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Top 10 Tips To Playing Percussion

Playing Percussion Instruments – Top 10 Tips

Tip 1 - Selection of mallets

ONE

Build up a good selection of mallets for each percussion instrument. If you also play the drum kit, then you can make use of them on the drums too. We are often asked to create particular sounds, so having a variety of mallets to hand is always useful. And not necessarily just mallets. Coins, string bows and metal bars can be used for all sorts of effects.

Playing Percussion Instruments - Top 10 Tips

Tip 2 - Techniques

TWO

All musicians need a range of skills on their instruments. Practice the different techniques on each instrument. For example, on a headed tambourine, thumb rolls, finger rolls and shake rolls. Each technique provides a solution, and as percussionists, we are also problem solvers!

Tip 3 - Transfer skills

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We have lots of transferable skills as percussionists where once we can play one instrument, we can pick up the basics of another very quickly. You may start your learning journey on the snare drum, working on technique and rhythm. This leads very well not only to the drum kit but also to handheld instruments such as the tambourine, shakers and hand drums like the bongos.

Playing Percussion Instruments -

Tip 4 - Get comfortable

FOUR

Get comfortable. Make sure the instrument is in the right place at the right height before you start playing. If you’re using a chair or stool, buy the comfiest one you can afford. 

Top Tip
Playing Percussion Instruments - Top 10 Tips
TIP !

Posture is super important, not just for you physically but also to produce the best sound.

Tip 5 - Plan your practice

FIVE

Plan your practice session. If you have a teacher, then hopefully, they are setting you targets; if not, set them yourself. It will help you progress much quicker. Talking of practice, shorter regular sessions are always better than one long weekly practice. This will help muscle memory, coordination, technical skill and consistency. Focus your energy on the bits you can’t play rather than the bits you can!

Playing Percussion Instruments - Top 10 Tips

Tip 6 - Work with others

SIX

If you are playing with a drummer, work with them, not against them. Fit into their groove and show everyone where the best section of the band is! If you’re not too keen on what they are playing, tell them, but make sure you’ve got a good reason!

Playing Percussion Instruments - Top 10 Tips

Tip 7 - Watch other percussionists

SEVEN

Watch other percussionists and musicians. There are loads and loads of little things (and big things!) we can pick up just by watching them play. Whether it be technical or musical, there is a lot we can take away from other players. And sometimes it’s not just good things; we may learn that we don’t like how they have played something.

Tip 8 - Learn scales

EIGHT

Learn your scales. Majors, minors, arpeggios, broken chords, thirds, octaves, chromatics – they all have their uses in a wider musical context. Believe it or not, scales can be fun. Play a different rhythm on each scale, only use one hand, play as fast as you can and as quietly as you can. Jazz them up! Ultimately, practice like this makes playing music more fun.

Tip 9 - Sticking

NINE

Sticking (which hand plays which note). This one particularly applies to Timpani. We want to avoid crossing sticks over one another and also playing repeated notes with the same hand in a fast passage. This is not so much of an issue in a slow passage where only using one hand will in fact help to play a consistent sound.

Tip 10 - Be versatile

TEN

Make the most of being in the instrument family with the widest range of instruments. Have a go on as many different percussion instruments as you can, you never know when you might get asked to play one of them!

Playing Percussion Instruments - Top 10 Tips
Summary

Playing percussion instruments is so fun and particularly rewarding when rehearsing and performing with other musicians. I hope these top 10 tips help you develop your skills and enjoyment.

FAQ's

Practice, practice and more practice. Take up as many opportunities as you can to play instruments you haven’t played before. And in rehearsals ALWAYS stay until everything is packed down and away, it is all about being a team player.

The bass drum is a good place to start. Find the sweet spot and choose your mallet based on the articulation and sound you want to create, in the acoustic you are working in.

Go back to basics and start with the fundamentals. Focus on your technique and creating a good sound, you can do this really simply by practicing rudiments and scales. Having lessons with a percussion teacher will also give you more to work on and think about, as they will see things from a different perspective to you.

Percussion instruments can be struck (with a mallet, stick or your hands), shaken and scraped.

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