You are on page 1of 11

Drumline Technique Packet

Contrary to some schools of thought, percussion technique does not have to be forced or hard. Just
as it is possible to overblow a wind instrument, its also possible to overplay percussion instruments,
distorting the sound quality. We take a very relaxed, real-world approach to playing the instruments
that is applicable to many areas of percussion, not just marching. Essentially you should find a GROOVE
in everything you play so it FLOWS.
Strive to stay completely relaxed from the neck, through the shoulders and arms, all the way down to
the fingers. It is very easy to see and hear when a player is not relaxed. Tension affects sound quality
and disrupts the flow of the music. However, relaxation and flow do not eliminate the need for chops
the two aspects complement each other. Chops are a necessity at the levels we strive for, IN ORDER to
promote relaxed and efficient muscle movement.
This packet will outline our approach to the technique of each battery instrument. Consistent,
shared technique is what separates a good drumline from a group of percussionists who just
happen to play together. A passion and care for technique will stand out at auditions, and will

contribute to the unified look, sound, and power that is the ultimate goal of the BMB drumline!

U pper Battery:Snare and Tenor

The following section will deal with technique considerations common to both tenors and snares. There
are later sections for specifics on each instrument.
Heights are measured from the peak of the stroke. Seeing an entire drumline with consistent heights is
a very cool visual effect that contributes to the overall impression of the group. Just as important as
consistent heights is that when a hand is off,not playingit is COMPLETELY STATIONARY with the
bead of the stick one inch off of the head. We will use the following heights:
3:Three inches off the head. This is used for most unaccented notes, or taps.
6:Six inches off the head. This is used for accents at low dynamics, and taps at high dynamics.
9:A 45-degree angle from the drum head. Any note marked with an accent is this height.
12:Also known as vertical, this should be a 90-degree angle from the drum head, and is played
with just wrist. Any note marked with a carrot-top accent (marcato marking)is this height.
Full:Also known as 15, this height extends the reach from the peak of a 12 stroke straight upward by 3
inches. This is done though arm motion.
Our goal is to be as relaxed as possible in every way. In the grip, this means that there is very little
tension;if someone were to grab a stick from your hand, it should slide out. The stick should be allowed
to breathe. In the context of actual strokes, this does not mean to play floppy, but it does mean that
you should always be on the lookout for wasted energy. If accent-tap exercises are tiring and difficult
for you to play, pay attention to how you are playing your strokes;maybe even video tape yourself! You
will probably find that there is unneeded tension in your hands, some wasted motion such as a slice (the
stick not traveling straight up and down), or that your strokes are not even performing their function
(such as completely stopping the stick). EVERYTHING we play can be reduced to a combination of just
five elemental strokes. These should be practiced alone and often to make sure that they perform their
functions without any wasted energy.
Before we get into the five types of strokes, there is an important
caveat to mention. All of this focus on relaxation has the potential to
produce a wimpy or thin sound. That is NOT what we want! Every
stroke must be pushed or initiated, which is NOT the moment to be
shy! A good trick is to visualize that the surface you want to strike with
the bead of your stick is below the actual drum head. This is called
playing through the head. It ensures that each stroke has an intensity
of purpose and velocity, regardless of height. Even taps at 3 should
have intensity. The height automatically produces the required
volume;the goal is to play through the head at each height. Ok! Keep
that in mind for each of the following strokes:

Legato stroke:U sed when there are multiple notes in a row of the same height. The stick is dropped
from a specified height, or pushed down (through the head), and allowed to rebound fully. On the
rebound, the hand follows the stick back up to the starting point, interfering with its motion as little as
possible. Its JU ST like bouncing a basketball:all you do is provide the initial push, and the stick does the
rest! The fingers should remain in contact with the stick the whole time, but NOT restrict its motion.
This can be a difficult balance to strike, but it is important. Allowing the stick to float freely in the hand
sacrifices control, while gripping the stick wastes energy and chokes the sound. The hand should
ACCOMMODATE the motion of the stick, not restrict it. When playing legato strokes, the motion of the
stick should never stop.
Dow n stroke:U sed on the last note that a hand plays in a phrase, or on an accent right before a tap. It
begins just like a legato stroke:the stick is dropped from a specified height. However, instead of
rebounding, the stick is pinned in place, allowing no rebound. This is NOT accomplished by tensing
the hand or squeezing with the fingers! The stick is simply not allowed to rebound. The shock is
absorbed in the index finger, top of the hand, and up the arm. Its not uncommon to even feel the shock
in your shoulder. Squeezing with the fingers chokes the sound, increases tension, and most importantly
wastes energy. Just like in legato strokes, the fingers should remain in contact with the stick but not
attempt to influence its motion. Contrary to popular belief, down strokes require no more energy,
tension, or force than legato strokes. It is VERY important to master this stroke, as it is essential to
uniformity of look and sound.
U p stroke:U sed when a tap (an unaccented note)is immediately followed by an accent. The lowerheighted note is played, and the rebound is guided up to the height of the next note, where it is
dropped. An up stroke is mainly a LIFTING motion, as if the drum head is scalding hot and the stick has
to rush away after playing the tap. At faster tempos, the whip-like motion of the arm and wrist called
the Moeller technique may be used. (Google that if you want more info. Its pretty cool, but
unnecessary in most music.)
Buzz:Played by pressing the stick into the head and allowing it to vibrate, producing a buzz sound.
Diddle:A diddle is an extension of the legato stroke. The stick is dropped from a specified height and
allowed to rebound. However, the rebound is harnessed in such a way as to produce another stroke (or
two)from the same initial impulse. At slow enough tempos, this can take the form of two or three wrist
movements. For example, the following double beat pattern at 110 bpm is slow enough that each
note is accompanied by a wrist rotation:

However, at faster tempos there is only one wrist movement, and the rebound is controlled by the
pressure of the fingers. At these tempos, the motion of the arms becomes increasingly important. The
faster the roll, the more you should rely on arm motion. Another thing to think about is the ability to
conceptualize the sub-rhythm produced, and not just the check pattern. For example, when you see

Think about this:

In order to ensure that your diddle interpretation accurately reflects the underlying rhythm, experiment
with your finger pressure. This is something that only YOU can figure out for yourself. The second note
of the diddle should be just as clear and have the same volume as the first. Keep in mind that ALL of the
fingers should remain in contact with the stick (avoid using only the index and thumb!), and that they
should remain as relaxed and free of tension as possible.

G rip
Right H and:The stick is gripped about a third of the way up between the thumb and the index finger. It
should rest between the first and second knuckles of the index finger, and the thumb should be high
enough that its side stays in contact with the rest of the hand. (Mind the gap!) The remaining fingers
lightly wrap around the stick, maintaining contact with it at all times, but remaining free of tension. The
triangle of the thumb, index finger and middle finger operates as the fulcrum of the stick. Drummers
are often told that the top of the hand must face straight up, but this is unnatural. We play American
grip (as opposed to French or German), which allows the hand to
tilt out slightly.
Left H and:The left stick should also be gripped a third of the way
up, this time with the crook between your thumb and index
finger. This is the fulcrum, and where the stick is primarily held.
Next, curl your index and middle fingers around the top of the
stick, and ring and pinky fingers around the bottom. Only the top
segment of your index finger should be on the stick. The pad of
the thumb should remain in contact with the side of the index
finger. The thumb should not be bent, and should be locked in position. The gap to the left of the
thumb should resemble a teardrop. The stick rests on the cuticle (bottom of the nail)of the ring finger.
The ring finger and pinky should be curled and compact, and simply act as a shock absorber. All of the
fingers should be as compact as possible, with no gaps between them. Just like in the right hand, none
of the fingers should put pressure on the stick;they simply remain in contact with it for control. The left
forearm should be parallel to the ground, with a straight line running from the elbow to the tip of the
thumb. The stick protrudes at a 45 degree angle from this line. The left hand rotation is similar to

turning a doorknob:it is a rotation of the whole forearm (officially called pronation and supination). At
the peak of a vertical stroke, you would be able to cup water in your palm;at the bottom of the stroke,
the water would trickle out.

G rip
The stick is gripped about a third of the way up between the thumb and the index finger. It should rest
between the first and second knuckles of the index finger, and the thumb should be high enough that its
side stays in contact with the rest of the hand. (Mind the gap!) The remaining fingers lightly wrap
around the stick, maintaining contact with it at all times, but remaining free of tension. The triangle of
the thumb, index finger and middle finger operates as the fulcrum of the stick. Drummers are often told
that the top of the hand must face straight up, but this is unnatural and results in tension. We play
American grip (as opposed to French or German), which allows the hand to tilt out slightly. The butt
end of the stick/mallet can be seenit is not hidden under the forearm.
Playing Position
The head of the stick/mallet should rest as close to the head as possible without touching it.
Arms should rest comfortably and naturally at the sides so that the shoulders are relaxed. Elbows should
not be pushed away from the body, nor should they be unusually tight against it.

Motion should always be thought of as two separate components, or axes. The first component is the
up-down motion of the stickthe y-axis on a graph. This is controlled by the wrist (and sometimes the
arm for full or floated strokes). The second component is the horizontal drum-to-drum motion, or the xaxis. This should NEVER be accomplished with the wristthat results in awkward motion, slicing, and
wasted energy. The wrist moves the stick up and down, and the arm moves between drums. The
separation of the two axes of motion allows for efficient and relaxed playing.

Playing Zones
U nlike the snare drum and bass drum, tenor drums are not
played in the center of the head. Just like the timpani, tenor
drums sound dead when struck in the center of the head. They
should be played only about an inch and a half away from the
rims for the maximum ringing sound. The picture to the right
shows the ideal playing zones for each hand:red is right and
yellow is left.


By far the most underrated section on the drum line, the Bass Drum takes more mental energy than any
other section. The saying Five as one, all or none is no understatement;a bass line needs to work
together to produce one sound.
G rip
When approaching the drum, you should be as relaxed as possible. Tension is only going to make playing
harder. Make sure you pinky is at the bottom of the mallet, this allows for maximum velocity so we can
produce as much sound as possible. Your thumb and your index finger make up the fulcrum. This is the
most important part of the grip.
The technique is very simple and should feel very natural. Place your forearm on a table with your palm
facing in. As you rotate your arm out, it should travel slightly on the table, like a wheel. This is the
rotation we are looking for. The wrist should break slightly as the arm is rotating out so the mallet can
travel in a straight trajectory. On the upstroke, dont think about using the fingers, but allow them to
move with the mallet. On the down stroke, the fingers should be used to provide a quick snap of the
mallet to achieve more velocity. We abide by all of the heights listed in above, we will go over these
when camp comes around.

Cymbal Line
The cymbal line is one of the most fun sections in the entire band
due to the amount of choreography including visuals, small dance
moves, and the many different styles of playing. We will be working
extensively on uniformity of techniques and sound quality as well
as maintaining a fun atmosphere.
We will be wearing black gloves (baseball batting gloves)for
performances. This is not just an aesthetic reason but the gloves
will also provide protection from calluses on your hands and they will help to keep fingerprints off the
cymbals after they have been cleaned.

G rip
The grip we will be using is the Garfield grip. The Garfield grip is highly recommended since the weight
of the cymbal is distributed over the entire surface of the hand. This grip is the most effective means of
controlling the cymbals while at the same time reducing hand tension. The strap should feel snug, not
tight, against your hand. If you are unable to perform a flip comfortably you need to loosen the strap.
Step 1- Hold the cymbal in a vertical position and put the entire hand through the strap to the wrist.

Step 2- Turn the hand so the palm is facing away from the pad of the cymbal.
Step 3- Rotate the entire hand downward and turn the palm toward the cymbal until it touches the pad.
The strap should rest at the base of the thumb and forefinger.

Set position will be used when at rest or not playing for an extended period of time.
Set position is accomplished by placing the cymbals flat at your sides with a slight
bend in your elbows. The knot of the cymbal should be about at your hip. Toes will
be pointed at a 45-degree angle with heels together.

We will be utilizing the flat position for a majority of our
techniques but this is subject to change depending on
choreography. Flat position is achieved by holding the

cymbals out in front of you with elbows bent comfortably but not too much. Since cymbals are a fairly
small compared to the rest of the drumline you want to make yourself look as big and as strong as
possible. The cymbals should be held at approximately 45 degrees with the right hand cymbal parallel to
the left hand cymbal. The cymbals should be a few inches apart when set in flat position.

H i-H at
This position is used when performing the hi-hat technique
which is described in the next section. Hold the cymbals
parallel with the ground with the edges placed against your

The choke position will be used when muting or choking the cymbals
to stop them from ringing. Some techniques call for a choke and this
will be the position we will be using for those techniques. We will use
three points of contact to choke the cymbals including hips, insides of
the forearm, and where your shoulder meets with your pectoral. The
angles the cymbals are pointing inwards doesnt matter as long as they
do not touch.

There are many different techniques we will be using throughout the season. I will describe a few of the
more common techniques below. There may be some additional techniques used in the music but we
will cover those as we encounter them. The angles described below only apply during cadences and
during performances such as half-time of football games, parades, or exhibitions. Stands tunes will be
choreographed as needed.

A crash is performed by first separating the cymbals from flat position so the right hand cymbal is pulled
close to your shoulder and the left hand cymbal should be angled so that when you crash the tip of the
right hand cymbal connects with the inside of the left hand cymbal which will cause the back of the left
hand cymbal to contact the back of the right hand cymbal as the it passes over it. The crash should be in
the form of a flam but you should not be able to hear the two separate parts of the crash. The result
should be a full-bodied crash that sustains for a few seconds.
Tip try to have as little of your hands as possible on the cymbals when performing a
crash. This will allow for a better sounding, louder, crash that sustains longer
A crash-choke is performed the same way as a crash but after the crash you choke the cymbals against
your body (see choke position). When you choke the cymbals make sure they dont continue to ring
after they contact your body. There should be an abrupt stop to sound.
H i-H at
A hi-hat is performed by placing the cymbals directly over top one another and pressed against your
stomach. The cymbals should be at a 90 or 45 degree angle (depending on what surrounding techniques
are in the music)pointing straight out from your stomach. You should not need to force the cymbals
into your stomach when doing a hi-hat. Lift up with the right hand cymbal while not moving the left.
When you push down with the right onto the left you should tense up your left arm so as to not allow it
to be pushed around by the right hand cymbal while performing a hi-hat. The sound produced should
mimic the sound of a drum set hi-hat.
Also known as a sizzle-suck, the slide-choke is a two part technique that is performed by sliding the right
hand cymbal over the left hand cymbal. The distance you push the right cymbal over the left doesnt
matter as long as you get a nice sizzling sound. This sound is produce by holding the left hand cymbal
still and allowing the right hand cymbal to sizzle on top of it. The choke part of the technique is
performing by pulling back on the right hand cymbal so that you catch the air in-between the cymbals
creating a vacuum sound. To get the proper amount of sizzling you need to practice how much pressure
to apply to each cymbal. You can perform this technique in many different positions but we will be using
flat position during performances.
A sizzle is performed by pressing the right hand cymbal onto the left hand cymbal allowing it to vibrate.
This technique is very similar to the slide part of the slide-choke minus moving the right hand cymbal
across the left hand cymbal. The positioned used for this technique is flat position.

We are not a drum corps style cymbal line. We are here to have fun and to put on a show, not to win
awards. The more unison we look with our technique, the better. Do not feel afraid to ask questions
about anything in this packet or pertaining to cymbals in general. This packet is open for changes that
can be discussed.