August 31, 2002

Wrist watch

Massed band Scores for Pipe Band Drummers
by Hugh Cameron and Douglas Stronach
Cameron’s Drumming Studio. Tel: (519) 576-6847

Reviewed by Charles Cablish

Hugh Cameron and Doug Stronach have put together a combination book and audio CD-ROM that focus exclusively on massed band drum scores for snare drummers. Many may wonder whether there is a need for a guide devoted solely to these scores, one each for 2/4, 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 time signatures. For many pipe band snare drummers the answer to this question is, “No.” However, we have all played in massed bands and had to stand next to a drummer or a whole drum corps who seemed oblivious to the fact that the other snare drummers were following a standardized set of scores based on the time signatures of the tunes being played. This drum corps is colourfully depicted on the book’s cover. The other, more obvious, audience is drummers who are either new to the snare drum or new to the pipe band idiom. For any of the above this book and CD combination should be very helpful.

As noted in the introduction to Massed Band Drum Scores For Pipe Band Drummers, this book is not suitable for beginners and should be used under the tutelage of a qualified instructor. It is not a snare drum “method” book and does not address notation, note values, time signatures, counting schemes, rudiments or other topics you usually find in many instruction books. The rationale behind this is clearly explained in the introductory sections of the book. There are brief sections on “The Triplet Nature of Pipe Band Drumming,” “Tempos” and “Key to Musical Notation.” Assuming that the student is at the intermediate level, the information provided should prove more than adequate to get started on the scores and to keep progressing through the book. The instructional style used should dovetail nicely with Stronach’s full length instructional book, Doug Stronach’s Pipe Band Snare Drum Tutor. Anyone looking for a “full service” snare drum tutor should consider adding this one to their library.

The book is clearly typeset using single line staves with right and left hand sticking above and below the staff, respectively. The CD-ROM is well produced and both the playing, on a practice pad, and a drum loop acting as a metronome are clear and easy to hear. The recording has the snare drum part recorded on one channel and the metronome on the other channel. This allows the student listening in stereo to use the balance control to increase or decrease the volume of each channel, depending on where they are in the process of mastering the scores.

The scores are written in two different ways, in what is referred to as detail mode and abbreviated mode. Detailed mode breaks down sticking and note values by showing the 2/4 and 4/4 marches written in 12/8 and the 3/4 marches in 9/8 time signatures. Abbreviated mode is the standard notation that is commonly used to write pipe band drum scores. This arrangement helps show the difference in the way the scores are interpreted, with a definite triplet feel, and the way they usually look on paper, a combination of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes. The 6/8 score maintains its time signature in both detail and abbreviated modes.

Scores are demonstrated on the CD-ROM at four different tempos from beginner to advanced. The beginner level is quite slow with a quarter note equal to 60 bpm, remember that this is written in a 12/8 or 9/8 time signature. The advanced level is played at a comfortable 80 bpm, with novice and intermediate tempos in between. Playing the scores at a variety of tempos, maintaining the sticking and the triplet feel throughout should be an effective way to bring newcomers up to speed. At the advanced level the scores are also broken down into two bar phrases. Each score and two bar phrase has the corresponding CD-ROM track number listed with it in the book to help the student navigate the disc. It would have been nice to put some audio information on the CD referencing the page number of the score or phrase in the book, but this is a minor point.

Overall, Massed Band Drum Scores For Pipe Band Drummers should be very valuable when used as an instructional aid with the proper audience. Clearly leveraging years of both teaching and playing experience, the authors effectively address an area most of us don’t give much thought. It’s well produced and the authors have put together an excellent instructional package.

Charles Cablish is lead drummer of the Grade 3 Invera’an Pipe Band of St. Louis, Missouri, and is a certified judge with the Midwest Pipe Band Association. He works with Microsoft Corporation.


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