Category Archives: Community

Matt Raynor’s DrumSimple

Hey guys, sorry things have been quiet around here as of late. Just wanted drop a quick note and link to Matt Raynor’s awesome blog DrumSimple:

Matt and I share a common background of drum corps and indoor drumline, and we even marched with / marched under / taught with / taught some of the same people. I highly recommend reading his posts for a great explanation of the theory behind teaching and leading effective rehearsals.

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.

On Drum Majorettes

A little aside today to post a couple pictures from a 1940’s notice found in the Charlottesville High School band room:

Anyway, thought that was hilarious. Back to building “military precision” and “snap and rhythm” tomorrow!

Friday: Inspiration

Courtesy of Thomas Lang…

DCI 2011 and Updates

Forgive the lack of posting recently. Between teaching Spirit of Atlanta and playing with The Anatomy of Frank, I’ve been prioritizing other things.

Drum Corps International began hosting shows this past weekend. After combing YouTube for some “educational enrichment,” I wanted to share a fantastic clip of The Cavaliers playing their music:

Notice several things: the fluidity in their technique, the ease with which playing comes, and the space written into the music, allowing for said fluidity and ease.

Upcoming: more drumset applications (think rudimental double-bass patterns), more clips of drum corps lines, more methodology from my other blog, test material for a rudimental grids book in the fall, and even more awesome Rudimental Hands challenges.

Friday: Fivelet Grid Variation

Warm-up: Spend 5 minutes playing three’s (RRR LLL) and inverted three’s (RLL LRR) to the tune of “Saturday Morning” by The Anatomy of Frank:

Skill work: Work on this Fivelet Grid Variation:

Use a metronome and strive for a true fivelet rhythm (not triplets). I have written two different sticking patterns (the top line is natural, the bottom line is alternating), but feel free to experiment with others.

Challenge: Can you add diddles or flams to the above grid? Try a seven-stroke roll (diddle the first three partials), then try a flam on the downbeat. Lots of combinations to be discovered here.

Post tempos and grid variations to comments. Also, feel free to spread the above video from The Anatomy of Frank to your friends. Check if we’re coming near you this summer, and donate to the cause if you’re interested!


Warm-up: Spend 4 minutes playing three’s (RRR LLL) and tap five’s (R llrr L rrll). Use “Earth” by Imogen Heap for tempo.

Skill work: Introducing a new pattern today: ABAA BABB. This means play pattern A, then pattern B, then pattern A twice. Then repeat off the “B” pattern. Check it out below, using 16th’s (A) and 32nd’s (B) as the two patterns:

Spend some time working these patterns out, always with a metronome, and also feel free to experiment with other stickings (paradiddle the 32nd’s, double the 16th’s, etc.).

Challenge: Read “Reflecting on The Red Plane” by Lydia Ness, an article explaining the deeper meaning behind RCC’s show this season. What is your red plane, your dream, your passion?

Post tempos, heights, and red planes to comments.