Saturday, January 29, 2011

Three Camps

This is a traditional rudimental piece going back to at least Civil War days- it consists of accented rolls in a triplet pulsation. Originally it functioned as a sort of camp alarm clock, as part of the Reveille. More recently- since the 30's or so- it has been used by drummers as a framework for practicing rolls and a variety of other rudiments. I learned it when I was in drum corps in the 80's, and it was the first thing I pulled out when I decided to get my fast singles together once and for all, ten years ago or so. I learned this the old fashioned way (verbally and a little bit wrong) from corps legend Bill "Ghost" Linen.

Ghost was in the great Boston Crusaders drum lines of the 60's, and was a corps instructor in Salem, Oregon in the 70's; my instructors pulled him out of "retirement" I think to give us a taste of the old school, a connection to the tradition. He had a long beard and raggedy clothes, swore a lot, chain smoked Drum cigarettes, and used to tell us hair-raising stories about corps in the 60's, brawls in the parking lot after shows, which corps you went to to get which kind of drugs. He used to build his own marimbas and Harry Partch-style instruments, and had a funky, ramshackle studio full of all manner of percussion instruments where the drum line would occasionally rehearse. He seemed ancient at the time, but he was maybe 40-45.

So, the way he taught it to us, the camps were switched around: authentically it goes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd; I believe he taught it 1st, 3rd, short 2nd. It's possible that I misremembered it, but we did play the thing hundreds of times between 1983-85. It seems more likely that Ghost decided- for one of his unfathomable reasons- that the old way was f___ed, and rewrote it. I'll try to get confirmation on this from other guys in the line at the time.

There are many interpretations put on it. Wilcoxon's Rudimental Swing Solos presents it with rolls, ratamacues, and paradiddles (losing the triplet pulsation with those last two), and I'm sure the current breed of psychos have come up with their own messed-up adaptations. I usually do it as fast singles or as rolls, or if I'm feeling sassy, as flam drags- flamming all of the accents, and dragging the first note after the flam.

There are different ways of ending it. We always did it with a four-count tap roll, fp and crescendo. Wilcoxon and Moeller put a little two beat swing lick with a ruff, which is apparently authentic; the people put two beats of accented triplets plus a release on three; when Elvin Jones did it on the drums in a clinic, he ended with a two measure improvised solo.

In Wilcoxon and in Moeller- and I think in the Haskell Harr book- it is notated in the archaic style you see above, which makes the timing of the roll itself a little mysterious. I've also seen it written as 16th note accents and 5-stroke rolls on dotted 8ths, which is extremely misleading. On my site and on it is written out in modern, easy-to-understand triplets.

I intended to rewrite it the "correct" way, but has already done that, so you may as well just use theirs. Their site contains many good rudimental excercise downloads, and is well worth a visit. I've preserved Ghost's version on my site for posterity.

Download the pdf from
Download Ghost's version from


Ben said...

Hi Todd. Love what you do here. Simply amazing. I was wondering if you have, or have seen, the original of Rudimemtal Swing Solos with the Three Camps? The edited edition by R. Sakai is not only seemingly poorly edited, but the first bar of the Three Camps solo is just plain wrong, and quite clearly so. I was wondering if he's following Wilcoxin or if he's just got it wrong? I've often heard of this solo, and it's variations. Would you consider this as very useful rudimental material for drumkit concepts and practical technique?

Todd Bishop said...

Hi Ben--
Thanks for the kind words-- I'm glad this thing is of some use! I checked my old edition of Wilcoxon, and on Three Camps it's actually the same as the Sakal edition. They're just using that old, screwed-up, rudimental style of notation. I've given up on trying to make any rational sense out of it-- like why the first note of the piece is written as a quarter note, but the same rhythm everywhere else in the piece is written as a 16th note. In a piece comprised of rolls with a triplet pulsation. The other Wilcoxon book Rolling In Rhythm is replete with that kind of stuff.