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How Do I Choose the Best Marching Drum?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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A marching band is made up of percussion, woodwinds, and brass instruments. A marching percussion group is often known as the drum line or battery. When choosing the best marching drum, it is important to consider the organization you are playing with, your role in the band, and your spending budget.

Many high school and university marching bands have all instruments on hand and do not require students to purchase their own. At the university level, serious players often purchase their own drums. Many play in a secondary group outside of the marching band, such as a rock band or a jazz quartet. Before purchasing a marching drum, the player should know which position or role he or she will have in the ensemble.

With most marching bands, the percussion section is made up of snare drums, tenor drums, and bass drums. Each marching drum is supported by a harness rack that commonly fits over the shoulders and around the waist. Lines are four to five members in high school marching bands and often seven to ten in university bands.

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Snare drums are the deepest in size of the marching drum, and standard sizes — diameter x depth — run around 13 x 11 inches (33 x 28 cm) and 14 x 12 inches (36 x 31 cm). Depending on the size of the player, he or she can purchase a snare drum weighing between 16 and 44 pounds (7 and 20 kg). Lower-end models cost $100 US Dollars (USD), while higher-end models run over $600 USD. While snare drumskins rarely break, it is wise to keep a backup in the carrying case for emergencies. Snares rest around the player’s waist via straps that harness on the shoulders.

For tenor drums, multi-tenors are extremely popular. These are sets of high-tuned tom toms played by one drummer. The skin is kept off the bottom of the drums, leaving them open-ended to project more sound. Players use mallets with disc-shaped heads to hit the drums. These toms are usually a set of four arranged in an arc around the user’s waist. Single tenor drums start around $100 USD and run upwards of $600 to over $1000 USD for multi-tenor sets.

Bass drums are the largest and lowest-toned drums in the marching drum ensemble. These are harnessed on the user’s shoulders and played with mallets similar to those of tenor players. Though, for bass drum players, the mallets are larger to bold the low tons. Bass drums start at around $200 USD.

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