique, as each signal would have been distinctly different, one from the other, in order to impress itself upon men engaged or about to be engaged in the stress and distractions of battle. When encamped, a 16th c. army may well have used additional signals such as Reveille, Assembly and Tattoo, which, in one form or another, were common camp duty signals of the 18th and 19th c.  It may reasonably be assumed that drummers of the 16th c. had a required repertoire of ten or more distinctive drum beats.

5. Thoinot Arbeau: Orchesography, Dover Publcations, New York., soft cover. Orchesography is in the form of a dialogue between its author and his student Capriol, The first chapter explains the correlation between drum beats and moving soldiers together in time, calculating distance and time of travel. Arbeau illustrates how seventy-six variations of five consecutive minims can be created by gradually substituting crochets and quavers for the first four minims.

6. This right, left correlation persists today, even in some non-military snare drum solos. The right hand, commonly the strongest, plays the first beat of each measure, thus helping to clarify a beat’s tempo and form.  Historically, left handedness was considered to be evil, unnatural or simply undesirable. Even today, some left handed young people are forced to use their right hand, particularly for writing. Left handed drummers have always been required to begin with, or change to, a right hand grip in order to conform to either the uniform appearance of a military drum line, or with drum methods and solos based on a right hand lead. The matched grip, so prevalent today, has not entirely done away with left handed issues, as the music military drummers play is written, intentionally or not, from a right hand perspective.

7. Besides emphasizing martial prowess, many of the postures are balletic; befitting the age of  Chivalry which empathized grace, refinement, honour and noble gestures.

1627-Torneo, military drill.

8. James Blades and Jeremy Montague: Early Percussion Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, (page  11),Oxford University Press, 1976.

9. Understanding the precise function of bar lines during the 16th c, is problematic.  They were not always employed, and when used, seem to have served different purposes depending on the composer. In the 15th century, vertical lines were used to divide the staff into sections. These lines did not initially divide the music into measures of equal length as most music then featured fewer regular rhythmic patterns then in later periods. The use of regular measures became commonplace by the end of the 17th century.  In Orchesography, Arbeau does not use bar lines in his drum beats, perhaps because of their short, uniform length, but he does use them occasionally and always in his melodic examples.

10. For example: Paradiddle, ratamacue, ruff and flam.

11. See Maurice Byrne: The English March and Early Drum Notation, Mr. Byrne spent a good deal of his life comparing and analyzing the English March as it appears in the four known copies of the Charles I Warrant, with the notation in the Fisher and Douce manuscripts and their subsequent reflections in The Young Drummer’s Assistant and Samuel Potter (1815, see part II).

Mr. Byrne’s paper is fascinating, informative and a joy to read. However, if one thinks a final solution to the enigma of the English March awaits, a sentence in Byrne’s second paragraph will give pause.  “All of these notations are incomplete,* but by analyzing their basic rhythm it is possible to interpret the significance of the pause sign which they use so that the march can be written down in modern notation”. Dr. Harrison Pawley of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, told me he knew without doubt how this English March was played, but did not volunteer his solution.   (*emphasis mine)

12. This appears to be the Pong or Poing stroke of the late 18th century. (See my posting What Was a Poing Stroke?)

13. I am grateful to Graeme Thew, Principal Percussionist, Grenadier Guards Band, for providing me with copies in readable script of the Thomas Fisher and Douce manuscripts.

14. I am indebted to the eminent Swiss percussionist Fritz Hauser for his translation of Tagwatch and other texts from Trommeln Und Pfeifen In Basel, CD 181996 BREO,  a three Compact Disc history of Swiss drumming.

15.  In a phone conversation Ms Cifaldi told me she had found very faint watermarks on some of the pages of Clark’s book. These watermarks belong to a printer in Boston who operated between the years 1800 and 1810. Even so I have decided to place this manuscript in the 18 c. because Clark, though perhaps writing his book at a later date, had been a drummer in the War for Independence  (1775–83) and had himself dated the book.

Benjamin Clark’s Drum Book 1797, Containing 36 Drum Beatings from the year 1797 and 46 Fife Tunes from the same time period With appropriate historical notes provided by the editors. Drum Beatings rendered into modern notation by Bob Castillo, Fife Tunes collected and transcribed by Susan Cifaldi, copyright 1989 Susan L. Cifaldi. This book may be purchased from Mr. Leo Brennan:> Price, $15.00 plus postage.

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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


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

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


Examples of Snare Drum Notation, Part 3: 1853 to 1869

1853. George D. Klinehanse, The Manual of Instruction For Drummers, On An Improved Plan. Containing The Rudiments Of Drum — Beating; with rules for Common, Quick, and Compound Time: together with The Whole Of The Camp Duties Etc. prepared under the direction of the adjutant General of the United States Army, approved of by the commander-in-Chief And Adopted For The Use Of The Army Of The United States. 27 rudiments.

Until it was replaced by the Gardiner A. Strube Instructor in 1869, the Klinehanse manual was the only drum book officially approved for military duty by the U.S. Army.  The copy which I was allowed to photograph, resides in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. It contains 27 rudiments. The Poing Stroke appears below in the first measure of stave three and in The Rules To Be Observed By The Pupil, a brief one page introduction to his book, the author gives instructions for its use in the camp duty, to my knowledge the first and only such instructions regarding the Poing Stroke to appear in print.

Those Rules also direct the drummer to place the heel of the right foot into the hollow of the left foot, exactly opposite to Potter’s instructions (see Part 2.).  Klinehanse’s notation, left-hander above, right hand below and both on one stave is clear and reminiscent of The Young Drummers Assistant (see Part 1.) and Bruce and Emmett, Drummers and Fifer’s Guide, see below.

1853-George D. Klinehanse,Washington,DC.

According to US Department of Defense records, a George H. Klinehanse of Washington DC served in the Navy/Marine Corps during the Civil War in the United States (1861-65).  The Klinehanse family appears to have been large, moderately well to do and involved in their community. At least two Klinehanse men served as trustees on local boards of education.

1860. Swiss.1 This notation is of interest to me because the bottom or more modern parts resemble in some respects the notation that concludes this article, a shorthand device now in use particularly in Connecticut, which has come to be called “The Code”,

1860 ca.- Swiss,with modern notation below.

1860 ca.- Swiss,with modern notation below.

1861. Keach, Burditt and Cassidy, The Army Drum And Fife Book containing Full Illustrations, the Reveille, the Tattoo the various calls and beats used in the service and a choice collection of music to which is added the buglers call book, containing all the infantry general calls and calls for skirmishers, used in the U.S. 18 rudiments.

This is the first book to appear with dual drum notation: that is, a separate space for the left and right hand and then below on another stave the same beat replicated in modern notation. Keach contains 18 rudiments, including the single stroke roll, an eight stroke roll, and a side Flamadidle, but no Poing Stroke.

In the Preface to the drum section, this appears, “Hitherto, books intended to give instruction in Drum beating, were almost useless, owing to the unintelligible manner or system of instruction. In the Modern School, the System of Professor Keach, (recommended by Edward Kendall2, the greatest of Drummers as well as of Buglers), is used as being the best, imparting to the pupil, who faithfully adheres to the rules and practice, all that is needful to make a good Drummer.”

Modesty aside, Keach’s contribution to this book is one of the clearest expositions of the rudiments of drumming ever written.

1861-Keach, Burditt & Cassidy Boston, MA.

1861-Keach, Burditt & Cassidy Boston, MA.

1861-1Keach, Burditt and Cassidy, Boston.

1861-1Keach, Burditt and Cassidy, Boston.

This page from Keach may convey a seriousness of purpose more than precise details for drumming technique, but to my knowledge it is the first attempt to illustrate grip and stance in a drum book. Notice the heel of the right foot against the heel of the left.

1862.  George. Barrett Bruce and Daniel Decatur EmmettThe Drummers’ and Fifers’  Guide or Self  Instructor. 36 rudiments.

On page four appears Rudimental Principles, containing paragraphs devoted to putting on drum heads, holding the drum and holding drumsticks. Then follows instructions for the long roll and 35 other rudiments in left-hand right-hand notation, each on one stave as seen in the example below.  Bruce then repeats all the rudiments in modern notation.

Fred Johnson the founder of the Canadian rudimental drum organization  Canadian Associates  Drumming Rudimental Excellence (C.A.D.R.E.) and a distinguished teacher of many fine field drum players suggested some years ago that the reason Bruce and Emmett’s “Guide” was never officially adopted by the United States Army was because too many of the drum beatings and fife tunes were simply beyond the capabilities of the average military musician of the era.

True or not, the Guide is full of some of the most glorious music ever written for Fife and drum. The wedding of the two voices is beyond reproach and having played some of those tunes for over 50 years I can confidently say they will remain as meaningful to future generations as to those of the present and past.3

1862-Geo. Bruce & Dan. Emmett, Drummer's & Fifer's Guide, New Yor

1862-Geo. Bruce & Dan. Emmett, Drummer’s & Fifer’s Guide, New Yor

1862. Col. H. C. Hart, New York. New and Improved Instructor for the Drum with Original Notation, Containing all calls of the camp and field, for Drum, Fife and Bugle. Signals of the Drum Major; Position and Duties of Drum Corps at Guard Mounting, Parades, Reviews and Escorts. 27 Rudiments

1862-Col. H. C. Hart, New York, NY. Ex.2.

1862-Col. H. C. Hart, New York, NY. Ex.2.

1862-Col H. D. Hart, New York, NY. Ex.1.

1862-Col H. D. Hart, New York, NY. Ex.1.

I have looked through his book on numerous occasions and am always discouraged, probably because I have been thoroughly trained in traditional Western music notation and the idea of learning a new system is simply too daunting. Still, I’m impressed by Hart’s effort.4 Also, there is much information in this book to interest music and military historians which goes beyond the subject of these articles

1862, Elias Howe, Boston. United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor, for the use of the Army and Navy consisting of full rules and exercises, the duties of musicians on all occasions, Full Camp Duty, Signals, Calls, etc. also the complete bugle call for the infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Also the pay and emoluments of musicians, and of every grade in the Army or Navy to which is added Several Popular National and Patriotic Songs as Quartets. 24 Rudiments.

The notation and layout in Howe appear to be even clearer than Keach already discussed above.  As in Keach, the left-hand right-hand notation is also represented in the modern style on a separate stave below. Howe devotes two pages to the drum rudiments and army camp signals in the notation of 1812 which he calls the Old English style. (His examples appear to be copied after Klinehanse and the Young Drummer’s Assistant.) Howe’s book contains the largest library of fife tunes among the books under discussion. The drum Beatings for these tunes are not as interesting as those of George B. Bruce, but they are clear and playable.

1862-Elias Howe, Boston, MA.

1862-Elias Howe, Boston, MA.

1864. William Nevins, Chicago. Drum Major of Gen. McClellan’s5 Body Guard.

Army Regulations for Drum, Fife, And Bugle; being a complete manual for these instruments, giving all the calls for Camp and Field Duty, to which is added Suitable Music for each Instrument. 30 Rudiments including Poing Strokes: Hard, Middling Hard, Faint or Soft.

Compare this notation with Klinehanse, above.

1864-William Nevins, Chicago, IL.

1864-William Nevins, Chicago, IL.

1869, Gardiner A. Strube. By Authority. Strube’s Drum and Fife Instructor: Containing the Rudimental Principles of Drumbeating, Scale for the Fife, Rudiments of Music and a New and entirely Original System of expressing Hand to Hand Drumming.6 The end The Full And Correct United states army Duty For Both Instruments. Composed and arranged in a simple and instructive manner. 25 Rudiments

Gardiner A. Strube was Drum-Major 12th Infantry, N. G. S. N. Y., Formerly Drummer in CO. A., 5th Regiment, N.Y. V., Duryea’s Zouaves

When the National Association of Rudimental Drummers (N. A R. D.) was founded in 1933 its members adopted the 25 Rudiments of Gardiner A. Strube with the addition of the Single Stroke Roll and then selected from them a group which they called the 13 essential rudiments. Some rudimental drummers today trace their lineage back to Strube whilst others declare fealty to Bruce via Ashworth.

As can be seen in the example below, Strube uses on one stave, the left-hand above, right hand below and the beginnings and endings of phrases in the middle (see The Young Drummer’s Assistant, Part 1.)

1869-Gardiner A. Strube, New York, N.Y,

1869-Gardiner A. Strube, New York, N.Y.

I began writing these articles because I hoped to answer the question, “Why did military drummers continue to invent arcane and sometimes unintelligible drum notations after a viable system was already in use by composers and performers of Western art music?”

I believed one answer to have been vanity. The numerous drum books published in the United States during the first two decades of the 19th century, many of which boldly stated the superiority of their system and notation, assured me that vanity was indeed the raison d’être for some authors.

Another possible answer, really a guess based on hearsay, was that military drum teachers were looking for a quick and simple way of teaching the signals, calls and rudiments of drumming to young boys new to military service.  However, after studying the examples above and the books from which they are derived, I believe this to be untrue.

My original intention was to end these examples of snare drum notation with the Strube book of 1869 because I  believe the major issues of drum notation, at least in North America, had pretty well been resolved by the third quarter of the 19th century.

But midway through this third article, serendipity intervened. An e-mail from my friend Doug Kleinhans, former Hellcat drummer with the West Point Military Academy, drum corps instructor and composer of brilliantly quirky snare drum solos, sent me the first notation shown below.

A former student of his who had studied with the late great New England rudimental drummer Earl Sturtze, had sent Doug this manuscript. Doug thought the notation was called the “Connecticut Code” and that it was associated with the Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps.7 I contacted Lancraft’s Web master, fifer, restorer and publisher of historical fife and drum books, Edmund Boyle, sent him a sample notation and asked him what he knew about this “Code”. There ensued a correspondence with perhaps a half a dozen Lancraft members which in itself is a story.  I learned that perhaps only one or two Lancraft drummers read music and this notation is a shorthand they use to learn their beats during all practices together and privately at home.

I was told that they can learn and memorize a their beatings faster using this shorthand than drummers who read music.  There are issues of phrasing and dynamics,etc. which are handled in detail, but teachers such as Earl Sturtze and Ken Mazur have it tested to the efficacy of this shorthand system and have only taken time to teach students how to read music when the student has demanded to be taught.

Here then is another answer to my question, albeit modern. The Lancraft drummers do not refer to this  as “The Code”, but depending on their teacher, they are all familiar with some short hand system.

2006-Thomas Sanders Medley, Snare drum in Lancraft shorthand.

2006-Thomas Sanders Medley, Snare drum in Lancraft shorthand.

2006-Thomas Sanders, Ken Masur shorthand version.

2006-Thomas Sanders, Ken Masur shorthand version.

Thomas Sanders, Jay Tuomey, page 2., copied by Risto Skrikberg.

Thomas Sanders, Jay Tuomey, page 2., copied by Risto Skrikberg.

Footnotes to Part 3:

1. From a three CD set, Trommeln und Pfeifen in Basel, Ursprunge Entwicklung Perspektiven,CD181996.  BREO.  This is an aural history of drumming in Switzerland performed by some of Switzerland’s greatest drummers from old and modern manuscripts. A large, copiously illustrated booklet (In Swiss) accompanies the set.

2. Praise indeed.  Two compositions by Edward (Ned) Kendall  were chosen by George B. Bruce and Daniel D. Emmett for inclusion in their famous Drummers and Fifer’s Guide of 1862.  They appear on page 69, “Ancient and Hon. Artillery” and 70, “Ned Kendall’s”.

3. Concerning the “Downfall of Paris”, arguably Bruce and Emmett’s masterpiece, the legendary drummer, author, and drum maker Sanford A. “Gus” Moeller wrote, “it has always been the pride of the schooled drummers, not only to play it so it sounded correct, but also to beat it in the prescribed way. When drummers from different parts of the country get together and drum such beats as this with perfect uniformity they prove themselves worthy brethren.” Please see my article, “Le Carillon National, Ah! ca Ira and the Downfall of Paris”.

4. When I began working on Hart’s system, I was reminded of some of the contemporary Western art music compositions I had to learn during the 1960s, 70s and early 80s which required players to learn unique notations devised by the composer; this was all the rage among certain composers of the period. As a percussionist my task was doubly vaunting. I had many instruments to gather and arrange and I also had to learn a new notation, sometimes a different one for each piece on the concert!

5.  George B. McClellan (1826-85) was nicknamed  Little Mac or The Young  Napoleon by the troops under his command who usually thought highly of him, but after the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Antietam, he was sacked by Pres. Lincoln. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant called McClellan an enigma.

Even so, McClellan had powerful supporters and ran as a Democratic candidate in opposition to Lincoln in the 1864 presidential campaign, but was beaten decisively. During the last years of his career, he served as governor of New Jersey (1878- 86) and wrote a memoir defending his actions, many might say, inactions, during the Civil War.

Given McClellan’s great popularity and notoriety, it’s reasonable to assume that Nevins capitalized upon his position as Drum major in McClellan’s body guard, by having his book published during the 1864 presidential campaign and in Chicago, which was hosting the Democratic convention that year and was home to Nevins publisher, Root and Cady, one of the Union’s largest music publishers,

6. There are elements of Strube’s  notation that differ slightly from some of the other books examined for these three articles, but In my opinion they fall far short of being “a New and entirely Original System of expressing Hand to Hand Drumming.”

7. The Lancraft Fife and Drum Corps, now of North Haven. CT.   was founded in 1888 and named after an oyster man, one Ed Lancraft who befriended the corps by providing them with uniforms and rehearsal space. Later on he purchased drums for them which were in the shape of oyster barrels and for awhile the Corps was known as the “Oyster Kegs”.

In 1970 the great Swiss basel drummer Alfons Grieder who had heard the corps while studying in the United States, invited Lancraft  to Switzerland and for his efforts Alfons was made an honorary member of the corps.

Lancraft has been blest with some of the greatest field drummers in North American history: Sanford A. ‘Gus’ Moeller not only played in the corps, but made five drums for them in 1954 for $85 a piece!, Frank Arsenault, Earl Sturtze, and Jay Tuomey (mentor to the Finnish rudimental pathfinder Risto Skrigsberg),- a drum line for the ages.


Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


Note for a Canadian Brass CD Booklet

In 1775 the drum purchased by the citizens of Lexington, Massachusetts for 16-year-old William Diamond, achieved a special place in the history of the United States of America when William used it to call the Minutemen onto Lexington’s green in the overture to the shot heard round the world. Almost 100 years later, 12-year-old Johnny Clem was immortalized as “The drummer Boy of Shiloh” after his exploits during one of the seminal battles of the Civil War.

There is truth and fiction in these stories, but there can be no doubt as to the importance of their drums and the hundreds of thousands of drums that have accompanied America’s soldiers in times of conflict. For these drums commanded a soldier’s every movement, and their rich, heroic sounds and the tunes they accompanied, gave men the courage to march across  open fields in the face of enemy fire.

Towards the end of the Civil War the field telephone and telegraph replaced drums on the field of battle. Metal drums, products of the machine age, began to appear, usually in much smaller versions of their larger military ancestors.

The drums played on this recording display this genealogy. All of the rope tensioned, wooden shelled drums were made by The Cooperman Drum Company of Bellows Falls,Vermont. They are accurate replicas of 18th and mid-19th century military drums and on this recording, were used primarily in the arrangements of music from that era.

The other drums used on this recording  are smaller and were made by a variety of manufacturers from a mix of wood and metal or entirely from metal. These are, on the whole, rare drums highly prized by percussionists/collectors. They are heard here in the arrangements of late 19th and early 20th century repertoire. The majority of drums used on this recording have calf skin heads and gut snares or wire wound gut snares.


Posted by on March 4, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums



About a week before Christmas 2009 Chuck Daellenbach  of the Canadian brass called to ask if I would be interested in helping the ‘Brass’ make a recording of American patriotic music for The American Heritage Society. Chuck wanted to use rope tension field drums. He knew the sound of these instruments quite well because we had played a concert together in the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto about eight years earlier. I had made an arrangement of four prominent military songs  for the Canadian brass and Nexus which was premiered on that concert.

At that time Chuck and I talked about the possibility of piccolo trumpets playing music intended for fifes. Chuck had remembered that conversation as well as the sound of the rope drums and when the American Heritage Society contacted him, he immediately thought of me and my interest in-fife and drum music, and my rope drums.

The brass arranger for this recording would be the venerable Canadian musician Howard Cable, who incidentally, lives just a couple of blocks from my home. When Chuck mentioned me to Howard, Howard suggested that he and I get together. I have known Howard for probably 40 years. He has a distinguished career in Canadian music as a producer, script writer, conductor, composer and began his association with the Canadian Brass in 1977.

Howard came to my home, heard my arrangements for the brass, and asked if I would be interested in doing all the percussion parts for his arrangements. I was happy to accept. Soon, Howard’s arrangements began arriving from his copyist to my computer, and I set out writing for rope field drums and cymbals. All of the arrangements were completed by mid-January, and rehearsals began in a Toronto church on February 8, 2010. The CD is scheduled to be released in time for the Fourth of July holidays in the United States.1

Below this article are some photographs from the recording sessions. They show the drums used for the recording. I think the collection of drums is impressive, and it seems quite possible to me that no recording in the past has included such a large and interesting array of snare drums, bass drums and cymbals.

I wrote each arrangement with specific players in mind. I had asked Chuck to engage Bob Becker and Russell Hartenberger, former colleagues of mine in Nexus, and Ryan Scott a former student who is now one of the most sought after percussionists in Toronto. All of them are expert drummers and fine musicians who appreciate the particular style of drumming I employed in the arrangements; that is, the “Ancient” or “Open” style prevalent during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Drums used on the recording sessions.
Drums used on the recording sessions.

(Bass drum dimensions are Depth-diameter. Snare drum dimensions are Diameter-depth,)

Front row, Left to Right : Ryan’s Ludwig Universal model Bass drum, 14″x28″, calf heads, (ca. 1961)-

Bob’s Ludwig “Super-Ludwig” Theatre Model, brass shell, 15″ X 5″, calf heads and gut snares, (ca. 1927)-

Ryan’s Noble and Cooley Birch Snare Drum (with Patterson cable snares) 14″x8″-Rogers Dynasonic 14″x5″ (ca.1967).

Middle row: Robin’s Eames Bi-Centennial model field drum, plywood shell, calf heads, heavy gut snares,16″x18″, (1976)-Coopperman Bass drum, plastic heads, (2002)-

Russell’s Cooperman Liberty model field drum, 17″x20″, calf heads, gut snares, (ca. 1978)-

Bob’s Cooperman Liberty model, 17″x20″, calf heads, gut snares, (1981).

Back row: Bob’s Spenke & Metzel, brass shell, 14″ X 5″, calf heads, wire wound silk snares, (ca. 1965)-Premier Field drum, mahogany shell with chrome veneer, 15″ X 12″, calf heads and gut snares, (ca. 1975)-

Ryan’s Ludwig and Ludwig,14″x4″ free-floating wood shell, original maple rims, 16 claw lugs, calf snare head, with “Ludwig Playon Plastic” batter head.  Original wire wrapped gut snares and working throw (ca. 1920).-

Robin’s Cooperman custom made field drum with narrow inlayed hoops, brass hooks and Liberty strainer, 17″x15″ (2002)-Walberg & Auge, 16″x15″, single tension wood shell field drum, calf heads, original gut snares, serial # 02820, (Worcester, Massachusetts, before 1910)-

Ryan’s Joseph Rogers Jr. &  Son “Union Brand The Quality Drum”, original wire wrapped gut snares,14″x10″ (ca. 1938)-

Robin’s Cooperman custom made (for this recording) snare drum, ash shell, brass hooks, calf heads, gut snares. narrow hoops, modified Liberty strainer, 14″x12″ (2010).

Cooperman concert Bass drum, 19"x36", ca.2000.  (On loan from The Canadian Opera Company.)

Cooperman concert Bass drum, 19"x36", ca.2000. (On loan from The Canadian Opera Company.)

Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker and Ryan Scott
Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker and Ryan Scott
Cymbals and beaters.
Cymbals and beaters.
Chuck Daellenbach, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger, Howard Cable, Ryan Scott & Robin Engelman.
Chuck Daellenbach, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger, Howard Cable, Ryan Scott & Robin Engelman.

Notes about the music:

The works recorded consisted of marches and songs written during a span of time beginning with the American war for Independence and ending soon after the First World War:  Chester by William Billings, the 1814 and 1931 versions of The Star-Spangled Banner, Dixie’s land, Stars and Stripes Forever, National Emblem, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Johnny Comes Marching Home, Hail Columbia (The President’s March), America, a selection of George M. Cohan songs, a medley of U.S. military service songs, and also, O Canada.

1. The CD “Stars & Stripes” is now available to the public.


Posted by on March 1, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


Western Military Drums in Japan

The first Opium War between China and Great Britain  (1839-42) was a humiliating defeat for China’s Qing (Tsing) Dynasty. Its armies, with overwhelming numerical superiority, had unwittingly marched into the maw of Western military science and technology. 1,000 miles to the East, Japanese war lords took note. It was clear to them that very soon Japan would once again find the West on its doorstep.

The first verifiable contact between Japan and the West occurred after a disabled Portuguese ship was forced to land on Tanegashima Island in 1543.1 The Portuguese are remembered, among other things, for introducing to Japan, firearms, castle fortification, tobacco, Christianity and syphilis.

Western music arrived in 1551 when flutes and oboes accompanied the landing of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries. By 1580, 200 Catholic churches existed in Western Japan and the lute, diatonic harp, viola de arco, clavichord and organs of various types were present by the end of the century.

In 1592-93, Dominican and Franciscan friars arrived. Their aggressive proselytizing dramatically altered the temper of Japanese authorities, as well as antagonizing the Jesuits. By 1640, Christianity was outlawed, its adherents banished or killed, its churches closed, and foreign travel by Japanese nationals banned. Japan drew its curtain of isolation against the West.

But not completely. Some Japanese intellectuals kept abreast of international events by reading foreign books, officially banned, and with news from a colony of Dutch merchants allowed to live near Nagasaki.2 In 1839, the first year of the first Opium War and fifteen years before Commodore Perry (1794-1858) arrived in Edo harbor (Tokyo) for the last time, Takashima Shirodayū, a scholar who had studied Dutch military science in Nagasaki, was ordered to introduce Western-style military training. Music for trumpets, flutes and drums, according to the Dutch model, was considered essential.3

In 1855, a Dutch frigate captain submitted to Japanese administrators a detailed plan for the organization of their navy. The plan required one drummer (taiko-kata) for each warship. His duties were to beat Reveille (okoshi-taiko or “wake up drum” in Japanese), Roffel (Dutch for roll), for raising and lowering of the flag, Appèl 4 for the lowering of the top mast’s spar and Taptoe, (Tattoo in the English Camp Duty) recalling enlisted men to their quarters.

Taiko-fu or “drum score”, (“Western-Method-Drum Score for Tanhoru Drill as brought over from Holland”), was published in mid-February 1856 and contains what may be the earliest extant notation for drum signals and marches.5

Dienst mars
Dienst mars

In 1864, two Shogunate retainers were sent to Nagasaki with express orders to learn Dutch military music, and, upon their return to Edo, they were charged with teaching that music to students.

In 1865, Hosō Shinshiki furoku (“The Infantry’s New Style Training Manual”) was written by Inukai Kiyonobu. His notation is similar to Taiko-fu, above, but appears more explicit. It also contains Chinese characters for Right and Left, evidently indicating the right and left hands. The signals are still of Dutch army origin: Roffel, Appèl, General mars, Taptoe, Aftrap,6 Dienst7 mars, Franse marsen, Kolonial mars, and interestingly, a Japan mars.

Dienst mars
Dienst mars

A mnemonic system was devised as an aid to memorizing the new music  – hihiyāra  dondokodon hihiyāra  hiyāra  dondoko  dondokodokodon  hihiyāra  hiyāra.  Western snare drummers will immediately understand the idea, if not the words, as being similar to their traditional onomatopoeia – Paradiddle, Ratamacue, Flam and Ruff – words coined to enable young drummers to memorize the component parts of a drum beat.

The first appearance in Japan of five line staff notation, trumpet music, and the influence of British military music, was the trumpet calls in Eikoku hohei renpō, (“English Infantry Drill Method”) of 1865.

Four years later (1869), thirty Japanese soldiers of the Shimazu clan were sent to Yokohama to study English military music with John William Fenton, leader of the English Naval Band attached to the English Legation Guards. This was the first departure from the Dutch model of military music.

Japan’s official policy seemed to embrace rather than exclude foreign ideas. Besides understanding the futility of confronting Western military power, there were compelling social, economic and traditional governance issues behind restoring the Emperor and looking outward. But as noted above, these had begun internally, well before the arrival of United States war ships.

In 1875 an aristocratic ministry official and former fife and drum band leader, Shuji Izawa (1851-1917) was sent to Boston, Massachusetts to study American pedagogic methods under The Boston Music School director Luther Whiting Mason (1828-96) – no relation to pioneering American composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872).8 Upon his return to Japan, Izawa’s report was studied by a committee that eventually recommended officially adopting the teaching of Western music in Japanese schools. Thus, to the consternation of many nationals, Japan became the first and only country to do so in the far East.

Japanese dismissive of their traditional music, and those who defended it, never resolved their differences, but Western music it would be. Given Japan’s patriarchal society, it is interesting to note that the first instrumental composition in a fully Western-art-music style,  was written by a woman, Nobuko Koda (1870-1946)9. In a span of only 100 years, Japanese composers would begin to assume world wide importance in Western avant-garde art music.10

The tradition of Fife and Drum Corps in Japan (Kotekitai) began in the pre-Meiji era and survives today in various guises, mostly as Drum and Bugle Corps in the style of Drum Corps International. It is a pity that no one alive knows how to play the old drum beats. It would be exciting to hear how the Dutch beats were altered, if at all, to suit Japanese needs and fancies.


1. The information on the beginnings of Western Music in Japan is taken almost exclusively from Southern Barbarian Music in Japan, an essay by Professor emretus David Waterhouse, written for Portugal and the World, the Encounter of Culture in Music, Publicacoes Dom Quixote, Lisboa, 1997.

2. A history of the comings and goings of foreigners during Japan’s ‘isolation’ is beyond the scope of this article, but official policy was malleable: from 1797 to 1809, several American ships traded in Nagasaki under the Dutch flag. The Dutch requested this as their ships could not be sent due to the Napoleonic Wars.

3. The early history of Western military music in Japan and the illustrations from Japanese drum manuals are taken from a book by Ury Eppstein, The Beginnings of Western Music in Meiji Era Japan, The Edwin Mellon Press, Queenston, Ontario, Canada, and used by the kind permission of the author.

4. Appèl in modern Dutch means an urgent request, a visible display or calling out of names. I have as yet to find a contemporary Dutch military translation for this and other Duty terms listed below. Jan Pustjens, Principal percussionist of the Concertgebouworkest, could not translate the text of my 1809 Dutch drum manual because the Dutch, in his words, “was too old”.

5. Also published in 1856, but without a publication date, was Seyiō kogun kofu ( “Western Military March Drum Score”) a book of Fife and Drum music scored for Transverse flute, small and large drum. Thus it’s not clear which book came first.

6. Aftrap=beginning. (See footnote 4 above.)

7. Dienst=exercising, stretching, stepping out. (See footnote 4 above.)

8. The information on post-Meiji era Japan, is taken from The Music of Toru Takemitsu; Peter Burt. Cambridge University Press, 2001; chapter One.

9. “Sonata for Violin”, 1897. Koda studied briefly with Luther Mason.

10. 1948 was the year of Toru Takemitsu’s first known, un-published work, Kakehi (Conduit), for piano solo.

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Posted by on September 20, 2009 in Articles, Fifes & Drums