Practical Guide to 18th Century Drumming
by Ron Aylor
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The "Putting Down of the Notes" or writing of drum scores has been a formidable task for drummers since the invention of the drum itself. There are many different ways of expressing a rudiment or a particular sound on paper. The need for a concise method of expression is never more evident than when a group of drummers comes together without such a "blueprint."
In the Winter Manual, page 5, the author writes:
". . . . . . one can employ the note D in the bass clef; not only because the kettledrums also use the bass clef, but also because many other instruments are also tuned in D. Because the note D is placed on the very middle line of the staff, it leaps into the eye of a novice, and is therefore most easy to remember, as one can see here:"
In the Gardner MS, page 16, the author writes:
"On this page I will place the Drum Notes on these lines. There are various ways of [putting] Down notes for the Drum, some [. . . . .] on but one line but I shall set them on the Middle of [. . .] lines thus. . . "
In the Longman & Broderip Manual, "sticking" is determined by the direction of the note stems; stems up equals left hand; stems down equals right hand. The notes are laid down in the following fashion:
We find drum scores written in many different ways, even today! The following are examples of "modern" notation. Take note that the notes above the line are right hand and the notes below the line are left hand. Although the three scores look very different, they sound exactly alike when played!
Unlike the fife, that makes sounds of different pitch, the drum is of indefinite pitch. Fife music is written on all the lines and spaces of the staff, depending on the note to be sounded. Drum music is a form of "short-hand" notation representing the various rudiments; and, could be written without the use of a staff. The rudiments are a series of different rhythms, rolls, and embellished strokes put together to make up a particular score. The following "link" will take you to several different rhythm patterns, or rudiments, found in the Gardner Manuscript; along with an interpretation rendered into modern notation. The individual rudiments can be written in many different ways; however, when played all these different "notations" sound alike.
I hope that by illustration I have shown that all of the "rudiments" do in fact have their own place within the music. Moreover, that all of the "rudiments" are somehow inter connected having definite relationships with each other.
Albeit drumming has a "language" of its own, it must conform to universal musical standards. Drummers should concern themselves mostly with note value or duration, volume, and tempo.
As we approach the drum and begin our beating we should be conscious of the fact that we are musicians and must follow the principles of music. If we do not, we are simply making noise.
©copyright 2001 Ron Aylor