Play in the center

Currently this quick article with a Gatorade bottle focuses on snare. I’ll add information for bass drums in the future.

Drumming in the center of the drum or pad isn’t just something that applies to marching percussion but it’s where it matters because so much of a score or impression can be based on the drummers confidence and correctness, and the ability of each musician do to that as a mirror image with the others. It’s not just the sound but that image you project as an indivisible and as a section. It is important that at minimum a few key aspects of your technique be defined in order to present a uniform package and to exude confidence.

One area that many people don’t think about (at first) or concern themselves with is playing in the center of the drum. It should probably be said now, rather than later, that not every drum requires you to play in the center, there are the quads, quints, sextets, toms, quad-tom, tri-tom, tenors, whatever you want to call them. For these drums your goal is to play in your playing zones as defined by your percussion staff. For snare, you are playing in the center, for bass you are playing in the center. The following methods explain that you can fix “wandering bead syndrome” or any of the following for snare and quads as well as plain old “not playing in the center much” for bass drums. No matter the drum everyone can benefit from the first method for snares and quads when drumming on a practice pad.

We are trying to prevent these, of course they’re a little exaggerated:

You will need a Gatorade bottle cap or any cap with an equally flat and large surface. Packing tape or duct tape is needed but sticky tack or Velcro might work well. Your “sticking” method ultimately depends on what you’re securing it to. You wouldn’t want to use duct tape on heads that you weren’t going to change before a performance, and Velcro may not actually hold the cap securely to a marching drum.

Take the Gatorade cap and place in the center of your practice pad. No matter the surface or pad type don’t secure the cap anywhere but the center. If you’re worried about tape residue left behind then this isn’t for you (you can clean it easily enough). Cap In the center of a full-sized pad helps your muscle memory and physical reference points later on.

Make sure the length of tape is about at least 6-8” long. Be sure that as much tape as possible comes in contact with the drum pad, you don’t have any gap between the tape and cap or the tape and the pad. You don’t want to make little ramps with your tape.

Take a second piece of tape and place it across (perpendicular to) the cap and drum pad making a cross. The cap should now be firmly fixed to your practice pad. All Done! 

This might all seem very simple, very stupid, or both. BUT when practicing your beats you are constantly practicing bras control – keeping the beads of your drum sticks in the center of the head and as close together as possible without touching them to each other.

    The top of the Gatorade bottle cap is not flat it’s slightly rounded. Because of this you need to play with more control compared to playing on a flat surface.

It’s not rocket surgery or brain science but it’s quick, easy, cheap. This is easier than placing a ring around a narrow playing area because the shaft of your sticks won’t make contact with this cap method. You can later mark your pad or drum with electrical tape as a visual reminder, but for now, or during a camp or spring/fall training this cap is going to give you instant feedback without requiring you to look down.