A common question students ask is, “What’s a characteristic that distinguishes the best players in the world from everybody else.” This is a loaded question as there is not one factor or skill. The top players/marching percussionists are World Class in all attributes, but especially in consistency. Our experience has seen this as a factor that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Each year excellent players audition for the World Class organizations we teach, but they are surprised when they are cut from the line due to inconsistency.
Consistency is important because it’s not acceptable to play a musical passage great just once. World Class players understand they must replicate their grip and motion to ensure clarity each and every repetition.
For example, imagine you have a 4 man snareline at your high school, playing a two bar snare feature. Each player plays it 5 times by themselves during rehearsal.
Mike plays it great 4 out of 5 times
John 4 out of 5 times
Lindsey 3 out of 5 times
Zach 1 out of 5 times
This equals to roughly 8% of the time the entire snareline playing the 2 bar snare feature well. A 8% value is not good enough for a World Class snareline that strives for players who achieve individual excellence every repetition.
A methodical approach to develop consistency is the Rule of 16. This was a challenge developed by one of the Percussion IQ staff members 10 years ago. The goal is to play 16 counts of any rudiment, at any tempo, PERFECTLY. Do not move on to a faster tempo or more difficult version of the rudiment until this is achieved. Benefits of these increased repetitions are:
Greater awareness of muscle controls in hands, wrists, and arms that lead to successful repetitions.
Increased strength in fingers and forearms which contribute to having great drum “chops”.
Simulation of worst case scenarios. Students will rarely play any rudiment 16 times consecutively in their music. If the student can master Rule of 16 for various rudiments and tempos, playing 2 of a rudiment in their show music will become a breeze. Their built consistency will appear when it counts the most.
*Added suggestion: recording yourself doing of Rule of 16. Observing your own mistakes and weaknesses can help you understand what you need to breakdown in order to become a machine.
Author: Matthew Regua