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What Is a Drumline?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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A drumline can be a feature of a marching band or it can be a standalone unit. In either case, it consists of drums and other percussion-type musical instruments. Commonly consisting of sections called the pit, the battery and the front ensemble, the drumline consists of several types of drums in its makeup. The drumline is often accompanied by electronically amplified keyboards, bass guitars and xylophones. Cymbals are also included in the makeup of a drumline, lending the clean, crashing sound to contrast with the sharp rap of the snare drums and the dull thud of the bass drums.

In most drumline arrangements, the stationary percussion unit that is typically positioned in the center, front of the unit is known as the front ensemble. This can often include keyboards, electric bass guitars and even stationary full drum sets. This front ensemble is common when the drumline accompanies a marching band and provides the general support and percussion for the marching band to keep time with. Occasionally, the front ensemble will be given the opportunity to feature the drum kit in an extended or high-energy solo to energize the crowd.

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The main component of the drumline is called the battery. This battery is the percussion unit that marches onto the field as a unit. This section generally consists of the snare, tenor and bass drummers. The cymbals are also usually included in the battery and often turn to face the drummers so that the cymbals can be played with the drummer's drumsticks to add yet another sound to the musical voice of the unit. The snare and bass drums are played as single drum units, however, the tenor drums are commonly a three- or four-piece drum set supported by a large shoulder harness similar to the harness used to support the large bass drums of the drumline.

The snare drum is typically worn on a slight tilt and just off of center to the drummer, however, this style of drum support is responsible for some wrist injury and discomfort due to the angle of the drummer's drumstick required to strike the tilted drum head. This has resulted in many drummers opting for the more comfortable option of supporting the snare drum flat and level so that the traditional style of drumstick grip may be used. The bass drums of the drumline are commonly arranged by size, from the largest to the smallest, in order to produce a more complete sound when playing.

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