Stick & Mallet Section for Marching Percussion | Meyer Music News

August 14th, 2013

By Clif Walker, Associate Director of Bands & Director of Percussion Studies – Blue Springs High School

There are many great stick and mallet companies in the world. At Blue Springs High School we use Innovative Percussion due to the superior variety and availability of both quality product and service. The recommendations below can easily be translated into similar products offered by different companies.

I. Marching Bass Drum Mallets:

A. Size/Weight: Bass drum mallets generally graduate with the size of the drum – the smaller the drum the smaller the mallet (less air to move, less needed to move that air). If you march smaller bass drums (16”, 18”, 20”, 24” for example) you may not need 4 different sizes of bass mallets due to relatively close sizes of this configuration. I have had success with the following recipe:

Drum sizes 14” – 18”       Innovative Percussion FBX-1 Mallets

Drum sizes 20”, 22”        Innovative Percussion FBX-2 Mallets

Drum sizes 24”, 26”        Innovative Percussion FBX-3 Mallets

Drum sizes 28”, 30”        Innovative Percussion FBX-4 Mallets

Drum size “32                Innovative Percussion FBX-5 Mallets

If your bass drum section is consistently staged visually backfield or you have a very large band/winds, you may want to consider larger mallets (and larger drums, and larger kids to carry them!). Keep in mind, mallets size/weight effects volume, not articulation.

B. Articulation: Bass drum mallets general come in 3 degrees of articulation:

    1. Wood (very hard/very articulate) –back of the felt mallet/using the handle side
    2. Felt    (general, hard, articulate) – most common/characteristic sound
    3. Puffy (soft, little to no articulation)

Depending on your venue (outdoor stadium versus inside a dome) and musical arrangement (bass drums paired with woodwinds, paired with brass, as a solo, etc.).

 

II. Marching Snare Drum Sticks:

A. Size /Weight: when choosing a snare stick, be mindful of the student’s needs and limitations – what might feel good to you may be too advanced for them. Similar to the large pencils Pre-K children use to develop finer motors skills, a larger drumstick will actually be a little easier for a younger player to handle. The large stick leaves less room for variation in the grip and can help build muscle. I find my high school students are successful using:

Innovative Percussion FS-MM MIKE MCINTOSH OUTDOOR MODEL

Innovative Percussion FS-PR2 PAUL RENNICK MODEL #2

Companies like Innovative Percussion also offer smaller models (size effects volume) which work well with indoor ensembles and smaller bands (balance to smaller wind groups).

B. Tip/Bead Type: acorn, olive, round, bullet, reverse teardrop, teardrop, barrel – all produce slightly different sounds and feels. Selection in part depends on the technique your snare section incorporates. For example, if their hand position is high/slanted – a round bead will sound more consistent. If they play flat, barrel tips can produce a lot of sound (but technique has to be very consistent).

Hickory tends to be more durable and better suited for demands of outdoor playing (as opposed to maple which is traditionally lighter and faster). I personally avoid nylon tipped sticks with marching ensembles as the amount of use, wear and tear and shock can break down glues used to hold nylon tips onto wood sticks.

 

III. Tenor Sticks/Mallets:

Two schools of thought dominate tenor implements: sticks versus mallets. Great groups disagree and use both. While preference is maybe the largest determining factor, here are some guiding thoughts:

A. Sticks: tend to feel more natural in the hand, is generally more articulate than a mallet but produces less sound (less mass than a mallet) and might not offer the rim clearance a mallet provides when moving around the drums quickly.

B. Mallets: available in both metal and hickory shafts, help younger players/smaller sections get a bigger sound (more mass) but feel less natural, are less articulate and metal bends over time (life of mallet is shorter than a stick).

We use:

Innovative Percussion TS-2 MULTI-TOM DRUM STICK / NYLON BEAD

Some tenor lines use snare sticks. Again, preference and player’s ability are factors. Snare sticks are longer than tenor sticks and can demand more maturity in technique/moving around the drums which are very close to player.

If your tenor section is small (two players or less) and/or consistently staged visually backfield or you have a very large band/winds, you may want to consider larger mallets.

B. Articulation: Tenor sticks and mallets general come in 3 degrees of articulation:

    1. Acrylic / Wood (hard/articulate) – most common/characteristic sound
    2. Felt/Rubber  (soft, less articulate)
    3. Puffy (very soft, little to no articulation)

 

IV. Taping Battery Sticks and Mallets:

The tradition of using electrical tape on marching sticks and mallets has its origins in both function and aesthetics. Stick tape carefully placed on sticks can:

  1. prolong the life of the stick (a little) and help protect your investment
  2. uniform grip placement/technique player to player
  3. help stick heights/performance standout against uniform color/help audience and judges see and enjoy sticks more clearly in action

Make sure tape is replaced frequently and new tape is not placed on top of old tape. The weight of the tape adds mass to the sticks and mallets and can drastically change the feel if not careful. Avoid tape colors that don’t work well with the big picture (when in doubt, you can’t be white).

 

V: Alternative Sounds:

The spectrum of creative sounds available to the battery are infinite and specific to the show theme/arrangement/style of music. These sticks and mallets can be used sparingly for special effect/texture/color year after year if you take care of them. Here are a few common alternative sounds that are popular:

BR-5W SYNTHETIC BUNDLE RODS – LIGHT

BR-8 FANNED “CAPS” BUNDLE STICK

BR-9 FANNED BUNDLE STICK

BZW-2 “BUNDLZ ” WOOD

 

VI. Misc:

Rain: at the first sign of rain, cover and protect all bass drum and front ensemble mallets. Water is the enemy and as the mallets dry, their form and consistency can warp, puff, bloat and negatively effect sound, feel, and articulation.

Life: Like reeds and strings, all sticks and mallets have a life span depending on frequency of use. Just because an implement isn’t “broken” doesn’t mean it’s capable of producing quality sounds. Depending on type (snare versus marimba) they will need to be replaced. We budget for:

Snare & Tenors: 4 pairs of sticks for each a player June – November

Bass Drums: 2 pairs per player June – November

Marimbas & Vibes: 2 pairs per type of mallet June – November

Concert Bass Drums, Gongs, Xylophone, Bells: 1 pair June – November

Practice/Performance: With all of our battery and front ensemble mallets, we try to save a new pair mallets for our “performance mallets” and use a slightly older pair for rehearsal. This saves wear and tear and ensures the highest quality at halftime. Last year’s performance mallets become next year’s practice mallets.

 

VII. Front Ensemble Mallets:

Utilizing marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones and timpani outdoors requires some careful planning in regard to mallets. Amplification, number of players on a part (how many marimbas, vibes, etc.) and where in the range of the instruments the parts are written can help guide mallet selection.

A. Size/Weight: Mass again determines volume, so outdoor keyboard mallets are commonly designed with a very heavy core, covered with durable synthetic yarn.

B. Articulation: keyboard and timpani mallets come in multiple degrees of articulation ranging from very soft to extremely hard. It is likely a player will need 3 or 4 different degrees of hardness/softness over the course of a show. High register parts often require harder mallets, while extreme low register parts call for softer mallets (helps protect the instrument and provide characteristic tone).

Recommendations:

marimba

IP2004

HARD MARIMBA MALLETS – BLACK YARN – BIRCH

IP2003

MEDIUM MARIMBA MALLETS – BLACK YARN – BIRCH

IP4003

HARD MARIMBA MALLETS – CRANBERRY YARN – BIRCH

IP2002

SOFT MARIMBA MALLETS – BLACK YARN – BIRCH

IP2001

EXTRA SOFT MARIMBA MALLETS – BLACK YARN – BIRCH

vibe

IP2007

HARD VIBRAPHONE / MARIMBA MALLETS – RED CORD – RATTAN

IP2006

MEDIUM HARD VIBRAPHONE / MARIMBA MALLETS – RED CORD – RATTAN

IP2005

MEDIUM SOFT VIBRAPHONE / MARIMBA MALLETS – RED CORD – RATTAN

xylophone

bells

IP1007

INDOOR/OUTDOOR – MEDIUM-DARK XYLOPHONE MALLETS – PURPLE – RATTAN

IP901

SOFT XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – TAN – RATTAN

IP902

MEDIUM SOFT XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – RED – RATTAN

IP903

DARK XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – WHITE – RATTAN

IP904

HARD XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – GREEN – RATTAN

IP905

BRIGHT XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – RUST – RATTAN

IP906

BRILLIANT XYLOPHONE / GLOCKENSPIEL MALLETS – BLACK – RATTAN

auxiliary

percussion

CB-1

CONCERT BASS DRUM / EXTRA LARGE

CB-2

CONCERT BASS DRUM / SOFT

CC-1

concert chime hammer (large)

CC-2

concert chime hammer (small)

IP- 5AX

multi percussion/xylo bell

IP-1M

multi-percussion/hickory