When composing a drum score, the composer has many important choices to make during the process that will determine the musicality of the drum score. The examples below show two sets of musical choices and the differences between those choices. First off, we assume that both sets of musical choices would compliment the pipe tune rhythmically. Each "Example #1" would be a viable drum score; however, each "Example #2" adds "lift" and makes the score even more musical. Let's start with some examples in the round reel style:
Example #1 is a typical round reel score for a grade 5 band. There are no overly-complicated rudiments and accents have been added to compliment the pipe tune. Let's look at how lift is created in Example #2 to improve the overall musicality of the score.
In the first bar of example #2, the second accent is shifted from the beat to the offbeat. In the second bar, the second accent is shifted from the backbeat to the offbeat. Both of these shifts provide some added syncopation improving the forward motion of the score. The third bar remains unchanged with the exception of the third accent. The first accent in bar three should remain as it provides a return to a strong beat. Moving the third accent over one note creates some forward momentum and leads nicely into the final bar which no longer begins with a cut four but is changed to a softer sounding five stroke roll. The final touch is the addition of an accent on the fourth note of the last bar providing a nice "pop" leading into the drag five.
The next example of lift in a round reel involves the use of dynamics to improve the musicality of the phrase. Example #1, if played exactly as written, would sound flat and unexciting. With the addition of extra accents in example #2, the phrase starts to "pop" and becomes much more fun to play. In example #2, all the accents in the first two bars are on the offbeat. If I was writing "chips" for this part they would be: the first two five stroke rolls, the drag taps and the final flam five. This would allow the offbeat accents to have even more of an impact as their presence would be felt both times through the phrase, but with textural differences each time. Making the choice to crescendo the first two bars would add even more excitement, especially on the repeat.
For the series of cut fours in the third bar, a crescendo has been added to prevent them from being too "flat-sounding". I would also place some added weight on the second note of each cut four to accentuate the offbeat. In the final bar, the accent has been moved from the flam to the following note to add some more "pop" to the bar.
Moving from simple time to compound time, let's examine the use of lift in some jig phrases.
In example #1 below, there is an accent on the first beat of every bar. While this is not technically incorrect, the score will sound dull and will lack the requisite forward motion. In the first bar of example #2, the six stroke roll has been changed to a seven stroke roll, complete with crescendo and a final accent on the backbeat. In the second bar, the six stroke roll has been eliminated and replaced by a simple (and also unaccented) quarter note, followed by an eighth note flam with an accent. The quarter note creates an open space that draws attention to the accented flam, creating a more impactful musical moment.
The third bar of example #2 starts the same way as it does in example #1, returning to a strong beat emphasis. The roll in the final bar, however, has been changed to start slightly earlier. This anticipation of the beat is another musical device you can use to create lift.
The final example from the jig style is a bit more extreme. It would be prudent to use caution if inserting a phrase like example #2. I wouldn't recommend using something like this all the time but every once in a while it can be extremely musical to play a ton of notes off the beat, providing that you return to a strong beat emphasis immediately. To use a chocolate analogy: it is a treat to eat one chocolate bar a day but if you are forced to eat twenty in a row you can tire of them pretty quickly!
Example #1 is another common musical phrase you could easily find in a grade 5 or even a grade 4 level jig score. To get the most music out of a jig, it is necessary to provide some offbeat accents to help move the tune along. Example #2 shows an interesting way to achieve some forward motion. Even though example #2 looks completely different from example #1 there have only been two changes made. First, two notes have been added to the first bar of the phrase. The addition of these two notes pushes the other notes over thereby switching the heavy beat emphasis of example #1 to an emphasis on the backbeat in example #2. The second change occurs in the last bar where the accent on the end of the single five in example #1 has been moved to the beginning of the five in example #2.
If you play through both examples you will be shocked at how much these simple changes transform the score from pedestrian to exciting. Sometimes it is the smallest tweaks to a score that yield the biggest results.
Writing drum scores with lift, or changing scores you already have to create more lift, will have a huge impact on your drum corps. Exciting scores are more fun to play. The more fun a score is to play, the more fun it is to practice. The more practice is happening, the better your drum corps will sound. Take a look at your scores and see if there are any changes you can make to boost their level of musicality.
There are two styles I haven't covered specifically but the same principals apply. Strathspeys use a combination of rhythms from round reels and jigs but most of the lift in a strathspey comes from accenting the backbeat (third note) of triplet passages. 6/8 marches, because of the rhythms used in the style, are naturally bouncy and it is not quite as important to add offbeat/backbeat accents to provide extra motion.
If any of you have any additional questions about "lift" and how best to achieve it, please leave a comment on our facebook page so everyone can benefit from the answer. Until next time, happy drumming!