Charge Strokes, Open Flams, and Similar

One type of rudiment that is very common in Europe, but rarely mentioned in the States, is the Charge Stroke or Open Flam. It is typically played in a similar manner to the normal Flam, but with a slightly more open spacing and more emphasis on the grace note. While similar, the regular Flam and Charge Stroke sound notably different are are worth labeling separately. The concept of a more open Flam is extremely old and widespread, and it is actually surprising that American drummers never really accepted it on a large scale.

One of the earliest indications of a Charge Stroke comes from the Philidor collection of marches, written down in France in around 1705, though the music may be much older. There is no name given to the technique, but single 16th notes preceding downbeats do appear, which can be interpreted as the Charge Stroke idea. The French later used this rhythmic idea repetitively in the the drum signal for the infantry charge, and was subsequently known as the Coup de Charge, or the stroke used in the signal Charge. A Charge Stroke. The first written indication of the Coup de Charge in France was in 1754, though it must have been in use earlier, because it had already spread from France to other rudimental systems.

In Austria, the Charge Stroke is known as the Doppelter Streich. The name Doppelter Streich appears in Austrian military manuals as early as 1728, though the first instance of a notated Doppelter Streich does not appear until 1851. I cannot find any instance of the name referring to any other contrasting technique in the interim, and thus it is likely that the 1728 manual is referring to the same rudiment.

In Spain, the first known military music notation appeared in 1761 and it featured rhythms much like the Charge Stroke. A later edition of the same publication labeled these instances Tarau, which is likely the first of many onomatopoetic or syllabic naming conventions for a similar idea.

In Bavaria, drummers used a very similar naming convention to the Austrians for their Charge Stroke — Doppelstreich. Since Bavaria borders Austria, and both use the German language, the similarity is not surprising. The first instance of the Bavarian Doppelstreich was in 1781. [On a confusing side note, in German-speaking Switzerland Doppelstreich sometimes refers to the Doublé or Inverted Flam Tap. In Austria Doppelschlag (nominally synonymous with Doppelstreich) is used for a double stop and in Prussian drumming Doppelschlag means Flam. In some cases all of these Doppel- terms are interchanged by modern German-speaking kit drummers and refer to simple double strokes, as in a roll.]

In The Netherlands, a Dubbele Slag was indicated in 1815 with the same general principal as a Charge Stroke. The name would later be changed to Lange Voorslag, or Long Gracenote.

In Britain, also in 1815, the Open Flam was first explicitly mentioned. British drumming would retain Open and Close Flams for the next century or so, eventually shifting to primarily use American rudiments instead.

In Sweden-Norway, the first manual for the combined Swedish-Norwegian forces was published in 1820, after the two countries became connected in 1814. This manual was literally just a single sheet of paper with signals and rudiments on it and it indicated a Nedslag. This is sort of like a Charge Stroke in that it emphasized the first of 2 notes in close succession, though it may have been played on the beat instead of ahead of the beat. In this way it could be more similar to a modern Malf.

In Sicily, the Charge Stroke concept was first mentioned in 1835 as the Talá. Sort of like the Tarau in Spain, this referred to the sound. Many rudimental systems would follow this syllabic idea in the next few decades.

In Italy, the non-Sicilian parts, the rudiment Trau was used for the Charge Stroke concept. The first published instance seems to be from 1852, right after the neighboring Austrians published their first notated Doppelter Streich in 1851. The similar Tau was used in Colombia from 1862, and Argentina used Tran from 1875.

Basel drummers also call their version the Coup de Charge, and it was certainly borrowed from France sometime around 1870. They also came up with a Flammed Charge Stroke thereafter which is sort of like a Flammed Flam, and thus seems redundant… but it does work.

In the USA, several authors tried to insert more British style playing back into the American practice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first of several attempts may have been in 1886, when the Open Flam and several other British style rudiments were used by John Philip Sousa in his Trumpet and Drum manual. These British style rudiments would pop up periodically until WWII, probably following Sousa’s example. After the 1940s the Open Flam was generally dropped from most books and other educational materials. As I said earlier, the British would ultimately drop their own style too, opting for American rudiments by the late 20th century. The concept of an Open Flam would sort of return in the 1970s. The Malf, or reversed Flam, is similar to the Swedish Nedslag and also sort of like the Charge Stroke with the emphasis on the first of two notes in close succession. It is normally played from the beat instead of slightly ahead of the beat, making it a bit different.

Many of the countries listed here still have drummers that actively use their endemic rudimental styles, and the associated Charge Stroke rudiments. Even though the concept is extremely old, it is common and in use across the rudimental world.