Unsurprisingly, we love percussion! If you can use it to make a beat, then we can lose hours finding all manner of riffs, rhythms and grooves.

In a busy music lesson, however, it can be easy to see percussion as little more than a glorified metronome for the pitched instruments. It’s perfectly understandable – there’s a lot to be covered in your scheme of work!

With that in mind, we wanted to give you a few ideas for making the most of percussion in your music lessons. Why not use these ideas in your next lesson and create a really exciting piece using nothing but instruments that you can hit, shake or scrape!


One: Start with a stop

Okay, we admit it… percussion can be loud. A room full of djembes? Loud. A samba band? Very loud… very, very loud…

Don’t fall into the trap of spending your entire lesson shouting for quiet – you’ll lose your voice before you can silence the cowbell! Before a single instrument is picked up, agree a visual signal that means ‘stop’ and practice it with some body percussion and beatboxing.

Once the pupils demonstrate that they can focus on and respond to the stop signal, then agree that they can move on to using your percussion instruments.


Two: Explore percussion playing methods

Sure, you should scrape a guiro. But you can hit it too. That snare drum sounds great with sticks but what about all the extra potential that is unleashed when using brushes?

Encourage pupils to explore the different ways in which an instrument can be used. Try hitting the drum in different locations, exploring rim shots and muting. With a few different percussion playing methods established, the musical range of an instrument can be dramatically enhanced.

Of course, it’s important that you lead by example. Demonstrate the potential of instruments and the different effect this has. If you’re doing it, then it won’t be long before the children are coming up with whole new ways to play their chosen instrument.


Three: Enhance the visual aspect of percussion

It’s easy to forget that music is a highly visual medium. The advent of recorded music did a lot to separate the sound from the visual but we still go to ‘see’ a concert.

This is often even more true when it comes to percussion. Just look at the intricate physical and visual nature of taiko drumming as an example. Every single note can be seen as well as heard.

Getting students to think about this element has the added bonus of having them concentrate on their performance and interpretation – two key elements to success in GCSE music.


Four: Encourage the use of silence

Sometimes, it’s the beats that you don’t play that have the most impact. It’s one thing to try a syncopated rhythm but you can easily take this further by leaving out a note/strike/beat that seems integral to the piece. This plays with the listener (and the performer’s) expectations and ensures that makes sure that everyone has to pay 100% attention.

It’s also incredibly effective to thrown in a rest that is the same length as the overall phrase that you are learning. This encourages internalisation of the music being learned and this, in turn, improves the quality of performance.


Your top percussion tips

These four ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making the most of percussion in your music lessons. At Beat Goes On, we’re willing to bet that you could easily turn this into a list of hundreds! Send us a tweet or a Facebook message to share your ideas and we’ll put them in a future blog post.