Samuel Potter's The Art of Beating the Drum

     In 1810, King George III was still the reigning monarch of England, but due to bouts of insanity, his son, George, Prince of Wales, became regent. In 1820, upon the death of his father, the regent became King George IV. The pomp and ceremony of the Coldstream Guards had long been the favorite of both monarchs. Samuel Potter (1772-1838) had joined the Coldstream Guards in 1786 and became the Head Drum Major of the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards in 1815. In 1800, he published A Sett of Slow Marches, Waltz's & Quicksteps. Potter had long been dismayed and disappointed by the quality of musician recruits that he had to deal with. In 1817, he published three instruction books: The Art of Beating the Drum, The Art of Playing the Fife, and The Bugle Horn Major's Companion.

     As early tutorials go, the Art of Beating the Drum is a master work. Potter was clearly a highly skilled drummer and he leaves no stone unturned in describing everything in inordinate detail. The book is written in the third person; it teaches a drum instructor, step by step, precisely how to teach a student. For example, read the following from the Introduction:

     "The first thing previous to a Boy practising on the Drum is to place him perfectly upright, and place his left Heel in the hollow of the right Foot, then put the Drum sticks into his Hands - the right Hand stick to be grasp'd with the whole Hand about two inches from the top (or more if requir'd) as Drum sticks are not all of the same weight similar to grasping a Sword or Stick when going to play Back-sword.
     The Left to be held between the Thumbs and Fore Finger of the left Hand close in the hollow, the Top towards the Wrist leaving the Top of the Stick as much out of the Hand as the other, resting it resembling a Pen when going to write, only with this exception between the first Joints of the Second and Third fingers..."

     Like many of the other historical music books available from BeAFifer, this one has been completely digitally enhanced so as to look as crisp and clear as it was when it was first published. All drum instructors should have it in their collections, as well as any other musical historians. It is 28 pages long and sells for $14.95.

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Click on the fife. 


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