Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Drumslingers, "Hep Cat Street Beat."

The Drumslingers play traditional and modern style snare drum and drum line ensemble compositions. They also write many of their own exercises, solos and ensemble pieces. Among their original material is a cadence beat they call, “Hep Cat.”

“Hep Cat” was composed in 2007, by Drumslingers snare drummer, Wayne Stambaugh. He never actually “wrote” anything down on this. “Hep Cat” came about in the traditional way that has been common between field drummers going back a few hundred years. Stambaugh concepted and worked-up this cadence, playing it over until he was satisfied with the arrangement. He then shared it with the rest of the Drumslingers using the old school “narrative” method. Meaning he taught it by showing – playing it and explaining it, drummer to drummer.

On YouTube, I have posted a narrative explanation of how to play the “Hep Cat Street Beat.” The written notation of “Hep Cat” is posted with this article.

To play “Hep Cat” there are a few
essential techniques that are prerequisites. In addition to properly controlling single strokes, double strokes, and grace note strokes, you will need to know these lessons: Flams, Flamaque, Flam Taps, Pata-fla-fla, Hertas, Open Double Stroke Rolls, Single Stroke Seven, Rimshot (Gawk/Gok).

A word about tempo: "Hep Cat" lives well at any tempo you like between about 112 bpm to around 118 bpm. You may of course play it faster than 118 if you wish, but as the tempo increases, the rhythms begin to compress, all the oxygen gets sucked away, and it loses it's groove. Conversely, it is an excellent beat at 112 bpm and maybe a bit slower, but once it gets too slow, the Herta rudiments start to fall apart. It's up to you to make it work for your personal playing style.

The following link will take you to the "Hep Cat" video on YouTube:

Thank you and have fun learning “Hep Cat!”

The Drumslingers, Who Are Those Guys?

The Drumslingers from Cedar Falls, Iowa, is a group of drummers who practice and perform the time-honored art of American ancient, and American modern style field drumming.

It started in 2005 when this group of former drum and bugle corps players got together at the request of instigator/ringleader, Rick Dunlevy, in order to help him “get his chops up” to march with The Madison Scouts Reunion Corps.

Their drum corps background has given them the benefit of receiving training from some notable instructors of the golden age of drum corps during the 1970s and ‘80s. These teachers include three DCI (Drum Corps International) Hall Of Fame members – Larry McCormick, Fred Sanford and Tom Float.

Other esteemed teachers in the ‘Slingers collective background include Don Porter Jr. of The Anaheim Kingsmen, Ron Hermann and Gary Moore of The Cavaliers, Bruce Lages of The Madison Scouts, Tim Boland of The Dubuque Colts, Bill Staudts of The Norwood Park Imperials, Terry Therion of the Blue Stars and UNI Associate Professor of Percussion, Randy Hogancamp.

Their collective experiences and mutual sharing of information and techniques has proven a valuable asset in the development of their style. They write much of their own material, combining American traditional and modern techniques with European influences and contemporary rudimental hybrid concepts.

From 2006-2009, the Drumslingers were a regular attraction at many NE Iowa community events, by marching in parades and performing “stand still” sets. They no longer perform publicly but maintain strong friendships and get together from time-to-time to “throw down some diddles” on their practice pads while tossing-back a few beers and reminiscing on good times. These jam sessions can run three or four hours until they’ve either spent their chops or run out of beer.

The “Drumslingers” name is derived from a play on words – drawing on the outlaw mystique of the word “gunslinger” while referencing the traditional method of using a “sling” to carry drums.

The Drumslingers members and some of their drum line experience:
Tom Blankenship, Waterloo Chevaliers and The Cedar Glen Pipes and Drums Band.
Rick Dunlevy, Waterloo Chevaliers and the Madison Scouts.
Kevin Faber,The Concord Blue Devils.
Ed Flack, Chevaliers, UNI Panther Marching Band, Cedar Glen Pipes and Drums Band.
Mike Flack, Osage Precisionnaires.
Randy Kauffman, Tripoli and Decorah High School Marching Bands.
Dave “Mo” Moyer, The Dubuque Colts.
Dave “Wags” Nicholas, Waterloo Chevaliers, Waterloo Royals, The Dubuque Colts.
Tim Nicholas, Waterloo Chevaliers, Waterloo Royals, The La Crosse Blue Stars.
Wayne Stambaugh, Waterloo Chevaliers.

Follow this link to a video example of a cadence beat played by the Drumslingers: 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


by E.W. Flack ©2016

Why are there so many different ways of writing identical sounding snare drum rhythms? The audible life of an individual note played on a snare drum whether it is written as a sixteenth note, an eighth note, or a quarter note is in effect exactly equal to every other note played on the snare drum. It boils down to this, every individual beat played on a snare drum, however it’s written, is basically staccato. Drummers often talk about playing with a legato feel but what that really refers to is a fluid series of stick motions without pause at the top or bottom of a stroke’s range, and/or a continuous and flowing transfer of strokes from hand-to-hand. This means that what the written notes actually represent is not the audible duration of drum beats but the amount of time separation between them.

The audible duration of a note played on brass, woodwind and string instruments can be controlled by the player’s breath or by the bowing of strings. Because those instrumentalists (and vocalists) can sustain their sound, the ability to write rhythms which indicate a note’s time duration is essential. There are certain notation symbols that are specific to drums but beyond those few exceptions, drum rhythms are written using the same notation system as every other instrument.

The way a drum rhythm is written may be because it is intended to match the notation of a corresponding melody played by other instruments or it may simply be a matter of the composer’s personal writing preference. Snare drum scores written for concert band and orchestra commonly incorporate abbreviated roll notations and because standard orchestral sticking is based on the natural or “Straight” system, hand-to-hand sticking sequences are usually not specified. Classical composers and conductors are rarely concerned with how a snare part is technically executed as long as it is musically well performed. On the other hand, scores written for marching drum lines are more explicit regarding the actual sticking sequence and are less likely to incorporate abbreviated notation because it is extremely important that all drum parts be precisely unified.

Drum method books often include reading exercises with alternative notation examples. A classic specimen of a drum book that is completely dedicated to explaining alternative notation is the Dodge Drum Chart For Reading Drum Music, by Frank E. Dodge (1908). More about the Dodge Drum Chart to follow but first, a bit of background history about Frank E. Dodge.

Frank Dodge was the founder and proprietor of the F. E. Dodge Company, a manufacturer of drums in Boston, Massachusetts (1868-1912). An accomplished rudimental snare drummer as well as a schooled concert percussionist, Dodge performed with the Boston Opera Orchestra and the Boston Festival Orchestra. The year following publication of
the Dodge Drum Chart, he authored a comprehensive drum method book titled, The Dodge Drum School (1909).[1]
In addition to his work as a business man, a drum maker, performing percussionist and author, Frank Dodge was a teacher. One of his students was George Lawrence Stone, who became famous in the world of drumming for his book, Stick Control for the Snare Drummer (1935). Evidence of Stone’s respect for Frank Dodge is conveyed by his use of the iconic “Continental Drummer” graphic on the cover of Stick Control. That artwork is extracted from an original F. E. Dodge Company logo and had also been used by Dodge on the cover of, The Dodge Drum School.

The original publication of
the Dodge Drum Chart is long out of print but, in 1928, George L. Stone arranged and published a new edition which was marketed with the claim, “This book is a veritable dictionary of orchestral drumbeats.”

Stone’s revision of Dodge’s work illustrates 400 rhythmic notations displayed in rows and columns for easy cross referencing. The first 207 examples are duple meter rhythms based upon the flam-a-cue rudiment in 2/4 time; the remaining 197 examples are triple meter rhythms based on the flam-accent rudiment in 6/8 time. Stone said that these “well known rudimentary beats were selected ... so that the right hand is always on the first of the measure with the bass drum beat.”
On page 13, Stone explains, and musically notates how the drum chart rhythms written in 2/4 can be adapted to 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4. On page 21, he offers a similar explanation of how the chart rhythms written in 6/8 can be adapted to 3/8, 9/8, and 12/8.

It has been over 100 years since the original publication of the Dodge Drum Chart, but it remains a useful resource for students who need help interpreting written rhythms and it serves as a handy reference aid for writing. The book is meticulously and logically arranged and its compact size makes it travel-friendly.

Click on images to enlarge.


The Boston Drum Builders, F. E. Dodge Co. From: (accessed February, 2013).

Stone, George L. The Dodge Drum Chart For Reading Drum Music. By Frank E. Dodge. 1908. (Randolf: George B. Stone & Son, Inc., 1928).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


by Ed Flack, ©2015

 “If anybody tells you that there’s only one way to hold the drumstick you have to look at them in disbelief. Because there is no more wandering thing than the fulcrum of a hand-hold when you are really playing loud one time and soft another time.”
— Jim Chapin(1)

The most fundamental aspect of drumming is how to hold the sticks. It is also the most flexible because there are so many effective variations that can be used. Like everything else in drumming, different kinds of grip methods produce different kinds of playing advantages.

The predominant record of how grip techniques were taught in America during the 19th century is specific to field drumming as it was played by
military fife & drum corps. Due to the hanging angle of a field drum, the grip used to hold the sticks was an asymmetric mix of grasping the left stick under-hand and the right with an over-hand. The elbows were held slightly away from the body resulting in a playing position described as “around the tree” or “around a barrel.”

During the early 20th century, for the purpose of drum corps competition, military drumming became known as the “ancient” style to set it apart from the drum & bugle style which became designated as “modern.” The principle characteristic used to differentiate between them was march tempo: ancient 110 BPM; modern 120 BPM.(2)

A review of 19th century drumming tutorials reveals that it was common for the right hand grip to be applied primarily by the little finger pressing the stick into the palm. This is a very strong grip which produces powerful strokes. A right-handed little finger grip is most effective when employing forearm rotation in a manner similar to the way in which the left forearm is rotated when using the underhand grip.

The traditional way of naming drum rolls is to identify them by the number of “strokes” that it takes to play a roll in a given count of time. This naming convention was established hundreds of years ago by military drummers using rope-tension drums. Double stroke rolls were played as two deliberate down-up motions by each hand in alternation (the double beat). The number of roll beats sounded was equal to the number of hand motions, or “strokes” required to play the roll.

Bouncing the stick was not a consistently reliable roll technique because the tension of a calfskin drum head is subject to the ever-changing conditions of temperature and humidity. In the available record of American and British drum method books published between 1780 to 1886 there is no evidence that stick bounce or “rebound” was used to explain roll technique. That said, rope drums do generate rebound and we have no reason to assume that drummers in the past never took advantage of stick bounce.

Drummers these days consistently play rolls using rebound double strokes (diddles). In other words, two beats produced from one down-and-up hand motion. The primary beat is played by a downward hand motion and the secondary beat is controlled using rebound energy.

Bounced rolls are still named by stroke numbers but the thing that is actually being counted is the number of beats sounded and not the number of hand motions it takes to play them.

“Now days, many traditional style drummers fit rope drums with plastic rather than calfskin heads. This has made it possible for rebound techniques to be routinely used on rope drums. Among the most hard-core of traditional style players, calfskin is still the preferred way to fit a rope drum and bouncing the sticks to play rolls is considered cheating.”
— James Clark.(3)

The following quotes regarding stick grip methods and how drum rolls were taught, are excerpts from drumming tutorials and official military music performance directives that were published between 1780–1886. These excerpts are presented without editorial commentary for the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

James Longman and Francis Broderip (1780)
“The first thing to be learnt, is to hold the Sticks, which is a principal part in Drum-beating. The left hand Stick which is the most difficult, is to be held firm between the thumb and the upper joint of the fourth finger. The lower or right hand Stick, to be griped fast with the little finger, and to be held as a Man may use a Stick in Fencing.”

“The second is to learn to roll, which is to begin with the left hand beating two strong strokes, then two with the right, and so on quickening the time till the roll is closed.”

Charles Stewart Ashworth (1812)
“The first thing to be attended to by the Young Leaner is to hold the Sticks properly: the upper, or left hand stick is the most difficult to be managed at first: it must be firmly held between the thumb and two middle fingers, to rest on the third finger a little above the middle joint. The lower, or right hand stick must be held fast with the little finger, and be allowed to play with ease through the others, as a man may use a stick in fencing.”

“The next to be learnt is to close a roll: begin with two heavy strokes with the upper, or left hand, then two with the right, and so on, quickening the time till the roll is closed.”

David Hazeltine (1817)
“The drum sticks should be held in the following manner; viz. the three last fingers of the right hand should be clinched round the stick to the hand, the fore finger should be loosely clinched round the stick to the thumb. The stick in the left should be held in the hollow of the hand between the fore finger and thumb, passing down between the great finger and the finger below it; the fore finger and the great finger should pass over the stick, and the other two should pass under it, the fore finger should be clinched also to the thumb. Being thus fixed so that the scholar may have the ablest command of himself, and standing easy he may proceed.”

“Long roll, is beat as follows, strike two strokes with the left hand, then two with the right hand, and continue striking in a like manner till it commences a close roll, by striking quicker and quicker.”

Sam L. Potter (1817)
“The first thing previous to a Boy practising on the drum is to place him perfectly upright and place his left heel in the hollow of the right foot. Then put the drum sticks into his hands the right hand stick to be grasp’d with the whole hand about two inches and a half from the top (or more if requir’d) as drum sticks are not all of the same weight, similar to grasping a sword or stick when going to play hack-sword: The left to be held between the thumb and fore finger of the left hand close in the hollow the top towards the wrist leaving the top of the stick as much out of the hand as the other resting, it resembling a pen when going to write, only with this except on between the first Joints of the second and third fingers.”

“In learning the long roll which is the foundation of drum-beating; The boy must strike the drum twice with each stick beginning with the left hand first, throwing his arms up between each as in the first position and gradually lowering them according to the closing of the roll. Be sure he keeps the buttons of the sticks as far as possible from the drum head between each time he strikes and both sticks should strike as even (i.e.) as near the same weight on the drum as possible.”

Alvan Robinson (1818)
“The stick in the right hand should be held naturally; that is, it should pass between the thumb and fore finger; the little finger should be loosely closed round it, and it should be held firmly with the thumb and fore finger. The Stick in the left hand should pass between the thumb and two fore fingers and over the third and fourth, the first and second closed round it to the thumb. Thus prepared, the learner may with an unshaken resolution and a full determination to accomplish his design.”

“The long roll is performed by striking one, two, light strokes with the left hand; three, four, with the right; five, six, with the left; seven, eight with the right, and so on until a close roll is performed by striking quicker and quicker.”

Levi Lovering (1823)
Lovering offers no advice as to how to hold the sticks.

“Strike the drum with the Left hand twice, the first very light, the second a smart full stroke ... then strike with the right hand in the same manner as with the left; taking care to throw the arm out briskly to the side of the body, and as high as the head, which will enable the learner to keep time: Care should be taken when the stick touches the drum, to have the elbow close to the side. Practice this beat, contracting at each stroke the distance to which the arm is thrown out till the arms remain close to the side, and it becomes a close roll.”

George D. Klinehanse (1853)
“The left-hand stick is the most difficult to use; it should be held firmly between the thumb and the two middle fingers, resting on the third above the middle joint. The right-hand stick must be held with the thumb and forefinger closed around it, allowing he stick to play through the hand with ease.”

“To close a roll, begin with the left hand, then the right, quickening the time until it is finished. It is necessary that strict attention should be paid that the pupil be not permitted to beat any lesson, except what is laid down in the book; and never undertake the second until he has learned the first properly.”

Keach, Burditt, and Cassidy (1861)
To explain stick grip, two illustrations are used. The first, identified as “Plate No. 1” shows a drummer with the hands raised high in a preparatory position and is described as “Position at Commencing.” The second, “Plate No. 2” shows a drummer holding sticks with the beads resting in the center of the drum head, and is titled “General Position.” (See image below.)

“The Roll is the foundation of all drumming. The Roll being to the beginner on the drum, what the gamut is to a beginner on either a wind or stringed instrument. The pupil should commence beating the Roll very slow, holding the sticks as in Plate (No.1) dropping each time gradually as the time increases, and beating within the centre of the head, as in Plate (No. 2,) in a circle of about two inches, increasing the time until a close roll is beat; then decreasing the time until he beats as slow as at commencing. In commencing the roll, two beats are made first with the left hand, (the second beat louder than the first,) then two beats with the right hand, (the second louder than the first.) In expressing the beats on the drum, different words are used by teachers. We shall use as the best, the words Dada, and Mama; Dada for the left hand, and Mama for the right hand.”

Col. H. C. Hart (1861)
“The right hand stick should be held snug, with the whole hand closed, the ball of the thumb against the side of the first finger joint, the stick just balancing where the thumb and first finger grasp it. The left hand stick should rest in the hollow of the thumb and first finger, between the first and second joints of the second and third fingers, and held by the thumb and the two first fingers – the ball of the thumb against the side of the first finger joint, and this stick should balance where it rests between the second and third fingers.”

“The most particular thing to be observed is uniformity in beating, and I wish the pupil to bear this in mind, as it will not be separately explained with every beat or roll. First, commence slow and always with the left hand; let every blow be distinctly heard and continue to beat faster and faster until each separate roll or beat is closed smoothly and fine, and wherever a break or an irregularity in beating occurs while closing down the rolls or beats, commence back again where you can beat them plain and even, and so continue to practice, closing them down until perfected in a close roll, and until you have become practically acquainted with the several beats and their changes from hand to hand...”

George B. Bruce (1862)
“The next thing to be attended to by the pupil, is a proper management of his arms and the drum sticks. The left hand (which is the most difficult to manage at first,) should grasp the stick firmly but not too tight, between the thumb and first two fingers, passing over the third, and resting a little below the middle (or large) joint; the thumb in the mean time resting on the fore finger. The stick in the right hand should be held between the thumb and fingers lightly, with the little finger pressing it, so as to play through the hand, as a man would use a stick in fencing. The arms must be habituated to move with the greatest ease, while the shoulder joints and wrists are exercised in performing the principal part. It is absolutely necessary, that the learner should first practice the Long roll until he can close it smoothly, then commence the next lesson and perfect himself in that ... The learner should be careful and not raise the sticks too high having brought the roll to a close; he should also beat in the center of the head, within a circumference of about two inches.”

“The first lesson of the pupil ...  will be the Long Roll, or as it is more familiarly called, Da-da, Ma-ma. The upper beats (or notes) are made with the left hand, and the lower ones with the right hand, commencing with the left very slow, and gradually increasing in velocity until closed down to a roll. The first stroke of each hand should be made somewhat lighter than the second.”

Elias Howe (1862)
Howe’s United States Regulation Drum And Fife Instructor, is a thorough and comprehensive collection of music and instruction for the fife, drum, and bugle. However, Howe’s instructions on holding the sticks and playing a long roll are word-for-word the same as written by Alvan Robinson in his book, Massachusetts Collection of Martial Musick. Note: Elias Howe the musician, is not the same Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine.

Gardiner A. Strube (1869)
“The position of the Pupil should be, as near as possible, that of the soldier as explained in Upton’s Tactics. The drum should hang naturally from a belt placed about the neck, and should rest against the left leg, a little above the knee. The left-hand stick, which is the most difficult to manage, should be held in the hollow of the hand between the thumb and first two fingers, passing over the third between the first and second joints. The right hand stick should be held with the thumb and all fingers closed around it; the little finger should press it harder than the rest, so as to allow it to play through the hand when beating.”

“The first lesson of the Pupil will be the Long Roll or Double-Stroke Roll. The Pupil will commence this lesson, as below indicated, by making two hard strokes with the left hand, then two hard strokes with the right hand, and so continue, alternately changing from hand to hand, and gradually beating faster and faster until perfected in a close, smooth roll. The Pupil will endeavor to beat in the centre of the head, within a circle of about two inches.”

John Phillip Sousa (1886)
“The right hand should grasp the stick at about two inches from the end, the thumb well under; and the left hand should hold the stick lightly, between the thumb and first two fingers, passing over the third, and resting on the first joint, the thumb on the fore-finger. Care should be exercised in keeping the first and second fingers bent slightly towards the palm of the hand. The stick should be held about three inches from the end. There should be a slight space between the elbows and the body, the fore-arm and hand somewhat elevated so that when the button of the stick rests on the drum-head, the arm will be in the form of a letter L reversed.”

“The action of the arms in rolling or beating must be limited as much as possible to the fore-arms and wrists. The buttons, or heads of the sticks should strike about the middle of the drum-head ... To acquire suppleness of the wrists, a good plan is to hold the sticks together about three inches from the buttons and turn them, at first slowly, and gradually increasing the movement until great rapidity is attained.” 

1.    Speed, Power, Control, Endurance, performed by Jim Chapin (1992; Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.). Videocassette.
2.    Jeff Hartsough and Derrick Logozzio, “Timeline of Marching and Field Percussion: Part III,” Percussive Notes 32/6 (December 1994): 30-32.
3.    James Clark, Connecticut’s Fife & Drum Tradition (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2011), 120.

Ashworth, Charles Stewart. (1812). A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating. Boston: G. Graupner.
Bruce, George B. & Emmett, Daniel. (1862). Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide. New York: Firth, Pond & Co.
Hart, Col. H. C. (1861). New and Improved Instructor For The Drum. New York: H. C. Hart.
Hazeltine, David. (1817). Instructor In Martial Music. Exeter: C. Norris and Co.
Howe, Elias. (1862). Howe’s United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor. Boston: Elias Howe.
Keach, Burditt, and Cassidy. (1861). The Army Drum And Fife Book. Boston: Oliver Ditson and Co.
Klinehanse, George D. (1853). The Manual of Instruction for Drummers. Washington D.C.: G.D. Klinehanse.
Longman, James & Broderip, Francis. (1780). The Young Drummers Assistant. London: Longman and Broderip.
Lovering, Levi. (1823). The Drummer’s Assistant for the Art of Drumming. Philadelphia: J.G. Klemm.
Potter, Sam L. (1815). The Art of Beating the Drum. Westminster: Henry Potter.
Robinson, Alvan. (1818). Massachusetts Collection of Martial Musick. Hallowell: E. Goodale.
Sousa, John P. (1886). The Trumpet and Drum. (Reprint Chicago: WFL Drum Co., 1954). Washington, D.C.: Sousa.
Strube, Gardiner A. (1869). Strube’s Drum and Fife Instructor. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 

If you are interested in learning more about the evolution of the American snare drum style, and would like to see the original publications, an excellent resource where reproductions of many historic drum method books can be found is through Mr. Edmund W. Boyle, at his website:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Snare Drumming, The Little Finger Grip Method

by Ed Flack, ©2015

In the ancient style of American military field drumming, the right hand stick is held between the little finger and palm. The thumb and forefingers remain loosely closed to guide but not grasp the stick. This method was prescribed by Charles S. Ashworth (1812), and George B. Bruce (1862).(1)

Sanford G. Moeller, endorsed the little finger grip in 1925. According to Moeller, “... the attention might be drawn to the fact that the right stick is held almost entirely with the little finder ... When the stick is placed on the drum the other fingers are closed around the stick, but very lightly, if touching at all. This gives a most powerful and safe grip, but not rigid, and at the same time anatomically correct, allowing a comfortable hang to the arm, preventing stiffness, cramp and fatigue.”(2)

To employ the little finger grip, the hand is positioned over the stick with the palm down, but rather than bending the wrist (flexion and extension), momentum for this stroke generates primarily, from forearm rotation (supination and pronation).

Ashworth and Bruce wrote their grip instructions for military drumming as it was played on rope-tensioned field drums fitted with calfskin heads. Rope drums do not produce the level of stick rebound that modern drummers are accustomed to. In those days, it was more important for military drummers to play with power than speed. The tempo of common time march beats was slow by modern standards, a stately pace of 75 to 90 steps per minute.(3)

A typical rope drum has a wood counter hoop that is much taller than the metal counter hoops of modern screw-tensioned drums. Consequently, the playing position of the hands relative to the surface of the drumhead (strike angle) need to be high enough for the strokes to clear the hoop. A higher playing position in conjunction with a right hand little finger grip ensures that the sticks will not inadvertently strike the tall counter hoop of rope drums.

The little finger grasp point is only about two inches from the butt end of the stick. Setting the fulcrum point far from the stick bead produces a powerful mechanical advantage that is like swinging a baseball bat or a golf club. In exchange for power there is some sacrifice of speed and control when finesse is required.

The little finger grip is not in common use anymore, but for some traditionalists seeking to authentically perform nineteenth-century military music, it is considered to be period correct. 

1. Charles Stewart Ashworth, A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum-beating
(Boston: G. Graupner, 1812), page 1.
George B. Bruce and Daniel D. Emmett, The Drummers’ and Fifers’ Guide
(New York: Firth, Pond & Co., 1862), page 5.
2. Sanford A. Moeller, The Art of Snare Drumming (Chicago: Ludwig Music Publishing Co., Inc., 1925), page 4.
3. Frederick William Baron Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (Boston: 1794), page 13.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Poing Stroke

by Ed Flack, ©2015

Ancient drum notations often include a special mark to identify a rudiment known as the “pong stroke” or the “poing stroke.” The following information, gathered from original sources, offer conflicting interpretations of exactly how the pong, or poing is to be played.

James Longman and Francis Broderip, The Young Drummers Assistant (London: Longman and Broderip, 1780), page 2. In The Young Drummers Assistant, there is a symbol under the heading, “Explanation of Marks,” that shows a symbol labeled “pong stroke.” It is shown only to be played by the right hand. The exact meaning is not explained.

Charles Stewart Ashworth, A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating (Boston: G. Graupner, 1812), 4. Included with Ashworth’s collection of rudiments, is a symbol described as “Poing Stroke, Hard.” It is allowed to be played as a left or a right hand rudiment, with no further explanation. "Poing stroke hard” is illustrated in close proximity with two other symbols: “Hard but not so hard as poing stroke” and “Faint Stroke.” The faint stroke is shown with a hollow note head, like a half-note, but it has nothing to do with time value. These are indications for dynamics: poing stroke hard, is a forte beat, or accent; hard but not so hard as poing, represents beats played at mezzo forte volume; and the faint stroke is played relatively soft.

Alvan Robinson, Massachusetts Collection of Martial Musick, 1818, 7. “Poing stroke is performed by giving a flam and striking each stick upon the head of the drum, lightly touching the hoop at the same time.” Robinson gives only narrative descriptions of drum beatings and offers no written symbol for the poing stroke.

David Hazeltine, Instructor In Martial Music (Exeter: C. Norris and Co., 1817), 5. “Poing stroke, is beat by giving a light flam and strike each stick nigh the hoop of the drum, lightly touching the hoop at the same time.” Hazeltine explains all drum beats narratively and he shows no symbol for the poing.

Levi Lovering, The Drummer’s Assistant for the Art of Drumming (Philadelphia: J. G. Klemm, 1823), 9. “The Poing Stroke: Is beat in the following manner. Strike the head about three inches from the lower side with a smart sliding stroke; throw up the hand as directed in the first lesson.” Lovering uses a bird’s-eye symbol that looks like a fermata to indicate where a poing stroke is to be played. Lovering’s poing notation symbol can apply to either hand.

Elias Howe, Howe’s United States Regulation Drum and Fife Instructor (Boston: Elias Howe, 1862), 5. “Poing stroke, is performed by giving a flam and striking each stick upon the head of the drum, lightly touching the hoop at the same time.” Howe’s book is written using drum notation that had clearly evolved since Ashworth’s time and is more easily interpreted by reader’s of modern drum music. He did not offer a specific symbol for the poing stroke, electing to designate it narratively.

Howe dedicated two pages of his book under the title, “The Old Style of Drum Instructions, Used in 1812.” On those pages he shows the poing stroke as Ashworth wrote it. Howe explained, “It is called the Drummer’s Notation, and is the Old English style. It will be seen that the Half, Quarter, Eighth, and 16th notes, are used simply to express the force of the beats, and without any regard to their relative value as to their length.”

Note: Elias Howe, the musician, is not the same person as Elias Howe Jr., inventor of the sewing machine.

Robinson, Hazeltine, and Howe describe the poing as a flam stroke but Lovering does not. The Young Drummers Assistant shows the pong stroke as a one-handed technique which eliminates the option of flam sticking.

Ashworth’s book contains a specific notation that explains the flam as two simultaneous stroke motions. He uses no similar markings and makes no comment that would indicate the poing should be played like a flam.

The pong stroke of The Young Drummers Assistant, and the poing stroke of Ashworth’s and Lovering’s books are probably the same technique. With the limited information available, this supposition cannot be absolutely confirmed.

The name “poing” evokes an onomatopoeia sound association. A strike played off the head’s center, toward the edge could make a poing-like sound. Rimshots played on the wooden hoops of a rope drum may also produce a poing sound.

In the opinion of this researcher, it seems reasonable that for those now seeking to explain and perform ancient style drum beats, it may be useful to employ two designations: the “poing stroke” meaning a light rimshot, and the “poing stroke flam” played as light rimshot with a flam.

Example notation, click image to enlarge.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


by Ed Flack, ©2015

Earl Sturtze said, “The three basic rudiments of drumming are the Single Stroke Roll, the Long Roll, and the Flams. All other rudiments are derived from different combinations of these three.” He also said, “Some experts claim that, since the ‘flam’ is a derivative of the ‘single stroke roll’ there should only be TWO basic rudiments.”
Many years later, Thom Hannum made a similar observation when he wrote, “There are three beat patterns which form the basis of most rudimental and orchestral passages: single, double, and triple beats.”
[2] Hannum does not specifically name the flam among the three beat patterns, which he also called the “three keys.”

Sturtze’s case for distinguishing the flam as independent from the single stroke roll is strong because flamming requires a collateral action between hands to combine a high primary stroke with a low grace note. Furthermore, the individual stroke by each hand can be either a high-to-low, or low-to-high motion, whereas roll single strokes are played at equal heights. With this in mind, learning to control two-height accent-to-tap, and tap-to-accent strokes is the gateway to advanced flam execution.

There are four widely-known exercises that form the core of a successful warm-up and practice routine because they engage all the basic beat patterns identified by Sturtze and Hannum: 1. eight-on-a-hand (one-height); 2. bucks (two-heights); 3. Sanford double beat; 4. Sanford triple beat.

Each foundational exercise is designed to be practiced one hand at a time. The advantages of working each hand in isolation is to allow focused attention on specific motions, grip and playing positions until all actions are performed consistently and without flaw. Once each hand has those motions programmed into muscle memory, you can bring both hands together to coordinate specific sticking sequences with a much better chance of achieving an even balance in hand-to-hand motions and sound.

Another way of using one-handed exercises to build balance and fluidity is to practice them as simultaneous double-stops. With both hands playing the same thing at the same time you can precisely match stroke motions, stick heights and volume. When all aspects of a pattern match up in unison they should blend beautifully when played in alternation.

 Follow this link to a video demo of foundational exercises.


1. Earl Sturtze, The Sturtze Drum Instructor (Ivoryton: Reissued by The Company of Fifers and Drummers, orig. 1956), 10.
2. Thom Hannum, Championship Concepts for Marching Percussion (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation, 1989): 8.