Percussion Ensemble Repertoire Recommendations: High School Pieces with Variable Difficulty Levels

Enlight348

One of the challenges of selecting percussion ensemble repertoire for educational ensembles is handling the different ability levels that are present within an ensemble.

Invariably some students are more advanced and become bored with “easy” parts. Conversely, some students are still developing basic skills and can be overwhelmed (and not educationally served) by advanced repertoire. Sometimes those students are in the same class…

What do you do?

One solution is to choose percussion ensemble pieces that include parts of variable difficulty levels.

What follows are three suggestions for just those types of pieces.  I’ve included links to Tapspace where you can find more information about the pieces and I’ve listed the general difficulty level of each part in each piece, below. I use a 5-tiered system for ranking the difficulty levels of the parts: Easy, Medium-Easy, Medium, Medium-Advanced, Advanced.

I have programmed these pieces multiple times with my groups over the years. I return to them for their educational merit and because they provide the opportunity to meet every student wherever they are in their percussion education.

I hope these pieces serve you as well as they have me and my students 🥁

Now The Day Is Over by John Willmarth

  • Glock: Medium-Easy
  • Marimba 1: Medium-Advanced
  • Marimba 2: Medium
  • Vibe 1: Medium
  • Vibe 2: Medium-Easy
  • Chimes: Easy
  • Piano: Student, Medium |Accompanist, Easy
  • Percussion 1: Medium-Easy
  • Percussion 2: Easy

Dystopia by Jim Casella

  • Glock: Medium-Easy
  • Vibe 1: Medium
  • Vibe 2: Medium
  • Marimba 1: Medium-Advanced
  • Marimba 2: Medium-Advanced
  • Timpani: Medium
  • Piano: Student, Medium-Advanced |Accompanist, Medium-Easy
  • Chimes: Easy
  • Percussion: Medium-Easy
  • Military Drum: Medium-Easy
  • Snare Drum: Medium-Easy
  • Tam-Tam: Easy
  • Tom-Toms: Medium
  • Cymbals: Easy
  • Bass Drum: Medium-Easy

The River by Seth Adams

  • Glock: Medium-Easy
  • Chimes: Easy
  • Vibes: Medium
  • Marimba: Medium-Advanced
  • Piano*: Student, Medium-Advanced | Accompanist, Medium-Easy
  • Timpani: Medium-Advanced
  • Bass Guitar*: Student, Medium-Advanced | Accompanist, Medium-Easy
  • Percussion 1: Easy
  • Percussion 2:
  • Percussion 3:
  • Percussion 4: Easy

*Though it is more effective with them, The River may be performed without Piano and Bass Guitar.

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