Rudimental Symposium

How To Develop Cleaner Execution

by Alan A. Kinsky

Execution is probably the primary concern of any drum corps drum line. Outlined here are some tips to aid in attaining a higher level of execution as well as exercises to develop stamina and facility in the drum line.

Sticks are, of course, a primary concern. They should be balanced in terms of weight and length. Even though sticks are packed together in a plastic bag from the factory, they rarely match up weight wise. This is especially true of the heavier model sticks used for field work. Once sticks are balanced, each player can have his choice. Often, assistance is required (how much help is determined by the age and technique of the line) in matching sticks to drummer. Snare and tenor lines should have the same model number because of any ensemble parts that might be encountered in the show. A definite balance, in touch and sound intensity, is needed. In the event a tenor line uses mallets instead of snare sticks, McCormack makes a fine mallet with adjustable weights for balance. This adjustment feature would eliminate any balance problem.The use of pads to aid in hearing each other is also another consideration. By eliminating the overtones of the drums, each individual’s part comes out clearer (and so do mistakes). Remo pads are highly recommended. The feel is much like the actual drum, and mounting of these pads is no problem. The use of pads instead of actual drums for practice has other advantages. The sound level is reduced which helps in the location of practice. Since they aren’t as loud, practice can go right up to contest time.

The look as well as the sound is of utmost importance. Drummers of the same caliber should be positioned so that they are facing one another (snares face snares, tenors face tenors). Stick heights become uniform this way, so the chance of perfect execution is enhanced. Stick levels are the first signs of a well coached line. Rolls are cleaner sounding if they are attacked from the same height. The look is all important. The same effect could be achieved by having snares and tenors stand in front of a mirror. It should also be pointed out that snares and tenors should practice together only after they have practiced among themselves – cleaning up their own parts.

Execution involves getting both appearance and sound uniform at all times. With this in mind, stick and hand positioning, while playing or resting, needs to be uniform. Stick positioning while not playing is important because the attack of a roll or any rudimental figure, usually determines if the part will be executed properly. Sticks should never touch the drum head while at rest. They should remain between one to one and a half inches from the drum head. This covers all possible dynamic ranges encountered in the show. A drummer could attack almost any rudiment from that height, with ease, and a reasonable amount of assurance that it will be clean. Hand positioning of course, is a primary concern. All the technique problems are well known and the causes are perhaps overstated in many drum books. In drum corps drumming, you are dealing with many individuals and different styles. Basically, if you get the drummers to face each other at practice, watch and listen to each other, many problems will solve themselves. Practicing at home in front of a mirror might also go a long way towards finding and correcting any problems.

Many of the exercises included in the section also aid in achieving stamina and facility for the drum line. While I’ve written these exercises basically for snares and/or tenors, I have included two section exercises.

Exercises and ideas are no no substitute for just plain practice. How much you practice shows your determination and dedication. Private instruction is also essential. The basic problem of any drum line is attitude. The attitude of everyone involved must be good to insure proper execution.
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