Marching Percussion Exercises and Cadences ? ? ?
by Gary A. Peña
This exercise program is geared towards helping you practice on a practice pad.
Click on one of the drum exercise categories below to move to its section.
Posture is Almost Everything
Keeping good posture will help you build the muscles necessary to perform without injuring yourself. Good posture also helps you look great while performing. Keep your back straight and try not to let your head hang while playing. If you’re carrying a heavy instrument, you should carry that instrument often, so you can build the muscles in your back and shoulders. Just like working out, it will be hard at first, but your body will adapt to the work you do. As a result, you’ll find it to be easier and easier to carry your instrument as you go along.
Because I care about your safety, I just want to make sure you don’t hurt yourself in the field. Please make sure your posture is good at all times.
Keep a Persistently Good Grip
Stay relaxed. Keep a constant thought in your mind of relaxation. No matter how fast your hands are moving, no matter how intense your part is, keep your cool. Tension slows you down. Think of a car’s brakes. The more tense you are, the more pressure you’re applying to the car’s brake pedal. You want all of your strokes to flow easily from your mind, through your forearms, into your hands, your fingers, and then out of your sticks, and onto the pad or instrument’s surface. Consequently, you’ll feel like many of the strokes are automatic. This is a very good thing.
Proper grip is very important. Whichever style you choose – whether matched, traditional, or Swiss – your grip must be right. Together with proper posture and good grip, you’ll be on the road to great performance.
Building and Taking Care of Your Chops
As you most likely know, traditional grip takes extra left-hand control and muscle memory to get comfortable. Not to mention, different blistering patterns on your fingers. Blisters are pretty much inevitable. Several times throughout the years of playing, you will develop blisters. I remember when I was on snare one year, then tenors the next, and back on snare the following year. When I went back to snare, I immediately began forming a blister on my left ring finger and inner thumb.
Work through them. Use light bandages or medical tape if you must, when they cause you pain. Just remember that bandages and tape can cause slipping, or even over-compensation of your other fingers, which can cause you to throw a stick unintentionally (or just drop it). After they heal, they will will form calluses, which actually make those particular areas of your skin harder and less susceptible to the development of additional blistering. It sounds crazy, but you’ll see what I mean. Our bodies eventually adapt to our new methods.
Especially if you are part of a line of performers, such as a snare line, keeping your stick height in check will help you blend in, keep your performance looking clean and professional, and give you much better control of your sticks.
Now that we’re advised on the important stuff, let’s get to our exercises. Move at your own pace. Don’t move ahead of yourself, as I do not want you to become discouraged.
I want you to be awesome! I want to see your videos on social media showing off your talents! Notice that I refrain from showing off because I have dedicated myself to the mastery of your art. I want you to be way better than me!!
This group of exercises will work your chops until the point of burnout! If you feel like I made it too fast for you, leave me a comment with the preferred bpm range, and I will post one (if it’s reasonable). Take time to shake it out.
I have a video posted for each exercise on YouTube. Each exercise will be a sound file with a snare drum playing, so you can play along with it. I have included mark-time check patterns to set the pace, and a stick-click metronome throughout each exercise, until the advanced exercises. Each exercise will get faster and faster as we go, and you’ll be able to play along to each exercise 5–10 times through. Simply refresh the page to repeat the exercise.
For the purpose of each exercise I have programmed a slightly higher-pitched sound for the right hand and a slightly lower-pitched sound for the left hand, to help you differentiate between the two without looking. Please keep in mind that listening to this difference in stick pitch will sometimes make you want to play louder with your right hand than your left. This is a natural occurrence – especially if you are right-handed. So long as you are keeping good stick control and stick height, you should have no problem.
This is best done with wireless headphones, a practice pad, and a good pair of marching sticks. I use sound files instead of live videos because when I program the exercises, they provide a perfect tempo with zero flaw.
Note: If you are using headphones with a cord, I have found that it will be easier to practice with your headphone wire tucked into your shirt or behind you, so that your cord comes out at the bottom of your shirt. This exercise program works best with wireless headphones. However, a set of your favorite sticks and some good band room carpeting is not discouraged, so long as you don’t get into any trouble for having your device out during class.
Click the link to go to the corresponding exercises on your device:
- 1A “Eights” (Snare)
- 1B “Eights with Accents” (Snare)
- 1B (Bass Line)
- 1B (Full Battery)
- 1B (Snare)
- 1B (Tenors)
- 1C “Threes” (Snare)
- 2A “Alternating 16’s” (Snare)
- 2A (Bass Line)
- 2A (Full Battery)
- 2A (Snare)
- 2A (Tenors)
- 2B “Alternating 16’s Insanity” (Snare)
- 2C “16’s & Timing” (Snare)
- 2D “Para-diddles in 7/8 with Accents” (Snare)
Rolls & Diddles
- 3A “16ths & Rolls with Accents” (Snare)
- 3A (Bass Line)
- 3A (Full Battery)
- 3A (Snare)
- 3A (Tenors)
- 3B “16th & Rolls with Accents Insanity” (Snare)
- 3C “16ths & Alternating Rolls with Accents” (Snare)
- 3D “16ths & Alternating Rolls with Accents Insanity” (Snare)
- 3E “Alternating Diddles” (Snare)
- 3F “Alternating Diddles Insanity” (Snare)
- 3G “Alternating Diddles in 6/8” (Snare)
- 3H “Alternating Diddles in 6/8 Insanity: (Snare)
Singles & Flams
- 4A “Alternating Singles” (Snare)
- 4B “Advanced Alternating Singles” (Snare)
- 4C “Advanced Flam-Fives” (Snare)
- 4D “Flam-Drag-Train” (Snare)
- 6A “Countdown” (Snare)
- 6B “Countdown…with a Lime” (Snare)
- 6C “3232” (Snare)
- 6D “Seven-Eleven” (Full Battery)
- 6D “Seven-Eleven” (Snare)
- 6D “Seven-Eleven” (Tenors)
- 6D Seven-Eleven: (Bass Line)
- 7A “Firebrand” (Bass Line)
- 7A “Firebrand” (Full Battery)
- 7A “Firebrand” (Snare)
- 7A “Firebrand” (Tenors)
- C001 “Here We Go” Cadence (Bass Line)
- C001 “Here We Go” Cadence (Full Battery)
- C001 “Here We Go” Cadence (Snare)
- C001 “Here We Go” Cadence (Tenors)