Drums in Marching Bands

Many high schools and colleges have marching bands that are referred to as a drum line. There are even competitions among different schools and colleges to see who has the best drum line. These drum lines developed as part of cheering sections for sports teams. A batterie drum line is a drum line that consists of a group of drummers that march on to a sports field as a group. Bass drums, snare drums and tenor drums usually make up the batterie, but it can also often include the cymbals.

Battle Of The Marching Bands. (Photo by Jamie Sabau)

Snare bands used in marching bands tend to have high tension heads. In marching bands of the past, they were carried on a sling while today many are carried with rigid harnesses that go over the shoulder for improved comfort. Some players play with the drums positioned parallel to the surface of the ground while others play with the drum held at a slight tilt to the surface of the ground. The snare drums provide the tempo for the music.

The bass drums in a marching band are usually pitched bass drums that provide a tonal quality to the music. Bass drums produce the deepest sound in the drum line and are large drums that are carried using straps and harnesses. The heads of the drums face left to right. The bass drummers in the marching band will use mallets which have a felt head. Bass drum size can vary within the drum line since different sizes will produce slightly different sounds. They can be heavy to carry at from 15 to 40 lbs. depending on size, which can prove challenging for the players. Individual bass drum players may play at separate times and at other times they may all play together. It depends on the type of music that they are playing.

Tenor drums are also called tom toms are single head drums that produce tone. They often come in sets of for example three individual drums where they are known as tri-toms or as a set of four where they are then known as quads. They are played using soft mallets and the player uses a matched grip. Sometimes, particularly in military bands, they come as single drums. Marching bands also sometimes have single tenor drums in the drum line.

Marching bands usually have crash cymbals that can be from 16 to 22 inches in diameter. The cymbals are held with leather straps and are usually made of bronze. Cymbals are played by crashing them together in front of the body. Individual players may do this at different times or all together depending on what the music calls for.

Marching bands also perform in concerts or participate in military parades, and of course it is not only schools and colleges that have marching bands. Most branches of the military have marching bands that perform at special events including various parades. Military parade drum lines are usually called corps of drums and usually perform at a steady beat to keep time for the actual marching.