Thread: How many lines?
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Old 10-11-2018, 01:16 PM   #10
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: San Diego
Posts: 796
Default Re: How many lines?

Hi Paul, if I could offer this on the background of interpreting pipe band snare drumming notation, a wee bit long but for those interested…

Whereas a lot of drummers know already that it was the late great Alex Duthart that popularized the mono linear form of notation in pipe band snare arrangements: R-above, L-below the line. Although he didn’t invent it, rather he utilized some of the Swiss style notation. Alex always gave credit to the great Basel Drummer Dr. Fritz Berger who came up with the mono-linear notation for snare because in Swiss drumming the snare is the principal instrument and the fife is the accompaniment (behind the drummers: :-)

However, what's not generally known is that the Swiss Drumming Clubs are every bit as competitive as pipe bands, in fact, so much so that their drumming arrangements were often written in codes that only drummers in each club could understand! The origin of this was, Switzerland being a neutral country for hundreds of years during European wars, so Swiss drummers were often hired by other European armies as signalers before the advent of the bugle.

Consequently a culture evolved in Basel where each club would have peculiar cyphers to pass on their drumming signals! This developed into drumming competitions where they played with Fifes with complicated drum arrangements. In the early 1900’s Dr. Berger made the leap to standardize their notation. He came up with a way to minimize the amount of hieroglyphics on the page but still make sense and convey all the information required to play each score.

In the 1960’s Dr. Berger visited Alex at his house in Wishaw and the two sat all night trading stuff. Subsequently Alex utilized those parts of Berger’s style of notation that suited his own now evolving snare arrangements for pipe band arrangements.

Disclaimer: Alex gave credit to Jimmy Catherwood as the first Scottish drummer to visit Basel and adopt some of their rudiments, but as Alex said "Jimmy didn't write it the same as they did, he interpreted what he heard and changed it to suit the pipes". Alex went further and adopted some of their notation. (One of his fav' things to do was sit and play Berger's scores).

Anyone that is familiar with Swiss notion knows there are many more aspects to Berger’s notation than just the use of the single line that you don’t see in the pipe band snare arrangements and getting into explaining it here would be way too lengthy, it's out there for all to see and or study.

Suffice to say, Alex came up with a short-hand way of notating the simplest and easiest form to sight-read quickly his own evolving complex snare style, a kind of ‘hybrid’ between Swiss, Rudimental and studio percussion charts. The studio session drummer knows that the studio drum charts are usually very spare and rely on a drummers knowledge of time sigs, grooves, breaks and progressions, the various kit drums and cymbals noted on diff’ lines on the staff.

Remember that simultaneous to this, Alex was re-inventing the modern pipe band snare drumming style, so he elected to only use those aspects of Berger's Swiss mono-linear notation that suited him.

The generally accepted use of hash marks in the stem of a roll denotes the duration: 2 hash marks thru' the stem denotes less than a quarter note value: e.g. 16th note roll, an 8th note or dotted 8th note roll. 3 hash marks thru’ the stem denotes a quarter note value or greater, longer roll.

(Almost never used but a single hash mark through the stem denotes a 32nd note single buzz, not to be confused with a drag).

As Alex said himself, reading is an extra tool in your box, if you want to be a complete drummer. The average guy can learn to read drum charts pretty quickly 'if’ they apply themselves. ‘If’ is the biggest word in the English language.

Last edited by Alba2usa; 10-11-2018 at 01:22 PM.
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