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What Is Indoor Percussion?

Indoor percussion, a dynamic blend of rhythm and movement, transforms gymnasiums into stages for competitive performance art. It marries precise drumming with theatrical expression, where ensembles captivate with synchronized beats and visual storytelling. Intrigued by how performers turn percussion into spectacle? Discover the crescendo of this art form and its impact on the marching arts. What's your rhythm?
R. Stamm
R. Stamm

Indoor percussion is a marching band that utilizes the battery and pit sections of the group and performs inside during the winter months. If the group is a complete indoor ensemble, the music is rich and rhythmic with an array of tones and melodies. An all drum line ensemble typically provides the listener with heart-throbbing, complicated rhythms, and hand clapping beats. Bands choreograph routines to provide audiences with a moving visual experience that tells a story based on the selected music. There are percussion groups for high school students, college students, and private groups with different competitions in the spring for all.

The battery portion, also called the drum line, of an indoor percussion group is comprised of the bass drums, tenor drums, and the snares. Pit instruments, or the front ensemble, used in the band may include mallet percussion instruments, auxiliary percussion, and even electronic keyboards. Some competitions are allowing bands to include guitars in their groups along with unconventional instruments such as trash cans, pipes, and other ordinary items that make percussive sounds. Competitions do not allow any prerecorded music or sounds to supplement or add to any portion of the band.

The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music.
The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music.

Musical selections for indoor percussion groups are quite different from those of outdoor marching bands. The music for an indoor group incorporates more melody while outdoor marching bands use more technique. The brass section is altogether eliminated from the indoor group allowing the band to play softer compositions. Music selections may include classical compositions, pieces from different cultures around the world, popular American music, or show tunes.

Performances for indoor percussion are extremely physical, and instrumentalists must coordinate a dance routine as well as play an instrument. Every member in the group is expected to move about in some way including musicians playing stationary instruments. Sometimes percussion groups include the flag corps adding to the dramatic effects of a performance. Groups may enhance the performance with stage settings, props, and unique costumes that fit the mood of the music.

Modern indoor percussion groups are much different from the marching bands of long ago. Schools started to encourage their marching bands to play inside during the winter months in order to maintain the band’s skills. As a result, bands evolved from marching back and forth on a football field into more complex routines and musical compositions. This practice spread throughout the United States into Japan, and it is enjoyed by spectators worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is indoor percussion and how does it differ from marching band?

Indoor percussion, also known as indoor drumline or winter percussion, is a competitive activity that involves a percussion ensemble performing a choreographed musical show in an indoor arena. Unlike marching band, which includes brass, woodwinds, and a full color guard, indoor percussion focuses solely on percussion instruments and may incorporate electronic instruments and dance elements. Performances are typically held on gymnasium floors and are judged on music performance, visual effect, and overall artistry.

What types of instruments are used in indoor percussion ensembles?

Indoor percussion ensembles utilize a variety of instruments, including traditional marching percussion like snare drums, tenor drums, bass drums, and cymbals. They also feature keyboard percussion such as marimbas, vibraphones, and xylophones. Additionally, ensembles often incorporate electronic instruments like synthesizers and electric drums, as well as auxiliary percussion instruments like timpani, gongs, and various hand percussion to enhance the musical texture and complexity of their performances.

How are indoor percussion competitions structured and judged?

Indoor percussion competitions are structured with ensembles performing in timed intervals, usually in a gymnasium or arena. Judges evaluate the groups based on specific criteria, including musicality, precision, visual design, and general effect. Scores are given in each category, and the ensemble with the highest cumulative score wins. Competitions are often organized by circuits like Winter Guard International (WGI), which hosts regional and world championship events annually.

Can anyone join an indoor percussion ensemble, and what is the typical commitment?

Joining an indoor percussion ensemble is generally open to students with varying levels of experience, though some groups may require auditions. The commitment can be significant, with rehearsals several times a week, plus weekend competitions during the season, which typically runs from late fall to early spring. Participants are expected to dedicate time to practice, attend rehearsals, and maintain performance standards throughout the season.

What educational benefits do participants gain from indoor percussion?

Participants in indoor percussion ensembles gain numerous educational benefits, including the development of musical skills, discipline, teamwork, and time management. They learn to interpret complex musical arrangements and to perform with precision and expression. Additionally, the collaborative nature of the ensemble fosters communication and leadership skills. The competitive aspect encourages a strong work ethic and resilience, as students strive for excellence in each performance.

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Discussion Comments


My daughter has been a part of a non-conventional indoor percussion team for a few years.

She is involved with this group through her church youth group, and they have participated in several competitions.

About the only limitations to the types of instruments you can use for this is your imagination. I am constantly impressed with the different sounds and type of instruments they use.

Some of the things they use most often are garbage can lids, five-gallon buckets, metal pipes and spokes on a bicycle wheel. They have even used brooms and pots and pans as part of their performances.

One way to get people exposed to this type of group is to give a performance at a local park. It doesn't take long to have a crowd of all different ages watching what they are doing.


My son plays on the drum line of an indoor percussion group. When most people think of playing the drums, they think of one particular type of drum such as a snare drum.

With a drum line, not only do you get all types of drums being played, but a very streamlined physical performance as well.

This is a high energy group that really works hard. I never get tired of watching their performances.

Sometimes it is hard to stay seated with the beats of all the different drums and the feet-stomping, hand-clapping sounds they make.


My brother is a high school band director and in the last few years, he started an indoor percussion group in his school.

He says the benefits of this have been amazing. He found that the kids who are participating in this are very eager and excited about learning and competing.

There is a lot more to this than just knowing how to play a percussion instrument. Many of them have been trained to play a large variety of percussion instruments.

This adds to the versatility of the group. He has had no trouble getting the kids to work hard for their competitions.

The first time I attended one of these competitions I was really amazed at what I saw. It was really interesting how they could play these instruments and perform a routine at the same time.

There was not one dull moment throughout the entire competition.


That last detail about the indoor marching bands pushing the boundaries of the performance is really interesting. I can remember seeing marching bands when I was in high school almost 50 years ago and they were nothing like the marching band I saw at my grandson's university a few years ago.


I have been to a few drumline performances and I think they are incredible. As far as I am concerned, the drum line is a completely new kind of performance. It is unlike anything ever done before.

This is because it combines, music and dance into a single performer. The drumline is as much about the way it looks as sounds. Each drummer is playing with visual flair. They perform as individuals and come together as a group. It's a sight to behold.

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    • The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music.
      The rubberboard, or frottoir, is a type of percussion instrument used in zydeco music.