Memorizing music is key for most all marching musicians, but it is particularly important in marching percussion. And as drum line continues to evolve and place more simultaneous responsibilities on the performers, it becomes more crucial to memorize music as quickly as possible.
In a nutshell, your drum line instructor cannot help clean your music until it is all memorized. As long as you are focused on reading music, you are not focused on playing clean with the drummers around you. Things like flam grace note heights, diddle interpretation and moving smoothly around a set of quads are infinitely more difficult when you are trying to read a sheet of music.
The performance responsibilities—particularly in winter indoor percussion—are so high that it demands mastering the musical content much earlier than in the past. The music needs to be almost second nature when you are asked to focus on your facial expressions, the turnout on your feet and height of a lunge. And because the winter season does not have the luxury of a three-month summer rehearsal schedule to work on basics, it is critical to get your music into your head and hands sometimes days after receiving it.
Break It Up
There is no doubt that memorizing music takes time. I recommend starting early and biting it off one section at a time. Put yourself on a schedule to learn A to B on Monday, B to C on Tuesday and C to D on Wednesday. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to do it all during one evening.
Get It Right
Also make sure you get it right the first time. There is nothing worse than learning something the wrong way. That means paying close attention to accent placements, heights and around patterns. And for bass drummers, learn how your part fits into the overall bass line parts. Understanding your role, and not just your notes, will set up your section for success.
No one enjoys memorizing music; it just takes hard work and repetition. Start early and do it right, and you will be able to turn your attention to playing great and performing.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.