Extended roll sequences can add a bunch of musical possibilities to any drum score. When composing a new score, it is always important to include some extended rolls to add dynamics, texture and some interesting syncopation to your pipe band's overall ensemble. As roll sequences themselves are not protected by copyright, please feel free to steal as many of these as you like for use in your own scores!
Each example is followed by its rhythmic breakdown. To make the breakdowns easier to read, play the accents as "taps" and the notes with two tremolo markings as "buzzes". Notice that even though the drum scores are written in 2/4 time and contain many "dot/cut" rhythms, the rolls are played as triplets.
When learning each sequence, follow the breakdowns and practice slowly, gradually increasing the tempo until your can hear the intended rhythms of the roll sequence clearly.
#1: This example is stolen from a Reid Maxwell score and is probably one of the simplest and most iconic roll sequences in the history of pipe band drumming. If you want to hear this sequence, listen to the reprise of Clumsy Lover from "Live in Ireland" by the 78th Fraser Highlanders (1987). The rolls in this sequence are: 12, 12, 6, 6, 12.
#2: This sequence shows just how much music and syncopation you can get when you use only two types of rolls: cut fours (four-stroke rolls) and six-stroke rolls. The passage is broken down as follows: 4, 4, 6, 4, 4, 4, 6, 6.
#3: Using several different types of rolls yields a much different result. Here, the pattern is: 10, 6, 4, 6, 10, 8.
#4: This sequence demonstrates the syncopated rhythms that can be generated when you begin a roll on the last note of a sixteenth note triplet. The rolls in this sequence are: 7, 6, 4, 6, 6, 6.
#5: If a pipe tune is playing a constant "dot/cut" rhythm, drummers can sometimes get away with a roll sequence like the one below. The first two notes create a strong sense of beat while the next four are played on the offbeat. The final two eighth notes are played on the beat, grounding the score. The offbeats create a nice sense of "lift" but always be careful to return to the beat! Too much focus on the offbeat creates a directionless drum score--too much of a good thing isn't always a good thing! The rolls in this sequence are: 6, 10, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6.
#6: Here's another example of the syncopation that can be achieved using only four and six-stroke rolls. The rolls in this sequence are 4, 4, 6, 4, 4, 6, 4, 6.
#7: If you're looking to challenge your fellow corps drummers, or yourself, try this sequence. The four-stroke rolls and six-stroke rolls begin on the same hand. This definitely creates some technical challenges but the smooth, connected sound of these roll sequences stick out from other, more standard ones. The rolls in this sequence are 4, 6, 4, 10, 6, 6, 6.
#8: Here's another smooth sounding roll sequence using four and six-stroke rolls played on the same hand. The rolls for this sequence are: 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 6.
#9: This sequence is the opposite of #5 in that it starts with offbeats right away, returning to beat emphasis in the middle and then finishing off with more offbeats. The rolls in this sequence are: 10, 6, 6, 6, 10, 6.
#10: Sometimes a cool sequence can be created using only one type of roll. In the breakdown, be aware of the sixteenth note rests required to make the sequence flow properly. The rolls in this sequence are: 6, 6, 6, 6, 6.
#11: Okay, I originally thought I'd only be using ten examples but I couldn't resist adding this one. I first heard a roll sequence like this on the Shotts and Dykehead recording "Another Quiet Sunday" (1990). This roll sequence uses the trizzlet rudiment to great effect. Please be very patient with yourself when learning this sequence as it requires some deft stick control. Also, note the thirty-second notes in the rhythmic breakdown. The rolls in this sequence are: 10, 6, 4, 3 (trizzlet), 4, 6, 3.
Enjoy learning these roll sequences. They're all fun to play and some of them present a solid technical challenge. Thanks to Facebook group member Matt for the idea for this post. If you have an idea for a future post, please don't hesitate to let me know either in the comments, on the Facebook page or by email. Until next time,