How Drummers Know What To Work On In A Sea Of Endless Possibility.

Nov 14 / Mark Perrett

If you’re practicing the art of percussion, knowing what to work on is sometimes really hard. You know there are a million things you need to develop, but which do you do first?

My advice is to first determine what you want to get out of your practice and make your practice material align with your goals. 

Here are a few reasons you might want to get better, and some solutions to start working towards those goals:


“I just want to have fun drumming. I see people drumming on Instagram to really dope songs and I want to make drumming videos like that."

If you don’t have the basics down, you should definitely start there. But if you already have previous drumming experience and just want to be good enough to learn drum licks for fun, try picking some simple music and working through it super slow.

For example, you can grab some sheet music from our Gridbook Quick Licks Course and work through those tempo thresholds.

Once you have the music learned, try picking a song with an appropriate BPM and play the quick lick along with the track. This is a great way to get used to playing along to music.

Then record yourself playing along the track! 
The more you do this the more you will develop and start getting better at aligning the music you play to the right tracks. And if you want to dive deeper and make the quality of what you’re playing better, start digging into more fundamental exercises.

If you want to get better with fundamentals, try our Snare Fundamentals Course!



"I want to make my high school drumline. I’m in middle school now and would love to march drumline my freshman year."

The best way to prep for high school drumline auditions is to communicate with someone at the school you want to attend way before auditions. This will give you enough time to gather information and prepare.

Try to find someone who can tell you exactly what to work on. That can be a Band Director, Percussion Staff, or current drumline members. (Not the person answering phones at the front desk.)

They should be able to tell you if there is a "Drumline Packet" to learn, or any warm ups, stand tunes, and cadences you should know.

Then, get that music and organize it into a folder. Work your way through that material slowly, and if you have any questions, try asking the person who gave you the music.

(And if you’re a Gridbook Academy Member, send us a message with the music and we can assist you!)

There is A LOT more to learn, but showing up to the first day of Drumline Tryouts already knowing the music is a big step!

That shows you are dedicated and ready to be part of the line!



"I want to get better in general. I’m in my high school drumline right now and I just want to get really good at drumming. But no specific future plans."

If you want to get really good at drumming, the secret is often in your ability to play fundamentals really well, AND know how to apply that to your performance music.

I recommend working through a fundamentals program that teaches you the building blocks of rudimental performance. 

At gridbook, we work all of our private lesson students through our Snare Fundamentals Course as a core curriculum, then select other musical pieces as needed to prepare them for their specific goals.

This often includes learning fun show music from drumlines they enjoy. So if you love the Santa Clara Vanguard, try learning a drum solo from your favorite year.

It is this combination of perfecting fundamentals, and pushing your limits with music out of your range that provides a well rounded approach. Make a folder to keep your music organized, and don’t be afraid to work slowly and methodically through your music.
If you're looking for some great material to work through to develop fundamentals, chops, and musicality, these three courses are a great place to start:

"I want to make my college drumline. I’m a senior in high school and will be trying out next audition season."

This is similar to auditioning for your high school drumline, but now with much more competition.

Depending on where you go the talent level will be different for each ensemble. So knowing the skill level and overall demand of the program you want to join is important. (Do your research!)

For WHAT to practice you will need to find their audition materials. This is usually found on the college band website and available to the public for each new year slightly before the season starts. This is another scenario where knowing the director, staff, or current members helps a lot. 

* NOTE: If you don't know anyone from the school you can usually find the band's percussion page and DM them directly. Those accounts are usually run by a student in leadership, staff, or social media staff who can connect you with someone.

College Drumlines will assume you already know the fundamentals, and will most likely have you play specific exercises from a curated packet.

So get to know the packet material REALLY WELL. Be able to play it from memory, with quality, and be able to rehearse through the music as well. This means knowing where to stop and start, rehearsal letters, etc. 

* NOTE: If the packet isn't released yet, you can usually find packets from previous years which will have the same or similar exercises.

And for some ensembles, they will expect you to also know things that are not in the packet. So make sure you:

  • Know how to play Gridding Exercises.
  • Know how to play at all tempos. (Slow to Fast)
  • Know how to play 4-2-1 patterns out of order. (123, 321, etc)
  • Know a solo or etude for a possible individual audition.

If you’re not sure where to find these things, check out the courses below:

Also understand that every college line is different. If you’re going to try our for an HBCU Marching Band that will be a different style than a Corps Style Marching Band. So make sure you are practicing with the correct approach as it relates to where you want to march.
* An added detail of trying out for a college drumline means also making it into the college itself. So make sure you’re following admission guidelines for applying to the college of your choice. 



"I want to march in a world class DCI/WGI drumline, but they seem so good. There’s an overwhelming amount of stuff to work on, so I’m not sure where to put my focus to be prepared by auditions."

First, understand that making a world class drumline takes many years of experience and you’re competing with the best of the best! Many people have to try out for multiple years and get cut a few times before making a corps, so going down this road takes dedication! 

BUT IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

We will write a much more in-depth article on this in the future, but here is a basic outline of what you should know to make a world class DCI or WGI group:

PLAYING DEMANDS
  • Fundamentals
  • Gridding
  • Rudiments
  • Hybrid Rudiments
  • Packet Material
  • Prepared Solo
  • Show Music Excerpts

MARCHING DEMANDS

  • Physical Fitness (Gotta be in shape!!)
  • Fundamentals/Basics Of Marching
  • Great Foot Timing (Through all musical demands)
  • Be Able To March & Play
  • Understand Body Work/Movement (Gotta move just as well as the Color Guard!)

OTHER SPECIFICS

  • All musical demands should not only be memorized, but executed with quality. 


  • You should have well developed chops, hand speed, and technical ability.


  • Perform all music without mental errors. (Be able to focus under pressure.)


  • Be comfortable performing in front of peers and people you don’t know.


  • Have a great level of sight reading. If they hand you a piece of music, be comfortable with a first read and pick it up quickly.


  • Be a good person. When everyone can drum and marching really well, ensembles often make their final cuts based on who they like as a person.


  • Be a great communicator.


  • Play with the technique of the line you’re trying out for. (Who is teaching there? What style to they use?)


  • Be a great line player, not just a great individual player. (Be able to match your approach and quality of sound to your listening situation.)


  • Know some of the show music from previous years. (Test your vocabulary with demands they are going to expect from you when the season hits.)


  • Make adjustments quickly. If someone tells you to adjust something (Play with less arm, curl your fingers more in the left hand etc) and you make a permanent changes right away, that means you’re a fast learner and going to to be easy to work with on the field. 


Yes, this is a lot.

BUT with proper time management and the right resources you can develop over time and eventually accomplish your goals!

AND NOW FOR THE RECAP!
So how do drummers know what to work on in a sea of endless possibility?

1. Determine your goals. Write them down to make them more tangible.

2. Research and communicate. Determine what it will take to achieve those goals. Then write those down to keep track of your road map.

3. Get a time management plan together. I recommend making a list of all the things you need to know, and divide them up by the weeks you have before auditions.

4. Start practicing! And know that you will need to adjust your schedule and practice methods as time goes on. Things change and you get better!

I hope this has been helpful for you, or at the very least, given you some new motivation to reach your goals.

And if you’re having trouble staying focused and need an accountability partner, we would love to help!

Gridbook Percussion Academy has everything you need to work on from the list above in a well organized curriculum. Our members have unlimited access to course material, direct access to world class educators to answer your questions directly, and a community of other passionate students to bounce ideas off of as you practice.

Any questions you have let us know! Thanks for your time and have fun getting better!