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Rise & Fall of the 9-man Drumline


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I recently re-read a John Dowlan editorial from a mid-60s issue of DCN in which he lobbied strongly for awarding additional scoring credit for "large" drumlines -- those that exceeded the standard 3-3-2-1 setup which prevailed in the late 50s to mid 60s at both junior and senior levels. (Very) old photos show large lines that, at times, equaled or exceeded the size of the horn lines but...How did the standard 9-man competition line evolve? Who and what led to that standard?

At the beginning of the 64 season, the drumline I was in, York White Roses, went to 4-4-2-2 and, at that time, it was the only line among those that we competed against that exceeded the "standard" 9. Even with the "large" line, we were very competitive in all our contests, taking high drums at PA states over all juniors and seniors. (In one solo the tenors switched to snare creating a temporary 8-man snareline.) We hadn't yet traveled very far outside the mid-Atlantic area so I'm not familiar with what all of the major competition corps were doing but I'm curious to know when other corps began to "break the mold" and how.

Any thoughts, recollections?

SKY

Edited by sky
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I recently re-read a John Dowlan editorial from a mid-60s issue of DCN in which he lobbied strongly for awarding additional scoring credit for "large" drumlines -- those that exceeded the standard 3-3-2-1 setup which prevailed in the late 50s to mid 60s at both junior and senior levels. (Very) old photos show large lines that, at times, equaled or exceeded the size of the horn lines but...How did the standard 9-man competition line evolve? Who and what led to that standard?

At the beginning of the 64 season, the drumline I was in, York White Roses, went to 4-4-2-2 and, at that time, it was the only line among those that we competed against that exceeded the "standard" 9. Even with the "large" line, we were very competitive in all our contests, taking high drums at PA states over all juniors and seniors. (In one solo the tenors switched to snare creating a temporary 8-man snareline.) We hadn't yet traveled very far outside the mid-Atlantic area so I'm not familiar with what all of the major competition corps were doing but I'm curious to know when other corps began to "break the mold" and how.

Any thoughts, recollections?

SKY

Hey Steve ... how are you? ... long time no see ... if I had to guess, the 9-man drumline of the 50's and early 60's was due to drills being set up in squads of three ... therefore, three snares; three tenors; two bass and one cymbal was a typical drumline ... it also complimented most hornlines of that day and age, which were usually 27-36 strong ... again ... think squads of three ... as hornlines grew larger, so did drumlines ... 1964 added rudi bass drums and more 4-n-4 snare/tenor lines ... by 65 hornines were now 48+ in size and shifted to squads of four in some cases ...

Anyway ... just some thoughts and recollections ...

Andy "from the 3-3-2-1 era" Lisko

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Hey, Andy...thanks for the quick and, likely, accurate answer to drumline size. Good guess; it certainly makes sense. I should have thought about the squads of threes, maybe it slipped by because about the only "drill" drumlines ever did was march quickly to the 50, then front to back for most of the show, turn and head for the other goal line. I remember our line having a fit because we were told to march backwards for maybe 16 or 32 steps during a drum solo. Have things changed?

I'm doing well. As you can see by my info, part of the reason for the "long time no see" is that I've moved back to PA and don't get back to CT as often as I'd like. I sure do miss the Barnum Festivals, Deep River, etc. Hope all's well with you, too. Come to Allentown sometime; you can join us "at the pines" right below the stadium.

Steve

Edited by sky
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Sound:

3 catgut traditional snare sound with extended quasi-open rolls, drags, flams.7's, 13's, ratamacues

3 muffled tenors with hard but softer sounding mallets to mirror snare patterns, or antiphonal patterns.

2 bass for simple Dr. Beat pulse with occassional rudimental features.

1 cymbal (to not overpower most of the time) providing accents to phrases, some visual.

Overall balanced sound volume-wise.

Drill:

Squad turns of 45 to 90 degrees were easier with any member as stationary pivot point. left, right, or center.

180 degree turns were often done by using the centers as stationary pivot point.

Another common turn-around was the old alternate-member step-2 ahead, everyone rotate in place the step-up to reform the squad and step-off.

Options of 9-man front, 6-man front & 3, or 3-3-3 for drum solos or parade formations.

Edited by denverjohn
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I believe it was BLUE ROCK in 70, 71? 9 chrome snares. Biggest snareline I had seen up till that point. They won nationals (drums) that year. After that, everyone seemed to follow suit. They might have gone to nationals with 7. Nice line, very impressive look. I really miss Blue Rock.

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I don't recall when 9 man snare lines became common, but I think part of the reason they continue to be desirable for large corps is that it's just the right number for a true center. 7 being too small and 11 to large.

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I don't recall when 9 man snare lines became common, but I think part of the reason they continue to be desirable for large corps is that it's just the right number for a true center. 7 being too small and 11 to large.

Boy that brings back memories. When I marched the tenors were an entity all their own, and a lot of perc instructors didn't like even numbered snare lines because they wanted to take their strongest drummer and put them directly in the center and then take their next two strongest and put them on the left and right ends, so they usually preferred 9 as a happy medium. I'll bet that many still do.

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I believe it was BLUE ROCK in 70, 71? 9 chrome snares. Biggest snareline I had seen up till that point. They won nationals (drums) that year. After that, everyone seemed to follow suit. They might have gone to nationals with 7. Nice line, very impressive look. I really miss Blue Rock.

I agree. They were a great corps. Unfortunately, I only got to see them once in their 'heyday' - 1971.

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