RS transparentthe official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

  • R!Solo: Marching Down the Street for Rudimental Snare Drum by Michael Varner

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Aug 13, 2022

    Drum and Bugle Corps have changed a lot since the traditional Corps of the 1950 and ‘60s. Before DCI and WGI, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and the American Legion sponsored Drum and Bugle Corps. Current DCI performers will be jealous to know that, in those days, there was a Veterans “Post” in every town and neighborhood so, instead of driving miles to corps rehearsal, back then, you might be literally able to walk to the Veterans Post rehearsal on your street corner! Many Posts had a Senior Corps, made up of World War II Veterans and often a Junior Corps for Sons (and Daughters) 21 and below. The first corps I ever marched with was literally called “the Sons of the Demons.” The Maumee (Ohio) Demons were the Post’s Seniors named from World War II exploits and the “Sons” eventually became the DCI Toledo Glassmen.

    The Veterans would congregate every Friday night at the post to reminisce, listen to music, and socialize. Our Junior Corps would rehearse those nights and between drumming we would cook food for the veterans. My usual assignment was a Maumee delicacy: frogs’ legs. When I dropped the legs into the boiling pot of water they would wiggle and “swim” as if they didn’t know they had already been separated from the rest of the frog!

    None of the young players (or even the instructors) knew how to read music, so the drum parts would be taught by first using “onomatopoeic” syllables to represent the rudiments and rhythms. The instructor would first rhythmically “say” the syllables and each youngster would repeat it until they got it right. Then the instructor would drum each phrase and each player would be expected to listen and repeat it. Everything had to be quickly memorized. On a Friday night this became a fun game when the young players would tease and gibe anyone who messed up memory or saying/playing the tongue-twisting syllables. For example, the rudiment “flamacue” was “mar-CHING down the street” (try saying it with the emphasis and you will “hear” a flamacue)! I remember a particular rhythm my corps used lots was “watermelon” because its rhythm came from the popular song “Watermelon Man.” Entire drum parts were endlessly “chanted” while riding the bus to competitions. Our young players rarely won first place in contests, but we loved sharing the comradery of drumming and representing our neighborhood “Post.”

    My R!Solo is based on the rudimental drumming of those times. It contains the original 26 rudiments, which were the standard before the current PAS 40 rudiments, notated pretty much exactly as they would have been. Listen to how I say the first phrase on the video until you can repeat it exactly. Then say it while you are playing it to get the phrasing perfect. Try to identify each of the 26 rudiments (they are all there). Think about which rudiments have been added to make the current 40 and where they might come from.

    After you have learned “Marching Down the Street,” you and your teacher should search and find out more about the many drum composers over the years who wrote pieces to showcase these original 26 rudiments, including Charley Wilcoxon, William Schinstine, Fred Hoey, and John S. Pratt. Explore their solos and see how they chose to combine traditional rudimental rhythms, and make sure to investigate what “NARD” is. I hope you enjoy!

    videography by Jesus Martinez
    R!Solo Marching Down The Street by Michael Varner


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    Michael VarnerDr. Michael Varner
    recently retired after 36 years as Director of Percussion at the University of Texas at Arlington. Previously he was Director of Percussion at Western Michigan University. He holds a degree in Music Education from Bowling Green State University, a Master’s in Performance degree from the University of Michigan, and a Doctorate in Performance from the University of North Texas. With a long history as a performer, he presents new and time-honored repertoire to the highest standards, having presented percussion clinics in every state, Europe, and Japan. He has written for nationally recognized DCI and WGI marching groups including the Chicago Cavaliers and the Toledo Glassmen. Under his leadership the University of Texas at Arlington Drumline performed with consistently top rankings at many PAS events. His interest in world music led to research in Nigeria and Ghana. His article “Skin That Speaks” was published in Percussive Notes. His interest in composing has led to many commissions with over 20 published works, and he is a member of the PAS Composition Committee. For more information visit

  • 1957–1982: A Perspective of Drumset Percussion and the Plastic Drum Head by Dave Levine (February 1982 Percussive Notes)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Aug 11, 2022

    “The drum set demands teaching techniques all its own. The teacher/performer must have an understanding of the history of the music associated with the instrument. He must have knowledge of the artistic and technical growth of the great players of the instrument. We have tried to approach these areas in this, the first Percussive Notes to feature the drum set. Many thanks to the authors.”

    Check out this significant historical article from the February 1982 issue of Percussive Notes on the state and progression of the drum set through the mid-1900s.

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  • How to Practice Part II: Triage by Dan McGuire

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Aug 09, 2022

    Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of “Triage.”

    Every day, students must make decisions on how to best utilize their practice time. A fundamental understanding of this approach is that no student can work on everything every day. Younger students in particular can easily become overwhelmed with the volume of material they must learn. This necessitates the ability of students to prioritize assignments so they can continue to improve over time.

    For this analogy we will prioritize our practice time in a similar fashion as an emergency room must prioritize their patients. We have three tiers: chest pain, broken bone, paper cut.

    This is the assignment that is due soonest and/or has the highest priority. This is what the students will spend most of their time practicing.

    This material is important but not critical. This is the “touch on every day” material, or assignments that require a long-term investment of time to master.

    These are assignments that are not due in the immediate future and do not require a long-term investment of time to master.

    By teaching students to prioritize their assignments, you can help your students feel successful in class and keep them motivated. The next article in in this series will use this concept to help students proactively plan their practice session so that they use their time efficiently.

    Dan McGuireDan McGuire serves as Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of the PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and performing at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have garnered honors such as winning the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire was on the board of the Tennessee PAS Chapter, serving as Vice-President from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

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