The Missing Even Numbered Rolls

The PAS 40 rudiment sheet’s “Double Stroke Open Roll Rudiments” section includes these standard stroked rolls: 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17. There are only two even numbers, but every odd number between 5 and 17 is represented. The NARD 26 includes only the stroked rolls: 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15. All the odd numbers between 5 and 15, but the only even number is the 10 Stroke Roll. “Missing” from both standard rudiment lists are the even numbered 4, 8, 12, 14, and 16 stroke rolls.

The omission of these even rolls has led to the assumption that some even numbered rolls have something wrong with them, or that they have never existed at all. All of these missing rolls have been referenced in American books or articles at least once, though some are much more common in American playing than others.

3 and 4: To start from the beginning, the PAS sheet actually includes all the odd numbers from 3-17. The Drag is essentially a 3 Stroke Roll, and is labeled as such in other countries. For example, the French call this rudiment the Ra de 3, or Roll of 3. We have a special name for it, Drag, but it is still a double stroke roll featuring 3 notes. The first “missing” even roll, the 4 Stroke, is also present but, again, by a different name. The Single Drag Tap is essentially a 4 Stroke Roll. Despite the fact that it does not look much like a roll, it follows the pattern set up by the 6 and 10 Stroke Rolls — two single strokes and the remainder of the strokes played in doubles. In this case, the remainder is only two additional strokes. From here, the rest of the odd numbers are obvious, as is the 10 Stroke (which we have been playing in America since about 1804).

6: The 6 Stroke Roll is present on the PAS sheet, but is omitted from the NARD sheet. This has caused some people to assume, completely incorrectly, that it is a newer invention. The 6 Stroke has actually been present in American playing since Rumrille and Holton 1817. It also appears in Hart 1862, Smith and Greissinger 1897, Bower 1898, Safranek 1916, Gardner 1918, Clappé 1921, Army Manual No. 6 1922, Noble and Cooley EZ Method 1923, Manual 2000-5 1928, and Rominger 1932. These are just the manuals from before the founding of NARD. Its exclusion from the NARD 26 is somewhat strange, with at least 11 books supporting its importance at the time. Its reappearance on the PAS 40 was almost inevitable. We have been playing it fairly regularly for over 200 years.

8: Of the even numbers not included on either standard rudiment list, the 8 Stroke Roll has the most prolific history in American playing, first appearing in Robinson 1818. It was featured fairly regularly throughout American drumming publications until fairly recently, such as in Lovering 1820, Keach, Burditt and Cassidy 1862, Hart 1862, Bruce and Emmett 1862, Bower 1898, Gardner 1918, and Moeller 1925, with the last major popular inclusion (that I have seen) being in Dawson 1997. It may have shown up more recently, but I just don’t have any newer books that show it. That’s at least 180 years of use. It exists, its out there, but it doesn’t get much in the way of publicity.

12: The 12 Stroke Roll started earlier than the 8 Stroke in American playing, with its first mention in the Revolutionary War Drummer’s Book probably written in about 1804. It was also featured in Lovering 1820 and was last seen in any major publication in Hart 1862, meaning it had about an 80 year run.

14: The 14 Stroke Roll is a bit of a problem. To my knowledge, there has never been a 14 Stroke Roll in any book. It showed up once in a Modern Drummer article, but that’s the only reference to it that I am aware of in all of American history. Please let me know if you have seen another. It could be because the length is just not musically satisfying. If played, it would cover eight notes — six doubles and two singles. For whatever reason, this amount of rolling is just not historically done in any common time signature.

16: The 16 Stroke Roll has existed in the past, but, of those that have been printed, it is the least common. It actually only appeared in Hart 1862 and, to my knowledge, has not appeared again in a book. It was mentioned in a few articles between the 1920s and 1960s, but it is still very rare to see discussed in any context. It can be played, it has been played, but most rudimental composers have stayed away from it most of the time.

Other: On a side note, there has been sporadic mention of other rolls in American history. 19, 20, 23, 25, 29, 31, 32, and 33 have all been hinted at in articles and the odd book. Often these are briefly discussed in terms of how to interpret longer rolls without a definite indication of rudimental number, but are never insinuated to be important rudiments. Obviously, any length roll can exist, but these larger numbers have never been considered rudimental imperatives.

If we take all of this information into account, the American rolling landscape should be considered to cover all these reasonably common numbered rolls: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17. That is, every possible roll from 3 to 13 plus 15 and 17, discounting the extremely rare 16 and nearly nonexistent 14. Because we actually already have the 3 and 4 Stroke Rolls on the sheet by other names, we are only talking about two additional rolls, the 8 Stroke and the 12 Stroke. Just because the PAS and NARD sheets don’t show them, doesn’t mean they are less interesting, or less American.