Roll Call: Identifying Rolls in Your Written Music (Part IV: The Round Reel Cont'd)

In "Roll Call" Part IV I'll be discussing the breakdown and use of rhythm syllables for rolls commonly found in the round reel. This has been a very challenging section to write and has been very "eye-opening" as the exact timing for certain rolls in the round reel cannot be notated exactly as played. Rolls are not exactly played as triplets as in the march, nor are they played using quadruplets. Instead, many of the rolls are played using slight modifications of the buzz strokes to make sure the final note of the roll lands where it should. Despite the fact that even numbered rolls are not necessarily heavily accented I have included accents in the breakdowns below to act as a visual aid. Let's begin with the four and five stroke rolls which are pretty straight forward.

 

Four and Five Stroke Rolls

 

 

To interpret the buzzes in the four stroke roll correctly, use the syllables "ticka-ti". The syllables for the five stroke roll are the same:

 

 

Six and Seven Stroke Rolls

Sixes and Sevens are broken down into triplets in a round reel as in the march style. The rhythm syllables "Trip-a-let Tah" are used when the roll ends on a quarter note and the syllables "Trip-a-let Ti" are used when the rolls ends on an eighth note.

 

 

The six begins with an accent and the seven begins with a buzz.

 

 

Eight and Nine Stroke Rolls

 

Now here's where things get a little more interesting... I made a conscious choice in the last blog post to leave out eights and nines because they didn't seem to appear that often in round reels. However, going through my music these past couple of weeks has shown me that eights and nines DO appear and that, depending on the tempo of the pipe tune, they can be used at faster speeds to great effect. Eights and Nines appear rhythmically identical to tens and elevens with the only difference being the speed of the buzzes (reflected in the breakdowns of each roll).

 

 

This is where drumming notation fails us! As you can see in the example above, the end of an eight stroke roll happens on the "&" of "2". But, in the break down, the eight stroke roll looks like it ends on the second note of the second triplet. This is the point where we, as musicians, have to change the rhythm of our triplet buzzes and slow down the last couple of buzzes slightly so that the roll ends successfully on the "&" of "2". This is a skill best practiced with a metronome. Using the "trip-a-let" rhythm syllables will get you started but as you adjust the timing of your buzzes the syllables won't be much help. Move away from the syllables and use a metronome and your ears to end your roll on the correct part of the beat. The same is true for the nine stroke roll.

 

 

Ten and Eleven Stroke Rolls

 

Even though ten and eleven stroke rolls look identical rhythmically when compared with eights and nines, they are quite different when broken down. This difference lies in the changes to the speed of the buzzes within the roll.

 

 

To make the timing of the tens and elevens work, the last two buzzes of the roll must be played slightly faster than written to make sure the roll ends on the "&" of "2". As with the eights and nines, the rhythm syllables will help you initially but when you begin to adjust the timing of the rolls use your ears and a metronome to ensure they are ending precisely on the "&" of "2".

In the roll breakdown for both tens and elevens, I've included an alternative rhythm in examples #3 and #4. This approach uses a quadruplet rhythm with the syllables "ti ticka ticka ti". To make this approach work, move the second buzz (the first note of the ticka ticka) slightly closer to the first "ti". As you are making this adjustment to the timing, remember again to use your ears and a metronome to make sure the roll ends exactly on beat "2".

 

 

Twelve and Thirteen Stroke Rolls

Now we can breathe a sigh of relief as these rolls are once again straightforward. Use the syllables "Trip-a-let Trip-a-let Tah".

 

 

The thirteen is executed identically to the twelve except it begins with a buzz not an accent.

 

 

Phew! There are your rolls for the round reel! As always, questions and comments are appreciated. I've had several comments about adding video and audio to aid in the interpretation of these posts and I am currently in the process of making that happen. Video is more complicated than audio but I'm enjoying the learning curve and hope to have video become a major part of these blog posts in the near future. Thanks for your patience with this--just one of the many challenges of having a staff of one! Until next week, when we'll discuss the appearance and breakdowns of rolls in the jig style, happy drumming!

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