Sophie's Blog: A day with the drumline

No pink clothing, just a lot of diddles

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In the shady basketball court, the drumline rehearsed the drum solo in “Jingle Bells.” The drumline, also called the battery, consists of eight snares, five tenors and five bass drums. The snare line is an all-rookie line this year, but they are still so impressive and in my opinion very talented! The bass line has three veterans while the tenor line has one.

Even with so many rookies, the line is a tight-knit fraternity. Each of the tenor boys has a diamond piercing in his ear, and each section its own hats. This is a Cadets drumline tradition. The bass drum players all wear USC Gamecocks hats. Alex Beltran, a second-year tenor player, picked out the tenor hats that say, “New York Cubans,” which is a baseball team (I think). The hats have a design on them that sort of looks like a tenor stick. Also, Alex and first-year member Joe Ciancimino said that “Cuban” kind of sounds like “QB” (which stands for Quads of Bergen— what the tenors call themselves). The snares wear green Boston Red Sox hats.

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Drumming is so precise and needs to be totally unison, making sure that even your stick height is together. I was curious about how the drummers knew how high to bring their sticks when they play, so bass drum veteran Chad Grundon and Alex Beltran informed me that they refer to stick heights in terms of inches above the head of the drum. The increments go 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 inches, with 9 inches being parallel to the ground. I asked how they judge whether they are matching each other or not, and first-year snare player Christian Clark told me that they watch to the center snare and guide off of him. This is such a foreign concept to me; color guard makes sense, whereas drumming is different, weird and interesting.

As the sectional continued, the snares and tenors were instructed to play the same few measures multiple times in a row. What seemed a monotonous task to me I’m sure was not for them. Just as the guard will sometimes clean work count by count, so must the drummers clean and perfect their music measure by measure

“Four bars of G,” the staff instructed the snare and tenor players, and away they drummed, again and again and again. Every time sounded the same to me, but I knew that the experienced staff could hear things I could not that needed to be cleaned.

The bass drummers got a break from holding their heavy drums while the tenors and snares played on drums held by drum stands. I’m not sure what the technical term for them is, but only bass five (the largest one) was supported by a drum stand; the other four bass drummers wore their drums on harnesses. Cole Edwards plays bass five, and while the bass drums were not being worked with, he sat on his water cooler looking over his music. Cole drummed his hands on his thighs the way I see drummers doing all the time. On water breaks, the snares can be heard practicing their parts on the rims of their drums; they never stop drumming. After about ten minutes of snare and tenor time, the bass drums relocated to get some work done on their own.

I’m always amazed at the speed at which drummers can move their hands, just as I am when I watch the pit play with four mallets. It was a really great experience, getting to see the drumline sectional today, and even though they didn’t wear pink like the guard did last Wednesday, I enjoyed watching them work hard. They seemed to be getting a lot of work done on their feature, a part I imagine they spend the most time on.

The echo of the drums could be heard a few seconds after they had already finished playing, and the bass drums boomed through me like a Fourth of July parade. The drumline is a really talented group of young men with incredible potential. Even though I would already consider them incredible, it’s only day 11, and they still have so much further to go. Keep up the good work, drummers!

 

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