Crabbing - feet angles

I've been away from ";the state of the art"; marching techniques for a while… what angles do people recommend for feet when crabbing?

Way back when we were told to keep our feet pointed straight ahead, so that's what I have always taught. But looking at lines these days, it appears that the angle is a little more relaxed, with toes going slightly out. As I try that myself, it appears to open up the hips and make the upper legs more relaxed. I have no idea if that translates to more bounce in the drums, stress in the joints, or anything else - I'm interested in people's observations and finding out what is being taught by corps…

Thanks in advance!
Good question, and I'm curious to see all of the expert responses.

We just started this yesterday and I purposely did not give any direction about the toes to see what would happen. Almost without exception, everyone's toes were at the angle you described, leading me to believe that that was what felt most natural to the student. I personally am okay with a little variation in this part of the marching because of the variations in physicality from one student to another.

One thing I've tried to be aware of as I teach is the most natural approach to the instrument/grip/step/stroke, etc. We use traditional grip with our snares (which can be easily argued as ";unnatural";), so we compensate by tilting the drums a little. We use a relaxed piston stroke in our front ensemble for the same reason. All motion is economized and the stroke is, at the core, the most fundamentally necessary for producing the note.

I could give another thirty examples, but I also need to get ready for rehearsal!
I'm always a fan of making things as ergonomic as is possible, so I'm definitely an advocate of letting the feet be at a slightly outward angle.  Obviously uniformity is the end goal, so I try to find some common group between the people with extremely open angles and those who are slightly pigeon toed.

You could also experiment with the same idea for your regular forward and backwards march.  The majority of people don't walk with their toes pointed straight forward, so if being ";natural"; is the end goal, that should also be examined.  Granted, toes straight forward probably has a slightly cleaner look, but what's better: 1) slightly cleaner look and kids with bad knees or 2) natural feel and slightly healthier knees.

Really there's no way to get around the fact that crabbing is bad for you, since humans weren't mean to move sideways, but you can at least make the best of the situation.
[quote author=Bryan Harmsen link=topic=2659.msg14133#msg14133 date=1218549904]
Really there's no way to get around the fact that crabbing is bad for you, since humans weren't mean to move sideways, but you can at least make the best of the situation.

I agree with Bryan's observation/opinion.  That is especially true when dealing with high school-aged percussionists that have a wide range of experience.  Find a happy medium that is visually appealing and executable by all performers.
put me down in the ";slight angle of the feet"; category...
I've always found that crabbing left to right, right to left, forward on 45, etc is easiest with feet pointing straight ahead. I've learned the hard way of slightly point out at an angle, and marching at 184 and falling doesn't feel good, by any means. ha

Currently, in the high school line i'm in, we haven't defined it more as, ";relaxed";

In the winter line i'm in, its strictly straight forward or bite the gym floor.
I have been a fan of straight forward feet since my friend told me about that technique a few years ago.  I think it is easy to clean and does not put a great strain on the marcher to the point of injury.  It is harder to get people to do it, but marching in general is not a relaxed exercise IMO. It takes extra energy, which in turn makes it markedly different from walking.
So, Mr. Young and Mr. Cruickshank, what you're saying is that we shouldn't try to be as natural and relaxed as possible while marching and/or playing drums?  Just asking.  As far as I can tell, tension is bad and having your toes pointed straight forward creates more tension on the ligaments in the knee than with a slight (not 45 degrees) angle. 

The bottom line is that crabbing is bad for you, and you'll still end up with messed up knees.  And as far as marching on angles or obliques, check out the Cavaliers' oblique technique. It's by far the most comfortable way to move on an angle.  It may not have as clean of a look as toe down, but I'm sure than anyone who has used it can attest to both its efficiency and ergonomic soundness.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that Mr. Young and I have about the same views. Maybe its because thats how we were taught, or how we currently march.

I agree with you, Mr Harmsen, in the fact crabbing isn't good for your knees. I still am going to go with feet forward, out of ignorance to try the other method, and the shear fact thats how i march in the winter. I may be biased, but hopefully if I get involved in DCI, I can learn the difference and then judge a better, more thourough opinion.
I am a fan of being relaxed during many times of playing.  But I think marching is different. Being relaxed in marching makes it look like walking.  As far as the straight foot making knees go bad, I have no experience with this, but I don't doubt your assessment.  I would be open to a turned out foot to make the learning curve less, but the straight forward foot keeps everything consistent, if indeed you march forwards and backwards with a straight forwards foot.  And even though I tell my students to march feet forward on the crab, most don't.  It's just not natural. 

  I used to be a guy who was all about natural motion.  But then I realized that I can't make some of the sounds I need and want to make, the sounds I hear others making.  I also don't look the same if I don't put in that extra effort (read: tension) in some areas.  You have to hold your right arm out to get a good stick angle on a snare drum, is that not playing relaxed as possible?
[quote author=CJ Young link=topic=2659.msg14170#msg14170 date=1218828277]
You have to hold your right arm out to get a good stick angle on a snare drum, is that not playing relaxed as possible?

Please see Eric's post above about tilting snare drums.
Okay, I never thought about the right arm being relaxed by the tilting of the snare, but I guess it does allow for that. However, I don't think that any of these changes are necessary to maximize the potential of any particular player or group.  Statistics will prove that.  Regarding the health issue, which is the only bone left to pick in my opinion, I have only seen injury due to repetitive motion, not necessarily caused by a particular motion over another, but just by doing one specific motion ";too much.";  So far all I think we have for health statistics is anecdotal evidence.  It would be nice to get some stats on injuries to musicians, specifically drumming of course.
I currently teach the feet straight forward style of crabbing due to the clean line it creates and the clear cut definition of what is correct in our particular technique for the students. I'd also argue that the lower body and marching technique benefits from some degree of tension much more so than playing does. Since marching utilizes larger groups of muscles, tension is a necessity especially to start, stop and change direction with heavy instruments. I'm not saying that a performer should be ";tight"; as that easily contributes to injuries, just allow enough strength and tension to respond quickly to the demands of a performance.

All that being said... Once an individual is comfortable with the coordination of marching and is at a level of conditioning that enables them to move with a higher degree of ease, i agree a more ";relaxed"; or angled feet style is better for your body. At the high school level I think most students (obviously there are exceptions) simply haven't learned the coordination yet or aren't quite conditioned as well as they should be... after all, as we all know, marching with drums on is just as intense physically as most sports out there.
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