Wednesday: Technique, Music, Tuning, and Clarity

In the marching percussion idiom there are a lot of factors that influence how a drumline sounds when they play their instruments. Simplifying things a bit, you can boil it down to:

  • Technique
  • Music
  • Tuning
  • Clarity

Exhibit A: The Cavaliers 2011 Drumline playing through their Pre-show and Opener in their Finals Lot warm-up

Their technique can be described as loose and relaxed while maintaining stroke intensity into the drum. But notice, however, that their technique can be as such specifically because their written music allows for space in between the notes, granting the players the opportunity to move fluidly and with grace.

Similarly, their tuning scheme sounds immaculate: you can hear very clear tonal and timbre ranges each for the snares, tenors, and basses. However, without the clarity being achieved at such a high level, the tuning would perhaps sound muddled and inarticulate.

What’s the catch? These are both two-way streets. Music influences technique; technique influences music. Clarity influences tuning; tuning influences clarity. In order for a drumline to look the part while playing with stellar technique, the arranged music better allow for that to happen. In order for a drumline to sound amazing and achieve other-worldly levels of clarity, the tuning scheme must be consistent and appropriate.

Exhibit B: Daniel Allen’s award-winning snare solo at PASIC in 2008

To describe why this solo was so successful, consider the following quote from the seminal psychology study “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance” done by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson in 1991:

In the performance of music, children and adolescents are judged principally on their technical proficiency. Expert adult performers, however, are judged on their interpretation and ability to express emotions through music (Sloboda, 1991). The inability of many child prodigies in music to succeed as adult musicians (Bamberger, 1986; Barlow, 1952) is often attributed to difficulties making this transition—possibly resulting from inappropriate training and instruction during the early and middle phases of music training. To become outstanding musicians at the international level, individuals have to contribute unique interpretations of music (Roth, 1982).

So there you have it. Daniel was able to become an outstanding musician at the international level (i.e., win PASIC) not only because he was technically proficient, but also because he was able to express emotions through music and contribute unique interpretations.

Technique, music, tuning, and clarity. They are interrelated, and both as a performer and an educator, one must firmly acknowledge the role of each in “the acquisition of expert performance.”

I will leave you with Exhibit C: Ido Portal’s video “Self Dominance,” demonstrating unique contributions to a different field, that of human movement and capoeira.

Are you drumming like Ido is moving? Thanks for reading today.

One response to “Wednesday: Technique, Music, Tuning, and Clarity

  1. Watching the last guy made remember that failure is a big part of success. That guy didn’t wake up one day and starting doing insane body moves. I’m sure it took a long time of dedicated practice and a lot of messing up. Same with my drumming. There is a lot of screw-ups, but I’m getting there. My left hand is leaps and bounds from where it was. It’s taken a year and a half, but it’s getting there. Glad to see rudimental hands back up and running. You mentioned in a post a while back to remind you to put out the book on grids. Well, here’s the reminder. Looking forward to more posts.

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