Teachers are always on the lookout for resources that fulfil multiple functions. Added to this, nowadays teachers are keener than ever for resources to be cost-effective: never has it been so necessary to make something out of not a lot. Body percussion fulfils both of these requirements with huge aplomb: here are three times when it is simply the best.
1. When you have no access to instruments
There are times during the school year when, for reasons beyond our control, we find ourselves displaced from our usual teaching spaces and need to teach in other rooms. Of course, these are not the only times that body percussion is a go-to lesson activity, but it does prove itself indispensable at times when resources are scarce and you want to keep practical music-making at the heart of your lessons.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of a project that usually uses instruments. Unpick the rhythmic features of the music you are currently work it on, and turn it into a body percussion pattern. It may be that it isn’t specifically rhythmic features that you focus on: it could be texture, dynamics, structure, turn-taking, following a leader, or a creative element – all could be adapted into body percussion activities so that the work you do now can feed directly back into your lesson when you’re reunited with your usual resources.
2. When your students need to internalise a musical feature
When learning a new piece, or about a new style of music, part of the learning process involves getting music in to students so that they can then let it out again in the form of performing, improvising or composing. Describing the music in words is of little use here, and modelling can only go so far. Students need to do something in order for the music to go in.
This is where giving the music physicality in the form of body percussion can be the ultimate learning tool. Body percussion aids musical memory by giving the ephemeral a physical form. A sequence of physical movements is easier for the brain to absorb than a sequence of sounds. Different parts of the body can correlate to different pitches, different parts of a structure, or just be a pleasing or logical sequence to perform. Once the musical concept is safely internalised, it can then be transferred to an instrument or to sung pitches, or used as the starting-point for musical creation.
3. When you want to create a level playing field
No matter what type of school you work in, you are likely to encounter a wide variation in musical experience and ability amongst your students. To strip away all the perceived advantages that previous musical tuition might bring, do some body percussion. Those students with the most musical experience may well not be the quickest to pick it up. Added to this, without the trappings of instrumental technique, students can get on with the business of being musical, no matter what their prior experience.
One of the most important things that we can give our students is a sense of mastery. Imagine a student who feels that music is not for them, because they believe that it is the preserve of those who have had individual instrumental tuition. If, by finding that they are good at body percussion, they are given the feeling that music is something they can do, even something they could be good at, then that is a huge milestone, from which other achievements will surely follow.