CrownBariDad

What to watch/listen for in percussion?

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I think a lot of it comes down to tuning of drums. Some make it sound clear and others make it sound like a bag of crap. It's the same as brass where perfect tuning makes you louder. As a brass player that also did 5 years of wgi majority of judging is focused on snares because it's easiest to hear.

I'm not gettin' your comments and hope you clarify. But what does tuning of the drums affect? Some tuning sounds like crap? Or some players sound like crap on said tuning? Just not getting your point.

Snares are easiest to hear for most people, which makes an ear for tenors and basses so valuable. EVERYONE hears the snares indoors and much of the rest is lost to the goo-zone of LOS.

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I'm not gettin' your comments and hope you clarify. But what does tuning of the drums affect? Some tuning sounds like crap? Or some players sound like crap on said tuning? Just not getting your point.

Snares are easiest to hear for most people, which makes an ear for tenors and basses so valuable. EVERYONE hears the snares indoors and much of the rest is lost to the goo-zone of LOS.

I love the sound of tenors. I always keep my ears perked up for them. I have a hard time hearing bass drums without my good headphones though. And even then it's difficult.

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I'm not gettin' your comments and hope you clarify. But what does tuning of the drums affect? Some tuning sounds like crap? Or some players sound like crap on said tuning? Just not getting your point.

Snares are easiest to hear for most people, which makes an ear for tenors and basses so valuable. EVERYONE hears the snares indoors and much of the rest is lost to the goo-zone of LOS.

tuning can affect how it sounds. Sure it may sound great up close, but sound dirty as hell from the top of the stands...or vice versa.

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As I read those thoughtful post it occurs to me that your comments touch on why I feel so strongly about Crown's 2013 book.

I'm sure there's some translation to other idioms like winds and such, but less than one might expect. The instruments are different; a marching Yamaha snare has a head as hard as a marble counter (nearly), while a "concert" snare's head can be deflected 1/4" or more with the thumb. Different technique entirely. What does translate is understanding expression and musicality and maybe how to apply it, but actually doing it across idioms requires completely different techniques. I don't think its different from clarinet players who march mello. It's the same extreme across drum idioms, too. (A suspect you already know all of this so my thoughts are more for non-drummers).

Example: How many drum corps snare lines play "traditional grip" (that crazy left hand on snare players that non-drummers are fascinated by) and how many symphony orchestra and school wind-program snare players play "matched grip", where both sticks are held the same palms-down like the tenor players. And drum corps bass players these days are actually playing more "vertical snare" than bass drum. Sure, that would translate to a HS or college marching bass player, but the techniques used on the field are not even approached the same way as the "concert" version used in wind programs.

Great percussionists.....in DCI, Chicago Symphony....you name it, use a variety of skill sets (techniques) to achieve the sound the music and environment need. What is common to all is a little thing we like to call 'musicianship.' I think of McNutt's mantra to his kids to perform as world class percussionists above the waist and world class athletes below the waist. In my mind, this adds to the challenge and reward of DCI achievement.

The control of a variety of strokes and techniques perfected in DCI gives the kids the ability to readily adapt to wind ensemble and orchestra, imho. In either arena, all the chops in the world can be there, but musicianship is a key differentiator. So, ultimately, I think we are in basic agreement about a lot of this.

Edited by brichtimp

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tuning can affect how it sounds. Sure it may sound great up close, but sound dirty as hell from the top of the stands...or vice versa.

Of course it does, but I'm just not sure that's what he's asking about.

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I remember one spot in our show in '85 that we were having a terrible time getting the attack right, so Thurston had us start dut-dutting for that one spot. Don't remember who the judge was, but he eviscerated us for "using an audible cue that takes away all of the demand of the attack".

My how times have changed.

What if a judge did that today? I mean, applied fairly to all the corps, scoring every last one of them down a little bit because he held the 1985 opinion that using duts somewhat lessened the difficulty? Would he or she be reprimanded by DCI? Did the sheets in 1985 specifically say that duts reduced the difficulty? Do they know say that duts are fine? What kind of discretion do judges have in that regard?

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I'm not surprised that your question has laid unanswered since last night but I'll take a stab at a few things. I've been a "battery"-guy my entire life and it's even more fun for me today that the_Kid has developed a great set of chops, and I'm learning more from him these days than he is from me (although I'll take credit [or blame - ask his Mom] for first showing him how to hold sticks).

The old rules still apply, of course. Dynamics, layering and balance between the sections and with the brass are all still important, but today's drum books are much more complex than the Sousa-type off-beat stuff written in, say, Madison's 1975 show or even BD's 1976 killer book.

Density - if you could find a battery score you'd be shocked at how l-o-n-g each measure is, regardless of time sig. That's because there are simply more notes stuffed into each one. It's not uncommon to see 32nd and, even, "diddled" (double-tap) 32nd notes filling entire measures. Drummers have all kinds of verbal descriptions of the sound that's written (paddaflahflah, for example) but, in each case, it's simply about cramming more notes into each measure then treating individual beats (the 1, 2, 3, 4 of a 4/4 time) as individual phrases. More notes per measure give more opportunities to phrase each beat. Carolina Crown was accused of having a "simple" book two years ago because (supposedly) their kids' hands were just not up to the task of playing the density of the other top lines (I disagree but I won't digress on the point).

Dynamics - With so many individual phrases inside each measure there are lots of opportunities to add dynamic complexity to support the horns, or to simply show off talent in the line. BITD we wrote dynamic progression (pp-p-mf-f-ff-f-mf-p-pp) inside measures. Today, they do the same inside each beat of each measure.

Snare Splits - this one is really cool, IMO. Basses and tenors have been "splitting" beats for decades because they have multiple drums. You can tell a great bass line by how deeply they split each beat (1, 2, 3, and 4) and make it sound like one player playing multiple drums. Tenor's speed in splits across drums is the same thing except there you have 4 or 5 tenors to "clean". Today's snares have gotten in on the act. For description, imagine 8 snares in a line playing 16th notes in 4/4 (for simplicity), where the odd-numbered players the "one" and the "and" of each set of 16ths, and the even-numbered players play the "e" and the "ah" of each four 16ths. Now imagine 32nd or even 64th notes where each member of the snare line is responsible for playing just one stroke of each grouping of notes. Then run it up and down the line at full tempo and make it sound like the entire line is playing all of the notes together. (This is not actually new, per se, as these splits were done many years ago when it was a real challenge to play 8th note splits really well. Watch Phantom play Carnival (I think it was) - I can still hear those 8th note splits across 8 drums for two measures and thought they were drum GODS for pulling it off (crudely by today's standards).

Bead control - Cadets got props for "high rolls" two years ago (Jeff Prosperie about crapped his pants judging them at finals). The entire snare line played a unison "open" roll, up to tempo, with the beads of their sticks going almost exactly vertical between each double-stroke of the roll, and (especially) marching at the same time, and doing it for (OMG) something like 4 measures at something like 80 bpm on the met. The effect was a very exposed passage where you could hear each single tap on the snare head and, besides sounding like a single player (clean), was visual candy because of its simplicity and simultaneous extreme exposure. Not only is it difficult to play well individually, had any single player been even slightly out of sync it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. And, AND, they did it close to the end of the show when the chops were at their weakest.

Stick, hand, and arm style - Again, BITD, the style was very rigid because stroke timing is so mathematically important to stroke control. It was not unusual to hear horns playing a beautifully-melodic song and see the drummers playing like robots, trying to exact the timing. Today, you'll see the battery's hand and arm and bead style change several times throughout the show. To describe, raise the arm, then the wrist, then the hand, then the butt of the stick, then the bead to create the upstroke, then reverse it to play the down-stroke and hit the drum head. In the old days, the arm stayed rigid and only the wrist and bead moved up and down. The difference is like a "chop-chop" motion versus a "flowing" motion. It's visually pleasing while actually produces a more legato stroke that "lifts" the sound out of the head instead of driving it rigidly into it.

Writing and arranging, teaching and cleaning, and player talent level can all come together to create a drum book that is obviously different between corps, but when it comes together between players, between sections (snare, basses, tenors, cymbals) and between lines (battery and pit) it creates a magical mood, definition, and quality that compliments the musicality of the horns while not over-powering them while still leaving room to "show off" the drums. I have horn-line friends who say drummers just bang on things but, today, there's as much finesse, control, and musicality in the drum line as there is in the blow-hard horn line ( :tounge2: ). For those who are really interested I suggest you watch some lot vids or, better yet, go to the show and skip the horns arc in favor of the drumlins warmups. Stand still while the lines move past you, and pay attention to the arms, hands, stroke style, and approach to the battery heads to see the subtle but clear differences between writing, teaching, and playing styles and you'll begin to notice the difference between corps.

This is, I'm sure, only a cursory overview answer to your question and I'm sure others will add more detail with better answers. And, although it sounds like I'm favoring the snare line, the stuff I describe above applies to every line in both the battery and pit.

Dude you are the best. I feel like I just learned how to play drums from reading this. I have watched drums for years on videos, in the lot, and even when I marched. Many times I have found myself in awe of what they do, but never to the point of detail in which you have described. I shall now go forth and plunder.

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Dude you are the best. I feel like I just learned how to play drums from reading this. I have watched drums for years on videos, in the lot, and even when I marched. Many times I have found myself in awe of what they do, but never to the point of detail in which you have described. I shall now go forth and plunder.

I think we need to make Garfield's post a sticky, so every time someone complains about a percussion score, we just point them to that post. I'm still rereading it and learning more each time. Edited by CrownBariDad
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...BD's 1976 killer book.

...creates a magical mood, definition, and quality that compliments the musicality of the horns while not over-powering them while still leaving room to "show off" the drums.

- Cadets got props for "high rolls" two years ago

These points - the 76 book was loads of fun. At parties, horn players would ask any snare drummers there to play Channel 1. There always seemed to be sticks and Gladstones at hand to throw on the coffee table. They would gather and sing their parts as we played, and as you state, the phrasings/accents were spot on with the horn's music. Also, lots of fun drum breaks interpreting the greatness that is Buddy Rich.

One of the finest points of the Cadet roll - the sound produced by the snares was amazing in its consistency. There was absolutely zero variation in the sound, note after note, and each time they played it was the same. Great YTube video under "Cadets drumline 2013 Allentown" Rolls start about 6:00. BEAST

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