Monday, May 23, 2022

Dodge Drum Chart

An interesting item: the Dodge Drum Chart, by Frank Dodge, edited and published by George Lawrence Stone. It was advertised on the back cover of my first copy of Stick Control, so it's one of the first pieces of drumming literature I was ever aware of, but I never saw what's in it until recently. 

It's basically a key to interpreting rhythm notation, using technical charts converting a grid of equal-value notes and rests— the same format as most drum machines and sequencers use today—  into standard notation. 

It's also about one apparent common way of snare drumming, historically: it gives a sticking system based on natural sticking— so the right hand plays any #s and &s in the rhythm, the left hand plays any es and as— and flamming on the downbeats. The book describes the stickings as being based on the flamacue and the flam accent #1; it doesn't indicate the usual left hand accent we expect on the e of the beat with a flamacue. 

The key row at the top shows how the grid is counted in 2/4 time (today we generally say 1 e & a). Below that is the sequential count for each place in the grid— 1-8. Below that is the sticking— Right hand, Left hand, right hand Flam, left hand Flam, and below that is the full rhythm.

In the left hand column is the time signature, and the pattern numbers. To the right of that is the pattern grid, which has the rhythm in question in notes and rests. To the right of that is the sequential count (1-8) of the rests, and to the right of that is one common way of writing the rhythm. 

The idea is that you look up a rhythm that's troubling you in the right hand column, then look at the columns to the left to explain how to play it.  

The target audience appears to be professional and semi-professional drummers who nevertheless don't read very well. Possibly that was the norm when the book was published, and there wasn't a ton of practice literature available, so people needed a reference pamphlet like this in their trap case. Using it takes some knowledge— it's not a tutorial, and total non-readers would likely be lost using it.

The book could be occasionally useful today, in teaching, but we generally now just learn to read. We get a teacher, and get Podemski, Goldenberg, Reed, or whatever book, and do it. I was fluent with these kinds of rhythms in high school, without ever needing anything like this. 

It's somewhat interesting historically— it suggests some things about the playing of show/vaudeville drummers in the early 20th century. The major genres of “groove” it covers are the 2/4 march, the 6/8 march, and the foxtrot— there's a similar emphasis in the collection of Stone articles, Technique of Percussion. That 6/8 march was apparently a big part of people's lives then. Flamming on the downbeats was evidently standard enough practice that they don't mind baking it into the method. As well as using natural sticking (or “Straight” sticking, after Edward B. Straight.

All together it's a sort of quasi-rudimental performance language for snare drum, that is different from current common practice in band/orchestra playing. Today alternating sticking is the default, and we generally perform written parts literally— no ad lib embellishments. The march grooves are not a huge part of our playing lives, but the foxtrot category and type of notation survives in jazz.    

Most regular online stores are sold out of the book right now. You can also look at it on Scribd. Best to contact Stone publications directly if you want to buy it. 

No comments: