Ancient Drum Notation

Here’s a look at three examples of how snare drum parts were once notated.

The first example is from “A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating” by Charles Ashworth, 1812. The top notes, with the stems up, indicate the left hand while the bottom notes, with stems down, indicate the right hand. The first measure is a 7-stroke roll.

Ashworth's "Hessian" - 1812

The second example is from “Col. H.C. Hart’s New and Improved Instructor for the Drum” by Col. H.C. Hart, 1862. Again, the upper symbols indicate the left hand and the lower symbols indicate the right hand. The “7” spanning both the upper and lower areas indicates a 7-stroke roll beginning with the left hand and ending with the right. The 5’s in the lower area indicate a 5-stroke roll beginning and ending with the right hand.

Hart's "Hessian" - 1862

This final example is from “The Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide” by George Bruce and Dan Emmett, 1862. This is more recognizable as our modern notation. Notice that the shorter 5, 7 and 9 stroke rolls were written out stroke by stroke while the longer rolls were written as we do today.

Bruce & Emmett's "Hessian" - 1862

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