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  • Brian Blume

Beyond Basic Percussion

Have you ever been teaching a percussion ensemble or working with a student and one of these happens?

  • The kid playing the chimes is facing the back of the room because he didn't know where to put the music stand.

  • A student with a multiple-drum setup is doing a crossover concerto because he didn't understand the best way to set up the drums in a way that allows for the easiest sticking and drum-to-drum motion.

  • In order to switch from drumsticks to yarn mallets in a short amount of time, your student drops the sticks on the drum in front of her (making unwanted noise) and bends over to pick up her mallets off the floor. Then, of course, she missed her entrance.

  • You notice that the guy on the bass drum part has no idea how and when to muffle the instrument properly, even though the music indicates muffling.

In fact, you may easily recall a time when you yourself might have been in such a situation as a student. For several (understandable) reasons, I believe that many young percussionists are not taught some of the most basic principles in playing percussion, especially those that go beyond just playing the right note at the right time. And quality instruction on instruments other than snare drum and mallets is easily overlooked or completely absent.

Think about what instruments are called for so much of the time in band, orchestra, and percussion ensemble literature – accessory instruments! And think about how often students are asked to play 2 or 3 (or more) instruments in a piece. Think about how often percussionists ("drummers") are looked at as unmusical. Just the kids in the back that bang on things.

Well, fortunately percussionists/band directors Eric Rath and Ralph Hicks have thought about these things. And they have also come up with some helpful solutions in their new book Beyond Basic Percussion (Tapspace Publications). They composed several pieces that address so many of the neglected issues facing developing percussionists (and their band directors). It's useful for non-percussionist teachers as well as those who are percussionists. Here's an intro video by the authors, and you can click the link above to read more about it.

(Note: I have no personal interest vested in this project, I just think it's a great idea!)

Update, 1/14/2017: I have used this material several times in Percussion Techniques classes and with my percussion ensembles, and it's outstanding. Very educational, but the music is fun and well-crafted, too. Highly recommended.

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