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Are End Drummers In A Large Snareline The Weakest Players?

I have heard this expression my entire marching career and I’m here to challenge it. I have set the RCC snareline order since 2011 and have never used this approach for various reasons. Don’t get me wrong, there are varying levels of talent in ALL world class snarelines, but that doesn’t mean the end players are your weakest. I would like to highlight 3 reasons why it’s beneficial not to put the weakest players on the end of the line. Note - This blog is specific to snarelines with 6 or more players

  1. The drill. Drum formations have evolved a lot of over the last 50 years. These days, players need to be ready to perform in unique, high demand environments. This combined with altered listening situations due to body work and directional facings only compound the demand.  Right after these sections of the show, the snareline may perform a 180 degree pinwheel before running to their next drill dot. Why would you want your weakest player(s) on the ends of these forms? If they are already struggling with their hands, the heightened demand due to their movements will further expose their deficiencies as they play in a vulnerable state at the edge of the form.

  2. The psychology. I was an end player for Blue Devils in 2006 (the other end was Percussion IQ co-founder John McClean). In 2007, I was moved to the center. BY FAR, PLAYING WELL ON THE END WAS HARDER THAN THE MIDDLE. When I was in the middle, I had 3 or 4 players on each side of me at all times. I call that comfort. On the end in 2006, I could hear EVERYTHING, including drum dirt and balance issues more inside the snareline, as well as my own deficiencies. Not having sound to your outside can play games with your head, including starting to question yourself constantly if the dirt you're hearing is you, or other players. You need to be strong mentally to deal with this and trust your own rhythmic interpretations and capabilities. Why put the weakest player in this situation?  Once the end player starts second guessing their performance, they lose confidence and let the breaking/dirting begin.

  3. The assumption. As a snare technician, it’s impossible to always know exactly where the dirt is coming from. If the guy 1 or 2 in starts ripping their rhythms on a part, a common teaching practice is for the instructor to address the entire side of the line where the dirt came from. This sometimes leads to falsely blaming the end player. That ultimately means the end player gets feedback for guys dirting 4, 3, 2, and 1 spot inside of him or her. But when the end player dirts a phrase, it’s easier to identify and the end player is the only person receiving that feedback. A stronger end player will help reduce these instructor habits and force them to give more specific feedback to individual players rather than an entire side of the snareline.

If you are, were, or will be an end snare player, hold pride in the role. Nobody wants to be on the end. Your drill is probably harder, you probably get blamed for dirt that’s not you, and you never get the same glory the center guy(s) get.  I think you have the hardest spot in the line and I personally put my seasoned players in that spot to reduce the variables mentioned above and make them stronger.  

I look forward to the day people quit asking “who’s tapping”, and replace it with “who’s holding it down on the ends”.

Author: Matthew Regua

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