Part 2: The Coup de Charge
Welcome to my second column on the Rudimental Codex, which is an alternative collection of rudiments that focuses on the ancient European legacy of rudimental drumming. In this lesson we’ll continue with some flam variations that aren’t necessarily part of our standard drumming vocabulary.
The word “flam” itself could be considered an onomatopoeia, in that its pronunciation imitates the sound of two notes almost played in unison. In French rudimental drumming, you find the expression “fla” serving the same purpose. There’s also reason to believe that the early history of drumming includes an interpretation of flams in which both hands have struck the drum at the very same time—however, that’s subject to speculation. Joe Morello used to sometimes refer to “flat flams” when discussing two notes played in unison.
Here are some flammed figures from the Rudimental Codex that might make your head turn. Let’s start with the Coup de Charge phrase.
The Coup de Charge appears in the Rudimental Codex in both Swiss and French variations. In the Swiss interpretation, the grace note and the main note are both accented. It’s been said that this figure’s name originates from the pattern that had been used on the battlefield as Swiss mercenaries attacked an enemy. In the Codex, we wrote out the two notes of the flam instead of utilizing its typical notation, as demonstrated in Exercise 1.
There’s also a flammed version of the Swiss Coup de Charge with an additional grace note before the accented grace note. This may sound strange, although it’s widely used in Basel drumming.
In the French interpretation of this rudiment, the grace note is accented before the beat while the main note is played softly on the beat. This phrase, although short in structure, appears to be difficult in two ways. First, the accented grace note can tend to fall on the beat as opposed to on its proper spot before the beat. Second, the distance between the grace note and main note is often too wide. When practicing, watch out for those two potential challenges.
In order to help you form a foundation to practice flams, the following exercises employ different ways to incorporate the rudiment into your playing.
Exercise 4 demonstrates the basic sticking that serves as a platform for all the following examples. You may want to use Exercise 4 as a base by alternating between it and the rest of the patterns. Simply play this phrase with soft, low strokes, and spend some time with the structure to get the sticking right.
Exercise 5 demonstrates the sticking with standard, unaccented flams. The articulation used to notate each flam here is taken from the Swiss method of indicating the rudiment, and it utilizes a little line inside the notehead to represent an extra grace note.
Exercise 6 follows the same basic sticking. However, now the flams are accented. Make sure there’s a significant difference between Exercises 5 and 6.
Exercise 7 can be challenging. Here we’ll practice the French interpretation of executing the Coup de Charge by accenting the grace note but not the main note on the beat. When switching back and forth between Exercises 4 and 7, be sure that the basic pattern of soft, low strokes remains consistent.
Exercise 8 features the Swiss Coup de Charge with accents on both the grace note and main note. Make sure this figure sounds different from Exercise 6, and focus on the dynamic difference of the execution of the grace note.
Exercise 9 again features the flammed Swiss Coup de Charge. Many French or Swiss rudimental sources employ the notation demonstrated here.
When practicing these exercises—and especially when you get to Exercise 9—make sure you take it slow enough to maintain control. Tap your foot on quarter notes, use a mirror to check your technique, record yourself, and use a metronome starting at a tempo around 40 bpm.
To give you an idea of how these unusual flam figures are embedded in real-world Swiss or French rudimental drumming, I included some short, standard two-bar phrases. You may notice that they also feature the Final of Seven rudiment that we explored in part 1 of this series. Exercise 10 features the French Coup de Charge in a typical “Rigodon” (or five-stroke-roll) context.
Exercise 11 demonstrates a possible use of the Swiss Coup de Charge with accents on both the grace note and main note.
Exercise 12 includes both the Swiss Coup de Charge and the flammed Swiss Coup de Charge.
A free download of the complete Rudimental Codex poster is available at percussion-creativ.de and at moderndrummer.com. Enjoy!
Claus Hessler is an author, educator, and international clinician. He endorses Mapex, Sabian, Promark, Evans, Ahead, Gon Bops, and Drummer Shoe products. For more information, visit claushessler.com.