Friday, September 21, 2018

Three Camps video roundup

Just checking out various people's interpretations of the traditional rudimental snare drum piece Three Camps. A long time ago I did a round up sources of written versions; here we're looking at videos and audio recordings. We'll start with a version that has got to be definitive for early modern, circa mid-20th century rudimental drumming. After the break I'll comment on a number of interesting variations.

This is played by Frank Arsenault, a leading rudimental player when Wm. F. Ludwig, Sanford Moeller, et al were initially pushing their “26 Essential Rudiments” idea they made up. Three Camps begins at 2:20 in this video:

It's very interesting that on the repeat at the end he goes all the way back and does the third camp again— every other version I've seen and heard plays the four measures of the third camp and then the second camp twice. Arsenault follows a pretty strict triplet timing; in the more modern versions we'll hear later, that timing is somewhat exaggerated, emphasizing the space between the accents and the rolls. In the more traditional/amateur versions, the left hand doubles after accents are dropped in earlier, so the accent is effectively played at the same rate as the body of the roll.

There are a lot of other versions to listen to, so to avoid cluttering up my home page, I'll put them after a break. Read on...

Videos come first, then comments:

Wow, he's playing way behind the click. Just an observation. I assume it's deliberate. On the fast version he drops the left hand in after the accents, making the five stroke rolls into basically a quintuplet rhythm. It's a natural thing to do— when I was in corps our instructors worked very hard to get us not to do that. In rhythmically-correct modern playing, to get the right space between the RH accent and the LH double after it, you have to lift your left hand.

This group plays the timing more as I do. They also add some dynamics and do a little arrangement I haven't seen elsewhere. The two guys in the middle are really solid with their entrances. They really emphasize the triplet timing on the ending ruff, by playing the drag itself at full volume. Arsenault seems to deemphasize it slightly compared to the roll strokes. I play it more as a closed ruff— tighter than the other doubles in the piece, and not in a triplet rhythm.

This player also drops his left hand, making that quintuplet rhythm on the 5s. Overall we're not hearing a strong triplet rhythm in the body of the rolls, and to me the overall impression of the rhythm is weaker. I suspect this is close to how the piece was often played in the 19th century.

Watch your posture, gang— don't mess yourself up standing funny. This is different version than we're used to. The first camp is different, and he's playing single drags instead of 5-stroke rolls. I don't know where this arrangement came from. Played with normal modern high school marching band technique, with a very big space after the accent on the 11-stroke rolls. He's a little inconsistent, but there's always a big space before the 11s. Contrast this with the next video:

At this tempo you can really hear what happens when you don't lift your left hand: the 5-stroke rolls are definitely quintuplets.

Another unusual variation, with no 11s in the first camp. There must be some different things going around in the drum & fife literature. I do like the sound of the drums here.

I posted a video of me playing it on a practice pad, for another purpose. You can hear that there's a big space after the accents. I play the traditional ending with a tighter ruff than most of the versions here.

This is kind of fascinating— the notation he's using is very screwed up. Actually I think the traditional method for teaching rudimental drumming was mostly a combination of screwed-up notation and just knowing the rudiments and hearing other guys play the finished thing. There often doesn't seem to be much real rhythmic understanding underlying it. His comments about the space after the accents are fine.

Random annoyance: I see a lot of snare drum technique videos where the players rest their sticks on the drum head when they're getting ready to play— even a few people who are obviously professionals. Don't do that. It's incredibly amateur. Sticks never touch the head unless you're playing something. There is no situation anywhere in life where it's OK to get ready to play by letting the sticks go bzrrz on the drum head.

Weird version. The timing through the first camp is straight 2/4; the normal triplet timing doesn't happen until the second camp. To me, this is the type of thing that happens when you're just playing a series of rudiments, without any concept of a rhythmic through-line. But this had to have been a deliberate decision; it's performed by Eastman percussionists in the 50s, so they would have been highly educated and talented (even as they're clearly not real attuned to playing parts in unison). They probably are all famous in the conservatory/classical percussion world now. And the conductor is well known. Who knows what the thinking was.

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