How to Play the Quads in a Marching Band

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Multi-tenor drums--also known as quads, quints and tenors--provide the middle range sound within the battery percussion of a marching band or drum corps. The snares provide the higher pitches, the bass drums provide the lower pitches, and the tenors provide the multiple alto/tenor sounds for the drumline. Learning to play the quads for a marching band is somewhat challenging. However, it can be done. Read on to learn how to play the quads in a marching band.

  • Tune your drums. You may need assistance from your tenor tech or other drum instructor for this task. It's important to have your drums tuned correctly, so that you can hear mistakes when you make them and be able to adjust and make self-corrections the next time you play through the exercise.

  • Get a copy of your warm-up exercises. Your staff will probably give you warm-ups specifically designed for your drumline. However, if you are trying to get some practice in before the first camp or try-out, there are many drum corps and high school and college marching bands that publish their drum exercises on the Internet for anyone to download. Just do a search for "quad warm-ups" or "tenor warm-ups" or "drum exercises." As with any kind of drumming, learning the fundamentals and rudiments is essential to good technique and musicality.

  • Grip your mallets correctly. You want to have a relaxed but firm grip on your sticks, thumbs wrapped, top of the hands at a slight angle, elbows out. Make sure there is no tension in your arms, hands, wrists or shoulders. You should feel loose, but controlled.

  • Imagine a straight line across all four of your quads. This should be where you are playing on each drum. In other words, you are not playing in the center of the head of each individual drum, but rather in a linear pattern across the four drums.

  • Use momentum. The rebound of a hit on one drum should be the driving energy that moves your mallet to the next drum. Try to flow smoothly from one drum to the next, just as if you were playing a rhythm on a single drumhead, instead of initiating new energy on every switch of the drums.

  • Move on to learning scrapes, sweeps and crossovers only after you have begun to play competently with the basics. As you move on to the more advanced techniques, constantly check yourself on the fundamentals--grip of the mallets, playing positions on the drumheads and smoothness of transfers. No matter how difficult the music, it really does all come back to the basics, so make sure good technique drives every piece you play.

  • Consider private lessons with a tenor/quads specialist. He will help you get the most out of your time in marching band, allowing you to reach your full potential playing quads.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't have a full set of quads to practice on, draw the pattern of your quads out on a poster board or old towel with a marker. Then simply lay the poster board or towel on a table or the floor and practice that way. You can even draw in the straight line mentioned in Step 4 across the heads to give you a better understanding of where your playing positions should be on each drumhead.
  • Quads are heavy. Make sure you stand up straight, use good marching technique in your feet and take breaks often so you don't injure your back or another body part.

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