I used to play drums for a marching drum corps, but not the sexy tenor drum, or the staccato rhythmic snare. The drum they gave me to play was the bass, the largest drum with the biggest sound, and the only reason it didn’t go to someone else was because I was big enough to walk with it without falling over. That’s a good reason.
The beats were easy to learn, too. There was one big BOOM, followed by one beat of silence, then another big BOOM, and it repeated ad nauseum. They were so easy because they were so boring. I would sit in the big chair during practice time with the huge drum between my legs, twirl the stick between BOOMs, and put some oomph into it, but I was so bored.
It was especially difficult toting around that bass drum when right next to me were the tenors. Boy, how I wanted to be a tenor. They had these cool straps that didn’t cut into their shoulders. In fact, their straps were across just one shoulder so they looked cool, like I imagined professionals in a real drum corps looked. And they had two drumsticks that flew through the air as they tapped out their swift beat to my steady one.
Don’t even get me started on the snares. Where the tenors were speedy, and their sticks began to blur at times, the snares were sneaky, the patter of their beat like rain coming down on a tin roof. They were like soldiers at the back of our drum line, tapping out a kind of primitive Morse code, and yet it all worked. You know, except for me and that huge bass that was like an anchor around my neck.
On rare occasions we would have a wacky day at drum corps practice where we would each take on a drum that wasn’t our own. Then we would go through each series of drum beats (they were complicated for everyone else but me, normally), from 1 through 4, and see if we could get through each series without any mistakes. I prided myself on taking a different drum during those times and making sure I wasn’t the one who messed up. Maybe deep in the back of my mind I hoped the corps leaders would see my prowess with different drums and make the switch permanent.
It never happened. But on some level I guess that was okay. I mean, without me and the solid backbeat I set for everyone else the rest of the beat would meander instead of stick in rhythm. If it wasn’t for me and that dreadfully heavy bass there would have been no drum corps, and that ended up being good enough for me eventually. Of course by then some of the others had grown bigger and could have handled the drum. But it was mine along with the beat. Along with the beat.