How to Play the Marching Band Snare Drum Fast

By Alexis Lawrence ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Snare drum
  • Drum sticks

If you play the snare drum in a marching band, one of the most important skills you can learn is playing the drum at a rapid pace. The very quick beats on a snare drum, like a drum roll, are a recurring part of marching band music. Playing the snare drum fast can be a difficult skill to master, but there are ways to get the most out of your sticks and to increase your playing speed.

Hold your sticks at the fulcrum point to provide the most natural bounce-back in the stick. This way, the sticks do most of the work.

Find the fulcrum point by holding your index finger out, palm up, over your snare about 2 inches from the drum head. Lay your drumstick across your index finger, curving your finger up slightly to keep it from rolling off. Lift the tip of your drumstick 2 inches off your finger and drop it so that it falls and hits the snare. Count how many times it bounces. Move the stick forward and backward on your finger, counting the bounces each time. When you find the spot where the stick has the greatest number of bounces, you have found the fulcrum point.

Change up your grip. Some marching band coaches might require you to hold your sticks in a certain way for showmanship. If permitted, though, try different styles. Many drummers find that the French style of holding their sticks produces more speed.

Hold your drumsticks in a French grip by pinching the stick between your thumb and index finger, and using your other fingers to push up on the back of the stick, making the tip hit the drum head. The French grip is ideal for fast strokes. All of the world record holders in speed drumming have used this style.

Learn the drum roll rudiments, like the double stroke roll. In a double stroke roll, instead of alternating hands, you make two quick beats with one hand and two quick beats with the other. Instead of left, right, left, right, you play left, left, right, right. Instead of two separate strokes, the two beats on each side take only one stroke. When you hit the snare, your drumstick bounces back. If you don’t inhibit the stick’s motion or pull your hand back, the stick will automatically bounce back to hit the drum again.

Push down on the stick as it bounces up to make this happen even faster. Once you master two rapid beats, try three. The faster you can play with one hand, the faster you will be able to play with both.

Use constant downward pressure. When you see drummers playing, it looks like an up-and-down movement of the arm for each stoke. For some types of drumming, it is. But to play very fast beats, you must supply downward pressure to get the stick back to the drum head quickly. It will bounce up on its own.

Relax and conserve energy. One of the biggest detractors from drum playing speed is muscle fatigue. So don't tense up.

Do not let your stick bounce back more than 2 or 3 inches to conserve energy. The higher your drumstick bounces off the drum, the more effort you have to use to get it back onto the drum head. If you are out on the field playing a long song with lots of drum rolls, you don’t want to waste all your energy at the start and not have enough to get you through to the end.

About the Author

Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.