Sunday, August 19, 2012

I think this is what is referred to as a "chestnut"

Here's a book that has been part of the terrain forever, but which is much more valuable than you might expect: Haskell Harr's Drum Method. It's a two-volume item, and I've only used Book 2, which I've found to be excellent for general conditioning.

First published in 1938, and mostly derived from military drum and fife repertoire, it represents the most retrograde style of rudimental drumming, with scarcely a trace of any kind of modernity-- certainly none of the swing influence found in books by Wilcoxon or even the much earlier Edward B. Straight. The pieces included have names like Mildred Waltz, Cuckoo Quick-Step, Ancient And Honorable Artillery, and Bunker Hill. Included, of course, is the turgid old Downfall Of Paris. They are mostly two-part little pieces, which I suspect are meant to be played AABA, or AABBA-- I'm no expert in traditional military music. The book is actually usable because unlike many other older sources, it mostly uses modern notation.

There's nothing exceptionally challenging in it, and there's little in the way of equality between the hands, with no special attention given to strengthening the left. The left has certain little special things it does regularly-- the flamacue; seven stroke rolls, etc-- but mostly it follows the right. The only time the left has the lead is on rudiments that alternate, following the right handed version of the rudiment.

Here's a representative example:

And a nice performance of one of the pieces:

Now, despite my background in drum corps, I don't consider myself to be any kind of rudimental drummer, or to have a big rudimental influence in my regular playing. But I've found that as a jazz drummer, a few days of playing through a good chunk of the book-- 30-60 minutes worth-- is really good for my hands. It seems to "foreground" a variety of things I'm able to play, but that don't always come out when improvising. I haven't experienced quite the same effect with any other single book. So rather than using it as a primary method, I use it more as a "finish" book. I play it straight, without any kind of jazz-like interpretation, mf, and in the originally intended tempo range-- roughly quarter note = 92-126 in 2/4, and dotted quarter = 69-100 in 6/8.

Purchase Book 2 of Haskell Harr's Drum Method through my Amazon store.

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