Scores for the Grade 4 Drummer
Compiled and published by Blair Brown
44 pages plus CD
Reviewed by Steven Hill
As someone who has taught for many years at many levels I am always looking for additional resources to make the task more efficient and varied for both teacher and student. This is especially important in the lower grades.
Scores for the Grade 4 Drummer by Blair “Buzz” Brown comprises approximately 60 scores with most popular time signatures represented. The breakdown is as follows: 4/4 –5, 2/4-15, 3/4-6, 6/8-11, 9/8-1, 12/8-1, 5/4-1, strathspey-10, reel-8. Eight of the 2/4 marches are 4 parts and could be considered as possible solo material. There are, however, no hornpipes or jigs included.
Buzz has included “Massed Band” scores for time signatures 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 and 6/8. Everyone should have a copy of these. Note, however, the sticking isn’t exactly the same as some associations’ published scores.
Following the Massed Band scores is a selection of terrific exercises composed by Buzz and Roland Reid, another accomplished player. These include some well thought out rudiments that progress and build upon themselves. Swiss Army triplets and paradiddles are featured next. Both are quite challenging and yet fun.
The scores in general are well structured and flow easily. Variety is good and anyone with a solid foundation of the basics should find these manageable. As always, it is not just what you play but how you play it that counts and these scores lend themselves well to being uncluttered and fairly easily played with a corps.
For added variety the use of drags might have been incorporated as well as the odd rest. Though a good exception to this was the effective use of rests in “Glasgow Week in Hamburg.”
A minor criticism would be that the scores generally favor the right hand. A little more left lead might promote less dependence on the right. As well, dynamic notations would be a nice addition. It’s never too early to consider light and shade.
I was very pleased to see metronome mark (“mm”) notations on some of the rudiments. Promotion of a metronome, especially at this level, cannot be over stressed. More of this would have been welcomed as well as more click track on the accompanying CD.
As mentioned, the book is accompanied by 2 compact discs. This seems to be catching on and with good reason. The discs correspond to the index and are well laid out. The playing is on practice pad and is clean and clear. The tempos are steady and are paced for effective learning. There, unfortunately, are no tune introductions on the CD as I’m sure Buzz is saving his singing voice for his next World Championship party.
Other highlights include a nice bounce to “Jack’s Welcome Home,” a well-balanced “Conundrum,” and a nice incorporation of the closed 3-stroke roll in “The MacNeils of Ugadale.” As well, all the strathspeys give plenty of attention to beat 1 without too much tripleting.
Scores for the Grade 4 Drummer wisely has a plastic front and back cover (making it possible to sponge off bottle rings quickly and easily) and is printed on quality stock. A smashing picture of Buzz accompanied by the fruits of his labour, the World Pipe Band Championship trophy and the sash awarded to the Best Drum Corps at the World Championship, adorn the cover.
All said, Scores for the Grade 4 Drummer is a great resource. The scores can be used “as is” or adapted to fill a hole. They can be used as sight-reading exercises for more advanced students and the rudiments are effective for all levels. Hopefully this might inspire others of us with shoeboxes full of scores and rudiments to commit the undoubtedly immense number of hours to contribute to the cause. And having met the unpretentious Buzz a few times I imagine if asked why he did this he might say he’s just a drummer helping other drummers.
Steven Hill is currently active as a certified judge. He most recently played with The 78th Fraser Highlanders. Steven also teaches and conducts drumming workshops throughout Ontario and Michigan.
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