Click to visit the Palen Music Center websitePalen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, September 11, 2006


The PMC Quick Note is a weekly service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest.  The weekly Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome. Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues.

Marching Percussion Instrumentation by James Campbell

Selecting the appropriate size percussion section for your marching band is often a difficult process. The director must balance the varied instrumentation of the percussion section to the size of the wind section. One must consider the talent level of the students and the scoring of the musical arrangements to provide a full ensemble sound in the percussion section. Although the exact instrumentation of the percussion section serves to personalize the sound of each band, care should be taken to balance the instrumentation to avoid having one segment of the percussion section overpowering the rest of the band. Your percussion section should be balanced just as the choir director balances the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. The following instrumentation
is recommended to provide a balanced ensemble sound:


Winds Total
Perc. Total
Snare Drums
Bass Drums
2 or 3
1 or 2
3 or 4
2 or 3
2 or 3
5 or 6
2 or 3
3 or 4
4 or 5
5 or 6


A significant development in contemporary marching percussion sections has been the use of tuned bass drums. By tuning the bass drums in minor thirds, walking bass lines and other melodic and harmonic passages can be reinforced by the bass drums. Today’s bass drummers must have a good sense of time, as the parts are very isolated, yet together they become very contrapuntal. Marching toms should also be tuned in minor thirds and should be the tenor/alto extension of the basses. In addition, when purchasing equipment always remember that sticking patterns are easier when written over four drums as opposed to three. Therefore, I encourage the purchase of at least one set of quads.


Utilize at least one cymbal player for every two snare drummers so that ride cymbal passages will sound most effective. Cymbals are the most visual segment of the percussion section and the use of an extra player may serve to make an effective visual contribution to a field show. Cymbal sizes and timbres should be selected by keeping the music in mind. Always enhance the music as much as possible. It is common practice to utilize concert percussion instruments in modern field shows by placing them in the front area of the field, which is referred to as the “pit” (as in orchestra pit). The pit is the staging area for mallet instruments, timpani, and accessories. These grounded instruments make it possible for performers to play several instruments during the course of a production and expand the range of musical possibilities in percussion scoring.


James CampbellJames Campbell has received worldwide recognition as a performer, teacher, author, and is a respected figure in the development of the contemporary percussion ensemble. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Sweden, Japan, and Singapore. Currently, professor of music and director of percussion studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, he also holds the position of principal percussionist with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra. James has served in several positions with the Percussive Arts Society including president, and now serves on the board of directors. James Campbell is a Yamaha performing artist and clinician. This article was used with the permission of Yamaha.

State Music Educator Websites

There are so many resources available to band directors on state association websites. Below are some quick links to the Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma music educator and bandmaster websites. In next week's Quick Note, we would like to feature district level websites. If you have a website you would like to see featured, please let us know!


Missouri Bandmasters Association

Arkansas Bandmasters Association

Oklahoma Music Educators Association

Oklahoma Bandmasters Association

Kansas Music Educators Association

Kansas Bandmasters Association

Cool Internet Shortcut

Do you want to save two seconds every time you type in a new website address in your Internet browser? If you know the name of the site you are going to visit (like for example) all you need to do is type in "palenmusic" and then hit control and enter at the same time. The browser will automatically fill in the "http://www." and the ".com" around the website name and automatically jump you to the webpage. Cool, eh?

Online Rental Portal Available

If you have students who miss the instrument display night, you might direct them to the Palen Music Center Online Rental webportal. The parents can specify an instrument of choice, fill out the information, and we can deliver the instrument to the school. It is that easy! Just visit and click Online Rental.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


(417) 882-7000
Bob Hopkins and Mike Brown
Springfield North (417) 862-2700 Burl Williams
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


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