Niche it!
BobbyGs Info

Sony Creative Software Inc.


Music Sound


Home | Up | Next

A drumline is a group of percussionists who play a variety of marching percussion instruments. A drumline may be an incorporated section of a marching band, a drum and bugle corps, a pipe band, or a pep band, but also can exist independent of these larger ensembles. Most members of drumlines start in high school and occasionally go on to drum in more advanced lines in college, indoor ensembles, or drum corps. Indoor percussion ensembles serve as the most common outlet for stand-alone drumline performance.

Most drumlines can be divided into two sections; the back battery and front ensemble. However, the term drumline is sometimes used to refer to just the battery. Dividing the battery further we arrive at the sub-sections of snare drums, tenors (also called toms, trios, quads, quints, timp-toms, hexes, six-pack), bass drums, and sometimes cymbals (also called plates).

A practicing highschool drumline. A practicing highschool drumline.

The marching percussion instruments of a battery section features high tension drumheads so as to produce a loud, short, and articulate sound, ideal for the intricate passages played by contemporary drumlines. Marching snares are either 13 or 14 inches in diameter, depending on whether the line is playing indoors or outdoors. The circumference of the rim is lined with 12 evenly spaced lugs, designed to maintain the high tension of Kevlar or PET film heads. Tenor drums are sets of multiple drums worn by one marcher, usually in sets of 3 to 6 drums. Plastic and synthetic heads are most common in tenors and are tuned with a lower tension than snares, providing the drums with a more resonant, tonal sound which gives the drums a midrange, or tenor pitch support to the line. Marching basses consist of groupings of 4-6 individually carried bass drums. They are marched sequentially according size, with drum 1 being the smallest in diameter and weight and drum 4, 5, or 6, known as "bottom bass" being largest in diameter and weight. Marching cymbals are generally marched in groups of 2-8, though the range is simply by convention. Cymbals are held by each member of the sub-section and are either played by the individual holder, by a snare or tenor player, or used for visual purposes because of their reflective surfaces. A specific example is the well known "V" formation formed by the cymbal line of the Santa Clara Vanguard drum and bugle corps.

The front ensemble (also pit or frontline) can include any percussion instrument. This wide selection of instruments allows for the front ensemble to produce the greatest timbre variety in a marching ensemble. Front ensemble instruments are typically stationary during performance and are therefore not bound to the limitations of being mounted to the player. Instruments usually played in the front ensemble include marimba, vibraphone, bells, xylophone, and chimes. Oftentimes, in order to add special sounds to a piece, many auxilliary percussion instruments will also be implemented by the frontline ensemble.



The Battery percussion is one of the most popular sections for a drumline. There are four different types of battery percussion instruments. Marching Snare, Tenors (Quads or Quints), Bass Drums (usually 5 graduating in size), and Cymbals (can be anywhere from 3 to 8 different size cymbals, usually always marching crashes).

Marching Snare

Marching Snare is probably one of the most prestigious positions on a drumline. Although all parts are important, the snare is one of the harder drums to play. Marching Snare music is usually more complicated and difficult than the bass drums or cymbals, and thus requires a lot of skill. Snare solos are very complicated and sometimes incorporate visual tricks that one performs with sticks.


Tenors are basically a marching version of tom-toms. Usually with four or five (sometimes six) different tenor drums that graduate in size. Since there are more drums to play, the tenors require a lot of skill and coordination. Different then snare technique, this requires more use of the arms then just the wrist. Tenors can have visuals too, but the sheer complexity of a lot of tenor solos makes enough visuals by just the movement of the arms around the drums.


Bass drums are the heart of a drumline. They create the deep booming sound heard in any drum line. Bass Drum solos are written for multiple drums. Instead of being played by one person, the solo is split from drum to drum. Bass drums are considered to be the least difficult drum, but harder than the cymbals. In most cases, beginners will end up playing the bass drum.

Home | Up | Drumline | Front ensemble | Indoor percussion ensemble

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

Finish Line