Learning in the Lot

Lane Armey

You probably find yourself at various times watching outstanding percussion groups during their warmups—in the parking lot at WGI Sport of the Arts finals, at a drum corps show, or in one of a thousand exciting YouTube clips. We all love watching great drumlines throw down.

Here are some items you can look for to help your own group’s development.

Exercise Progression

Take note of how a group’s drumming exercises progress. Generally groups will start with legato strokes to get the hands moving and stretch out the muscles. Each successive exercise will likely build upon the basics from the previous exercise. Even a complicated high-energy drum ram will likely build and develop various skill sets and layer on flams, quad arounds, bass splits, increased velocity, etc.

Consistency of Technique

Don’t get so wowed by the moment that you forget to take notice of how they play. Uniformity of technique is not just something that is judged; it is something that ensures each player approaches the drum the same way, creating blend and balance. Take note of how relaxed the players’ shoulders and hands are. Note the left-hand traditional grip approach, how the bass drummers play in the center of the head, and where quad players place their tacit hand. Tons to observe and learn from!

Attention to Detail

The best groups not only sound the best but also look super-pro. The stands are all aligned and at the proper height. The warmup arc is well spaced, and miscellaneous equipment or uniforms are all neatly organized. Sticks are taped, drums are clean, etc. All the little details go a long way toward creating a great first impression.

Performance Energy

Today’s percussion ensembles exude an excitement and energy not just through the notes they play but also through the entire body. Even legato 8s are usually personified with bobbing heads and a performance energy that is anything but boring. Every time someone hits the drum, it is with a purpose that is shown in the face and body. Every rim shot gets a little bit more exciting when it is emphasized in a performer’s face.

When observing top groups, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from some of the great ways they approach warming up.

About author

Lane Armey

Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. In the past, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.

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