Press Rolls and Crushed Ruffs

Common orchestral techniques, and sometimes referred to as rudiments, these roll types are less discussed than is prudent among percussionists. Good snare drummers inherently know about this concept, but just a few method books mention the idea explicitly. Whether or not Press Rolls and Crushed Ruffs are synonymous or separate is debatable. The terms Crush Roll, Zut, Dry Buzz, and Crushed Buzz also muddy the waters. The name Press Roll is also often used to describe a standard Multiple Bounce Roll. Crushed Rolls are sometimes referred to pejoratively, when drummers have not allowed their sticks to rebound correctly during a Multiple Bounce Roll. Confusion is the status quo in this area.

Here we will be discussing these techniques/rudiments under the assumption that they refer to extremely short duration rolls where a standard Multiple Bounce Roll with alternating hands is impractical. If completing 2 or more separate, independent buzzed or multiple bounced strokes for a given roll yields a poor result, due to note duration or tempo constraints, a Press Roll or Crushed Ruff is probably the better option. For example, a roll lasting a single 16th note would be a good candidate for one of these techniques. Similarly, a roll on an 8th note that is not tied to the next beat, or an untied quarter roll at a fairly high tempo, or any short roll with a staccato mark would also qualify.

Books and Papers

Below I will run through the literature that talks about this concept. The first mention of anything like this that I have seen was by Ed B. Straight in 1917. He indicates that short, untied rolls should be played with a single hand, but does not give the technique a name. Carl Gardner approaches the topic in 1919 and recommends the “simultaneous striking and bouncing of both sticks” for what he terms the Crushed Ruff. The US Army reiterates the name Crushed Ruff with the same technical approach as Gardner in Training Manual No. 6 of 1922. In 1940, Podemsky calls the two-handed buzz the Crush Stroke. Buddy Rich uses the term Press Roll in 1942, with both hands playing together. Alyn Heim uses the term Crush Roll in 1958 for the two-handed buzz. Forrest Clark uses the term Crushed Ruff in 1964 and recommends that both hands be used, but not quite simultaneously. He describes what sounds like a buzzed Flam, where one hand “slightly precede[s]” the other hand, and both bounce nearly, but not exactly, together. The terminology gets really interesting if you consider the opinion of T.M. Lommell in 1969. He argues that the Press Roll is synonymous with Multiple Bounce Roll (and that it should be considered a rudiment), short tied rolls were Crushed Ruffs (probably, though not explicitly, a single-hand buzz and a final opposite-hand tap), and that a short untied roll was simply a ‘short “buzz,”‘ (unclear if it was 1 hand or 2 hands). In 1993, Freytag and/or Whitlock indicate a single-hand buzz in the Rudimental Cookbook, termed the Crushed Buzz. Cirone calls a two-handed buzz a Crushed Roll in 2000. In both 2002 and 2005 publications, James Campbell consistently uses the term Crushed Roll for his two-handed buzz. Will Rapp, percussion consultant for Hal Leanard band methods, repeats the idea of the two handed buzz for the Crushed Ruff in 2004. W.R. Schoolfield indicates in 2017 that the term Press Roll refers to short duration, untied rolls, but gives no indication of technique. James Strain, also in 2017, indicates that a Press Roll is played with both sticks together.

Stats

In these 15 written opinions over a 100 year span, there is no consensus on whether Crushed Ruff or Press Roll, or something else, is the proper name. There are 5 mentions of the name Crushed Ruff, 4 mentions of Crush Roll, 4 mentions of Press Roll, 2 mentions of a short roll or short buzz with no other formal name, and 1 mention each of Crushed Buzz and Crush Stroke. Of the above authors, 11 indicate a buzz with both hands, 2 indicates a buzz with a single hand, 1 never mentions a technique, and 1 mentions multiple names, implying different techniques for each.

The names Crushed Ruff, Crushed Roll, and Press Roll are mentioned about the same amount and the buzz with both hands is the majority opinion for any name. From this, it seems as though they are fairly interchangeable terms and should usually be played with both hands together. Obviously, the amount of variation here shows that there is room for alternative techniques regardless of the names used.

My Take

In my opinion, there are times with the note density and rhythmic complexity make it more convenient to buzz with one hand, and other times it is preferable to use two. Neither is inherently better or worse, but they are instead situationally dependent. Because there is no strong link between name and technique in the literature, it is very hard to assign a singular name to each technique. It does seem like the large majority of the authors, 11 of 15, give a name with Crush in it. Crush(ed) Ruff/Roll/Buzz/Stroke. It has been suggested that Rudimental players like the word Buzz, that jazz players like the word Press, and Classical players prefer Crush… but this does not always stand true, because many players are rudimentally trained jazz musicians, classically trained rudimental drummers, classical percussionists who also play popular music, or some other combination. There is no good way to separate the terms by genre with any certainty. Modern rudimental players are also trending toward the word Zut or Dry Crush (specifically because of Virtual Drumline’s naming conventions on this last one), though it is far from universal and they not seem to appear in published books or papers at all. Not yet, anyway.

If we have to choose a name and a technique to apply to this short roll concept, democratically, over a 100 year polling span, the answer seems to be Crushed Ruff (by a slim margin) played with both hands (by a large margin). This is not a final answer on the subject, however.