by Steven Baretsky
The first step for lettering is choosing the text of the message, and then drawing a circle on a piece of paper to determine the placement of the letters. If your text is too long to split into two distinct regions, like top and bottom, consider placing the text around the entire circumpherence of the head.
Choosing text: Most likely, you want to place the name of your corps on the drum head, maybe hometown or region and date of origin. Our name happens to be long enough (short enough?) that, with proper spacing, we could eat up the entire circumpherence of the head without the spacing looking crowded. We settled on "Excelsior Brigade" for the outer ring of words, with Excelsior around the top, and Brigade at the bottom.
The next step is to choose the color for the lettering. The original design sheet (aka, piece of paper) can be photo copied and handed out to the more color inclined in your corps. Our colors were pretty easy to choose, though in the past we've used red with black highlights instead of the color of our uniforms, light blue and royal blue. We haven't bothered repainting the red/black painted drums though, as the difference is not readily noticed by the average person on the street and some of us feel it ads a bit of an interesting twist to our normal look. (certainly breaks the boredome of looking at all that light blue!) The coloring part can be a great way to touch all members of the corps, handing out crayons and pictures of drums brings out the artist in just about everyone, especially the children.
The next step is to choose the font for the lettering. We chose a very simple font with no character tails (sans-serif). A computer substitute font would be something like Arial, Univers or Olive. These fonts can be stenciled very easily, in fact, your local craft shop may have the required stencils in stock. If you can't acquire the stencils at a craft shop, you can make your own by purchasing stencil material or using heavy paper. Cut the font as true as possible using either scissors or a sharp utility knife. If using a computer to generate the fonts, set the size of the characters to as large a practically possible, and print the text on regular paper, then transfer the character to the stencil material at a later time.
Trace the letters lightly in pencil on the surface of the head and examine the design for alignment problems and asthetic issues. Sometimes the script looks out of place on the drum, when it was perfectly acceptable on paper. Carefully paint the letters with a sturdy latex paint. If painting a skin head, you may wish to paint the head with the drum tighened, as stretching the skin after the pain dries may cause cracking and other problems with the surface of the head.
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