Colleagues, as we begin our percussion competition seasons as instructors, techs, designers, and adjudicators, we should pay close attention to our tuning choices for our field battery instruments. As an adjudicator, I struggle each season in the box having to evaluate young percussionists that are placed in the unfortunate position of using equipment that has (as tactfully said as possible) some tuning challenges.
A few pointers, if I may...please consider the notion that a bass drum line should be tuned to compliment the written book and its designed demands. If your basses are playing a million notes, please find pitch placements and damping methods that will articulate the passages that you would like us to hear in the press box. Intervals between drums should in some fashion present a harmonic structure that will make sense in relation to the overall ensemble music book. I like to tune basses to harmonically compliment the most ballad-like moments in the show...that works musically great for me.
Be careful not to over-crank your tenor section to the point that the drums are choked and lose the natural resonance that a "tenor" voice should have. Remember...they are the middle voice in the field ensemble. I love the wonderful tuning and quality of sound that Paul Rennick gets with the SCV tenor line...that's the way the instrument should sound!
And now the soprano voice...our snare lines. Herein lies the greatest issues. All season I continually say to HS snarelines..."lack of ensemble unity"..."no clarity throughout"..."struggling with executing the written book"..."all attacks not together"..."work on cleanliness in sectionals"...blah, blah, blah. I then will explain WHY I'm making those comments if it is apparent that the line is actually well taught and well rehearsed...it's tuning...! Instructors...please consider not forcing your 3-4 person HS snare line to play on drums so dry and boned so high that even the Blue Devils would struggle executing cleanly! Keep in mind that the beautiful "fuzz" we hear from 8-9 person DCI snare lines is created by a slight bit of dirt in the performance on highly tuned instruments...BUT...with 8-9 world class players, that dirt comes to the box as note length and as a beautifully fat sound. I dig it...! Your 3-4 HS players (no matter how well they are taught or rehearsed) performing on drums tuned in a similar fashion are sending 4 sets of individually heard notes to the press box making everything they play sound massively dirty instead of beautifully fat. Consider lowering the pitches a bit on the batter heads and "wetting" up the snare side a bit to create a little longer articulated sound and you might very well achieve that beautifully fat "fuzz" that we love to hear...and yes, your execution scores will jump through the roof as well as your content scores because everything is now very readable. There it is... Hope this is helpful to many. I look forward to hearing many of your lines from the box over the next couple of months! Take care and keep drumming!