The following are some of the more Frequently Asked Questions that we get around fife and drum music, the community of fifers and drummers, and the instruments and music that are played.
A Fife and Drum Corps is a musical ensemble consisting of musicians playing fifes, rope tension snare drums, and bass drums. A fife and drum corps will often participate in parades, fife and drum musters, community concerts, or other special performances. Fife and drum corps represent a wide range of musical and visual styles from a variety of periods in American or International history, or they may opt for a more modern look and style.
People get started in fife and drum in many different ways. Sometimes they have a friend who is in it and that's how they find out about it, sometimes they see a parade with a fife and drum corps and they seek out the corps after and talk to them, other times they hear a corps practicing outside and go over and talk to them. If you're interested in joining a fife and drum corps, check out the list of our member corps and see if there is one in your area.
A fife is a small musical instrument and can be made of wood, metal or plastic. It is held horizontally and contains a hole for the mouth to blow across and may have six (or more) finger holes which are covered in combination to create the notes.
The fife has been around since the 12th century and was used as both an infantry and folk instrument. In the United States, the fife was used for military signaling purposes through the civil war, after which its role in the military as a signaling tool was defunct and its use has been continued by civilians for entertainment.
The most common material used to make a fife is wood. The most commonly used wood is grenadilla, but fifes can be made out of a variety of woods, each having different sound qualities. Other common woods are cocobolo, mopane, and maple. Some manufacturers use more exotic woods like Pink Ivory, Olive Wood, and Bois de Rose. In addition to wood, fifes can also be made of metal (steel or, less commonly, brass) or plastic composites (Delrin).
A rope tensioned drum drum utilizes a single rope passed alternately between the top and bottom hoops to apply tension to the drum heads. The ropes are made tighter by leather loops called 'ears' which slide along the rope to pull the hoops inward, tightening the drum heads. This is one of the oldest forms of drum technology, and due to the construction the drum heads are not typically as highly tensioned as drums of modern construction. Due to the looser tension and often larger drum shells these drums typically offer a historically deep done in keeping with the traditional music they are played in.
The time it takes to learn the fife and drum will depend on many things, including how much time you put into it and a significant one being whether you have played a similar instrument or have musical experience. It's OK if you have no musical experience, many corps will teach you.