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The Secret History Of Drums: The Role Of The Military Drummer

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posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 10:49 PM
The role of the military drummer is a fascinating chapter from the hidden history of drums.

Hidden, because most people are unaware of the vital role played by the military drummer in communicating strategy and keeping the machinery of battle oiled.

Battle Stations

In the 17th century, in preparation for battle, before the head on clash between rival armies, considerable time was spent manoeuvering men into position.

The drums were used to convey orders - each ‘beat’ having a specific meaning instantly recognisable to the soldiers.

When the drummer’s ‘Call’ was heard, the men dropped what they were doing and immediately regrouped by their lieutenant or platoon commander to await further signals.

The Captain’s order to beat the ‘Troop’ was a signal to shoulder muskets, advance pikes and close rank and file.

The ‘March’ was a signal to advance, faster or slower according to the beat of the drum, to the point of rendezvous.

The ‘Preparative’ signaled the men to advance in rank and file to within skirmishing distance and be ready to engage battle.

At this point the company drummers would run to where the Colonel stood (or sat on horseback) beside his own side-drummer and the standard bearer.

Engaging The Enemy

On the Colonel’s order the drummers would beat the ‘Battaile’ or ‘Charge’. This was described by Colonel William Barriffe to mean ‘pressing forward in order of battle without lagging behind, rather boldly stepping forward in place of him that falls dead or wounded before thee…’

In the thick of battle, with the sound of cannon and musket, the neighing of horses, the screams of the dying and wounded, the Colonel’s voice would not be heard and the beat of the drum continued to play a vital role in communicating orders to the troops.

>From his vantage point the Colonel would ...


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[edit on 26/10/08 by Jbird]

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 10:52 PM
Interesting read.
A far cry from what we know of today.

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 10:53 PM
Cool thread. Do you know how many types of drums were used, or was it generally a snare?

I want to create an album cover of persian war elephants charging into battle as a dj scratches turntables on top of one with speakers blaring beats as the armies clashed.

Again, nice info.

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 10:58 PM
So if you took out the drummer with a musket, where does that lead you?

For some reason i can't see battle marches accompanied by a bloke on a piano can you (although that would be fun).

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 11:05 PM

Originally posted by mr-lizard
So if you took out the drummer with a musket, where does that lead you?
For some reason i can't see battle marches accompanied by a bloke on a piano can you?

PALIN on the FLUTE ??


posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 11:07 PM
That is an often forgotten peice of history, very well typed out!

OF coruse the drummers were bullet-magnets... takes the nostalgia out of "Little Drummer Boy."

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 11:19 PM
Thank you for such an informative piece. I knew drummers where an importan part of an army, but this was knew to me. But nothing can instill fear into the heart of an enemy as much as the sound of bagpipes and facing the "ladies from hell."
keep up the good work.

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 11:20 PM
I'm a drummer and this is a great read, thanks

posted on Oct, 23 2008 @ 11:23 PM

Originally posted by asmeone2
OF coruse the drummers were bullet-magnets... takes the nostalgia out of "Little Drummer Boy."

There goes my Christmas

I do like this thread with its info.
I believe Irish harps were another instrument used in battle in Europe.
Interesting how drums and flags, which are now ceremonial, played an important role on the battlefield.

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 12:56 AM
interesting matter indeed and thanks for sharing
but why just copy-paste it from another site and not engaging in any sort of "debate" ?
This is certainly not directed to you as an individual but I've seen a huge drop in ATS' thread "quality" since a few months
and again what is so "above top secret" about it ?

@desert : as far as i know , harps were not used in battle , even though princes in some countries had to go through lessons in war/battle as well as music and poetry, you will find numerous accounts about whistles , drums ,horns and/or bagpipes in many war stories though.
Look up bards and ovates (if you haven't yet),I'm pretty sure you will find some interest in that subject (as you referred to (Irish) harps)

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 01:03 AM
Hi OP and thanks for sharing this information

I have no nit-picking to do here ... really enjoyed reading your post

(and would love some information about battle-field bagpipes also .. pipers are a group who can actually reduce me to tears .. 'heroes' all )

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 03:05 AM
The Dhol

The dhol, also known as the dohol, davula and by many other names, is the South Asian war drum. Alexander the Great's armies were probably familiar with its sound, which they would have heard all too often on his eastern campaigns, marshalling and putting heart into their enemies.

Originally Persian, the modern home of the dhol is the Punjab, a vast region lying partly in Pakistan and partly in India; but you'll find it being played all over the Indian subcontinent. Its martial days are past, of course; nowadays it's used in bhangra and other kinds of folk and popular music, while Sufi dervishes drum themselves into a trance on the dhol.

I once had the good fortune to see and hear, and afterwards share a relaxing chillum with the gentleman in the video below. His name is Pappu Sain, and he is a true Whirling Dervish from Lahore, Pakistan.

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 11:07 AM
My 18 yr old son is a drummer and just yesterday told us he was being signed to a music contract and is going on tour

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 12:14 AM
Fascinating. Thank you for the read.

I never realized the importance drummers carried during battle. In fact, I had never really thought much about their roles at all before reading this. Interesting to know.

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 12:49 AM
that pappu sain video is most outyrageously excellent

didn't julius caesar or somebody speak of the druids in particular using the drums in war to put the mens minds right to kill and to die

drums and beats per minute are always and particularly mind control tech
in my opinion yup yup

the last 4 songs on the laibach OPUS DEI CD (HERZ-FELDE...JAGERSPIEL...KOZA...KRST) always seemed to me (no doubt better examples exist if I knew more) to tap into some of that ancient martial death drum crunch...

posted on Oct, 28 2008 @ 02:17 AM
Very interesting. Reminds me of my many years in drum and bugle corps and we used the percussion cadence to know the show sequence and what to do on the field. I still love field shows...shame they aren't as popular anymore. Usually a tight bunch of kids who stayed out of trouble and very disciplined, wish more kids were into drum & bugle corps these days.

posted on Oct, 29 2008 @ 02:00 AM
The scottish pipes were also used for signaling orders.
but they also were used to un-nerve a opponent.
on many battle fields the pipers would play all night before a battle.
this would keep the enemy awake due the the long range that the low notes of the pipers drone could be heard.
and to signal there was a scottish regiment on the battle field.
Scots and Irish used the bagpipe as a tool of intimidation and inspiration in war.

While many believe the scottish were the only one that had pipes.
the true name for this group should be the celtic pipes

The Scottish pipes (Great Highland or Small Border)

The Irish pipes. (Uilleann-Elbow Pipes)

During the American War of Independence this cause problems for the British when there Scottish regiments started playing the pipes on the battle field.
Only to have the Colonists of Scot and Irish descent answer back with the call of the clans on there own pipes in a effort to get the Scottish troops to change sides.

clann Cam shron in exile

[edit on 29-10-2008 by ANNED]

[edit on 29-10-2008 by ANNED]

posted on Oct, 29 2008 @ 12:04 PM
Bill Millin played the pipes while advancing up the Normandy beaches in WWII. The Germans, apparently, didn't shoot at him because they thought this kilt-wearing, pipe-playing guy was nuts. And they probably weren't far from the truth.

Pipers also played while leading the troops into El Alamein during the second battle of El Alamein, playing their individual marches, to keep the trpersonal service radiooops aligned and moving in the right direction.

They played an important role in battle, largely succeeded by personal role radios, which allows much better (and two-way) communication.

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