This week, I want to talk briefly about Percussion, the section that is the most mis-understood amongst students and parents in terms of what it is and what it entails.

I always tell my students, Percussion is one of the hardest instruments because it  consists of not only the snare drum and bass drum, but also all types of cymbals, triangles, woodblocks, claves, gongs, congas, bongos, chimes, bells,  glockenspiel, marimba, timpani, drumset…the list goes on and on. (Technically, you can include the piano too, since little hammers hit the strings inside the piano.)

So taking Percussion is not about banging on a drum, it involves being able to play many different instruments within the same piece, some at the same time too.  This means major coordination of all your limbs.

Percussion instruments also require reading notes (timpani, bells, etc), not just rhythms.  The note reading would be in both treble and bass clefs.

My best percussionists have been students who have taken other instruments, in particular strings or piano. This has helped prepare their ears for reading and for hearing music in many different registers.

All that being said, Percussion is a lot of fun and very motivating! Check out this cool video of a college Percussion ensemble playing the theme to the Mario Brothers:


Here’s Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – Sacrifical Dance: (Listen throughout the movement for how the Percussion adds to the group.)


Here’s some great resources for all Percussionists:

  1. Percussive Arts Society: www.PAS.org
  2. Vic Firth’s page has all 40 rudiments with videos for each: http://www.vicfirth.com/education/rudiments.php

Points to Consider:

  1. Does your child have difficulty with coordination? If so, Percussion may be a challenge – however, if he/she really wants to play, by all means be encouraging. It may help with his/her coordination issues.
  2. In Concert Bands (for Beginners), there are very few parts for the Percussion section. Your child will be bored very quickly if they are stuck playing a drum pad in the back of the room.
  3. Does your child just want to play rock or popular music on the drumset? By all means, get private lessons and have them play in bands outside of school. (Most schools do not teach drumset; they teach the instruments used in Concert Bands. Your child may not be interested in learning Bells, woodblocks, cymbals,etc.)
  4. Most percussion music does focus heavily on rhythms, which requires keeping a steady beat. Can your child maintain a steady beat for a prolonged amount of time?
  5. Can your child clap rhythm patterns (some easy, some challenging) fairly accurately?

6.   Drummers play rudiments on the snare drum and scales on Bells, Marimba, etc. Rudiments are like scales but require tremendous focus, patience and   concentration to get the coordination solid.

 Action Steps:

  1. Listen to the above videos to get an idea of how the Percussion instruments sound.
  2. Check out the two website links and listen to some of the rudiment videos.
  3. Do a search on YouTube for more videos of the role of Percussion in band and orchestra.
  4. Let me know what you thought of this article and the videos in the comments below.
  5. If you liked this article, please Like it and share it on your social networks. Sign up on my website for more weekly tips and information at http://DonnaSchwartzMusic.com.