The following is part of a series of posts relating to starting students on snare and mallets.
The first day with instruments is a very exciting day for young students! They have all this stuff, they’re about to play music with their friends…THEY HAVE ALL THIS STUFF! But, that excitement can easily turn into chaos if there is not a clear plan that follows a logical path outlined by the teacher.
After helping with many Start-Up clinics over the last 12 years, here are some of my (and my wife’s) thoughts on the process to help as you start your student’s off right on snare drum.
Before the Start-Up Day
Before the start up day the students need an understanding of pulse, meter, and musical notation.
Pulse: They should understand that music happens in time with a steady beat known as the pulse. They should tap their foot in time with the steady beat (played by a metronome). Then they should clap their hands while tapping their foot in time with the steady beat. Then they should say the number “1” while they clap their hands and tap their foot in time with the steady beat. (This is laying the groundwork for the process of tapping, counting, and clapping rhythms which is a great practice to get in the habit of doing.) After they have done that for a while ask them, “How many beats do you think we have clapped and counted?” Of course no one will know. But it makes a nice transition to introducing meter.
Meter and Measures: Meter is when you group collections of pulses together so that you may more easily keep track of them. Have the student’s tap, clap, and count “1 – 2, 1 -2”. Have them do this for four groups. Ask the students if anyone knows how many beats went by. Someone may know the answer! If not, do it again but prompt them to keep track of how many times they count to two. Tell them that we’re going to refer to these groups of beats as measures. Repeat this process for three letting them know that now there are three beats in our measures. Then do the same thing for four.
Musical Notation: Illustrate how the music you’ve been performing may be written down with notation. Draw a staff and explain this is where we write music. Draw four quarter notes and explain that these symbols represent the rhythm that we have been clapping. Since they have already heard the term measures, draw bar lines and explain to them that these section the music off into measures.
Armed with that information the students should be ready to take on the Snare Start-Up!
It’s overcast this Sunday
As we sabbath on the deck.
A few leaves let go
As we creep closer to Fall.
Our conversation’s stoked
By a breeze blowing over breakfast.
We hold hands
and thank God for it all.
Great and Small is a programmatic work comprised of two delightful movements for solo keyboard percussion with optional audio accompaniment. These vignettes depict the powerful beasts Leviathan and Behemoth when they were still young, whimsical, and childlike. Deemed ‘’medium-easy” by the publisher, it is appropriate for older middle school or younger high school students and works well as their first solo piece.
As an educator, I found several benefits to studying this work with students. The length is ideal for younger percussionists, as each movement in the set is approximately two minutes. Neither movement requires four-mallet technique or similar advanced concepts, and the programmatic nature encourages conversation about character interpretation and expression. The entire piece is written using sixteenth notes as the smallest subdivision, exploring syncopated rhythms and interplay between the hands. This is especially noticeable in the second movement, “Budding Behemoth,” with many of these figures beginning on the left hand with a large leap. The first movement, “Little Leviathan,” includes phrase markings in the right hand to highlight the melody, something difficult to find in compositions for this ability level. Perhaps my favorite musical concept is the detailed use of dynamic contrast. Developing this at a young age is vital, and I am pleased to see an appropriate amount throughout both movements.
From a logistical point of view, the flexibility of Great and Small is wonderful for many public school situations. Herndon has composed the work so that any movement can be performed on a vibraphone, xylophone, or 4-octave marimba. While he recommends vibraphone for the first movement and marimba for the second movement, the option encourages students to take their own liberties bands on the equipment they have available. Furthermore, even through the audio accompaniment greatly enhances the piece, it is not necessary for performance. This allows for students to still gain from the work even if they are unable to meet the technological requirements, Very well priced, this composition is worth adding to your repertoire for younger students.
Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2019
“Guac is Extra” serves as a fun way to introduce students to the instruments and style of salsa music. John Herndon does a fantastic job of making the style accessible to younger players, as each uses two drums and an accessory instrument. The performance notes indicate the drums to be played with swizzle sticks; however, more advanced players are encouraged to use their hands for the congas and bongos.
The piece begins with a brief introduction and then layers the different instrument entrances as the groove is built. Once all the players have entered, the bongo, conga, and timbale players take solos. Although solos are written out for each player, there is room for players to embellish the solos or even create their own. Although not indicated in the score, it would not be difficult to extend the solos for the players, if needed. The middle section is made up of straight eighth notes with the players accenting certain notes to create a fun melody around the ensemble. The piece ends with a return to the original grooveand a brief coda.
This piece will help students to not only learn the style, but also work on ensemble sensitivity, listening, and groove. The piece will make an excellent addition to the repertoire for younger groups. With all the guac and salsa they will be playing, the only thing missing would be a side of chips!
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2019
There’s nothing natural
About this world;
We’ve become accustomed to.
An important part of helping your students grow as musicians is knowing where they currently stand. Holding Class Placement Auditions can help you get a handle on exactly that. By evaluating student’s performance of the same etudes you should be able to group them into those displaying basic, intermediate, and advanced skills.
These Audition Etudes focus on three primary areas of percussion: Concert Percussion, Marimba, and Timpani.
The Concert Percussion Audition Etude provides an opportunity to evaluate students performing on a variety of commonly used percussion instruments: Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tambourine, Hand Cymbals, Concert Bass Drum, and Snare Drum.
This Marimba Audition Etude samples a variety of skill sets: basic four mallet technique, performing arpeggios, diatonic and chromatic scales.
The students should be evaluated on how they tune the instruments before they perform the Timpani Audition Etude .
Feel free to download and use to help audition your percussionists!
I could search forever
And never see
The boundaries of Your glory;
There are wonders buried in deepest space
And others I miss
Before my face.