Frequently asked Questions
How do you tune your bass drum?
There are several ways to do this. Some people tune the playing head a little bit higher than the sounding head. Others do the opposite. I go back and forth but tend to tune the playing head about a step higher than the other. In any case you have to be sure that the head is tuned to itself by making sure that the pitch at each lug is the same. I do this by ear or sometimes use the Drum Dial found at most percussion stores. Than I try to get the lowest pitch that I can on plastic heads without sounding like paper. And don’t forget that it takes a while for the heads to set and sound good.

When do you stand up to play?
You know, in Europe the players quite often do not stand up to play, but in the United States we do. Most of the time I stand up in a comfortable amount of time to get set to play. There are times however that I might stand up earlier. One would be if I want to change the position of my music stand to see the conductor better or adjust the Bass Drum. Another might be to avoid a very soft spot in the music just before I play so that I don’t spoil the mood . In any case we in the section try to stand up together so that we make the least amount of motion. The same applies to sitting down. I may wait to sit down in order not to spoil the mood when the music is quiet.

How do you keep your place during long rests?
This is important. During the first rehearsal of any piece I am paying attention and counting. During this time I take the opportunity to write in my own cues. Many times the cues given in the music are not good because they want you to hear a soft flute part while the brass are playing loud. There are times, however, that the written cues are good, and at those times I circle the cue to remind me that this is one to listen for. I also listen for obvious cues that occur particularly at a rehearsal number but also sometimes in between. If it is at the rehearsal number I extend the bar line below the staff and then continue horizontally like the letter (L). This tells me that the cue is on that bar and I write the necessary instrument name in that corner. For entrances in the middle of a long rest, I write the number of the measure that it occurs as I am counting instead of writing the number of measures before and after. For instance if the entrance comes on the 23rd bar in 30 bars rest, I just put a #23 below the staff. I then put a horizontal line above it and the name of the instrument on the line. Sometimes there are minor cues that I just put down the measure number with a circle to listen for something. Sometimes in long operas with tacet parts I use my watch timer. Keep it simple... but accurate!