Saturday, March 25, 2023

Wilcoxon's Junior Drummer

I've had this copy of Charley Wilcoxon's book The Junior Drummer* lying around for some time, let's take a look at it, see how it holds up for modern usage. I have the Ludwig Masters edition pictured on the left.  

* - Full title: Fundamental Instruction For The Junior Drummer

It's not exactly a normal beginning snare drum method— it's more of an old fashioned drum set book, a “double drumming” book, intended for one player playing snare drum and bass drum. There are studies dedicated to bass drum, and to snare/bass interaction starting in the earliest pages. And there are some studies using a cymbal, hihat, and tom toms. It's not unlike Wilcoxon's Drum Method, but aimed at younger drummers. 

It's well graded, and I can imagine the entire book would be playable by an average student in a year or so. The focus is on rhythm, introducing the basic rudiments, and playing the snare drum and bass drum together. It does get into some fairly complex rhythm, with syncopation, ties, and 16th rests. It's never very technically demanding, and handling of rudiments is never real dense. Rolls are dealt with in rhythm form, in quarters, eighths, or 16ths— never in closed/long tone form, in 32nd note rhythm. 

Like in Wilcoxon's Drum Method, the text is heavily marked up at times, including counts, note durations/values, stickings, stroke movements, stick heights and dynamics. All that is probably mostly of interest to historically minded teachers and writers; it's pretty dense for beginning students to read: 

The book is 52 pages long, here's how it breaks down broadly by page numbers:

1-5 - introductory text, explanations of grips and rhythm.
6-16 - studies in quarter note and longer values. Rolls and paradiddles introduced. 
17-25 - studies in 8th notes and quarter notes.
26-32 - studies in 3/4 time, including 8th rests and syncopation.
33-42 - studies in 2/4, including 16th notes and rests.
43-47 - studies in 3/8 time.
48-52 - studies in 6/8 time. 

Sixteen pages are full-page solos, with titles like The Snare And Bass Polka, The Helena Waltz, The Swingster, In The Jungle.
There is one page where the student is intended to hum a tune while playing the drums. Tunes are decrepit chestnuts including Yankee Doodle, Oh! Susanna, Jingle Bells, Dixie

It's more a historical item than a usable modern drum book. I think Junior Drummer and Wilcoxon's Drum Method would actually be good companions to Stone's Technique of Percussion, if one were doing a historical study of the techniques of American show drumming in the 1920s-30s.

There is one good page of one measure 16th note exercises in 2/4, that I will use:

I like that a first year student could play the whole book, and learn many of the basics of music without major technical hurdles— like having to be able to play a “closed” roll at normal march tempo.  

Otherwise, much of the book is too heavily marked up for me to use with my students. Notation for cymbals, and especially hihat, is archaic, and not usable today. The drum set and musical aspects are pretty antiquated, geared to a long-gone form of vaudeville/show drumming. It doesn't really qualify even as a beginning drum set book for modern purposes, unless a teacher wanted to ground their students in a really old style of playing— someone could make a case for doing that. 

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