Monday, November 9, 2009

Geeking out over Gear

Like most of you, I tend to geek out over the latest drum gear and want to learn which groups are using what. Heck, the 2009 DCI season was barely over and the internet was buzzing with the rumor of the Concord Blue Devils switching to Pearl/Adams equipment. It turned out to be true, but is a perfect example of geeking out over gear. Perhaps an even better example is scouring the internet for pictures of new drums as the corps receive them around June each year. C’mon… you know you do it, too. ;-)
It started upon seeing my first drum corps show in 1985 when I took note of how many corps were using certain brands of drums. I used to collect catalogs and look through all the pictures studying what made each brand different from one another. I used to pride myself by sitting in the nosebleed section of a stadium like Indiana University at the old DCI Mid-America show and lean over to my dad to say something like “those Yamahas the Blue Devils have this year [‘89] look awfully similar to the Premier’s that Star uses.” Low and behold, I found out later Yamaha had purchased a large stake in Premier which explained why those prototype Yamaha snare drums resembled Premier HTS snares.

I suppose my curiosity stems from taking in all the eye candy of drums but also my fascination with how they work. Shiny objects have always been a distraction for me (someone say chrome?) but since the first time I hooked on what seemed like a gigantic Slingerland TDR I wanted to see what made the drum tick, so to speak. My first year of drum corps with the 1986 Guardsmen Cadets seems like a lifetime ago but learning how that drum differed from the concert drum I had at home intrigued me. I was full of questions like, “Why do they call them guts?”, “What are the screws for on the butt plate?”, “When the A corps gets new drums can we use their old drums?”. Before I graduated high school I had marched six different models of snare drums and I think I could still tell you each and every unique difference between the drums.

In the summer of 2008 I had the honor of playing in the Cavaliers Anniversary Corps and marched among the 16-man snare line that played on fully restored Rogers Dyna-Sonic marching snare drums. Talk about geeking out… these drums looked incredible but what was truly unique was the snare strainer system. Rogers had developed something that was way ahead of its time and concepts in the design can be found in modern marching snare drums of today. Even the reinforced bearing edges are something that’s resurfaced in modern equipment. Forgetting for a moment a time span of roughly 40 years, it’s just as fun to drool over a 70’s vintage Rogers Dyna-Sonic as it is a brand new custom Emerald Mist Pearl FFXC with chrome.

While we see new materials and gizmos on the drums like carbon fiber layers, top snare units and venting systems, a good portion of the innovation and evolution of marching percussion sound can be attributed to the drum heads and how they’re made. New products continually change the way we think about the application of marching percussion which allows us to geek out in entirely new ways.

Have any favorite ways you geek out over gear? Leave a comment and share!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taking the Mystery out of Tuning a Marching Snare Drum

A question at which I am often asked by students or see on internet forums is how to tune a marching snare drum. The good news is there isn’t any black magic to get a good sound but there are some steps that may be overlooked or even undervalued by some. Let’s take a look at some of the higher-level points in getting that good snare sound we all love to hear in the parking lot and stadium.

In a perfect scenario we’d be starting with new heads not yet put on your snare drum. With the heads off start with making sure the top and bottom bearing edges are free from debris. Especially if a drum is used outside you’d be surprised how much dirt and grass may collect around the bearing edges. I like to start by putting the bottom (resonant) head on first. If you are using a drum with a completely free-floating shell such as the Pearl FFX, make sure the snare bed cut into the shell is aligned with the strainer before putting on the bottom head. (Tip: If you align the front badge in its proper place you’ll be good to go.) As with any new heads you don’t want to over-tighten on the initial install regardless if it is a plastic or an aramid fiber head. Bring the head up to a good, even tension. Eventually you’ll want to bring your bottom head up quite high once it has had some time to seat itself. There is some debate about just how high, but let’s remember that for a snare drum to produce a snare sound the bottom head must resonate to vibrate the guts. A marching snare isn’t going to resonate or push as much air through the cylinder as a drum set or concert drum. This means we’ll need to make the bottom head hyper-sensitive to resonation and vibration by tuning it very tight. Again, don’t over-tighten on the first install. The bottom line is (no pun intended), the resonant head on a snare drum requires a lot of maintenance, and especially if it is an all-plastic head such as an Evans MS3. Many people like the aramid fiber heads, like the Evans MX5, not only for their sound preference but also because they require less maintenance. Food for thought.

After the bottom head is on and has begun the seating process go ahead and put the guts on. Don’t turn the tension knob on the end of the strainer real tight but put enough tension on the guts so that they are all taut. Leave the strainer in the “off” position and slide a pencil under the guts all the way to the end towards the butt-side of the strainer. This lifts the guts off the head so we can more clearly hear the pitch when they are plucked or strummed. The process of tuning guts is tedious but I strongly feel is the single most important thing you can do to make the drum sound good. The tension of the bottom head follows closely at number two. Using a screwdriver to adjust the gut tension, pluck each gut and tune them to the same pitch. There are theories of tuning the guts to a specific note or even tuning the guts differently based on location in the strand. I like to keep it simple and feel the uniform pitch/tension of each gut is more important than what specific pitch to which they are tuned. By having the guts all the same tension it allows us to better dial in the snare response with the overall tension knob on the snare strainer.

Now with the guts tuned remove the pencil, turn the strainer in the “on” position and adjust the height of the guts using the vertical adjustment knobs on either end of the strainer. This is where I see a lot of drums choked off by making the angle at which the guts touch the head too steep. An excellent trick is to start with the guts not touching the head and tap your finger on the guts at the end of the strainer. You’ll hear a distinct snapping sound. While continuing to tap, turn the height adjustment knob slowly to bring the guts closer to the head. The moment you stop hearing the snapping sound stop turning the height adjustment knob. The guts are now the perfect height and are completely touching the bottom head. Be sure to do the same process to both ends of the strainer. Since the gut tuning process probably took some time you can probably tweak the bottom head tension a little as it has probably settled some by now. You can now use the tension knob on the snare strainer to adjust the overall tension to your liking.

Tuning the top (batter) head is no different than the bottom in that you don’t want to bring it up too high, too fast. At this point we all want to play the drum so we get real anxious to crank the top head but resist that temptation where possible. In the marching world we don’t always have the luxury of allowing a head to properly seat because we’re busily changing heads during a dinner break or you have to be at the gate in 5 minutes. In a perfect world you’d be putting on new heads well in advance of a drum needing to be played on but obviously that’s not always possible. Just how tight you tune the top head is also a point of debate but the current trend, and my personal preference, is to not tune the top head to the stratosphere. This not only makes the drum more comfortable for the player, but also promotes more resonance of the drum which results in a better quality of sound.

You now have a good baseline from which to work where can tweak the overall gut and head tension, apply tape or muffling to the heads if desired, or whatever your preferences may be and situation requires. I prefer to leave the drum free from any tape or muffling for individual playing but that may not always be appropriate. There are other tricks out there like spraying your guts with acrylic, for example, but whatever you want to try be sure to not stray from the basics of tuning a marching snare drum. They will always apply.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Winning Combination

The 2009 Drum Corps International World Championships was marked with several milestones for both Evans and the Blue Devils organization’s through domination of world championship and high percussion awards for both World and Open class a mere 8 months after the formation of its partnership with Evans Drum Heads.

Blue Devils went undefeated and soundly won their 13th DCI World Championship with a score of 99.05, a mere tenth of a point off the all-time record score. The corps won four of the five special caption awards which include the coveted “Fred Sanford Percussion Trophy”. The Blue Devils “B” corps also dominated the competition and matched the “A” corps accomplishments with a 1st place finish and high percussion trophy.

When asked what his thoughts were on the 13th title for the corps, which also marks an undefeated season for the Blue Devils…“I’m kind of out of words. It’s indescribable”, said executive director, Dave Gibbs. “People do not recognize how good these kids are – not just in talent but as human beings. They just don’t know that these kids are so special, they’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much – and I want to tell them I’m extremely proud of them.”

The new partnership with the Blue Devils and Evans is exciting for everyone involved. Jim Bailey, who serves as Educator Relations Manager for D’Addario sums up the season by saying, “there has been a tremendous amount of energy from both the corps and the company and we look forward to getting started on the 2010 season.”

To learn more about the Blue Devils and the Evans Products they use click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On the Road with - The Crossmen

Having just finished up Fourth of July parades and coming off of two weeks of extreme humidity, 105 degree rehearsals, 60 degree nights on the truck, and several rainy days, the drums have endured a lot of change in temperature and pressure and require more attention to tuning to maintain the sound quality we strive for.

Crossmen bassline is glad to be using Evans MS1 heads this summer. We feel Evans provides the highest quality products to best meet the sound quality and durability that the top drum corps require. At the Crossmen, we take a very proactive approach to tuning our marching drums daily in a consistent manner that will give us the finest tone and sound quality for the performers.

While we rehearsed in Missouri the humidity was the highest that we had encountered this summer. This caused the pitch of each bass drum, particularly the top three drums (18, 20, and 24 inches), to drop a noticeable amount. Extra attention to keeping the heads evenly tuned had to be taken as they had only been in use for a week and had not settled yet. Taking the time to slowly and evenly raise the pitch of the drums provided us with great tone, resonance, and longevity of the heads.

The reliability of the MS1 Bass drum heads makes battling the outdoor elements and maintaining a great sound a much smoother task. That’s why we choose Evans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Turning a "Corps-ner" with Technology

What the internet can (and cannot) provide...

Like many that enjoy drum corps, I have been following scores and corps during the DCI summer tour of 2009. The continued internet integration makes it easier than ever to feel like you are thrust into the action. DCI continues to do a great job wiht the Fan Network and social sites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to stay connected to the action. Even sites like YouTube provide a very realistic look at corps shows, rehearsals, and warm ups.

While many have called or emailed to tell me how much they are enjoying the sound of the newer Evans heads (namely the Hybrid and Corps Clear heads) I have enjoyed surfing sites like YouTube and checking the videos out first hand. The quality of some of these videos is simply amazing. Whats more is the fact that below the videos are comments from various fans and viewers. Much to my surprise I have found an very strong and positive response to these heads. It is not only helpful to get this feedback, but enjoyable to actually see people enjoy the heads in (almost) real time. Some posts speak directly to an individuals observation about a group or head while others have created a channel for dialogue. As a member of the music industry, this is exciting to watch unfold.

If there is a down side to this, it would be that a persons experience is somewhat limited to that of a particular video post. Quality, camera angle, and other factors (wind for instance) can all prohibit a viewer from getting the best 'read' possible. To this I advise that anyone interested in forming a TRUE opinion of equipment (heads, sticks, drums, other) be sure to take the time to actually sample the heads for yourself. Seeing and hearing is great...experienceing is even better! Sampling the heads for yourself will give you a variety of information not available on video (feel, ease of tuning, projection, blend with YOUR tuning scheme, stability, and more). If there is a take-away from this would be that videos like the ones posted on are great at providing direction in sampling products, but it should only serve as guidance to further (and more intimate) sampling on your own equipment, with your own members, using your own tuning scheme.

For those of you that are continually turning out great videos for the rest of us to watch...keep up the great work.

Monday, June 29, 2009

SYSTEM BLUE Live Events Kicks Off The Year with Success!

Over 70 young percussionists from across the country came to southern and central California this mid-June to experience the Blue Devils system of success as part of the SYSTEM BLUE Educational Programs. The System Blue Southern California Drumming Camp saw drummers from throughout the state and as far away as South Carolina spend the weekend of June 20-21 at Yucaipa High School near Riverside, California.

On-site with the entire Blue Devils drum corps, the students not only spent time learning quality percussion technique from some of the nation’s finest drum teachers, but also had the chance to drum side-by-side with members of the Blue Devils. The weekend culminated with front-row seats “in the lot” as the Blue Devils warmed up for the Riverside DCI show, and then enjoyed 50-yard line seats as they cheered on their newfound friends in the Blue Devils.

During this past week, 40 young percussionists came to Fresno State University as part of the System Blue Mid-California Drum School. Hosted by Blue Devil alumnus and professional percussionist Shawn Glyde, students from throughout central California studied all facets of marching percussion in the state-of-the-art music facilities at Fresno State University campus.

To end the week of fun and music, the drummers joined the Blue Devils for two-days of interactive sessions, including a Master Class with Blue Devils Director of Percussion Scott Johnson and hands-on sessions. This 5-day event culminated at the Buchanan High School football stadium in Clovis, Ca with great seats to cheer on their new friends in the Blue Devils during the Mid Cal Tour of Champions DCI competition. System Blue Live Events next comes to Tulsa, Ok, Hattiesburg, Ms and Buffalo, NY as the Blue Devils present “Show Day with the Blue Devils.” Fans will go deep inside the Blue Devils and learn their system of success as they thrill audiences from coast to coast.

For more information on Evans Drum Heads.

For more information on The Blue Devils or System Blue.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Evans Artist Spotlight - Max Mullinix - The Colts Drum and Bugle Corps

NAME: Max Mullinix

AGE: 28

CURRENT JOB(S): Percussion Caption Head/Arranger Colts Drum and Bugle Corps, Percussion Director Kennesaw Mountain High School, Designer/Arranger Forsyth Central High School.


THE EARLY YEARS: I grew up in the Indianapolis, IN area and I attend Jacksonville State University as a music education major.


MY PLAYLIST OF “TOP (5) SONGS” WOULD INCLUDE: Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears, UFO Tufo by Bela Fleck, Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre, Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, and Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

QUICK PRACTICE TIP: Never practice to get things right, always practice to not get things wrong.

WORST NON-MUSIC RELATED JOB, DESCRIBE: When I was 18 and just starting college I worked as a cook. The place I worked at was called Jefferson's in Jacksonville, AL. I lasted five days in that job...yes, I'm a wimp :).

HOBBIES INCLUDE: I spend a lot of time with my wife movie watching in the evenings. On days off my wife and I will go to parks or aquariums. If we are not doing that we will spend time at home with our dog Rascal.

WHAT EVENT, PERSON, OR MOMENT HAD THE MOST IMPACT ON YOU AS A MUSICIAN? I remember standing on the field in Wisconsin in the 2002 DCI season. We were at a rehearsal in Pardeeville, WI and it was my age out year with the Cavaliers. Ensemble that day was really one the the most enjoyable days on tour I can remember. About half way through the rehearsal we were running the end of the opener and into the ballad. I remember the high energy of the opener fading away and blending itself transparently right into the next movement. The one clearest and effecting thing for me that summer is when I didn't play. The trumpets had a beautiful sustain that transfered the movements. That one moment made me realize that I wanted to continue with the activity as long as I could.

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN, WHY? I think I would have gone in a public relation or commercial sales route. I really enjoy selling things and the psychological side of it. I still read marketing books and self development books very often. Its amazing how those things even apply to what I am doing now. So, for my second career I would love to go the industry route and be a marketing director or a artist relation manager for a percussion company. I think that way I could get both things that I absolutely love.

WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE TO YOUNG MUSICIANS LOOKING TO MAKE A CAREER OF MUSIC? I think the things that helped me the most didn't come from a classroom. I think one of the most important tips is; Playing nice with others. This basically means to be nice with the people that you work with. There are many different ways to do things and you should be open to learning them. Never get stuck in the "my way is the only way" philosophy. Most people that get like that just don't ever try new things. We as composers and arrangers always have to keep this in mind. Its always in the best interest of the ensemble to be open minded. That doesn't mean give in to everything. But, if the guard needs a sound or a series of sounds to help motivate their visual phrase, TRY IT! The big picture is always the most important. And I have had somethings like I didn't want to put in turn out to be my favorite part of the show. This of course applies to every part of working with others. Be open and try listen to others thoughts. Some other things to help would be how dependable you are. Of course with music time is very important as a performer and a writer. So I guess that would be my other major suggestion. Be on time, every time!!! People really respect hard work and if you keep it up someone will give you a great opportunity.

For more information on Max visit HERE.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

WGI 2009 Review

During the weekend of April 17th…hundreds upon hundreds of performers, instructors, and fans descended upon Dayton Ohio for the 2009 Winter Guard International (WGI) percussion finals. The week was certainly not short on great performances or pleasant surprises. Below are reviews of top finishing World Class ensembles that chose Evans Drum Heads.

Percussion Independent World (PIW)

Demanding (and receiving) due respects as a serious contended in the PIW class, Pulse Percussion (CA) (4th- 93.513) delivered an attention grabbing show and in the process earned their highest PIW finish yet. The line displayed amazing control of their sound, expertly melding aggression with a keen sense of musical balance and a very artist approach to sampling and amplification usage.

What PULSE is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MX1 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Redline Percussion (MI) (5th- 92.45) created one of the most innovative visual packages the activity has seen with “Sculpted.” While the battery was imposing enough as moving rock golems, what set this unit apart were 16 dancers with mobile pedestals who achieved true-to-life statuesque poses, giving the production an elegant, artistic quality. The program ended with the drummers intermingled with the dancers in a group sculpture of an army of warriors captured forever in stone. See Redline's Parking Lot Video HERE

What REDLINE is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, Hybrid Bottom
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MX1 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Making the most from a simple concept, North Coast Academy (MI) (7th- 91.413) performed “Echo.” Members played echoes of short patterns using advanced dynamic shading. Visual reverberations were provided with individuals behind transparent screens, giving a ghost-image effect. One feature that had the spectators shouting for more was a stunning cymbal feature which had the players performing intricate rhythms and tossing the plates across the floor at each other.

What NORTH COAST is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, Hybrid Bottoms
Tenor - G2 Coated
Bass - MX2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Gateway Percussion (MO) 8th- 90.35) showed us that machines can groove too with “Robot Rock.” The kids in the line did a great job of characterization, with stiff-legged movements like mechanical automatons would make. After numerous sections of computer program-like execution, the group settled into a smoking hot version of Styx’ “Mr. Roboto” to close the program, with fast mallet ostinatos that were so quick one was fearful of the bars igniting. See Gateway's Lot Video HERE.

What GATEWAY us using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, Hybrid Bottoms
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MS1 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Percussion Scholastic World (PSW)

Mission Viejo (CA) (5th- 92.725) paid homage to departed heroes and important events in our lives with “Remember.” The opener honored the memory of the Blue Angels, with members appearing out of place in the drill in their own ‘missing man’ formation. The program’s second half turned introspective as the unit performed music from their 1999 “From Time to Time” show in a tribute to the 10th anniversary of their first WGI appearance. See Mission's Lot Video HERE.

What MISSION VIEJO is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MX1 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

One of the newest members of the Evans family, Arcadia (CA) (6th- 92.30) portrayed the struggle for independence every young person experiences with “Missing You.” After strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” were heard in the pre-show, the unit explored the feelings of separation as one goes to college. The reluctance of parents to let go were explored, as well as the inevitable turmoil that occurs when being away from a girlfriend or boyfriend. See Arcadia's Lot Video HERE.

What ARCADIA is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, Hybrid Bottom
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MX2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

America is as a melting pot of people of all nations. James Logan (CA) (7th- 92.10) illustrated this as perfectly as could be done with “Amber Waves.” The members told stories describing their ethnic heritage, with a commonality being their parents coming to this nation for a better life. “Appalachian Spring” held the fabric of the show together, connecting disparate music of Latin American, Asian, and European cultures.

What JAMES LOGAN is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - MX Black
Bass - MX2White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

With “In the Heart of a Warrior,” Forsyth Central (GA) (9th- 90.675) examined the character traits that make for a successful combatant in the arena of life. Courage, loyalty, strength, and patriotism were portrayed with music arrangements that added dramatic flair to the qualities being depicted, with the program ending as the line let forth with a loud battle cry.

What FORSYTH CENTRAL is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, Hybrid Bottom
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MS2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Avon (IN) (10th- 90.313) honored the finest achievements of humanity with “My Masterpiece.” The group gave a musical and visual tribute to the best of the best in mathematics (Einstein), art (Da Vinci), theater (Shakespeare), and music (Beethoven), along with the original creative genius of God when one of their backdrops revealed the natural beauty of a rose.

What AVON is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - MX Frost
Bass - MS2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Upland (CA) (11th- 88.50) told the tale of a kidnapping and rescue of a loved one with “Loss and Recovery.” Reminiscent of the recent motion picture “Taken,” the program opened with a telephone message from criminals advising of the kidnapping. After a dramatic musical adventure of thrills and chills, the victim was found safe by her rescuer.

What UPLAND is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MX1 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Plymouth-Canton (MI) (13th- 86.375) showed how music and words communicate emotions with “In Any Language.” The group used sight and sound to convey the concept, as their tarp had written words of different languages, and narration in foreign tongues (in appropriate musical styles) was utilized.

What PLYMOUTH-CANTON is using…
Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - Corps Clear
Bass - MS2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Choctawhatchee (FL) (14th- 84.70) demonstrated the destructive power of words with “Shattered.” As “you’re an embarrassment” and “you’re worthless” boomed from speakers, sounds of a youth’s self-esteem shattering like glass were heard. The group eventually found the courage to stand up and not succumb to the cruel words of others.

Snare - Hybrid Gray, MX5
Tenor - MX BLACK
Bass - MX2 White
Cables - Various Planet Waves

Visit for weekly updates on MORE footage from the WGI Lot!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Evans Artist Spotlight - Scott Johnson - The Blue Devils

NAME: Scott Johnson

AGE: 50

CURRENT JOB(S): Director of Percussion - Concord Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, Percussion Arranger & Clinician, Percussion Judge - WGI

YEARS AT CURRENT POSITION: Director of Percussion for the Blue Devils – 16 years, Arranger & Clinician (started arranging 34 years ago, at the ripe age of 16), WGI Percussion Judge – 10 years

THE EARLY YEARS: My musical training began at the age of four when I began taking drum lessons from a local percussion instructor. At the encouragement of this instructor I became involved in the drum and bugle corps activity. Before my fifth birthday, I joined the Red Knights Drum and Bell Corps from San Leandro, CA, and later graduated to the Royalairs Drum and Bugle Corps. I remained there until joining the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps at age 18. I was a marching member with the Blue Devils snare line from 1976 through 1979. I was hired as a member of the Blue Devil Percussion staff from 1978 through 1989 and later rejoined the organization in 1994 as Director of Percussion and Percussion Arranger.

During my four years away from the Blue Devils, I was hired as Director of Percussion and Percussion Arranger for the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps from 1991 through 1993, after one year as percussion consultant in 1990.
I was also the Percussion Arranger for Riverside Community College from 1999 through 2003, and through the years have arranged for many drum corps and marching bands across the United States, Japan and Europe.

Personal awards include twelve D.C.I. championships, eleven D.C.I. High Percussion titles, two W.G.I. championships, three DCA championships, two DCA High Percussion titles, ten DCE championships, nine DCE High Percussion titles, four High Percussion titles in Japan, and 1977 D.C.I. & P.A.S. Individual Snare champion.


MY PLAYLIST OF “TOP (5) SONGS” WOULD INCLUDE: I am going to show my “old school”. I can’t get it down to five, songs, so how about five artists -- Sting, Genesis, Eric Clapton, Earth Wind and Fire, and Tower of Power

QUICK PRACTICE TIP: Always use a metronome. At the end of every practice session, challenge yourself by increasing the tempo on the metronome.

WORST NON-MUSIC RELATED JOB, DESCRIBE: Well, since I have been teaching drums since I was 14, there aren’t many. However, the year I lived in Oregon during high school I had a landscape maintenance job on a large ranch. I remember trying to mow really overgrown lawns – always in the rain.

HOBBIES INCLUDE: Sports. I love to play golf and basketball. I also go to every Oakland Raiders home game -- at least if I’m in town.
WHAT EVENT, PERSON, OR MOMENT HAD THE MOST IMPACT ON YOU AS A MUSICIAN? When I was 14 years old, I was in a small drum corps and we went to watch a drum corps show at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, CA. When I saw the eight members of the Anaheim Kingsmen snare line walk onto the field, they looked like they were ten feet tall. I said to my mom, “That is what I want to do!” I worked hard to make sure that I achieved my goal of becoming a member of a world-class snare line. As it turns out, years later I had the privilege of teaching along side Tom Float and Ralph Hardimon, both who were members of that 1972 snare line.

MOST MEMORABLE PERFORMANCE OR TRIP: Following our gold medal performance at the WGI World Championships in 2002, the Riverside Community College drum line performed its winter drum line show at the Riverside School for the Deaf. The show, titled “The Sound of Silence”, was about a Deaf woman’s experience with music. Our show included a signing narrator, Holly, who was a student at the School for the Deaf. We held two performances --- one for the elementary age students and a second for the high school students, and included question/answer sessions and time for the students to come on the floor and play with the drummers. The students and performers both thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and it was a day I will never forget.

WHAT IMPORTANT MESSAGE OR ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE TO YOUNG MUSICIANS? The most challenging part of being a musician is the hours of practice that is required. When you find yourself getting frustrated, try to find the “fun” in it. The motto I have used for years is: “IF YOU’RE NOT HAVING FUN, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!”

Meet Scott and other Evans artists at WGI 2009. Scott will be available for questions and autographs at the Evans booth located in the WGI marketplace during the following times...

Friday, April 17th - 11:30 am
Saturday, April 18th - 4:30 pm

For more information on Scott Johnson and the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps visit

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Evans Artist Spotlight - Chris Deviney - Philadelphia Orchestra

NAME: Chris Deviney

AGE: 43

CURRENT JOB: Principal Percussionist, Philadelphia Orchestra


THE EARLY YEARS: (some information on where you grew up, where you studied, degree(s) earned) Grew up in North Carolina and Florida. Went to Florida State University for undergrad degree in Music Performance, Temple University for Master’s Degree.

ONE THING YOU ARE PRACTICING RIGHT NOW IS: Solo marimba literature and a marimba part to a percussion ensemble composition at Curtis.

MY PLAYLIST OF “TOP SONGS” WOULD INCLUDE: Anything by Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, or Chick Corea.

QUICK PRACTICE TIP: Practice slowly and only increase speed by two clicks of the metronome after you’ve played it perfectly 5 times in a row.

WORST NON-MUSIC RELATED JOB, DESCRIBE: Hardest was picking tobacco as a 14-yr. old; worst was working at a golf course putting in drainage lines (ditch digger).

HOBBIES INCLUDE: Recently learned to scuba dive; will golf anytime I’m available.
WHAT EVENT, PERSON, OR MOMENT HAD THE MOST IMPACT ON YOU AS A MUSICIAN? The person who has made the greatest impact on me as a musician is Alan Abel. He is a fabulous musician but also a kind-hearted individual who gives his all to anyone studying with him. His generosity knows no boundaries and his encouragement is legendary. He never settled for anything mediocre but always made you feel that you were important to him. Lessons were always at his house in his basement (with tea provided if you were so inclined) so you felt like you were a part of his immediate family. This kind of support system is rare these days but one that I try to recreate in my own teaching. Trying to emulate his special sense of caring and effort is the best tribute I can give to him.

MOST MEMORABLE PERFORMANCE OR TRIP: My first time getting to go on tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1991 was especially memorable. It was my first time in Europe and the opportunity to perform in some of the best acoustic concert halls in the world was really special. Getting to play next to the percussionists in the Philly percussion section was also a treat. I learned so much just observing how they produced their sounds and how they presented themselves on stage. I also had a side project that was all my own that I still continue with today. I researched the locations of graves of famous composers (mostly in Paris and Vienna) and did grave rubbings of their tombstones on large sheets of parchment. They hang in my house in large black frames. It sounds strange, but seeing the graves of these people actually brought them to life for me in a way. They weren’t just names on a piece of paper but instead were real people who struggled with the same aspects of life we all struggle with.

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN, WHY? If I couldn’t be a musician but could pick any other job in the world, I would definitely be an NFL referee. I officiated high school football for 8 years and was on the field any Friday night I wanted until I moved to Texas in 1998 (where 8 years experience meant little compared to people with 12 years and more…). With a newborn daughter, I gave up officiating realizing that I wouldn’t see her grow up at the pace I was setting. It was a great hobby while it lasted and being on the field during a high energy football game was always a thrill and something I’ll never forget.
For more information about Chris Deviney

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

About Me - Jim Bailey (Part I)

I have always had a fascination with drums. This much has been obvious my entire life. As far back and any of my family members can remember, I have always had an inclination to ‘make music’ with pot, pans, and whatever else would make a noise when I hit it. My earliest significant memory when I actually gained clarity that I had a real fascination with drums and percussion was (funny enough) during an episode of Mr. Rogers when he went to visit his local music store. I remember only a few things, but those things I remember well. The local ‘drum guy’ gave Mr. Rogers a drum lesson on a beautiful gold sparkle snare drum. The drummer taught Mr. Rogers (and the viewers) two rudiments, the Paradiddle and the ratamaque. Two down (PAS 40 International Drum Rudiments) and thirty-eight to go!

That was somewhere in the mid to late 1970’s (if you couldn’t tell from the gold sparkle drum). It was a few years later that my obsession with marching percussion kicked in to high gear. When I was about 11 I saw my local high school marching band in a parade…probably the annual 4th of July parade. While watching the percussion section, my attention was drawn (for no particular reason) to the tenor section…of which consisted of two high school students playing tri-toms. I remember the sound to this day and I have to say, it was compelling! The deep, tangy sound of those tri-toms instantly hooked me and I became an instant lifer of the tenor drums. This became the instrument I marching in high school and drum corps before returning to drum corps as a tenor tech and eventually caption head of several drum corps.

One of the two students playing tenors that day would not only influence me to follow my passion with percussion, but also motivate me to march with the drum corps that became my other obsession, The Cavaliers. Those of you who follow marching percussion with particular detail may know my mentor, Pat McGowan. Pat played in the Cavalier tenor line from 1988 until 1991 and was one of the most significant people to help development the Cavalier tenor style that became so definitive in the early 90’s. If you don’t know him by name, you surely know his cadence, “Bunco Rules”, which he wrote for the Cavaliers drumline in 1990. This cadence became an instant classic and was performed by the Cavalier drumline from 1990 until I wrote a cadence called Cobham’s Revenge, which replaced it almost 12 years later. After that parade I ran home and convinced my parents to let me join band. I enrolled into summer percussion class right away and began to study percussion with a few of my neighborhood friends.

Percussion in high school was fun. The band was not all that great, and we didn’t go to huge festivals like BOA, PASIC. The Spartan Festival (Chicago) was too far and WGI had barely started its percussion circuit. Nonetheless drumline was fun because everyone enjoyed it and wanted to be great. Practices were carefully balanced with standard drumline antics and the right amount of serious work needed to bring all of us together. We had no instructor. Only armed with a handful of DCI videos and the inspiration of a fellow Highland band member now Cavalier. The practice fields of Highland, Indiana is where I got my first real taste of the type of dedication and work needed to function and succeed in a top 12 caliber drumline. In 1989 I decided to get my first real taste of drum corps. I signed up to audition for the Cavaliers drumline. I was 13 years old. As you can imagine, this was quite a schooling for me. Despite being immediate cut from tenors, I did manage to survive two cuts from the bass drum line that weekend. I was pretty proud of myself. In hindsight, I am sure the staff was simply investing in my future and allowing me to get a full weekend of experience before getting news that would simply devastate any 13 year old. I promised myself I would never return to that camp again unless I was 100% certain I would not walk away disappointed. Six years passed as I gained more experience necessary to ace the audition and claim a spot in the drum corps of my dreams. (to be continued…)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Understand Tenor Head Options

In recent years I have have the privilege of interacting with many different educators at a variety of levels...from percussion specialists with a wealth of knowledge to band directors with quite a bit less experience in percussion. In both 'camps' I have found that questions exist with how exactly to get a desired sound by varying the choice of drum heads. I am constantly asked of my opinion on which heads to use for a given application. it seems like a logical starting point for this blog.

Understanding the right tool for the right job starts with understanding head construction and how design decisions alter the basic proprieties of sound. My goal for this post is to speak to percussionists and non-percussionists alike so i will keep my explanations simple and to the point.

Coated vs. Uncoated

One of the most basic design elements for drum head options is coated vs. uncoated. While there is a variety of ways to coat a head (spray, laminate, other) the fact remains that anything that is done will ultimately effect the sound (color) of the head. This is (in part) due to the result of how a coating reduces certain frequencies of that head. Let's look at two different heads as an example...

The Evans Corps Clear tenor head is an uncoated 2 ply head. Because it is uncoated, it provides a high degree of resonance that includes all frequencies of the it's harmonic spectrum. To your ears the head will sound full and bright, thus projecting well in an ensemble setting.

On the other hand you have the Evans MX Frost tenor head which is a coated 2 ply head. The 'frost' coating on this head helps to reduce upper frequencies associated with the 'bright' sound of an uncoated head. To your ear the heads will sound darker, warmer sound that tends to blend easily.

1 Ply vs. 2 Ply Heads
There is a very simple 'generic' rule when selecting 1 ply vs 2 ply heads. 1 ply heads inherently have more resonance while 2 ply heads promote more of the attack characteristic of the head. While all of Evans tenor heads are 2 ply heads (MX White, MX Black, MX, Frost, and Corps Clear), the use of 1 ply heads is not complete uncommon...especially when trying to achieve a warm 'concert tom' or traditional 'tenor drum' sound. If you desire such a sound I recommend starting to look at Evans G1 (coated or clear) or even the slightly thicker GPlus (also coated or uncoated).

Additional Resources
I have provided a couple of key additional resources to help you find the sound you are looking for. The first is a Tenor Tuning Video which illustrates proper head exchange and tuning. the second resource is one of a series of 5 tuning and instrument care guides which can be found on our media site The Marching Percussion Survival Guide is a great resource for tuning and care tips for your marching percussion section.

See more marching videos and lessons at The Stage or visit our Marching Landing page at Evans.