Vol. 1 | No. 6 | By Carson Christensen
Have you ever struggled with the task of building a solid percussion section within your program? Maybe found yourself lost in offering appropriate resources for your students to seek self-improvement? Percussionist Carson Christensen, BM, offers us some helpful tips and resources to aid non-percussionist educators who might sometimes be at a loss when seeking to better guide their percussion students.
It is not uncommon for a director to be able to pick up any wind instrument in the room and play their students’ parts, but be at a loss when it comes to the percussion section, relying on outside help or just hoping they “figure it out.” And that’s totally understandable! There are so many instruments for a percussionist to learn, and they’re so different from the winds and each other that it can be intimidating to even start. Unfortunately, many directors don’t have the resources to outsource their percussion teaching in a way that does not hurt their group, so what should they do? It’s a simple answer, but not one anyone particularly likes to hear: Learn percussion.
Though it might sometimes feel like a hassle, anyone who has a degree in music is more than capable of picking up percussion to the level of high school band music in a matter of weeks with appropriate guidance, so never fear! This is because you don’t need to play at an expert level, but grasp the basic techniques of each instrument, so you can spot mistakes and provide guidance in context. To achieve this, my biggest recommendation would be to find a percussionist you trust, be it one of your student’s private teachers, a clinician, or a friend, and take a few private lessons on (in order of importance): Snare Drum, Marimba, Timpani, Crash Cymbals, Bass Drum, Triangle, and Tambourine.
If you can find a teacher, they will be able to provide all the resources and structure you need to be able to catch up very quickly. If you can’t however, here is a list of resources for you to teach yourself that I personally recommend. For Snare, Marimba, and Timpani there will be method books, as once you have the basic strokes for each of those, you can approach every non-hand drum percussion instrument pretty much the same way.
Tambourine and Triangle:
Though it can seem reductive to tell someone struggling with their percussionists to “just learn percussion,” I believe it is actually a very reasonable bit of advice when rephrased as “learn the very basic techniques of Marimba, Snare Drum, and Timpani well enough to teach them.” And although that can still be a few hours of work for each, that should be very achievable for the musically minded. If you have any questions on resources for instruments, or if you end up committing to teaching yourself these techniques and would find guidance helpful, well, I’m a percussionist too, and would be happy to help! Just email me any questions and we can work through whatever you’re struggling with.
To reach Carson, feel free to email him at ChristensenCars@gmail.com
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