A Video Guide to Essential Marching Percussion Techniques

This series of video lessons will provide students and instructors alike with a comprehensive introduction to the fundamental techniques for the marching percussion section. From maintenance to performance techniques, Vic Firth's PERCUSSION 101 will cover the essential skills necessary for today's all-around percussionist.

The curriculum for this series was compiled by members of Vic Firth's Collegiate Educator Program which includes some of the most influential university instructors in the country. Presented by Brian Mason and the Morehead State University Drumline, this series will help band directors and students master the fundamentals in order to become a great marching percussion section.




Fundamental Techniques for the Contemporary Marching Percussion Section

This warmup packet contains seven fundamental exercises for the marching percussion section. Covering basic strokes, timing, two height control and rolls, these exercises were specifically designed to provide the beginning to intermediate drumline with a solid foundation for building individual and ensemble technique.

Each exercise includes a full score and suggestions to help you and your students understand the basic techniques that are included. In addition, we have provided several options that may be used if students either find the exercise too difficult, or are looking for a challenge to enhance their skills.

Essential for any program who wants to build a
strong marching percussion section!


EXERCISE #1: "8 on a Hand"


EXERCISE #5: "Double Beat"


EXERCISE #2: "16th Note Timing"


EXERCISE #6: "Chicken and a Roll"


EXERCISE #3: "Accent / Tap"


EXERCISE #7: "Triplet Rolls"


EXERCISE #4: "Accented 16ths"



01: Basic Maintenance Procedures
Brian Mason explains some of the most fundamental principals behind caring for the marching percussion instruments
03: Transporting the Front Ensemble
Suggestions for moving the front ensemble equipment. Including suggestions for frames, truck loading procedures and tracking small instruments
02: Dealing with Rain
How to properly dry the instruments and implements as well as strategies for dealing with rain in rehearsals and performances
04: Regular Maintenance Procedures
Tips for keeping track of stand parts as well as stick tape recommendations

01: Snare Drum Head Selection
A discussion of Mylar (plastic) heads vs Kevlar (woven fiber) head
04: Tenor Tuning
Considerations for tuning tenors, including various size drum sets, spock drums, intervals, and tuning for different venues
02: Developing a Characteristic Snare Sound
An explanation of the characteristic marching snare sound with the tension level that works for various situations
05: Bass Drum Tuning
Considerations for bass drum tuning, including muffling, pitches, intervals, and drum size recommendations
03: Adjusting the Snare Strainer Unit
Demonstrating how to adjust the various knobs on the snare strainer to get a good fundamental snare sound
06: Front Ensemble Tuning
Tuning of the battery instruments in the front ensemble, including special tuning considerations for the concert bass drum

01: Basic Recommendations
How to choose sticks and mallets that will deliver a characteristic sound and offer the most durability
04: Bass Drum Tonal Possibilities
Demonstrating the sound color differences between hard and soft felts
02: Front Ensemble Color Choices
A demonstration of general characteristic sounds, as well as options for creating a warm/dark sound and bright sound palettes
05: Snare Tonal Possibilities
Listen to the color possibilities from dark to bright with sticks, rubber tipped sticks and piccolo tips
03: Tonal Possibilities for the Tenor Section
A demonstration of 4 possible tonal colors with nylon headed mallets, rubber tipped sticks, felts and fluffy mallets

01: Basic Recommendations
Choosing an instrumentation that will provide a balanced sound for your marching percussion ensemble
02: Choosing Players for Each Section
Some important considerations that may help the students be successful

01: How to Use a Metronome Effectively
Choosing a metronome and amplification system that works, where to place the metronome during ensemble rehearsals
07: Dutting
When, how and why to use vocal cues on the field
02: Establishing an Effective Warmup Routine
Recommendations for establishing a good technique program for the marching percussion section
08: Ensemble Timing Principals
Establishing a tight ensemble on the field requires more than being able to play together in an arc. Learn some basic principals for ensemble success
03: How to Teach New Music
Because of the difficulty involved in marching percussion parts, a strategy for teaching show music must be adopted to maximize rehearsal time
09: Show Tempo Consistency
Why picking one tempo for your show music and sticking with it is the best strategy for ensemble success
04: Cleaning the Drumline
Time tested strategies for effectively cleaning percussion parts - including when and how to "water" parts
10: Dealing with Percussion Arrangements
How to customize stock arrangements to suit your ensemble - and when/how to hire a dedicated percussion arranger
05: The Heights System for Dynamics
An explanation of how and why the height system works for establishing a consistent look and sound for the drumline
11: Balancing the Ensemble
Suggestions on how to achieve a balanced sound between the marching percussion section and the winds - in a variety of venues
06: Tracking
Learn how tracking works with developing consistency of performance for the battery percussion

01: Preconditioning
Getting fit before marching rehearsals begin can prevent injuries and provide a better overall look to the marching sections
04: Forward & Backward Marching Technique
How to march forward and backward with the proper technique
02: Getting a Great Look
Covering: Adjusting the instruments to the proper height, correct implement position, posture and how to establish intervals between players
05: The Crab Step
Find out how drummers use this technique when marching in a sideways motion. Including a "box drill" exercise.
03: Marking Time
The fundamentals behind a relaxed mark time
06: Obliques
When to cross in front or in back when using the crab step.

Dr. Brian S. Mason is a highly respected innovator of the contemporary marching percussion ensemble. In high demand as a clinician, designer, and adjudicator, he has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Japan, Canada, Korea, and Mexico. His career in the DCI activity has spanned more than two decades, with his most noted work coming via the Cavaliers, Phantom Regiment, and the Santa Clara Vanguard, claiming numerous awards and honors with these organizations during his tenure.

Currently, Brian is Assistant Professor of Percussion at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. He is also the director of the award-winning Marching Percussion Ensemble, featured on in a web-based instructional video series, Marching Percussion 101. At MSU, he has performed with the Faculty Jazz Ensemble, the Faculty Chamber Ensemble, and the Faculty Brass Quintet. Off-campus, he is a contract section player with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, and appears as a guest artist with many high school and university percussion ensembles across the country.

Brian received his D.M.A. and B.M. as a student of James B. Campbell at the University of Kentucky, and his M.M. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a student of Dr. Dean Gronemeier. He is a member of the Vic Firth Education Committee, the Percussive Arts Society Health and Wellness Committee, and the Percussive Arts Society Marching Percussion Committee. Brian has published articles in Percussive Notes, has been interviewed in Modern Drummer and Band and Orchestra Magazine, was a contributing editor for Stick It magazine, and co-authored the 2000 Modern Drummer Readers Poll's "No. 1 Drum Set Method Book," The Commandments of R&B Drumming (Warner Brothers). His original works are published through Row-Loff Productions, Bachovich Music Publications, and Tap Space Publications. Brian proudly endorses Vic Firth sticks and mallets, makers of his signature line of mallets, as well as Zildjian cymbalsEvans drumheads, and Pearl Drums and Adams Musical Instruments.