I learned Flam Drags at the knee of the Bayonne Bridgemen in the pre-kevlar days of DCI (Drum Corps International).
This is a Flam Drag, btw, for us American Drummers:
My first snare drum was a megalithic 15” Ludwig hanging from a strap.I messed around at audition camps for the (then) Cadets of Bergen County and made the quad line there in ‘89. In ‘91 I did the same with the Blue Devils. Unfortunately, my bad back kept me from ever completing a season with either group.
After I aged out, I kept up with what the DCI guys were up to and managed to keep my chops at a reasonable level over the years.
Then about 2 months ago, deep down a YouTube hole of, “in the lot with Broken City,” videos, I stumbled across this video, uploaded by something calling itself “Rhythm Monster.”
Don’t get me wrong, DCI drum lines are amazing. The mastery that those kids develop so quickly is unbelievable, and it’s fun trying to keep up with them, but the music they make kind of leaves me wanting.
Their style is crazy complex but it's elegant too. Jon Quigg calls it rudimental jazz, and that’s exactly right.
I love how they use every last bit of time in these chill tempos, letting the patterns breathe just enough to pull out unique grooves. Fluidly interweaving swing and straight patterns, knitting them together with sizzling Buzz Rolls and Crispy Ruffs.
But the groove, the finesse, and the obvious focus on Snare Drumming as an art was enough to get me hooked.
Dave: Ok Internet, who is this McWhirter dude anyway?
The Internet: Who? Steve? Yeah. He’s a many many times world solo snare drum champion and the leader of a World Champion drumline that he took from rank beginners to world champions in like 9 years or something.
The Internet: I know right? Here’s videos of him playing things that you think you understand, but don't.
Dave: I have to learn to play like that.
I bought a pair of Steven McWhirter drumsticks and brand new practice pad, downloaded as many scores as I could find and began to ‘learn to play’ them.
Of course I hadn’t bothered to really dig too deep into the technique or tradition and just wasn’t paying attention to what was actually going on.
Dave: “Hey Internet, how am I supposed to stick a short Buzz Roll in between two 32nd Notes?”
The Internet: “ Those aren’t rolls. They’re Scottish Drags or something.
Dave: “Oh ok. So how am I supposed to play a Scottish Drag?”
The Internet: “I don’t know, man. Maybe this Michael Eagle guy does. Here, watch this video”
Dave- “.....Well crap”
I figured that it was time to get some help. So I decided to check out this Rhythm Monster thing that was producing literally all of the pipe band videos that I had been freaking out over and spamming my friends with.
I went to Rhythm Monster, signed up for a Free Stuff Subscription and poked around for a bit. After playing around with the content and getting a feel for the folks that were presenting on the site, I subscribed.
Then I moved into the woodshed and prepared to meet this new Drag on it’s own terms…
That's all for now. No.2 coming next week!
An awesome DCI group from the 60s through the 80s. These are the guys you've seen in yellow Dick Tracy jackets playing on roto-toms with red blindfolds. Super cool.
'The New York Yankees of DCI,' 18x DCI World Champions are the most successful Marching Arts organization in the world- sorta the Field Marshal Montgomery of DCI.
Now simply, The Cadets, the 10x DCI World Champions are a regular Finals participant, akin to Shotts & Dykehead of Pipe Band Land.
Drum Corps International. The highest level of contemporary American Marching Arts. If you're under 22, you should figure-out how to join a group. If you're over 22, we're super sorry you missed-out:(
Pipe Band Drummers: This is what American Drummers call a "Drum Corps."
American Drummers: Pipe Band people usually don't use the term, "Drumline." They say, "Drum Corps" instead. If any of you thought of the movie, you immediately lose 10 points.
Pipe Band Drummers: Your American Drummer pals hear and think different things when you say this word. For them, it's a Double Stroke. Be gentil. They're fragile:)
American Drummers: Your Pipe Band Drummer pals hear and think different things when you say this word. For them, it's a Dead Stroke followed immediately by a Single Stroke (you saw the video above, right?:)) Be gentil. They bite:)
Really cool Rudiment in American Drumming, but not a thing in Pipe Band Drumming. Since a Pipe Band Drag is similar to a Flam, playing a Flam followed by a Drag isn't enough of a thing to be considered a Rudiment for Pipe Band Drummers. Confused? Then Monster-up and learn, bro! 😬❤️
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