Drumline Over The Years

Drumline Instruments

There are three main percussion instruments in the drumline: snare drums, tenor drums, and bass drums.

A typical modern marching snare drum
Marching Snare
Typical modern marching tenor drums
Marching Tenors
A typical modern marching bass drum
Marching Bass

Evolution of the Snare Drum

Image of a snare in a sling

When marching snare drums first were made, they were carried with a sling, as shown to the right. These were very popular in the military bands to begin with. This sling caused the drum to tilt to the right,which proved to be uncomfortable for the left hand, so that caused traditonal grip to be invented. This grip is where the left hand holds the stick as shown in the photo.

Eventually, this style of drum became outdated. Modern snares use harnesses and are parallel with the ground. Traditional grip is still used, but matched grip is also used quite often with modern snare drums. The photos to the left show how modern drums are used and the way the sticks are held.

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Evolution of the Tenor Drums

An older, single tenor drum Modern marching tenor drums

They started out as a single drum that had different pitches based on size. These drums originated in the Medieval and Renaissance era (14th/15th century). The modern tenor drums didn't popularize until much later.

Multi-tenor drums consist of generally four drums (sizes usually 8, 10, 12, and 13 inches in diameter). There is also 1-2 smaller drums, known as spock drums (6 inches in diameter). These small drums are used for accented parts and they are tuned very high.

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Evolution of the Bass Drum

Marching bass drums are much different than snare drums or tenor drums. They can range in sizes from 16 inches all the way to 32 inches (generally). They are attached to the harness where the two heads of the drum are facing to the side rather than up and down. The purpose of this is so that the player can play with two mallets and hit notes on each side. Unlike marching snares or tenors, bass drums have not varied much over the years. The standard concert bass drum has evolved, but purely marching bass drums have not been varied much since they were invented. Music also is much different than the other members since the bass drum players don't generally play in unison like snares and tenors. Each drum has their own part and the real difficulty is making it sound like it is only one person playing all of the parts. The parts may be simpler than the other types of drums, but aligning with others is the hard part.

4 person bass line Bass drum mallet grip
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Example Playing