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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, November 5, 2012


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


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Transitioning from Marching Drum Line to Concert Percussion
by Rob Goade
Palen Music Center Educational Representative - Columbia, MO

If you are like many of us, the start of concert season can be the start of discipline problems in the percussion section. Letís face it, some of our drum line kids feel like their year is over when marching season ends. If you have percussion students that tend to treat band rehearsals during concert season as a study hall or play time, then this article is for you. If youíve never had any kids like that, then let us know your secret.

The transition from marching drum line to concert percussion can be a difficult one. Young percussion students are usually more motivated to perform during marching season. As directors, we tend to be more organized in our approach to marching drum line than concert percussion. I will confess that as a young director, I was more focused on the brass and woodwinds during this transition than the percussion section. Consequently, as we put away the marching drums and moved indoors, I would lose the focus and enthusiasm of my drum line. I believe with a little organization and motivation we can continue to foster that enthusiasm our students had during marching season.

Following are three organizational strategies that helped me. I certainly do not claim that any of these originated with me. Most were picked up from articles I read or borrowed from other directors.

1. Make sure that each student has assigned responsibilities:
Assign a section leader (or section leaders if you have a large section). I often put one person in charge of the mallet instruments and one in charge of rhythm percussion. These students do not necessarily have to be the best players in the section. They need to be responsible students who are respected by their peers. Section leaders are responsible for having all equipment ready for rehearsals and making sure everything is put away after each rehearsal. They will be assigned students in their section to whom they in turn assign different tasks (i.e make sure the necessary auxiliary instruments are out, or make sure mallets/sticks are put away at end of rehearsal.) This can put an end to a lot of clutter and chaos in the percussion area. If things are put away in an assigned place after each rehearsal then it will be a lot easier to find them next rehearsal. Post all assignments in a visible place in the percussion area.

2. Make sure all students are involved in warm-ups:
We often lose our percussion section during warm-ups. Be very specific on what percussion students are to do in warm ups. I usually divided the section into two groups that alternated days (or weeks) between mallet instruments and rhythm instruments. You probably donít want 5 or 6 students playing snare during warm-up time, but you can have several playing the part on drum pads. If you have a large section you can double students up on the mallet instruments with one playing an octave lower or higher. There a lot of good warm-up/technique books available with both rhythm and mallets parts that go along with the full band parts (i.e. Foundation for Superior Performance). This is also a great time to assign rudimental patterns, which can be performed along with scale warm-ups. Post warm-up assignments and rotations in the percussion area.

3. Make each student is assigned a part for every piece you play:
This requires some advanced planning on your part (or if you have very capable section leaders, this could be turned over to them). Percussion students should never get to choose what part they are going to play. Try to avoid specialists in the percussion section (i.e., make sure everyone plays some mallet parts, some auxiliary parts, etc.) Remember they are percussionists, NOT drummers. Make sure they understand that no part in the score is to small or insignificant to be performed. If you have selections where not all students are needed to cover the parts, it is a good idea to double key parts for rehearsals. (i.e. bass or snare parts could be played on drum pads). This can save you if a student is ill and misses a performance. It also keeps everyone busy during rehearsal. Post part assignments for each piece in the percussion area.

Motivation is the key to engaging your percussion students during concert season. The organizational steps taken above will help motivate the percussion section to take their responsibilities seriously. Another way to foster motivation and build enthusiasm in the concert percussion section is to feature them on a selection. Find a concert piece that allows the percussion section to shine. It should be a piece that has interesting parts for the entire section. You also might consider developing a percussion ensemble and featuring them on the concert program. There is a wide variety of good percussion ensemble music available for various ensembles sizes and at wide range of difficulty levels. This may require some extra rehearsals outside of class, but could be the ultimate motivational tool in keeping your concert percussion section motivated to perform.

If we want our percussion section to be engaged and on task in our rehearsals during concert season, we need to let them know that they are an important part of our ensemble. Hopefully some of these strategies will be helpful to that end.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Chuck Appleton and Rob Goade (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, John Bell, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless and Mary Ann French (918) 286-1555


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