Roll Call: Identifying Rolls in Your Written Music (Part VIII: The 6/8 March Cont'd)

The rolls in a 6/8 march are the most complex you'll find in any style. Whereas the rolls of a 2/4 march contain mostly triplet sixteenth subdivisions, rolls in the 6/8 march contain three distinct subdivisions:

  • Triplet eighth notes (the triplet takes up the space of the first two notes of the standard 6/8 note grouping)
  • Sixteenth notes
  • Thirty-second notes

Keep in mind that in a 2/4 march there are four sixteenth notes and eight thirty second notes per beat. In a 6/8 march, however, there are six sixteenth notes and twelve thirty-second notes per beat due to the fact we're working in compound time (groups of three).

Compared with the other styles we've covered so far 6/8 marches contain a very small number of rolls--only five. However, the degree of difficulty for these rolls is very high, highest in fact with the five stroke roll...


Five Stroke Rolls

In a 6/8 march five stroke rolls can be played with one of three subdivisions. The choice of subdivision depends on which part of the beat the roll begins. In example #1 below (the slow five) the triplet eighth subdivision is used. In my experience this subdivision needs a little tweaking to fit into the music: to execute the roll correctly there should be a slight pause between the second buzz and the final stroke. This pause in the timing can be compensated for by drawing out the second buzz slightly to fill this gap.

Up to this point we have only discussed "fast" and "slow" five stroke rolls. In the 6/8 march, however, there are THREE types of five: "slow", "fast" and "very fast"! The second example below is the "fast" five using a sixteenth note subdivision. Example #3 is the same "fast" five but starting on a solo eighth note.

Example #4 is a "very fast" five. This iteration of the five stroke roll uses thirty-second notes as its subdivision and requires good technique to play well. The fact that this roll is contained in North American massed band scores makes me scratch my head. It is very hard to play at standard march speed.



Six and Seven Stroke Rolls

Sixes and sevens use the same triplet eighth note subdivision as the "slow" five but, unlike the "slow" five, no tweaking to the rhythm is necessary. Example #1 below shows the six stroke roll and example #2 is the seven (rhythmically identical to the six but beginning with a "buzz" instead of an accent).



Thirteen Stroke Rolls

Thirteen stroke rolls are always played with a sixteenth note subdivision. They can be played on beat one (as in example #1), beat two (as in example #2) or off the beat as in examples #3 and #4 (examples #3 and #4 differ only in appearance--it's simply two ways of writing the same thing). 



Twenty Five Stroke Rolls

I've really only ever seen a twenty five stroke roll in the massed band 6/8 score. It is played the same way as intro rolls using sextuplet subdivisions. Example #1 and #2 are played the same way but are written differently, depending on the personal preference of the composer. Both, in theory (pun intended), are correct.



Phew! 6/8 march rolls can be hard on the head! As always I appreciate the comments I've received on the posts by email, on the blog posts themselves and on the facebook page. I took those comments into consideration while working on this latest post and they were very helpful! Keep them coming! Next week we'll be discussing rolls in the final style we play: The strathspey. Until then, happy drumming!

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