Second Line Music Style History And Development Drummers Guide

Situated at the mouth of the Mississippi, New Orleans has been a major port for nearly three centuries. It's a melting pot of cultures: African, Cuban, South American, European, Caribbean and many others. The fusion of all these cultures created a new style of music, laying the foundation for all types of Jazz which followed.

The end of slavery was a catalyst for a specifically New Orleans type music, especially what is known as New Orleans "Second Lyne". In the latter part of the 19th century, funeral and parade bands consisting of former slaves and their descendants became important musical and cultural activities. The first "line" of the funeral consisted of the hearse and immediate family while the "second line" was composed of musicians, dancers, and friends hence the name associated with this style. The basic drumming feel was triple rather than duple, though it was played "in the crack" (halfway between straight and swung), which is still the defining characteristic of Second Line drumming. The make up of parade bands in New Orleans was similar to the marching or parade bands that we are familiar with today, consisting of horns with a marching percussion section. In a New Orleans percussion section, it was common to find at least one snare drummer as well as a few bass drummers playing both their bass drums and cymbals simultaneously.

Typically, a bass drummer would play his drum with one hand, using the other hand to strike a mounted cymbal on top of the drum with a wire hanger. The patterns created by all the drummers when playing together led to the construction of the drum set or trap set (short for "contraption") for a single performer. When performing New Orleans Second Line drumming today, it's helpful to look back at the drum sets of that era. The trap drum configuration used was not today's familiar five piece set up. Some of the more common pieces used with a trap drummer's set in the early 20th century were Chinese Tom Toms (small drums with calfskin heads that were usually tacked on), wood blocks (usually of various pitches), trashy sounding cymbals, a very large bass drum (sometimes up to 40" in diameter!), and a shorter version of the hi hat known as the "low boy." (The standard hl hat set up wasn't established until the mid 1930s.

) Second Line drumming transfers the parade style rhythms to the drum set. Examples of patterns played by parade drummers, but now arranged for a single drum set player, are explained in this article. The role of the bass drum is to project a "1 & 3" feel. Though the first measure sticks to the strong 1 & 3 feel, the following measure has a strong beat 4.

That beat acts as a rhythmic "kick" which pushes the music ahead to the next measure. The hi hat acts as the "answer" to the bass drum pattern, primarily on beats 2 & 4. The foot kicks the hi hat with the heel for a "splash." sound. Keep in mind that the hi hat did not exist on a trap kit originally, so the modern day practice of playing the hi hat here is to mimic the sound of a wire hanger on a cymbal. Finally, the hands should be playing eighth note patterns with varied accents on the snare against the foot patterns.

The trick here is to obtain the correct "in the crack" feel. The tempo range for Second Line is quarter note = 144-216 beats per minute.

By Eric Starg. There is a lot of Music Advertising that is done for Sonor Drum Sets and Sonor Snare Drums, but Eric prefers Yamaha drums.

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