Drum corps

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Beatrix Drum & Bugle Corps at a competition: the music group in the foreground, the show dancers in the back.

A drum and bugle corps (also known as drum corps ) is a music group that consists of brass , percussion and effect instruments (percussion) and a show dance group (color guard) . Depending on its size, the corps is led by one to three people (drum major) . The largest modern corps (DCI World Class Corps) can have up to 154 minstrels on the field. Many drum corps rehearse a new 8–12 minute long show each year that consists of music and choreography . Corps participate in parades and competitions organized by drum corps associations. Here the corps are rated according to musical aspects (music), choreographic aspects (visual) and the overall impression (general effect) . Typical styles of music in a show are classical , jazz , pop & rock , musicals and Latin American music .


Origins of the modern drum corps

The Drum and Bugle Corps have their origins in North American military history, and they developed independently of similar formations such as B. the Marching Band . After the First World War, these formations were often worn by military organizations (e.g. Veterans of Foreign Wars , American Legion ) in the USA and were therefore very military in their appearance. The modern drum and bugle corps came into being when the desire for more artistic and financial freedom arose within some drum corps in the 1960s. This movement led to the establishment of two new associations, the Drum Corps Associates (DCA, 1965) and the Drum Corps International (DCI, 1972). This made it possible to modernize the restrictive scoring guidelines of the late 1960s and to add new elements. These include the use of modern instruments, freer tempos , more complex asymmetrical formation movements, sophisticated guard costumes and props, and the use of immobile percussion instruments, such as B. Marimbaphones . The valveless natural horns and Bugles (Bugles) were modern chromatic valve instruments (eg. Trumpets ) replaced so that the name Drum and Bugle Corps is actually obsolete: Bugles are no longer used in modern Corps.

Drum Corps in Germany

Drum corps became known in Germany in the 1980s. The Drum Corps Germany (DCD), which was newly founded at this time, was only able to last a few years. Many drum corps became inactive or relocated, e.g. B. in the Netherlands. The first German Open took place in Hameln in September 1998, and the Drum Corps Germany association was founded in 2002. The Drum Corps Germany association dissolved in 2010. Since then there is no longer a German association, but the German Open still takes place in Hameln every September.



The brass section of a drum & bugle corps (brass) originally consisted of bugles , i.e. valveless fanfares in different pitch ranges (sopranos, altos, baritones). Over the years, the desire for more diverse applicability led to the fact that the instruments were initially equipped with one, later two and at the end of the 1980s with three valves and were also approved for competitions. All instruments are Marching Brass instruments with the bell (scale length) facing forward.

Until the 1990s, only instruments tuned in G were permitted in the USA, in line with the traditional military music mood. A few years ago, B-flat and F-instruments prevailed, as they have been used for a long time in marching bands and wind orchestras. The brass section tuned in G was gradually replaced by Bb and F instruments in the larger corps of the USA, the Netherlands and Germany. Only in Great Britain do numerous corps still play with G instruments.

The typical brass line-up consists of trumpets, mellophones , baritones and tubes. Occasionally the standard line-up is supplemented by euphonies.


The percussion and effect instruments (percussion) in the modern drum corps are divided into two different, equivalent sections : the front ensemble or pit (percussion) and the (back) battery or drumline . The front ensemble consists of various instruments such as marimbaphones, xylophones , vibraphones , kettledrum , drums , cymbals , gongs , drum sets and others. The drumline consists of players who march across the field together with the show dance group and the brass, run formations and make music. Usually four different instruments belong to this section: the snare drums , the tenor drums (also quads , quints or toms ), the bass drums and occasionally cymbals .

So-called high tension snares are used as snare drums , which differ from the usual marching drums used by minstrels or fanfares. Tenor Drums exist to a limited extent in addition to the four to six relatively high and differently tuned small drums (toms), which allows players tenor rhythm and melodic playing. Bass drums come in a variety of sizes (usually from 18 ″ to 32 ″ in diameter) and are tuned differently for the same reasons.

Show elements

Color Guard

The task of the Color Guard is to provide a visual background to the music of the Corps in order to reinforce its impression or to create new impressions. She combines dance and gymnastic elements. This includes precisely executed movements as well as mastering the use of various accessories (equipment work). The standard utensils include flags (flags), rifle dummies (rifles) and saber-dummies (sabers), partly flagpoles, tires, balls and much more is used. The Guard's uniform is often different from that of the rest of the Corps.


Today's choreographies (drills) are very complex and sophisticated. Standard formations such as blocks are still used, but asymmetrical figures dominate. The following types of choreography can be distinguished: linear, static, form-oriented and movement-oriented. Choreographies can be written at very different speeds, for example to depict a flowing, snake-like movement or to create a series of rapidly changing, different forms. Geometric figures such as squares, triangles and circles, or symbols such as crosses or stars, are also frequently used . Just as important as the movements are the so-called stand stills . These are usually high points, very loud or demanding parts, or other dramatic moments in the show, the effect of which is reinforced by a sudden standstill of the entire corps (or individual parts).

Running technique

The running technique used in drum corps for running and marching is for the purpose of moving fluently and keeping the upper body still so that the players can maintain musical precision while running at all possible tempos and in all possible directions. To do this, the runners roll their feet from the heels to the tips of their toes (heel-toe rollstep). The stride length should be 57 cm. The stride length is defined according to the "eight to five mode". Drum corps learn the choreographies i. d. R. on an American football field. The vertical yard lines, which mark the space gained in football, are arranged at a distance of 5 yards (4.57 m). Eight steps at 4.57 m make approx. 57 cm. The exception is the so-called Jazzrun, which is used when a greater distance has to be overcome on the field.

Since the instruments emit their sound to the front, the music arrives best in the stands when the musicians' upper bodies point forward towards the audience during the entire show. Brass players rotate their lower body in the direction of their movement while keeping their upper body facing the grandstand. This is not possible for the drummers (drumline) due to their instruments. Instead, they walk sideways (crab step) and always cross one leg over the other when walking sideways. All players go backwards i. d. Usually on tiptoe, as this allows the most fluid movements. These guidelines do not apply to the show dance group, they look in the direction that the choreography dictates.

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