Web Master Peter McCarthy BEM
Drill for Band & Corps of Drums

The following details is not intended to countermand the individual traditions of Regiments but is given as a guide and to set a standard when bands and drums of different Regiments etc. are massed.

On such occasions; -

The Drum Major will be six paces in front and in the centre of the leading rank. He will not throw or twirl his staff.

Side Drummers will be in fives - two paces between each drummer.

The Bass Drummer will be two paces in rear of the rank of side drums.

Tenor Drummers will be on either side of the bass drummer in the outside file. If only on tenor drummer is used, the cymbal player will make up his rank.

Flautists and Buglers - All flautists will carry bugles. The leading rank will be two paces in rear of the bass drummer, each player covering off a side drummer. Further ranks will be at two paces distance. NCO flautist will be in the rear rank.

Staff Drill for Drum Majors

Positions: -

Attention The point of the staff to be in line with and touching the toe of the right foot, staff to be held firmly at the grip below the head, wrist and elbow bent and almost touching the right side.

Carry Hold the staff obliquely at the point of balance with the left hand between the thumb and first two fingers, left elbow close to the body, wrist and elbow in line, hand in line with the waist belt and in front of the belt buckle.

Note: When marching in slow time the staff is kept still, When marching in quick time the staff is moved diagonally across the body between the right breast and the left hip.

Trail Carry the staff in the right hand below the head, thumb in line with the seam of the trousers and parallel with the ground.

Note: When marching in slow time the staff is kept still. When marching in quick time the staff is swung from front to rear.

To cease playing

First Movement: Cant the staff smartly across the body with the right hand meeting it with the left hand at the top of the chain. Right hand to be at the bottom of the chain and the staff to be held horizontally and in line with the eyes.

Second Movement:  raise the staff to an oblique position to the full extent of the right arm, the arm to be at an angle of 45 degrees with the horizontal, and the staff at right angle to the arm. Cut the left hand to the side.

Third Movement:  At the climax of the music, bring the staff to a perpendicular position in front of the body, the thumb of the right hand being in line with mouth, right elbow close to the body.

Fourth Movement: Without moving the head of eyes, allow the staff to drop perpendicularly through the right hand and resume the position of attention.

Note:  When on the march, grasp the staff as it drops about midway, and bring to the carry.

           Signal is given by the Drum Major to prepare for cease playing. Make a circular movement of the staff with the right hand from the elbow, the head of the staff being circled to the centre of the body and brought back to the position of attention. Keep the point of the staff on the ground during the movement.
Movements of the staff on the march in slow time

On the command “Slow March” the staff will be brought to the trail and carried in that position for the first six paces and then: -

First Movement: Bring the staff forward on the left foot and place it on the ground at the same time as the right foot.

Second Movement:  Bring the staff with a circular movement across the body to the left breast.

Third Movement:  Carry the staff out to the full extent of the right arm.

Fourth Movement:  Bring the staff down to the trail and carry for two paces.

Note: The complete movement takes six paces in slow time and no pause will be made between movements.

Movements of the staff on the march in quick time:

The movements are the same as for the first three movements in slow time, but the left arm is swung. These movements complete the circle, which is repeated from the position of the right arm extended.

Note: The complete movement takes four paces in quick time and no pause will be made between the movements.


First Movement:  Grip the staff at the bottom of the chain with the right hand.

Second Movement:  Bring the staff across the body to a vertical position at the right side, hand at the bottom of the chain. Bring the left hand to the bottom of the right shoulder, keeping the staff into the shoulder.

Third Movement:  Raise the staff above the head to the full extent or the right arm back of the hand to be to the right, point of the staff close to the forearm. Cut the left hand to the side.

Fourth Movement:  The band will halt drop the staff to the position of attention.

Note: Each movement will be carried out on the left foot.


If the band and drums are to march past, the Drum Major will conform to the drill as laid down for Drum Majors in the foot guards, i.e. instead of carrying his staff at the trail on reaching the saluting base he will transfer the staff (working on the left foot) from the right to the left, will salute with the right hand, and will again transfer the staff to the right hand.

Stepping off when playing:

When the band starts playing before stepping off, the signal to advance will be given by the Drum Major. The staff will be at the carry. The signal will be a full sweep of the right arm, fingers and hand extended, palm to the front, from rear to front, the hand passing close to the side. The sweep will start on the beat of the left foot and finish on the right. The band will step off on the next left foot.


The signal will be made with the arm in the direction of the wheel, right wheel with the right arm and vice versa. The staff will be transferred if necessary. The signal is the extension of the arm to the flank, level with the shoulder, fingers curled, fore finger pointing. The arm will not describe a sweep, but will remain extended until the front rank of the band has wheeled.

Counter marching - Massed Band & Drums

The senior Drum Major when he arrives at the point for the counter march will give the signal by raising his right arm straight out from the shoulder. He will keep it out for at least half a dozen paces to make sure that  all the remaining Drum Majors have observed the signals. He will then cut the arm away as his left foot comes to the ground.  The Drum Majors will act on the next time their left feet comes to the ground and counter march. When there is only one Drum Major on parade no signal is required, because the Drum Major will turn about and march back through the Drums or Band, and the remaining bandsmen will conform to this movement.Words of Command

Words of Command will be preceded by the cautionary “Band and Drums”, “Band” or “Drummers” ofr as the case may be.

To prepare for playing

The order for the bandsmen to raise their instruments will be “Band and Drums ready”. On the command “Ready” instruments will be raised to the playing position. When not playing the band will stand to with their instruments carried to the full extent of the left arm, with the exception of those instruments which are slung. This applies at the stand at ease position and at attention. Household Division orders. Words of Command will be given by the Band CSM for “Band Ready”



Attention:  Place the left heel in the hollow of the Right Foot (as for the present in rifle exercises, except it is the left foot which is moved): left hand resting on the hoop of the drum close to the body: drum stick resting on the centre of the drum head, right hand at the position of attention: drum stick pointing towards the ground: forefinger along the stick.

Stand at Ease:  Carry the left foot off 12 inches in the normal manner. Otherwise the position is as at attention.

Stand Easy:   When standing easy for a long period, bass drums, side and tenor drums may be placed on the ground immediately in front of the drummer, the drum standing on the legs provided on the top hoop. Heraldry to the front.

Note: When the ground is wet the drum will be raised off the ground by forcing the drum stick into a brace to form a support on the right hand side of the drum.

Marching without Playing

On the first left foot:  transfer the stick in the left hand to the right hand.

On the next pace:  (right foot) : bend to the left and grasp the outside of the lower hoop of the drum where the snares cross it.

On the next pace:  (left foot) : twist the drum over and resume the upright position of the body.  The drum is now held with the top hoop against the left thigh, pointing directly to the left, heraldry to the front, held by the left hand on the lower hoop. The right arm is swung, both sticks held in the right hand, in a straight line with the arm.

Marching at ease:  The Drums may be swung on to the back, using the dress cords for support over the shoulders. It is this action which governs the length of the dress cords, which should not be too long.

Prepare to Play

On the march:  “Drummers Ready”. Return drums to the playing position and transfer one stick to the left hand, working on successive left feet. Then act as below working on successive left feet.

Note: This movement is also carried out when a drummer halts when he has been marching without playing.

At the halt:  “Drummers Ready”.  Cross and touch sticks over the centre of the drum, just clear of the drum head.

Note: No further cautionary is given.

“Attention”  Bring the heads of the sticks to the mouth, sticks parallel with the ground, points of the sticks together.


Attention, stand at ease, and marching without paying

The flutes is to be held in the left hand, flute parallel with the ground head to the front. The right arm is swung when marching.

Marching Easy:  Flutes may be put into the flute cases.

Prepare to play:  Bring the flute to the mouth, at the same time meeting it with the right hand. The flute will be almost parallel to the ground, with a slight droop to the right.


To prepare for sounding when in mass

“Buglers Ready”  Grasp the bugle with the right hand at the point about midway between the mouthpiece and the bell.

“Up of Attention”  Bring the bugle sharply to the playing position. After sounding the call, buglers will return smartly to the position of attention, when the conductor drops his arm. Similar action will be taken by single buglers when sounding normal routine duty calls in camp or barracks.



The Bass Drummer:  Drum to the left side leaning against the left leg, heraldry to the front, a drum stick in each hand, right hand at the position of attention as for the side drum. The tilt of the drum will be sufficient for the time keeper to carry his left foot 12 inches when he stands at ease.

The Cymbal Player:  Both cymbals in the left hand at the left side in the correct position of attention.

Marching without playing

The Bass Drummer:  Will lift his drum clear of the ground, so that the hoop rests on the hip; swing the disengaged hand.

Marching at Ease

The Bass Drummer:  Assisted by the cymbal player will carry the drum, using the drum ropes or hoop.

Note:  if on a very long march, the flute players will be ordered to carry the drum in turn.

Prepare to play

The Bass Drummer:  Will lift his drum to the playing position.

The Cymbal Player:   Will lift his cymbals to the playing position.


It was probably the neglect and carelessness of drummers that compelled the authorities to institute the office of Drum Major. The earliest evidence of the original ancestor of the Drum Major would appear to be that given by FARMER in his “History of Military Music in England”, wherein he states in this connection “These Officers” first appeared in the reign of Edward VI, 1547-1553 when Benedict Browne was Sergeant Trumpeter and Robert Bruer was Master Drummer “. According to St John SMITHE, “Master Drummer” became Drum Major in 1591.
It is an interesting point to note that in these early days, appointments were created such as “Sergeant Majors”, “Trumpet Majors” and “Drum Major’s”, but the individual in charge of the Military or Regimental Band was never known as the Band Major. He was Master of the Band. Master of the Music or Music Master, which in turn became Bandmaster which title still obtains, except in the case of the Director of Music.  The reason why Band Major never came into use is doubtless due to the fact that the original Bandmasters were employed civilians whereas the previous appointments mentioned were professional soldiers.

An interesting appointment that appears during the 17th and 18th centuries is that of Drum Major Grose (Grose’s Military Antiquities) tells us that “besides a Drum Major to each Regiment, there is now (1786) and has been for some time, a Drum Major General to the Army, who is appointed by His Majesty’s Commission running in exactly the same wards as the Commission to Subaltern Officer”. The Drum Major General appears to have had great powers for no one could be recognised as a drummer in England without a licence from him.

By the latter part of the 18th century the Drum Major’s rather exalted position seems to have declined somewhat. It was often found necessary to hold regimental Courts Martial at Drum Head, and according to Thomas Simes (1778) his duties were “to have with your apparatus for punishing ………………..,” and it should be an established rule that a man who receives one hundred lashes, or more should pay 2d; and if punishment a second time for another offence, 6d. no cat to have more than nine tails”. “You are to carry the letters to, and bring them from the Post Office”. “You are every morning to see that the drummers sweep and clean the Officers and Men’s necessary houses”. The Drum Major had not only to superintend the flogging of soldiers but had to instruct the drummers to flog with both hands. Flogging as an ordinary punishment was not abolished in the Army until about the 1880s although the Drum Major flogged enlisted boys as punishment as late as 1903.   It was also the duty of the Drum Major to remove the stripes of NCOs who had been sentenced to reduction by a Court Martial.

Today whether serving with a regular military formation or pre-service or voluntary youth organisation, a Drum Major still plays a very important roll. His immaculate turnout on parade, his precision of drill and his leadership are suitable compliments to this forbear of yesteryear.

The Drum Major’s staff which is one of the main symbols of the Drum Major is still made today with the same high quality in production and care in design, it also has chain down the staff which is a reminder of the role Drum Majors played in the punishment roll.