KSUMGF Drumline Technique Overview | Marching Golden Flashes | Kent State University

KSUMGF Drumline Technique Overview

Find information about KSUMGF Drumline Techniques as well as helpful links.

drumline warmups & Exercises drumline audition & Clinic Registration

Snare Drum

Students interested in snare drum should be prepared to play with traditional grip in the left hand and the standard “matched” grip in the right hand.

Right Hand

  • Thumb print on the side of the stick, directly across from the first finger.
  • Thumb nail should face directly in and should not be angled up toward the sky.
  • All other fingers should be wrapped around the stick, although not squeezing.
  • Any space in the grip, particularly between the thumb and first finger should be eliminated, 
although be careful not to put constant pressure on the fulcrum.
  • There should be a straight line from the elbow down through the wrist with the back of your 
hand facing up toward the sky.
  • The butt of the stick should not follow the line of the arm, but should stick out the side of 
the hand. You should see it sticking out. 

Left Hand

  • Start with your arm down at your side. The gap between your thumb and first finger should naturally face forward and your fingers should have a natural inward curve toward your palm.
  • While maintaining this hand position and without bending the wrist, slowly raise your arm until your elbow has reached a 90 degree angle.
  • Use your right hand to rest the stick in the gap between your thumb and first finger at a point about a third of the way up from the butt of the stick.
  • Before your right hand releases the stick, you’ll need to create a second balance point. While maintaining the natural inward curve of your fingers mentioned earlier, allow the stick to rest just above the first knuckle on the left ring finger.
  • The pinky, the ring finger’s partner in crime, will follow a similar curve right underneath the ring finger.
  • The first finger should wrap loosely over the top of the stick and connect with the thumb. The meaty part of the thumb should come into contact with the first finger in between the first and second knuckles. The result will be a teardrop shape with the stick in the center.
  • The middle finger should be relaxed, slightly curved, and rest on top of the stick.

Playing Position

  1. We play on flat drums, so the right elbow will be slightly behind the shoulder with the elbow bent to an acute angle, less than 90 degrees.
  2. Visually, the right wrist will be higher than the left.
  3. The left elbow should be bent at 90 degrees with the arm and hand rotated slightly out. You 
should be able to see inside the palm of your hand while holding the stick, although the palm 
should not be flat toward the sky.
  4. Drum should be adjusted so that your pinky is only a short distance away from the rim.
  5. Wrist will be substantially lower and closer to the drum on your left side than on your right.
  6. Beads of the sticks should meet at a 90 degree angle in the center of the drumhead. Beads should be close to the drumhead but not touching. 

Stroke

  • Left hand stroke uses a turning of the wrist, as if turning a doorknob, while the right hand stroke is a vertical bend of the wrist.
  • The stroke should be a balanced combination of wrist, finger and forearm.
  • When approaching the drum, always focus on harnessing a relaxed rebound. Think of bouncing 
a basketball, or using a tennis racket to bounce a tennis ball.
  • The stick should always maintain a straight, continuous path to and from the drumhead. Try 
holding your other drumstick vertically next to your playing hand to help direct your stroke into a 
straight line.
  • Any stick not in use should be at rest in the “down” position, with the bead of the stick close to 
but not touching the drumhead.
  • Different stroke types (Full, Down, Up, Tap, Doubles, etc.) are simply different ways to control 
the natural tendency of the stick to rebound off the drumhead.
  • Small muscle groups (fingers – think fast doubles) are primarily for speed while large muscle 
groups (forearm – think full sound) are for power.
  • Forearm should be incorporated into strokes of any volume in order to achieve a full, consistent 
sound.
  • When practicing, work to maintain a relaxed, tension free grip at all times. Be sure to focus on 
the specific purpose(s) of each exercise.

Tenors

Matched Grip

  1. Thumb print on the side of the stick, directly across from the first finger.
  2. Thumbnail should not face directly up toward the sky, but should also not face directly 
inward. The hand will be slightly more turned up than matched grip for snare drum.
  3. All other fingers should be wrapped around the stick, although not squeezing.
  4. Space in the grip, particularly between the thumb and first finger should be eliminated, 
although be careful not to put constant pressure on the fulcrum.
  5. The butt of the stick should not follow the line of the arm, but should stick out the side of 
the hand. You should see it sticking out.

Playing Position

  1. Tenors should be positioned slightly (1-3 inches) below waist level.
  2. Rest arms at your side and slowly raise them until the bead of the stick is an inch off the 
drumhead. Your arm will be at an obtuse angle, greater than 90 degrees.
  3. Playing zones are at the bottoms of drums one and two (beads of sticks close together at 90 
degree angle) and the upper inside corners of drums three and four. Sticks should follow a straight line path across the drums, using a windshield wiper-like motion.

Standard Playing Positions

Stroke

  • Stroke should be a balanced combination of wrist, finger and forearm.
  • When approaching the drum, always focus on harnessing a relaxed rebound. Think of bouncing 
a basketball, or using a tennis racket to bounce a tennis ball.
  • The stick should always maintain a straight, continuous path to and from the drumhead. Try 
holding your other drumstick vertically next to your playing hand to help direct your stroke into a 
straight line.
  • It is always best to practice technique exercises first on one drum and then around the drums. 
This will establish the vertical motion (the Y Axis) and allow you to develop good muscle 
memory. This motion should not change when moving around the drums (the X Axis).
  • When playing around the drums, the forearm should move your sticks over the different drums (the X Axis). There should be no “flopping” type motion with your wrist when moving drum to 
drum.
  • Any stick not in use should be at rest in the “down” position, with the bead of the stick close to 
but not touching the drumhead.
  • Different stroke types (Full, Down, Up, Tap, Doubles, etc.) are simply different ways to control 
the natural tendency of the stick to rebound off the drumhead.
  • Small muscle groups (fingers – think fast doubles) are primarily for speed while large muscle 
groups (forearm – think full sound) are for power.
  • Forearm should be incorporated into strokes of any volume in order to achieve a full, consistent 
sound.
  • When practicing, work to maintain a relaxed, tension free grip at all times. Be sure to focus on 
the specific purpose(s) of each exercise.

Bass Drum

Grip

Bass drum grip follows many of the standards of a good matched snare drum grip. Start by double- checking your matched snare drum grip with these steps, sticks, and a practice pad. Then when you are able to practice on a marching bass drum (which you should!) follow suggestions in the playing position section for how to apply the grip to the bass drum.

  • Thumb print on the side of the stick, directly across from the first finger.
  • Thumb nail should face directly in and should not be angled up toward the sky.
  • All other fingers should be wrapped around the stick, although not squeezing.
  • Any space in the grip, particularly between the thumb and first finger should be eliminated, although be careful not to put constant pressure on the fulcrum.
  • There should be a straight line from the elbow down through the wrist with the back of your hand facing up toward the sky.
  • The butt of the stick should not follow the line of the arm, but should stick out the side of the hand. You should see it sticking out.

**When using bass drum mallets, your grip should be adjusted so that your hand is all the way at the back of the mallet shaft. There will not be any mallet shaft sticking out the side of your hand. 

Playing Position

  1. Approach the bass drum with your arms to your side and your mallets in hand. In this position thumbs should naturally face toward the sky.
  2. Without bending or turning the wrist, slowly raise the arms until your elbows have reached a 90 degree angle. Thumb nail should remain facing the sky and the hand/thumb should softly and naturally curve upward from the wrist.
  3. Two common mistakes: A) Falsely creating a 90 degree angle at the wrist with the hand forcibly almost perpendicular to the arm. B) Allowing the hand, wrist, and mallet to fall perfectly in line with the arm. This not only looks “droopy” but also prevents the hand and wrist from turning correctly to achieve the ideal stroke.
  4. Rest the head of the mallet on the drum. This should be the center of the drum. If it is not, double check the steps up to this point. If the same result happens a second time, you may need to adjust the height of your bass drum stand or adjust the fit of your carrier.

Stroke

  • The basic stroke consists of a turning of the wrist, similar to turning a doorknob.
  • The forearm should follow the turn of your wrist, allowing for greater control and fuller sound.
  • When approaching the drum, always focus on harnessing a relaxed rebound. Think of bouncing 
a basketball, or using a tennis racket to bounce a tennis ball.
  • The stick should always maintain a straight, continuous path to and from the drumhead. Try 
holding your other drumstick horizontally next to your playing hand to help direct your stroke 
into a straight line.
  • Any stick not in use should be at rest in the “down” position, with the bead of the stick close to 
but not touching the drumhead.
  • Different stroke types (Full, Down, Up, Tap, Doubles, etc.) are simply different ways to control 
the natural tendency of the stick to rebound off the drumhead.
  • Much focus should be placed on producing a full and consistent tone. If at times it sounds too 
thin, be sure you are consistently playing in the center of the head.
  • When practicing, work to maintain a relaxed, tension free grip at all times. Be sure to focus on 
the specific purpose(s) of each exercise. 

Suggested Resources for Snare, Tenors, & Bass

  • Rudimental Logic by Bill Bachman
  • Bass Logic by Bill Bachman
  • Quad Logic by Bill Bachman
  • The Drummer’s Rudimental Reference Book by John Wooton
  • Marching 101 on vicfirth.com
  • Various Drum Corp technique books such as Green Beats, Blue Devils: The Line, SCV audition 
materials, Troopercussion, etc.

CYMBALS

Grip

  • To hold the cymbals, put your entire hand through the cymbal strap and then wrap your thumb under the strap and around so the strap rests between the thumb and index finger.
  • If it is too difficult to get your thumb underneath the strap, the strap may be tied to short. Adjust the strap by loosening or retying the knot.
  • Once the strap is resting between your thumb and index finger, your palm should sit against the cymbal pad.
  • Use your fingers and thumb to cup the cymbal.
  • Bring the cymbals up to eye level and hold them parallel to one another. There should be 
approximately three inches between your cymbals. Suggested Resources for Cymbals
  • Zildjian Marching Band & Drum Corps Lessons on zildjian.com
  • Zildjian Score Magazine – How to Tie a Cymbal Knot on zildjian.com 
  • Zildjian Score Magazine – Standard Marching Crashes part 1 and part 2