Thursday, June 12, 2014

The original Super Mario Bros Theme... for Bass Drum!

Back in high school, marching band took up even more time than I spent on homework in any given week. Being a member of the drumline added yet another level of demands and responsibility -- but that's all part of what it takes to play on a line that, if memory serves me correctly, would have beaten the University of North Texas' drumline at PASIC's drumline competition in 2002 had we not been penalized for crossing the physical boundary lines of the competition at some point.  (Nevertheless, we still won among high schools.)  Even though it has been almost 10 years since I graduated high school, their drumline is still kicking butt and constantly taking top honors at every contest they enter.

In middle school, I discovered I had the ability to play along with songs by ear as long as I heard them emough times and knew how they went.  In 9th grade, the realization that I had perfect (or really darn good relative) pitch always fascinated the other band members; I was often tested with random notes or chords, and never failed to impress.  My drum instructor would even ask me for the pitches of the drums -- yes, drums have pitches too, especially timpani & bass drums!  (Now I will admit it's much harder to tell a snare drum's pitch, so usually I'd jokingly say it's a "Bang Flat.")

I also became married to the bass drum in marching band, and became well-known as the one who carried arguably the heaviest instrument on the field -- the 30" bass.  Only the tuba section or tenor drums came close in weight, and this group of players carried a special level of respect for each other.  As I played the 30" bass for my second, and then my third, year, I was used as an inspiration tool on the field (i.e. called out as an example by the directors & techs) to those who carried a lighter instrument yet whose marching technique was not as good.  One of the drum majors admitted to watching my feet to get the tempo on one of the songs we played --- Wow!!!  I thought they always watched the center snare drum player (who is usually the highest position or best player on the line) to get the time, so I took that as a very high honor.

Ok, enough gloating.  During that time, I also dabbled with music composition on the side (more on that in a future post perhaps ;), and found inspiration one football-game night when it sounded like the opposing team was playing a few bars from the Super Mario Bros. theme.  I thought to myself, "Why aren't we doing this?"  Over the summer, after the long, sweaty rehearsal hours, I brought my microphone to the drumline equipment room and took samples of most of the drums to make a drumline "SoundFont."  This soundfont was the basis for my experimentation in MIDI and composition of the Super Mario Bros. Theme for bass drum, which you will find below.

I then formally notated it using whatever version of Sibelius was around 10 years ago.  You're probably better off simply transcribing it for yourself from the image here, because me trying to find the actual Sibelius file along with installing some archaic software on hardware that has long since moved on, would likely be an exercise fraught with disappointments.

So, at last, here it is!

So, one note about reading this:

The score is written for 5 bass drums, with the biggest (lowest-pitch) one notated below the staff ( partially highlighted -- makes it easier to spot your notes), and the other drums are on each "space" on the staff in decreasing-size (increasing-pitch) order.  A note on the middle line (bass clef "D") means that all basses will play.  Thus, it's not the real notes of the Mario Bros. theme. 

Unfortunately, one of the bass drummers left the drumline right after I rolled this out, so we never got to play it.  You just can't do Mario very well with only four bass drums, so maybe it got passed down over the years and played by others.  I really don't know what happened with it since.  However, this copy still sits in a page protector in my marching music binder, which has pretty much remained untouched since I graduated.

For the record, the (C) 2004 is just for show.  It makes things look a little more official (which is cool to do when you're in high school), but it's more for posterity's sake than actually claiming any rights on anything.  You should know I'm way bigger into open-source and open sharing than copyrights anymore.

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