Friday, December 31, 2021

10 and 11 stroke rolls in Wilcoxon's Rolling In Rhythm

Let's ring in the new year drummer-style, by complaining about a Charley Wilcoxon book maybe two or three of you own, Rolling In Rhythm! Even without the book, there's something to be learned about archaic drum notation, and rudimental-form rolls, and drum notation generally. It's funny, remembering that much of George L. Stone's Technique of Percussion, written 70-90 years ago, is dedicated to this same problem of interpreting drumming notation. Apparently it's an eternal thing.   

See my 2018 post All About Rolls if there's any confusion about the terminology in this post.

Rolling In Rhythm should be the ultimate book on rudimental rolls, especially in that swing-era type of phrasing, best known to us now through Philly Joe Jones's playing, and a lot of other bop drummers. It's a 30s thing that was a dominant form of soloing and filling in jazz for another 30-40 years. Unfortunately, the book a mess. There is a lot of bad, archaic notation in it, which is not aided in the typo-riddled edition by Richard Sakal, which seems to be the only version available now

The pages covering 10-stroke rolls and 11-stroke rolls are especially egregious— pp.24-26. 

We commonly encounter both of those roll types in triplet form in the piece Three Camps, either as two beats of triplets* with an accent at the beginning, rolling on the remainder:  

* - Since the example is in 3/8 time— a compound meter— these are not actual triplets— they are played with a triplet feel, however. I say triplets here for convenience, because that's what the same rhythm is in 4/4, and 4/4 is a familiar point of reference, and triplet is the familiar term for notes played with that feel. When the time signature has an 8 in the bottom, if I say triplet, I mean 8th notes played in a triplet feel. Compound meter 8th notes. 

Or as two beats of triplets with accents on the beginning and end, rolling in the middle: 

Starting with an accented single, the 11-stroke roll above would be called a “tap 11.” Another form begins with the roll on the downbeat:

So far so good. Things begin going off the rails in the next line, with this oddly-displaced 11-stroke roll:  

First, the editor put the time signature as 6/8, but put the actual barlines in 3/8. I scratched out the extra barlines and added a beat of rest at the end to make it actually 6/8. No big deal. He also put the wrong sticking on beat 2 of the third measure. OK. 

Further on we get into a bit of archaic rudimental drummer notation hell. I believe the intention is that the first two measures, and the second two measures, are each intended to be played the same: 

In measure 2, we get some ruff-type notation that is intended to be played as a metered rhythm, at the same speed as the rest of the body of the roll, like in the first measure. That's weird for me; in my training, ruff notation always indicates an unmetered embellishment, usually played as a buzz. 

The fourth measure is cursed— that ending ruff. The main note visually lines up with the bass drum on beat 3, but is actually intended to be played as 3e&, like the third measure. This happens fairly often in rudimental notation, and it's a major violation of space-time laws. I can deal with putting the ruff in rhythm, I cannot deal with distorting the plain rhythm on the page to accommodate the embellishment. Forget it, that is wrong. 

Moving along, the weirdness begins to compound on us: 

Again, the first four measures, and the last two measures, are each intended to be played the same. The last two measures are fine; it's a tap roll at 16th note rate— although 96 bpm is rather fast for that. 

The first four measures all have the roll starting on the beat, with the release written on the last 8th note in the measure. With the untied rolls in the third/fourth measures, there is an implied release. That is illustrated in the roll studies in Stick Control (see the heading Ties, Releases, Taps, and Accents here). 

PROBLEM: Making the above roll at a 16th note rate displaces that last 8th note to fall on the last 16th note of the measure: 

I think that's what we're intended to play. It's what they did to us in the previous example with the written ruff on 4. But I don't know what we're expected to do with that bass drum note in the third measure. Probably play it at the same time as the release of the roll. I'm beginning to sense that these old rudimental guys are playing fast and loose with rhythm.

We could play the 8th note release in its notated timing by playing the roll at a quintuplet rate, which you might actually do at times, but not at this tempo. There is some of that kind of thing in Stone, there is nothing like it elsewhere in Wilcoxon. 

The purpose of that is to produce a quality roll at tempos where it's difficult to do that at more normal pulsation rates. It's a good thing to practice, but it's not what's intended with the book, so you'll be creating inconsistencies within the book materials. If you follow the screwed up archaic interpretation, at the book materials will be consistent within themselves. 

That's enough of this for one day, we'll chronicle the 10-stroke roll atrocities another time. Happy New Year!  

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