Drum Corps & Swiss Rudiments

During the 2005 American Patriots Rudimental Drum Club convention held in Middletown, PA, Ken Mazur and Mark Petty from the Michigan Chapter asked my opinion as to “when” Swiss rudiments were first played by Drum Corps in North America. “1958 / 59” was my initial response. This was based on my experience in the Toronto area during the 1950’s. I told Ken and Mark that I would research the CADRE library and get back to them.

In order to ascertain approximately “when” and “which” Swiss rudiments were played, an understanding of the history leading up to that time is helpful. The following is based on my personal experiences as a result of acquiring Dr. F. R. Berger’s book around 1957 and my observations as a Drum Corps performer, writer, instructor and judge.

The research started with Dr. F. R. Berger’s book “Instructor for Basle Drumming” published in 1937. In the “Preface”, Berger makes reference to an exchange of “drum matter” with Wm. Ludwig Sr. and his (Berger) induction ( mid 1930′) as an honourary member of the National Association of Rudimental Drummers. The NARD was formed in the USA in 1933 and quickly became a reference point for a large number of North American and international drummers. Many of the early instructors in Drum Corps, in both the USA and Canada were members of the NARD.

In the same book, Berger expresses his gratitude to Drum Major James Catherwood (Dalzell Highland Pipe Band) “Scotch Drum Master” for all the interesting information about the drum play in England and Scotland. Berger, in 1928, had created a monolinear notation system. This new notation system and information about Swiss rudiments was communicated to Scottish Pipe Bands based in Scotland during the mid 1930’s through Jimmy Catherwood. Implementation of a compromised monolinear system appears to have been delayed in Scotland because of the 1939 start of World War II. However, by 1948 the new notation system was gaining in popularity.

From our Canadian experience, the connection to Catherwood is relevant. In the 1950’s, Toronto, as in other locations, was blessed with a large number of Military, Drum Corps and Scottish Pipe Bands. The Scottish Pipe Bands had a close relationship with their counterparts in Scotland. Information about rudimental drumming was actively being exchanged throughout Toronto. Personally, I had been exchanging drum information with Fred Fisher who was the lead tip/instructor with the 48th Highlanders of Canada. I remember showing him the Berger book and playing for him the Swiss Army Triplet. To the best of my knowledge, up to 1958, the Scottish Pipe Bands in Toronto were not playing Swiss rudiments nor were they employing the monolinear notation system. It should be noted however, that their scores were notated “stems down”.

So, prior to 1937 information about Swiss rudiments was being exchanged with some American drummers and, Scottish pipe band drummers based in Scotland. One can assume that some American fife and drum players/authors etc., especially from the Connecticut area ( J. Burns Moore, from Connecticut, was President of NARD when Berger was inducted) were aware of the Swiss system, or at least part of it, prior to World War II. The book, “America’s N.A.R.D. Drum Solos”, includes the solo, “Rudimenter Good Luck” written in 1934 by Berger. In addition to the solo, there are explanations about part of the monolinear notation system.

The “Sturtze Drum Instructor” book, published in 1956, refers to “The Swiss Pata-Fla-Fla” with both right and left hand leads. Sturtze also refers to Inverted Flam Taps which are sticked exactly the same as one of the two official versions of the Swiss Tap-Flam.
Vincent L. Mott’s 1957 book “The Evolution of Drumming” refers to the Berger book in the “Bibliography” and includes the solo “Etude” by Raymond Suskind from New York which incorporates The Pataflafla -Stroke. Mott was a Percussion Educator at the University of Miami at that time and was also President of the NARD.
Raymond Suskind’s 1951 solo “Basle Anniversary March”, which includes a number of Swiss rudiments, is published in Trommelmarsche Band 2, copyright 1959. In the same book, Eric Perrilloux from Flushing NY is a listed author. Alfons Grieder, a Berger student, in his article “Introduction to Swiss Basle Drumming”, credits Suskind: “a fine drummer and Basle drummer himself” for his help with the revision of the article’s English text.
John S. Pratt, while stationed at the West Point Military Academy, wrote “Salute to Basle” and “Tribute to Doctor Berger” in the mid 1950’s. Both solos were ready for copyright/ publishing in 1959. John had been introduced to Swiss rudiments by his friend Vince Romeo. Vince, while stationed in Germany, played in a USA military band that had traveled to Basle, Switzerland to perform in “The Festival of the Masks”. On returning to the USA, Vince helped John with the monolinear notation for “Salute to Basle” and with the traditional R-L notation style for “Tribute to Doctor Berger”. Both solos incorporated Swiss rudiments. Also, John introduced Swiss rudiments to the Interstatesmen Drum Corps when he was their drum instructor in 1962.

Frank Arsenault and I would get together and drum during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s during Frank’s business trips to Toronto as a Ludwig Drum Co. representative. Frank gave me a copy of the “Original Stick Control Exercises” published by the Ludwig Drum Co. Exercise number 13, uses one of the two Pataflafla-Stroke combinations – although they are played hand to hand. This could have been a result of the exchanges between Wm. Ludwig Sr. and Berger, or an excerpt from “Stick Control” by George Lawrence Stone. Frank, I can assure you, was aware of Swiss rudiments at that time. A very interesting conversation took place with Frank after I had played for him the 1959 Canada’s Marching Ambassadors competition solo “Magoo” – which incorporated one of the two versions of the Pataflafla-Stroke and Swiss-Army Triplets played as 1/24 notes. Frank was concerned about what some judges’ reaction would be because of the non-standard drag configurations and the employment of rudiments other than the standard 26 set out by the NARD.
So, the Swiss connection was made to North America – especially in the USA – no later than the early 1930’s. From then to 1959 we see solos containing approximately eight Swiss rudiments; not many considering the total number in the Berger book. Now, lets examine “what” and “why” certain Swiss rudiments were beginning to be utilized by North American Drum Corps. The following Swiss rudiments approximate the order of priority and implementation by Drum Corps starting around 1959.

  1. The Swiss Army-Triplets (both 1/8 and 1/24 note combinations).
  2. The Pataflafla-Stroke commencing on the downbeat with a R-Flam, and to a much lesser degree, commencing with a L-tap on the 2nd 1/16th note.
o It should be noted the unfortunate oversight in North America of the most pleasing part of both the Pataflafla-Strokes… the Crescendo!
  3. The Tap Flam – Version 1 commencing with a R-Flam on the first 1/16 note and, to a much lesser degree, Version 2 commencing with a R-tap on the first 1/16 note.
  4. The flammed Mill- Stroke.
  5. The flammed 5-Stroke Roll (single or continuous right hand only).
  6. To a much lesser degree, the flammed 9-Stroke Roll (single or continuous right hand only).
  7. Berger’s foot notes to his “Rudimenter Good Luck” solo, describes “An Application of Lesson 25, but only as a hand-to-hand rudiment”. Although this combination was not an official Swiss rudiment at that time, it may explain some North American drummers reference to a “Swiss Lesson 25”.

Why, to the best of our knowledge ONLY the above; no Charge Strokes… none of the beautiful Swiss 3-Stroke Roll combinations… The Millwheel Stroke… The Final –Strokes… and so forth? In my opinion, the reason was that the above 7 were quickly understood and could be comfortably incorporated into the North American Drum Corps composition and playing styles. The snare drum was dominant. Difficulty was “in” as part of the learning curve and was credited towards the final score and, the above complimented an incredible number of “the standard 26” combinations already being played. Perhaps having to analyze “monolinear” was a deterent.

Regardless, even the minimum number of Swiss rudiments used was both a welcome and colourful addition.
So, to answer Ken and Mark’s original question, at this time, I’m sticking with 1959. I hope that anyone reading this article who has additional information etc., would take the time to contact the writer through any CADRE member or at the address below. This is an open book reflecting information currently in the CADRE library. I would like to thank Ray Reilly, John S. Pratt, John Bosworth – and recently Walter Sprance – for their help.

Fred Johnson
October 27, 2005