|Table of ContentsIntroductionAbout the Drums.
The Complete Setup.
I. The Look.
II. The Grip.
III. The Set Position.
IV. Playing Position.
The Playing of the Drum.
I. Playing Zones.
II. Stroke Guidelines.
III. Types of Strokes.
IV. The Axes of Power.
V. Applying the Axes to your stroke.
The fine art of playing multi-tenor drums, or tenors, is a joy that cannot easily be surpassed by anything known to man. This joy comes as the fruition of lots of practice, determination, coordination, a little back pain, and, here is the real key, good technique.
The contents of this packet will help students gain a thorough understanding of the mechanics behind tenor drumming, along with how to apply them to play fun challenging parts aggressively and musically.
In order to get the most benefit out of tenor instruction, it would be wise to read through this packet in its entirety and continually refer back to in when practicing. Doing so will intensify your understanding of the subject material and aid in preventing bad habits from forming.
About the Drums Though marching toms have been around for a long time, they were not seen in their modern form until fairly recently. It is said that modern tenors were first introduced to the marching field in the 1980s by a senior drum corps, called the Caballeros. This group is known for performing Latin and Spanish shows and therefore has members march across the field, along with the snare, field tom, and bass drummers, with timbales, congas, and bongos strapped to them. Over the years, the timbales and bongos were altered in size and design to allow one person to carry them as well as to improve the projection of sound to the audience. Gradually the size of the drums got smaller so more could be carried at one time.
Tenorlines in most colleges and drum corps use tenors with five to six drums, called quints or sexes, with drum sizes of 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, and 14 inches in diameter. For the beginner high school tenorline, it is best to stick with four or five drums so as not to be overwhelming to the student. Most high school marching programs stick with a smaller set of quads (8, 10, 12, 13 inches), but I prefer the sound of a large 14 bottom drum.
When referring to the different drums, the 8 inch drum is called “one”, the 10 inch: “two”, 12 inch: “three” and the 14 inch is, of course, “four”. They are positioned with the one and two drums centered and farther away from the body, with the one drum on the right side. The three drum is closer the right forearm and the four drum close to the left forearm.
Tenors are carried on a padded metal harness, or carrier. When carried correctly, the playing surface of the drums should run perfectly parallel to the ground in all directions. Depending on the high and size of the player, the top of the drums should fall roughly at their hips to allow for a comfortable playing angle. Since the drums fit much lower than snare drums or bass drums and they are also heavier, the tenors will place the most strain on the players’ lower back. It is for this reason that it is important to stretch before using the tenors, at least at first, and to exercise the back to prepare for the long days of band camp.
*IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP* Never lean back when carrying a drum, this only further tightens your tired muscles, and can lead to subsequent back pain in the future. Instead, keep your legs straight and lean forward to let your drums touch the ground.
The Complete Setup
In order for each member of the tenorline to sound the same, they must first look the same. Your posture and overall form is every bit as important as how well you can actually play.
I. The Look – always use this when your drum is on
1. Stand up straight – this will make keep the drums level and ease the strain on your back
2. Feet together – heels and toes should be touching
3. Keep your knees back – support your weight all the way down to your heels without locking your knees
4. Pull your shoulders back slightly – keep from slouching
5. Keep your lower back straight – bending it shifts the weight and will hurt you
6. Project your body upwards – fill the carrier with shoulders and chest, be tall
7. Keep your head up, staring straight ahead
8. Never speak unless asked for your input or you have a question
9. Confidence is key – always present yourself with a professional look of concentration and intensity; look like you’ve been playing all your life and it will show through in the music
*REMEMBER* whenever you are wearing a drum, uniform, or even drumline clothing, you are representing everyone that was a member before you, along with those that teach you. Make each of them proud by presenting yourself well so they will want to come back.
II. The Grip – never let this change… and I mean never
1. Place the mallet into your hands so the end of the rubber part is flush with the back of your palm so the butt is resting at the skin fold near your pinky
2. Fulcrum – Pinch between pad of thumb and first joint of index finger, this is the pivot point
3. Close space between index and thumb
4. Loosely wrap other three fingers around mallet – these are just support
5. Wrist and Forearm form one straight downward angled line
6. Palms are down but slightly angled inwards so thumbnail can be seen – this adjusts for the lower position of the drum
7. Keep your elbows where they fall naturally – not pulled in or out
8. RELAX – everything from your shoulder down to your hand *Please Note* the more difficult a passage is, the more important it is to follow these grip guidelines. If you let your fulcrum go during a roll, you will lose control and it will sound dirty.
III. The Set Position – When the drumline captain or an instructor says “set” follow these instructions
1. Start with your arms at your sides with one mallet gripped in each hand
2. Bend at the elbow and move your forearms in towards your stomach so both mallets sit parallel to each other with your right mallet farther forward than the left.
3. While holding the mallets with the other fingers, straighten your left pinky, ring, and middle fingers and your right thumb.
4. Bring the Mallets closer together so your left index finger is all that is between them
5. Close your left pinky, ring, and middle fingers around the right mallet and place your thumb on the back of the left mallet.
6. The mallets should still be parallel
7. Rest your hands 1 inch about the playing level and 3 inches away from your body
IV. The Playing Position
When an exercise, cadence, or musical passage is about to start, tenor players go from the set position to the playing position on beat 3 of the measure prior to the first note to be played. The playing position as follows:
1. Right mallet to drum one, Left hand to drum two
2. Nylon tip of mallets ½ inch above drum head, 2 inches away from rim at the point closest to the bodyOn count four of the measure prior to the first note, both mallets will move to where the first note on each hand will be played. Instead of mallets coming out in one count, like the snares and basses, sticks out is a two count move.
*NOTE* when moving between set and playing positions, the motion should be:
1. Smooth – one fluid motion
2. Quick – think of being there, not getting there
3. Silent – don’t hit the rim, drum, or mallets together