Poing Strokes -- What They Are
[Ed. Note: This article contributed by Robin Engelman, Toronto, Canada (the article is in the form of a letter from Robin Engelman to a friend and drum teacher; for Robin's contact information, please email the blogmaster, Copyright ©2005, Robin Engelman)]
Inquiry dated July 6, 2005:
I was referred to you by ... at the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. In reading (rereading, actually) the 1794 edition of von Steuben's manual, I came upon the term "poing stroke" - the actual quote is this:
"To go for wood - poing stroke and ten-stroke roll"
What exactly was a "poing stroke"?
I've got a couple of drummers (including myself) who are interested in any light you can shed on this one.
Thanks for your assistance
1st Armored Division Band
Three drum strokes are commonly listed together in field drum methods written between 1779 and 1820. They are the 'Poing' or ‘Pong’, the 'Hard' and the 'Faint' strokes. The 'Pong' stroke appears without further comment in the "Young Drummer's Assistant" (cir. 1779-1784).
Charles Stewart Ashworth in his famous book "A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum beating" (1812) shows the 'Poing' stroke in his list of rudiments and mentions it by name under his instructions for the beating of 'The Troop', but does not describe how it is to be played.
There is no mention of the 'Poing' stroke in Samuel Potter's "The Art of Beating the Drum" (1815).
Rumrille and Holton in “The Drummer's Instructor: or Martial Musician"(1817) mentions 'Hard' and 'Light Flams' and 'Paying Strokes' (?) that are 'Heavy' and 'Light', but neither 'Poing' nor 'Pong' appear.
The ‘Poing’ stroke does not appear in Bruce & Emmett's "The drummer's and Fifer's Guide" (1862).
Ashworth and other authors seem to suggest the 'Hard' stroke is not as hard as the ‘Poing' and the 'Faint' even less hard. (However, George Kusel in "The Marching Drummer's Companion" (1970, p. XVIII) says, "It would appear that in Ashworth the 'Poing Strokes' are simply played only as strongly as flams, not more or less so. A 'Hard Stroke' is less than a flam, and a 'Faint Stroke' is lightest of all."
Only two definitions of the 'Poing Stroke' appear in drum methods of the early 19th century. The one below is from David Hazeltine(1810)and also appears in Alvin Robinson(1820):
Poing Stroke. "beat by giving a light flam and strike each stick nigh to the hoop of the drum, lightly touching the hoop at the same time."
And this from Levi Lovering's "The Drummer's Assistant or The Art of Drumming Made Easy" (1818):
"The Poing Stroke: Is beat in the following manner. Strike the head about three inches from the lower side with a smart sliding stroke; throw up the hand as directed in the First Lesson. ( ". . . throw the arm out briskly to the side of the body, and as high as the head . . .", page 5.)
I interpret the "Lower side" to be that part of the head under the right hand stick when the drum is slung for a right handed player; as it would be by regulation.
When I wrote "Speak Softly . . ." for Jim Coffey, I utilized 'Poing Strokes" and indicated they were to be played with the Hazeltine, Robinson technique. I have subsequently used that specific stroke in other compositions because I like the sound, particularly on a drum with wooden hoops. The sound would be unpredictable when marching, but works well in concert.
I hope all of this helps you. In perusing old drum methods it becomes obvious that at times, certain strokes and names were felt to require no explanation. Much is a guess, but research can often infer practice. If I can be of further help, please contact me.