Practice for Performance

What do some of the best groups do that maybe yours doesn’t? They recreate the show experience in as much detail as possible.

Metronome Placement

Everyone knows to amplify the metronome, but do you know where to place it? Put the amplifier behind the snare line when practicing in your warmup arc.

This way the drum line is always listening back. You don’t want to reinforce bad habits by having the drum line listening forward. With a 15-foot guitar cable, the staff can still control the met from the front of the ensemble. Presto!

Drum Stands

Stands can be a wonderful tool—and your worst enemy. Here are a few tips:
1. All or none … use stands only when the rest of your section is using them. Uniformity matters.
2. Use the memory locks. Set your stand to the exact height as your carrier, or else you’re doing more damage than good.
3. Use them sparingly, so that you can build your lower back muscles. Learning new music is a great time to use stands. A music run-through before a performance or competition is not.
4. Most importantly, set them up quickly. Don’t waste valuable time setting up a stand.

Show Gear

One concept I’ve never understood is the “show sticks.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone complaining about their show sticks and how much slicker they were once the sweat started to pour. That’s what happens with new sticks! I recommend cleaning up your sticks and putting some fresh tape on them for a show but not having a dedicated pair that doesn’t get touched until you hit the performance field.

You should also spend time rehearsing in your marching shoes, gauntlets and hat. All this gear restricts movement, so pull them out every once in awhile to get used to that feeling. When you hit the field, you’ll be glad you did.

About the Author

Lane Armey is the marching percussion arranger for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. Over the past 10 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University, Marian Catholic High School and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps where he was percussion caption head in 2003 and 2004.