Marching Percussion Techniques Part 1:
One of the most important sections of the marching band is
without a doubt the bass drums. With
a musical approach, solid technique and thoughtful and creative arranging, this
section has the ability to improve the overall quality of a percussion section
as well as the entire marching ensemble. Here are several key items you can
check and reinforce to help your bass drummers.
straight is a great place to start.
When dealing with technique, I usually tell my kids, “Sounding good
begins with looking great”. For a
large ensemble to play well together, we have to standardize our approach to the
instrument. For starters, make sure
that you have the right body types for the right size drums.
The drums only get heavier as the rehearsal goes on. Although
some may disagree, I strongly suggest that battery players should wear their
drums whenever possible, so their bodies can develop the stamina to go the
distance. Participating in marching
basics, with the drums on, is extremely important too.
Being able to control the drum with your body while keeping the drum
still, gives the player a stable surface to play on and provides optimum
conditions for playing with a good stroking technique.
Have your students drop their hands to
their sides, with the mallets in hand. Bending
at the elbow, raise the mallets to the center of the drumhead.
The mallet should not make contact with the head, but be as close as
possible. The most important
factor is to be relaxed. Tension
and drumming do not mix. As you
bend at the elbow, make sure that the palm of the hand is facing the drumhead
and cock the wrist slightly. I
highly recommend using mirrors, so the kids can see the difference.
When you have everyone’s hands in the proper position, have the kids
push their arms into the rim slightly, so they can feel where their arms meet
the rim. This will give them
a point of reference until stick positioning becomes second nature.
a practical exercise/ warm-up program is essential.
Choose or create exercises that reinforce good basic technique and
support the content of your show. Bass
drums have a tendency to be too loud and sound choppy when playing something
tonal. Volume is something the bass
drums can provide, but it’s only effective when chosen and performed in the
correct context. Have your bass line practice all their warm-ups at all
dynamic levels. Stretch their
dynamic range. A musical bass line
is a tremendous asset to your band. When it is appropriate to play loud,
remember that five guys playing impact together
modestly are always louder then five guys trying to kill their drums causing
separation and distortion. As an
adjudicator, I spend a lot of time explaining balance.
A majority of the bands I see have bass lines that play two dynamic
levels: loud and louder. Encourage the players to listen to the ensemble.
Point out the subtle innuendoes and teach
them how their part relates to the music.
With their full body sound, bass drummers are the perfect
players to supply pulse, outline meter and/or define the groove.
Let your students know that playing bass, even for one season in high
school, will improve their ability to drum tremendously.
For some reason, in high school, bass drummers may be looked upon by
their peers as players that didn’t have what it takes to make snare or tenors.
In reality, they hold a much more valuable position and the likelihood of
them becoming even stronger percussionists is inevitable.
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