The Marching Percussion Section: For the Marching Percussionist

Percussive Arts Society’s Virginia/Washington D.C. Day of Percussion

Saturday, March 23, 2024 @ Virginia Tech

Dr. Tommy Goddard

Assistant Director of Athletic Bands and Drumline, Liberty University

Click here for a pdf of this clinic.

Reason For Clinic

  • Goddard’s Doctoral Thesis (2022)
    • “Equipping College Students for a Marching Percussion Career in the United States”
    • Majority of survey participants – Prepared as Performer, not Teacher/Arranger
      • Pedagogy Techniques: 143x
      • Comp/Arranging Techniques: 185x

The Goal – To produce successful percussion educators!

Marching Percussion Pedagogy

  • Concert Percussion vs. Marching Percussion Technique – The Same!
  • What is written, equipment, and the role of the performer constitutes the differences.
  • Misconception – Playing “through the bar or drum” is INCORRECT!
  • Dennis DeLucia’s Teaching Plan
    • The Grip (relax, relax, relax)
    • The Flow (arms-wrists-fingers – tension-free motion)
    • Strokes (Down, Up, Natural)
    • Reading (RH lead/LH lead/Alternating)
    • Rhythm Exercises
    • The Rudiments (OG/Standard & Hybrids)
  • Dennis DeLucia’s 3 Rs:
    • Reading (exercises & solo/ensemble literature)
    • ’Riting (composing/arranging)
    • Rudiments (OG/Standard & Hybrids)
  • Basics must first be mastered to advance to higher level of achievement:
    • Marching percussion method books
    • Literature (exercises & solo/ensemble)
    • Technique manuscripts (“How To” books like the Bachman books)
    • Transcriptions of marching percussion performances (WGI/DCI show excerpts)
  • Matched Grip – version of this is used on all instruments
  • Why Traditional Grip? – Sling drumming & it looks cool!
  • Legato Stroke – basic motion for all styles/instruments
  • Dynamics are based on stick height:

p = 3”     mp = 6”     mf = 9”     f = 12”     ff = 15”  fff = 21+” with full arm

  • Mallet technique – concert technique
    • 2 mallets
    • 4 mallets (Stevens Grip is most common)
  • Legato stroke (piston stroke) is the basic motion.
  • Dynamics are based on mallet height:

pp = 1 1/2”     p = 3”     mp = 4 1/2”     mf = 6”     f = 9”     ff = 12” fff = 15+” (w/forearm)

The Goal – To produce the most effective teaching philosophy!

Marching Percussion Arranging

  • It is the director’s role to ensure that the total musical production is:
    • Uniform in style (winds – DL – FE)
    • Balanced
    • Creates a strong combined musical effect
  • The role of the percussion section in marching band is to:
    • Support & enhance the wind writing
    • Create a rhythmic pulse when appropriate
    • Highlight the percussion section in a featured role
  • Wind Arranger – sketch mallet parts if integral to wind parts.
  • Percussion Arranger
    • Develop those parts & make them percussion appropriate.
    • Don’t introduce new musical material that isn’t part of the OG music intent of the composition, unless they are experienced.
  • FE – 4th section along w/WW, Brass, & DL.
  • Don’t overuse FE! FE shouldn’t play continuous throughout compared to other sections.
  • Write fewer musical lines for the mallets – 1 for vibes & 1 for marimba is plenty.
  • Don’t always have marimbas & vibes playing together. Use each as a unique tone color: woods/metals
  • Use xylo & glock colors sparingly.
  • Mallets should double the WWs only occasionally.
  • Write aux Perc like a composer would for concert band or orchestra.
  • Use full DL ensemble sparingly – save for full impacts, fills, & features.
  • To accompany the winds, use 1 or 2 sub-sections only (rarely snares & tenors together).
  • Include dynamics in the initial writing & insist they are actually performed.
  • Develop rhythmic motives & have direction. All fast notes are boring. Rhythmic variety is pleasing to all.
  • Ensure the level of difficulty is appropriate for the players.
  • Be flexible & willing to re-write &/or cut once music gets on the field. It never sounds the same in standing rehearsal or on the computer as it does in the drill.
  • Listen to the wind section at each segment with & without the DL & FE. Decide which way it sounds better as a total music package.
  • Less is more & more is less!
  • Need to be proficient in the following:
    • Notation – Finale or Sibelius
    • Digital Audio Workstation – Logic Pro, Pro-Tools, Ableton, Digital Performer, Cubase, Studio One, Reason, GarageBand, etc.
    • Drill Writing: Pyware, EnVision 3D, Field Artist 3, Drill Studio, Precision, etc.

The Goal – To produce the most professional representation of your skills!

Marching Percussion Performance

  • High School may only have budget for 1 percussion teacher, resulting in them having to split their time between both sections (DL & FE). So, combine the warm-up of DL & FE!
  • Key components of effective warm-up:
    • DL: Singles/Doubles/Triples, 2 Height, Accents, Timing, Rolls, Rudiments, etc.
    • FE: Scales/Arpeggios, Vertical/Independent/Alternating/Lateral Rotations, Block Chords, Permutations, Interval Control, etc.
    • Listening, Balance, Blend

The Goal – To produce the most efficient warm-up routine!

Recommended Resources

Beck, John H., ed. Encyclopedia of Percussion. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2007. 

Buyer, Paul. Drumline Gold: Innovative Systems for Marching Percussion Excellence. Chicago: Meredith Music Publications, 2020. 

Buyer, Paul. Marching Bands and Drumlines: Secrets of Success from the Best of the Best. Galesville, MD: Meredith Music Publications, 2009. 

—. “Reading is Not Optional.” Percussive Notes 45, no. 3 (June 2007): 34-36.

—. Working Toward Excellence: 8 Values for Achieving Uncommon Success in Work and Life. New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2012. 

Casella, Jim, and Jim Ancona. Up Front: A Complete Resource for Today’s Pit Ensemble. Portland, OR: Tap Space Publications, 2003. 

Casella, Jim, and Murray Gusseck. Fresh Perspectives for the Modern Drumline. Portland, OR: Tap Space Publications, 1998. 

Cook, Gary D. Teaching Percussion. 3rd ed. Boston: Cengage, 2019. 

Freytag, Edward. The Rudimental Cookbook. Nashville: Row-Loff Productions, 1993. 

Fyffe, Daniel. Indoor Percussion Ensembles and Drum Corps. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2007. 

Hannum, Thom, and Robert Morrison. Championship Concepts for Marching Percussion. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Publishing, 1986. 

Holland, James. Practical Percussion: A Guide to the Instruments and Their Sources. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005. 

Markworth, Wayne. The Dynamic Marching Band: A Resource Book. 2nd ed. Orlando: Marching Arts Education, 2017. iBooks. 

Molina, Oliver. “Writing and Arranging for Marching Percussion in the 21st Century.” Percussive Notes 51, no. 4 (July 2013): 10-15. arranging-for-marching-percussion-in-the-21st- century.pdf. 

Ryder, Dan. Techniques of Marching Band Show Designing System. 6th ed. Wylie, TX: Dan Ryder Field Drills, 2016. 

Sapadin, Pete. Drumline Essentials. 8th ed. Chino Hills, CA: Pete Sapadin, 2020.

Udow, Michael. Percussion Pedagogy: A Practical Guide for Studio Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. 

Walker, Clif. “Ensemble Listening: Rehearsal Techniques for Marching Percussion.” Percussive Notes 43, no. 3 (June 2005): 30-33. Ensemble-Listening.pdf. 

—. “Using a Metronome with the Marching Ensemble.” Percussive Notes 40, no. 1 (February 2002): 23-24. Metronome-1.pdf. 

Wooten, John. The Drummer’s Rudimental Reference Book. Nashville: Row-Loff Productions, 1992.