Rudimental Symposium

A Wake-up for Drum Sections

by Nancy Clayton

You have probably heard your band director say to the brass and woodwind players, “Let’s play that chorale once more. Listen to your tone. Practice warming-up every day.” Band directors spend a lot of time with warm-ups for wind players, but what about drum sections?Snare drummers usually play through exercises or rudiments, but for a well balanced percussion section, everyone should warm-up . . . bass drummers, cymbal players, and timp-tom people, especially during marching season.

Warm-ups for drum sections have been around for years. The piece of music this warm-up exercise is based upon, The Three Camps, has been played for more than a hundred years. If you had been a drummer during the Civil War, your basic training would have included The Reveille (Three Camps or Points Of War) and the rest of the Camp Duty For Snare Drummers.

Yankee or Confederate, it made no difference when it came to drumming in the army. Drummers beat out calls for troops for all their movements, from breakfast to battle. The Three Camps was one of the most important, however, as it was used as the wake-up call.

Instead of alarm clocks, it was Five, Ten and Eleven Stroke Rolls to wake-up to. Of course bugles were also used, but for the most part, army drummers played for everything. They even played a separate drum beat for roast beef!

The roast beef call is different from the wake-up call. Wakeup is in 4/4 time, while roast beef is in 6/8. But each and every call was different, with the drummers responsible for playing the correct call for the correct occasion.

The Three Camps wake-up uses a basic accent pattern, making it a good exercise for modern drummers. The accents fall into a 3, 3, 7, sounding pattern with triplets, paradiddles and rolls.

When the whole section plays, the snares play these basic beats, while the other instruments keep time in patterns that fit into 4/4. Some drum sections use the wake-up as a cadence, so I have included bass drum, timp-tom trio and cymbals, as an example.

There is one big drawback to practicing any warm-up; it’s boring. But the Three Camps may change that condition. First, play all 3 sections (triplets, paradiddles and rolls) in a slow, steady tempo. Then, repeat all 3 sections, this time playing in a quicker tempo. Then play all 3 even faster. Caution! Things get interesting when the snares hit the paradiddles and rolls at a faster tempo, but that is part of the exercise.

Only play the entire piece at a tempo the section is together on. Breakdowns are no fun. Besides, you’ll be surprised as to how fast you can get on the Camps, once you have started slowly, and understand the pattern.

Rolls are basic for all drummers, and with the added accents, triplets, paradiddles and tempo changes, The Three Camps wake-up should help in more ways than just as a warm-up. Remember, whether you play the Camps wake-up or another exercise, be sure to warm-up properly. Warming-up might make the difference between a “sleepy” drum section and a wide awake percussion unit.


Three Camps Wake-Up for Drum Sections