A Few Audition Tips
While you should spend some time practicing without a metronome, most of your time should be spent using one. Don’t teach yourself to play these exercises the wrong way.
Know the exercises thoroughly. There are few things more disappointing than someone who is obviously a great player but is unsuccessful at their audition because of a failure to prepare the right material in the correct format. Know all the exercises with their required variations and play them at a wide variety of tempi.
Have your audition material prepared. This is a must. Being in the HPD Drumline is more than just playing exercises. We require mature, adaptive, and teachable musicians. The audition pieces were selected to demonstrate what you can play and learn. Use this as an opportunity to put all the technical skills from exercises into a more practical setting. We want you to be successful at your audition. It is important that you ask as many questions as possible, attend as many audition prep rehearsals as possible, and properly learn all possible audition materials as soon as possible.
With all technical playing concepts aside, we are looking for true performers! It’s great to see a student play everything flawlessly, but a terrible or boring performance from a visual standpoint can ruin a performance all together. Nobody wants to watch a stiff, stale, and/or dry performance. Show at least the most minimal amount of musical enjoyment by pulsing with your body enough for the whole crowd to notice. Smile. Ponder. “Stank face.” We are one of only two band sections that can convey our thoughts and emotions with our face while performing. Every repetition and performance should be a nonverbal conversation and dance between you and your instrument. Show the crowd that you enjoy what you are doing, and the crowd will enjoy the moment too.
Front Ensemble Tips:
You don’t need to be on an instrument all the time. You can do a lot of strength and conditioning for mallet by playing on the floor. Consider your bedroom floor, mattress, or any pillow to be your 2 or 4 mallet practice pads. This can be very handy if you have limited access to an instrument. When without a mallet keyboard at home it is encouraged to get as creative as possible to recreate or imagine a keyboard in front of you. I’ve seen students rent keyboards, make “keyboard practice pads” out of wood or cardboard, or just imagine the layout of a keyboard on the floor while practicing. Do what you can do to ensure that you are able to use good technique and play correct notes once you get access to a keyboard. Also, make sure you're spending equal amounts of time for practicing both 2 and 4 mallet technique.
Spend time playing and wearing the actual drum as possible. Practice marching outside on the grid or on a lined football field as this is an incredibly important aspect of what we do. Practice playing out and playing through the drum. Practice in front of a mirror and record yourself marching and playing. Drumline, and percussion in general, is a visual sport. Visibly demonstrate the correct technique. The way we look effects our sound!
Do not jump straight into the most technical material! Start from the front of the packet then slowly and meticulously work your way to the back. We’re sure and hope you can read and play technical material. We actually look forward to it. But in order to create a quality product we must start slow by making sure the finest of details are just right. Stick heights, playing through the drum, proper grip/technique, stroke types, dynamic control, accent-tap differentials, diddle and three interpretation, and sticking are just a few aspects you need to focus on for every repetition and exercise to apply in every piece of music you’re given.
The bass section is a unique section where your technique is modified and so is your mindset. Here at Heights HS, we use the “doorknob-rotation” technique. Place your forearm on a flat surface with your hand in the shape of holding a stick (Thumb should point up). Lock your wrist in-line with your forearm. Turn your arm and wrist outward and then back to starting position.
You have to know the part of all the drums in the section but only play your drum. TIMING is indescribably important to this section. Every timing/split exercise needs to be taken with the upmost attention. Bass drummers need to be the kings and queens of subdivision, timing, and tempo control is king in the marching bass drummer world. Every placed rhythm should fit like a glove, and one mistake cannot throw off your performance or the sections.
Quads provide some of the most rewarding benefits of the section. This instrument provides a lot of transfer value to snare drum, mallet percussion, and timpani. When learning material, it is important to learn slow. Focus on sticking, playing zone’s, articulation, and fluidity. Avoid trying to “force” arm movement around the drums by rapidly shooting your stick/hand/arm in the correct direction. This act of "force" creates stress and tension that can result in losing or pushing tempo. All movements across the drum should be fluid and done with ease. This is why practicing slow and "building with the intention of playing clean" every repetition is important. Be sure to maintain X-Y axis motion around the drums and maintaining a drum 2-1 (L-R) stationary/tacit point.
Mallet players are one of the most versatile performers of the front ensemble. Performers are required to be proficient at utilizing the Stevens/Musser and/or Burton grip for various double-stop, single alternation, double lateral, and triple lateral patterns at various tempi of 40bpm and up to possibly 240bpm. Both 2 and 4 mallet techniques will utilize the standard “Piston Stroke” when playing on the keyboard. Each member of the front ensemble must have a deep understanding of the “Hierarchy of Sound” to ensure the balance and blend of the slightest musical phrase is communicated well to the audience. In addition, mallet players must have a high understanding of muscular mechanics, timbres, dynamic control, and basic physics concepts and ideas to master “The Stuff.”
This section can be considered the foundation and capstone of the sound pyramid. Bass voices of timpani, synth, and bass drum hold up the ensemble with grace while also adding extra punch to ensemble hits. High pitched metals and other timbres add the necessary colors to add the magic and set the mood for the story we place on the field. Without these performers the sound of the band would be thin and missing the “seasoning” that a lot of pieces require. Performers are required to be knowledgably of different timbres, dynamic control, basic physics concepts and ideas, and be willing to experiment with different sounds from the most standard to the most nonconventional methods and applications.