Wilcoxon 150: phrasing drags


Platinum Member
Here's one for rudimental scholars. The Solo No. 42 introduces inverted drag taps as dotted sixteenths and 32nd notes at bar 8. I was wondering what is the proper (traditional) way of phrasing them.

So far I've ended up with two possibilities: either play them tight or loose (well duh!). It seems that the tight version is doable at slower practice tempos, but at an actual marching tempo of around 80-90 bpm it becomes next to impossible to maintain its rhythmic integrity: I tend to start slurring it to a more triplety, non-legit feel. Then again, the inverted drag tap is often surrounded by sixteenth note triplets which could infer a swingier approach...

The loose version (not unlike an inverted paradiddle, might I add!) flows more naturally, but it doesn't possess the draggy qualites anymore.

Which is it?


Platinum Member
I never studied Wilcoxon with anyone, so I don't know the traditionally-correct answer. It seems like the very old-school rudimental people were not real literal in their handling of written rhythm, so you do have some latitude to interpret it-- possibly any of those would be played by somebody, some time. There are a lot of sixtuplets in the study, so it seems safe to play the dotted-16th/32nd rhythm with the sixtuplet feel. And maybe that's what CW intended; he basically always writes that type of rhythm in dotted 16th/32nd form, never in sixtuplet form, even when it would be more appropriate, like in this case. I like your loose intrepretation-- there's no reason not to do that, if it it sounds cool.

On beat two, I personally would play a traditional, unmetered closed ruff, but playing it open in a 16th note rhythm as you have it here is a normal thing old school guys do with ruffs, and may be what was actually intended. You could probably even get away with playing it extremely open, in a 16th note triplet rhythm. Editing: Actually, never mind the last bit-- that doesn't really work with that sticking-- I was thinking if the sticking was RllR....


Silver Member
I would never consider myself a scholar; just an enthusiast...

Ditto on Todd's explanation of interpretation. I have never gone through that book, but have gone through enough scores (pipe band or strict rudimental) to know you can have a field day with interpretation.

I personally wouldn't play it with the loose phrasing interpretation you wrote because it sounds too flat to my ears if the goal is a traditional expression of drags. And you do note that it, "doesn't possess the draggy qualities anymore". In the right situation it could work, but I would probably lean between your "tight phrasing" interpretation and triplets. One day it might be closer to tight phrasing. Another day it might be closer to triplet phrasing. Or as an exercise, even loose phrasing. Cover all of your bases. But whatever feel you settled on, you should try to maintain regardless of tempo. So the spacing between the grace notes and the main note will always adjust to keep the same feel.

However, there are some interpretations of ruffs (half drags or whatever you want to call them) where you always play them very closed- quick and close to the main note. You could try this with your tight phrasing example to help you at faster tempos. At a slow tempo this is playing fast technique slow. (Bill Bachman has some in depth comments and videos on this concept).

Another thing to consider, when not being able to play the tight phrasing at faster tempos- try keeping the grace notes as low as possible. There might be a tendency for the sticks to come up at a faster tempo while you play grace notes and you can't fit the notes in. But I wouldn't adjust note value or placement just because it's difficult to fit them in at a given tempo.