Strictly Technique

Swiss Rudiments

Basel Drumming, Part 4

by Claus Hessler

In this lesson we’ll take a look at a song from Camp Duty Update, my most recent book about the history of rudiments and their European roots. The melody of the tune “The Slow Scotch” was used in nineteenth-century military duty calls in the U.S. It was part of the routine to wake up troops and was typically the second song played, after “Three Camps.” I arranged a new drum part for the traditional “Slow Scotch” melody while still referring to the theme of the original song. I use Swiss and French rudimental ideas, as well as some phrases inspired by those styles.

The “Slow Scotch” doesn’t typically have an intro as shown here. However, Swiss compositions known as “Retraites,” or retreats, usually have opening sections and additional endings that feature a complex construction of rolls. Similar to a “Tagwacht,” a “Retraite” employs a logical and strict way of arranging rudimental combinations. Usually the piece starts with simple ideas before progressing into more advanced structures. In this month’s piece, I applied the “Slow Scotch” theme within a modified “Retraite” drum arrangement.

Most of the strokes in this tune and their rhythmic structures have been covered in previous installments of this series. However, it’s worth examining the nine-stroke roll on beat 2 of the second measure. These figures are phrased using a quintuplet subdivision, so the ruff should be considered part of the nine-stroke roll and played on the second quintuplet partial.

You can check out a video explanation of this piece, along with an audio file of the song played on a rope-tension drum, at If you’re interested in more of these rudimental concepts and explanations, check out my book Camp Duty Update.

Claus Hessler is an active clinician in Europe, Asia, and the United States. For more, visit