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What Is a Winter Drumline?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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A winter drumline is a group of percussionists who stage indoor competitive performances that typically involve both playing music and marching in formations. The percussion instruments used in a winter drumline show can be varied, according to the demands of the show's theme, and different types of percussion instruments from both marching and concert bands can be incorporated. These groups of musicians are often part of a high school or college music department, although a good number of independent community drum lines also exist. Competitive seasons for these indoor percussion ensembles typically run from October to March of each year. Each drumline show is staged within the confines of an indoor gym, most often on a basketball court.

The drums used in these kinds of shows are usually tenor, snare, quad, and bass drums. In addition to drums used in marching routines, a winter drumline can also include a stationary percussion section commonly known as a pit. This group is made up of musicians playing larger instruments, such as xylophones, timpani, chimes, and even the drum kits that are usually found in rock bands. Some winter drumlines add more musical creativity to their pit sections with electric keyboards and guitars. Competition rules generally allow this wide range of instrument choices, as the only element normally not allowed is a previously recorded music track.

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Winter drumline shows usually have plenty of theatrical elements, such as performer costumes and sets that can be elaborate in some cases. Most of these indoor percussion ensembles perform on top of a heavy floor tarp large enough to cover the gym floor where the competition is staged. These tarps are usually made from vinyl that has been painted with designs to match the theme of the drumline show. Some ensembles also include backdrops placed in the upstage area of the floor to create a more complete picture of the show theme.

Themes and music selected for a winter drumline show can vary widely. Many groups choose to re-create the story lines of popular movies or television shows complete with the musical scores adapted for percussion instruments. These types of show themes often change from one year to the next, depending on what is most popular in the movie theater or on the television at the time. Other drumlines stage performances of classical or popular music, complete with visual elements within their sets and costumes.

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