Roll Call: Identifying Rolls in Your Written Music (Part II: The March Cont'd)

Last week we learned how to identify every type of roll used in a march or reel. Now that we know what the different rolls look like it's time to move on to how they are played. Before we begin, there are a couple of things you should know...

 

  • With NO exceptions, rolls in a march or reel are always played within a triplet or sextuplet grouping (dividing the beat equally into three or six parts).
  • To interpret the following examples correctly you must be aware of a couple of notation issues.
    • When you see a roll marking (two slashes) on a note and that note is alone (not tied to another note), it is to be played as a single buzz.
    • Slashes on a note do NOT tell you what kind of roll you are supposed to be playing. The rule for slashes is simple: if the note is a quarter note or larger it gets three slashes. If a note is an eighth note or smaller it gets two slashes.
  • Because the smaller rolls (trizzlets, fours and fives) are rarely seen in isolation I have attached the most common rhythms that accompany them.
  • If you find the rhythmic breakdown of each roll confusing, please feel free to check out The Bare Bones where you'll find an extensive theory section complete with rhythm syllables to help you improve your rhythm comprehension.

 

To make things easier, I've taken the musical examples from Part I and placed the rhythmic breakdowns below for both march and reel. Let's start with the trizzlet:

 

The Trizzlet

For a trizzlet in a march, the right hand plays three equal strokes and the left buzz fits between the first two right hands. In reality, I have found the trizzlet is actually easier to execute placing the left buzz closer to the first note. This achieves a sound similar to flicking one of those springy doorstops we could never leave alone as kids.

 

 

In a reel, the trizzlet appears slightly different but is executed in the same fashion.

 

 

The Cut Four (Four Stroke Roll)

In a march the cut four appears as a simple sixteenth note triplet but, like the trizzlet, it is easier to execute by moving the buzz closer to the first accent and getting the same "springy doorstop" effect.

 

 

In a reel the cut four uses an eighth note triplet.

 

 

The Five Stroke Roll

Last week we learned about the two types of five stroke rolls you'll encounter: the "slow" five and the "fast" five. The slow five is by far the easier of the two to play. It is played over a sixteenth note triplet in the march. 

 

 

It is played over an eighth note triplet in a reel.

 

 

The correct execution of the fast five is very difficult and, unfortunately for young drummers, it is included in Canadian massed band scores--supposedly written so that "everyone can play them easily" (that's a topic for another day). Where all other rolls in both marches and reels are played within a triplet grouping, fast fives require a sextuplet grouping. In a march the two buzzes and one stroke in the five should be played on the first three notes of a thirty-second note sextuplet. This requires solid control of the buzz strokes, a finely tuned ability to subdivide and better than average hand speed. No wonder young drummers find this version of the five so difficult to execute. This sextuplet subdivision is broken down in the example below:

 

 

In a march, if a half beat is broken down into six parts to form a sextuplet, those notes must be thirty-second notes. In the example above, you can see that the first two buzzes are thirty-seconds with the stroke at the end of the roll landing on a sixteenth note. To finish off the grouping you'll see a sixteenth note rest. Let's do some simple math to see if the note values add up to a sextuplet: 32nd + 32nd + 16th (worth two 32nds) + 16th rest (also worth two 32nds) = six 32nd notes!

In a reel the sextuplet will be made up of sixteenth notes but the effect is the same.

 

 

The Six Stroke Roll

In a march, the six stroke roll consists of a stroke, two buzzes and a stroke played over a sixteenth note triplet grouping.

 

 

In a reel the six stroke roll is played over an eighth note triplet grouping.

 

 

The Seven Stroke Roll

The rhythm of the seven stroke roll is the same as the six stroke roll with a buzz substituted for the first accented stroke of the six.

 

 

The same for the reel...

 

 

The Ten Stroke Roll

As discussed last week, a ten stroke roll can appear one of three ways in your written music, depending on the composer of the score.  The first three examples below are the variations I have seen. The fourth example shows what the ten stroke roll looks like when it is played "over the beat". Even though the first three rolls look different, they are all played the same way.

 

 

Notice the physical changes to the appearance of the ten stroke roll in a reel.

 

 

The Eleven Stroke Roll

The eleven stroke roll is identical to the ten in appearance with the exception of the accent on the first note. In the breakdown of the roll please notice that the first note of the first triplet is now a buzz stroke.

 

 

Note the similar changes in a reel...

 

 

The Twelve Stroke Roll

One of the most common rolls is the twelve stroke. In the breakdown note the accent on the first note of the first sixteenth triplet.

 

 

And in the reel...

 

 

The Thirteen Stroke Roll

And finally, the thirteen stroke roll: very common and easy to execute--six buzzes and a stroke at the end. The thirteen is identical rhythmically to the twelve but with a buzz on the first note instead of an accent.

 

 

And in the reel...

 

 

So that's it! Now you can take a look at your march music and identify and properly execute your rolls. Next week we'll be taking a look at the round reel and identifying rolls within that style. I have recently received several emails from subscribers asking for extra help or clarification on various blog posts. Thank you! The questions and comments really help and I use them to make future posts more clear and concise. Keep the questions coming!

4 comments

  • Skymed

    Skymed

    Zach, to go along with the Bare Bones rhythm syllables , how do you count (or apply syllables to) your rolls? Strikes me that they need the same treatment in order to keep the correct rhythm. Thanks in advance Steve

    Zach, to go along with the Bare Bones rhythm syllables , how do you count (or apply syllables to) your rolls? Strikes me that they need the same treatment in order to keep the correct rhythm.

    Thanks in advance

    Steve

  • Pipe Band Drummer

    Pipe Band Drummer

    Hi Steve. You bring up a good point! I'll address matching the roll breakdown with rhythm syllables in the next blog post. It should be up Wednesday or Thursday. Thanks for the comments!

    Hi Steve. You bring up a good point! I'll address matching the roll breakdown with rhythm syllables in the next blog post. It should be up Wednesday or Thursday. Thanks for the comments!

  • Calum

    Calum London

    One thing that's really puzzling me in general is what's going on in 6/8 marches, especially with regard to rolls. What I hear doesn't seem to correspond to what is (strictly) written, so a blog post like this one breaking down a massed bands 6/8 as you do in this post would be amazingly helpful :)

    One thing that's really puzzling me in general is what's going on in 6/8 marches, especially with regard to rolls. What I hear doesn't seem to correspond to what is (strictly) written, so a blog post like this one breaking down a massed bands 6/8 as you do in this post would be amazingly helpful smile

  • Pipe Band Drummer

    Pipe Band Drummer

    Thanks for the comments Calum. A blog post on 6/8 marches is in the works. Basically, I'm following the different styles laid out in The Bare Bones section of the site. Group A is the March style, Group B is Round Reel (I'll be starting this next week), Group C is Jig, Group D is 6/8 March and Group E is Strathspey. You're not wrong about 6/8 marches--especially the massed band scores. Things are not what they seem when you compare what you see on the page to what you actually play.

    Thanks for the comments Calum. A blog post on 6/8 marches is in the works. Basically, I'm following the different styles laid out in The Bare Bones section of the site. Group A is the March style, Group B is Round Reel (I'll be starting this next week), Group C is Jig, Group D is 6/8 March and Group E is Strathspey. You're not wrong about 6/8 marches--especially the massed band scores. Things are not what they seem when you compare what you see on the page to what you actually play.

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