Line Size

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ohmycheese Offline
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Line Size

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:08 am

There are two things I want to ask about line size. First, how big would you make the line compared to the band (high school)? Also, how big would you generally keep the sub-sections in the battery?

Breaking down the first question a little. My school's band this past season was about 120, with about 90 winds with about a 50/50 split between brass and woodwinds. The battery consisted of 5 snares, 3 tenors, and 5 basses. The battery in general, but especially snares got called out for being overpowering. After I leave next season, the snares will be at 4.
Before this season, the battery was 4 snares, 2 tenors, 5 basses. I'm thinking about going back to that size. Band has grown about 10% from the previous season.

I've been debating on keeping 3 tenors with 4 snares, or cutting down back to two. Tenor line was pretty solid last season. All I know is that I don't feel a need to grow the snare line, the tenors will do fine regardless of size, and if I do reduce their size, bassline could use some help with two seniors leaving, and possibly another member to sports. I also want to add a cymbal line of three players.

Do you guys have some sort of formula as to line size?

Btw, this is my first year officially teching. I've been forced to "tech from within" the past season and a half due to our past tech having to leave mid-season two seasons ago. I've also done a year of corps and give private instruction in my free time. I felt a large burden at first since I had all of a sudden been given the responsibility to handle a group of peers feeling lost after our tech left, but I'm confident that I'm ready now to bring this line further. This line size question is one of many issues I am researching, asking, pondering about.
DCI 2014

joe356 Offline
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Re: Line Size

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 10:25 am

Its entirely up to you man. If the writing (both music and drill) is smart, you can run with 6 snares and 4 quads and never overpower the band. With bad writing, you can overpower a 120 person horn line with 3 snares and 2 tenors.

As far as battery balance, it can get a little weird in the smaller snare line sizes. Generally I like to have at least one tenor for every two snares. With 4 snares, I could go with 2 or 3 depending on the players I have. In your situation, you should be able to do 3 and be just fine.

drummeraaron Offline
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Joined: Sat Apr 21, 2012 10:47 pm

Re: Line Size

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:45 am

Your band size sounds similar to my high school band, line was about the same size as well. Everything balanced well imo. If you leave it at the size it is now you should be good to go.
Legends 2013-Auxiliary Percussion
"A captain doesn't have to be loud. In fact if everyone does their job, there should be no reason to have to be loud." -spartey
"'Thank goodness they FINALLY made those snare drums a little bit lighter!'" - quad players" -awakentosleep
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littlesnareboy Offline
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Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 5:29 am

With 90 winds, your drumline shouldn't be overpowering that band at that point, if you're playing with dynamics. If your drumline is constantly playing with a weak accent/tap ratio at say 12:9, then yes it could be very likely that your drums are overpowering winds, especially in lightly scored or piano sections. Remember, size doesn't have to replace dynamics. As a standard rule to live by:

p = 3 inches
mp = 6 inches
mf = 9 inches
f = 12 inches

These will naturally need to be adjusted depending on scoring and all that, but if you start here, you'll probably be pretty close to the mark.

Another very real possibility is your director does not teach the winds to play proper dynamics. It is all too common that directors will max our their winds sound around a mp, maybe mf, and call that loud enough because they do not know or want to take the time to establish proper breath and volume control. This results in the drumline always having to play at lower dynamics to compensate. As a side note on this, it takes everything I have not to laugh when a director feels the drumline is ALWAYS too loud and comes to complain to me that their drumline doesn't play "dynamics" when their definition of percussion dynamics are a constant height of 6:3 (tops).

As far as battery size goes the standard 2 snares for every 1 quad, WITH A PRIORITY OF 4 BASS DRUMMERS!!!! So when I get the size roster for my battery, I automatically try to take four of those spots and make them bass drums. Then if I have at least 3 snares and 2 quads (3 / 2 = 1.5, so in this case 1 or 2 quads would be acceptable), I try to add a fifth bass. From there just try to keep the ratio as close to 2:1 as you can.

DISCLAIMER - The bigger the ensemble, the more you can "get away" with not sticking perfectly to this rule. I saw an amazing high school drumline that had 6 snares, 4 quads, and 5 basses. I've also participated in a line that had 10 snares, 6 quads, and 6 basses. Note that even though they're not "technically" following the rule, they're still pretty close.

One important thing to note is that battery size is not the only issue with percussion size. I saw a line this past season that had 5 snares, 3 quads, 5 basses, and 2, TWO, front ensemble. My mind was blown, and I wanted to cry. I TRY to stick to a 1:1 ratio between front ensemble and battery, or as close as I can. If this means I have less than 5 battery (1 snare, 4 basses), I saw screw it and have one big front ensemble that I put in the back of the field for tempo control, normally with a drumset.

As far as winds to battery relationship, that depends a lot on the kids. Do the winds know how to play with a full sound and variety of dynamics? If not, you're going to need a smaller drumline regardless of the head count. Are your percussionist able to play with good sound quality and a variety of dynamics? If so, you can get away with more, with lower stick heights and maybe a slightly altered tuning. If not, you're going to need fewer members to compensate for their inability to play at lower dynamic levels.

Overall, the best I can say is that these are guidelines and NOT rules. At the end of the day, your director is going to have to make the decision that is best for his program. I hope I helped and happy drumming :)

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