View Full Version : Recordings of drums

01-31-2011, 12:55 AM
Ok, folks, I need some help. My nephew is interested in drumming for our company. Any ideas about where I can locate some recordings of marching music? I've tried a couple of search engines and all they have are period songs or martial sheet music.
Bill H,

01-31-2011, 10:00 PM
Check out the Liberty Hall Drum and Fife Corps' youtube page.


Our 1st CD will be released this Spring! On our record, we played on the same type of unmuffled drums with skin heads used 150 years ago, and we play beats from drum and fife manuals published in 1853, 1861, and 1862.

Will Chappell
Liberty Hall Drum Corps

02-03-2011, 03:55 PM
There are many CD's featuring the Camp Chase Fife and Drums and other drum corps that are available. But in order to profit by the recordings, one must first have the manual dexterity to play the drum, including all the rolls and other rudiments of drumming. Bruce & Emmett's text, which was published during the war has been reproduced today, provides written music for the military tunes and camp duty calls that were used. If one cannot play the rudiments effectively, then some lessons are in order, along with any rudimental drumming instruction book (ie. Haskell Harr, Book, II, Moeller Book, etc.). For myself, I learned some of the drum patterns long ago by rote, listening to Frederick Fennell and the Eastman School of Music in an album entitled "Spirit of 76." This is now available on CD. It is excellent and demonstrates fife and drum tunes from the Revolution and Civil War. Once I got Bruce and Emmett's book, I found that many of the patterns I played from just listening to the album were essentially correct as far as the written text in Bruce and Emmett. All of these CDs can be purchased on-line. Keep in mind that if your nephew wants to play and does not have the dexterity yet, it will be discouraging for him to participate because usually musicians at large events are massed and the less talented will be left out or struggle to keep pace if they do come in. Anyone can burn powder at an event once you get some basic practice beforehand, but playing a musical instrument requires a lot more before you come on the field in order to make an effective contribution. An event is not the time for OJT (on the job training).


02-03-2011, 09:48 PM
Frank's right. Don't even buy a drum until your nephew can play a half way decent long roll, flam, and 7 stroke roll.

Check out other drum manuals published by Elias Howe (1862), Nevins (1861), Klinehanse (1853), Keach, Burditt, and Cassidy (1861), and Simpson & Canterbury (1862). In terms of the camp duty, they generally did a better job of representing what was actually played during the period compared to Bruce and Emmett. And B&E's "regular" quicksteps like Biddy Oats and Lydecker's are way beyond the skill level of a regular everyday fifer.

And while there are some good CDs by some great groups out there, on most of them you will find post-war tunes and drumbeats along with period stuff. Without doing some research it's hard for most musicians to separate the wheat from the tare. In other words, just because it's on a "Civil War" CD, don't assume everything on it is really from the period.

I have to disagree about the Fennell recording. They used piccolos instead of fifes, added extra beats to the rolls, and play the double drags all wrong. Most anything drum and fife wise that claims to be from 1776 is probably closer to 1976. Often times, groups will correctly state that their tunes indeed date back to Civil War or the Rev War, but the drumming is much more modern.

Here's a fantastic drummer demonstrating an "18th Century" drumbeat which unfortunately was composed in 1933!


02-05-2011, 12:16 AM
Frederick Fennell's recording "The Spirit of '76" was recorded in the mid 1950's. There was just nothing else around in those days to provide an orientation for military drumming of the 18th and 19th century. He later went on to record Civil War brass band music and other fife and drum tunes for Mercury Records in 1960 or so. This, too, is an excellent compilation for musicologists studying this period in music. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Fennell in Campbellsville, KY at the first Civil War Brass Band festival held at the college there maybe close to 10 years ago. He was an interesting person and when I showed him the old vinyl album of the "Spirit of '76," he was flabbergasted that anyone would still have a copy. He proceeded to tell me how it was recorded. Keep in mind that this guy was in his 80's at the time and a few years later he died.

Yes, it is true that the album uses piccolos rather than fifes and perhaps the drum patterns do have some artistic license, but in those days there was nothing around that even approached a recording of military camp duty. Today, there are many renditions of old familiar fife and drum tunes on CDs but fewer performances of military camp duty. Maybe that's why at reenactments, we do not see the skill levels of those musicians who can play camp duty. One would be hard-pressed to find it in the repertoire of drummers and fifers today (of course, with some exceptions). Most organized groups like Camp Chase do perform it, but many independent drummers and fifers coming into the hobby are either totally unaware of it or just never mastered it. Camp duty was an essential part of the musicians' responsibility in the army during the Civil War, and it would benefit any aspiring drummer or fifer to study it and commit it to memory. This would advance the musical aspects of the hobby tremendously.

02-05-2011, 12:04 PM
Yes, the camp duty is neglected and few drummers take the time to learn how to play single and double drags correctly, which are used in the duty but not so much in quicksteps.

The Uxbridge corps recorded a CD with some of B&E's camp duty and so did George Carroll many years ago.

The only problem is that B&E's camp duty is significantly different (and a little more difficult) than the camp duty tunes and beats actually played during the war.

Compare what's in Scott's and Casey's tactics and what's in the veteran musicians' collection, the American Veteran Fifer, with what's in Howe's, Nevins', Keach, etc. and you'll see that Bruce and Emmett made some embellishments. The other drum manuals have much in common and conform to what's in the tactics manuals. The Prussian Reveille, for example, is only in B&E.

The reveille was typically played with easier 7 stroke rolls, not the 9 stroke rolls in B&E, nor the 11 stroke rolls commonly (incorrectly) played by drummers today. The fife parts in the common (not B&E) versions have more rests so the fifers have time to catch a breath, and the drum parts have more short pauses too.

Since it's advanced material drum-wise, it's best to stick with the KISS system (keep it simple stupid) rather than the Bruce and Emett let's-see-how-fancy-we- can-make-it-style.

Here's a reference supporting the KISS system:

Still looking for it...

02-05-2011, 01:20 PM
Found it.

New York Times, 12 May 1867, p. 6:


Considerable activity was observable in [New York] National Guard circles during the past week. We give our usual summary of events:


The first of the series of competitive drills for the drum corps championship, took place on Thursday evening [May 9th, 1867] at the Stadt Theatre, between the Drum Corps of the Fifth and Twelfth [New York National Guard] Regiments. The occasion drew together a large audience. The Fifth Regiment Drum Corps appeared with thirty drums, and gave the United States Regular Army beats and the German Army calls. They displayed great proficiency in the latter, being aided therein by the Bugle Corps. The Twelfth Regiment Drum Corps appeared with seventeen drummers, and confined themselves wholly to the United States Army beats, being highly successful in their rendition of the same. Both corps received their meed of applause [sic], and public sentiment seemed greatly divided regarding the issue. Drum Majors BRUCE, SMITH, TOMPKINS and JUDSON acted as judges, and they have not yet pronounced their decision. As we have been requested to give our opinion on the subject, we comply by saying that the Twelfth Regiment Corps were the most accurate in their rendition of the army calls now in use in the Regular Army of the United States, the Fifth Drum Corps displaying too many flourishes while beating the common calls. As the test was made upon the American system of army calls, the exhibition of the German system by Mr. BERCHERT’S Corps, though a very handsome performance, cannot count for anything in the contest. To our mind the Twelfth Regiment Drum Corps is entitled to the palm so far, though they have need to be careful while contesting with other American drum corps.***