Snare Start-Up: What To Do Before You Start

Snare Start-Up: What To Do Before You Start

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!

 

 

 

Rehearsal Schedule

Having a lot of staff members can be great! But, only if you communicate effectively…

For every staff member you add you add a little Communication Overhead. Meaning that for every staff member you add you have to pay a little time in communication in order to receive quality work from them. If it is just you, zero time communicating. If you add a staff member, you should be communicating with them about plans for the rehearsal and goals for the group. If you add two, that’s even MORE time and so on…

For this reason Josh Kaufman in The Personal MBA suggests that you limit staff to between three and eight people. Any more than that and you spend a considerable amount of time communicating and it begins to detract from the effectiveness of the team. People get confused and work against one another, or they simply don’t know what to do so they don’t contribute.

For indoor drumline and marching band I follow his advice and limit the staff to two people in the fall and eight (the max) for indoor.

In addition, almost every rehearsal since spring 2014 I’ve posted a schedule like this in an area that can be seen by students and staff.

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 10.14.13 AM

I usually spend no more than 10-15 minutes creating and posting it and it communicates to EVERYONE what the plan for the day is. I try to get it up an hour in advance so that staff members who find themselves in charge of running part of rehearsal can plan. I also encourage staff autonomy by not telling them EXACTLY what to do all the time. Notice the Pit has a lot of music time scheduled, but I don’t say exactly what to spend it on. I do this because I trust my staff and I want them to know that. No one feels trusted and valued if you micromanage them. Conversely, if they ask me what I’d like them to work on, I always have an answered prepared to supplement the plan in the schedule.

I first saw one of these posted by Rhythm X and thought, “They know what they’re doing. I’ll give it a shot.”

I haven’t been disappointed! Try it out with your group and let me know what you think.

 

 

Percussion Ensemble Recommendations

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.