How Slow Can You Go?: Breaking Down the Massed Band 6/8

Welcome to the third part of a three part series on slowing down the North American massed band scores. I've saved the 6/8 for last because it has some very tricky parts in it.

  1. The very first note of the first part is almost always played incorrectly. The first introductory 8th note should be played exactly on the third note of the three-note 6/8 grouping. More often than not this note is played too soon (almost as if it's the second note of a duplet) and this destroys the swing of the score before it's even begun!
  2. The two seven stroke rolls in the first bar of the first part should also start on the third note of the three-note 6/8 grouping. If the roll is started too early the swing of the score is lost. To facilitate the execution of this roll make sure it is played quietly with very short buzzes. If the roll is played with longer buzzes at loud volumes it will always end late and the swing of the score will suffer.
  3. For the "Ams-ter-dam" rhythms in the second, third and fourth bars, make sure the "ter" syllable is not played too early. Putting a lot of "weight" (holding the first note slightly) on the "Ams" syllable will help in this regard.
  4. The first two rolls in the second part should be played as the first two notes of a 16th note sextuplet subdivision. The taps should be played on the 5th and 6th notes of the same sextuplet. Unfortunately, this creates a hole in the middle of the sextuplet that must be filled by lengthening the second buzz (demonstrated on the video).
  5. The first roll in the second bar of the second part is what I call a "VERY fast five". The subdivision for this roll is 32nd notes: if each 8th note of the three-note 6/8 grouping is divided into four equal parts you get twelve sixteenth notes. The two buzzes of this roll would be played on the seventh and eighth 32nd notes and the "tap" would be played on the ninth. Needless to say, these buzzes must be played very quickly. Remember to play the buzzes quietly to make things easier.
  6. Watch out for the seven stroke roll leading into the third part! Don't start it too early!
  7. The third part contains some tricky drag rudiments packed into the first two bars. First off we have a drag tap, followed by another drag tap, followed by a double drag tap into a drag and stroke. This bar is the reason we should all stop procrastinating our drag rudiment practice.

So that's it for the 6/8. When you're going through it I encourage you to listen to the slow tempo recording and follow along with the music a few times before playing along. That way you can get some of the roll and "Ams-ter-dam" subdivisions into your head. The 6/8 can sound really great if it is played with the intended swing so it is well worth the effort (and slow practice) to make it happen! Have fun with the videos below:


Massed Band 6/8: Slow Tempo


Massed Band 6/8: Medium Tempo


Massed Band 6/8: March Tempo


Until next time,

Happy Drumming!

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