Starting an Indoor Drumline

Indoor drumlines have exploded in popularity in the last couple of decades. This type of ensemble offers students an exciting way to showcase their abilities, learn teambuilding skills and continue to learn and excel with their chosen instrument. If you’ve been hoping to bring an indoor drumline program to your school, here is an outline of how to create a successful ensemble.

Step 1: Identify the personality of the ensemble

The two groups that form your ensemble are the student musicians and your staff – and both are incredibly important to creating the identity and personality of your group. Spend the time up front to learn about your members: their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, opinions, preferences and styles. Trying to force a personality or identity on a group of people will not make them a better, stronger group. Understand the same elements about your staff and find the commonalities that will allow you to all work together as a cohesive group.

The exciting part is that music is an incredible form of interaction and finding music that the group enjoys will open those lines of communication. Expose your students to a variety of music and see what they respond to. Talk about what the music “looks like” and “feels like” and if it inspires them.

Use all of this information about personalities, strengths and preferences as a base for your drumline’s sound, look and feel. 

Step 2: Design a show that will make you stand out

Even if you aren’t a competitive drumline, you still want to be unique and stand out from the crowd. Your program concept, music choices and visuals will combine to give you a distinct style. Some things to think about as you craft a concept and design your show include:

-  Select music that fits the skills of your musicians – don’t try to go too far out of their comfort zones.
-  Select music that lends itself to interesting visuals, but nothing too complicated that you won’t be able to illustrate it with your current members.
-  Keep a holistic view of the entire show – don’t create your program one piece at a time. The selections need to flow into the next in a pleasing way.

Study other ensembles and drumlines to see how their music goes with their visuals and how the entire program creates a flow that the audience can follow and is engaged with. Understand the pacing and provide interest throughout the entire program.

This design step is obviously one that will take time and effort. It’s also a learning process. Accept input and feedback from your staff and your students. You’re not going to design an entire perfect show on your first attempt, so be patient and absorb and learn as you go. 

For more information on designing your show, read our article on programming an indoor drumline.

Step 3: Choose the best instruments and equipment

Unless you are starting an indoor drumline program from scratch, you probably already have a selection of instruments, equipment and gear. But once you have your program sketched out, do an audit of everything you have on hand, assess your budget, and figure out what you need to add to complete you program and be able to perform the type of program you’ve created.

We have a huge selection of everything you need for an indoor drumline ensemble, include marching snare, tenor and bass drums; mallet instruments like marimbas and vibraphones; cymbals; hand percussion; technology; recording gear and more. Educators can also stretch their budgets by taking advantage of our incredible discounts. Read the director’s guide on gear for indoor drumline to get started.

Step 4: Put in the appropriate effort to train and practice

It’s no secret that training, practicing and rehearsing is critical to any music program and is especially important in any marching situation where students will be playing while moving. It’s up to you design the proper warm-up and technique instruction. This will take time and effort, but don’t skimp on this area.

Winter Guard International suggests that you be sure to account for:

-  Movement fundamentals
-  Basics of step-time-space-line
-  Method of traveling
-  Postural and gestural qualities
-  Expressive qualities of movement dynamics (weight/time/space/flow)

Encourage consistency and discipline in practice. Keep the practice positive and as stress-free as you can so that the sessions don’t have negative associations for your students. Of course, there will be frustrations as everyone learns new movements and behaviors, but yelling at students will not help productivity. 

Step 5: Constantly learn and adjust

As mentioned above, this will be a learning process for you, your staff and your students. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, practice errors or poor technique. Make corrections quickly, as soon as you notice them. Likewise, if you have selected a piece that simply isn’t working for your team, allow yourselves to fail fast and move on! Don’t force a selection that your students hate or simply can’t learn because it’s beyond their skill sets.

A great drumline instructor will understand the importance of the team, and compromise where necessary. Set goals for the team and provide ways to achieve them. Celebrate successes! This will motivate your staff and your students to continue to excel and keep learning.


Indoor drumline is an exciting adventure for you and your students. Take the time up front to plan and prepare and your young musicians will reap the benefits for years to come. If you need more assistance in stocking your drumline with the best instruments and equipment, contact our musical experts at 800.346.4448 and they’ll work with you and your budget to build the best indoor drumline possible.