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Percussion FAQs

6th Grade Percussion information

Congratulations!  You have made it into the percussion class!   ..... now what?

What will my 6th grade percussionist need to have for class and practice?

Students in percussion class will need the following items on the days percussion class meets:

1.     A stick bag with various sticks to play on each of the different percussion instruments.

2.     A practice kit (portable drum/bell kit) to be used both at home and on the days we have percussion class at school.

3.     Method Book and pencil.


The stick bag (which includes all the necessary sticks) is the "Vic Firth Intermediate Education Pack", and should last through many years of playing (see link for info).  Once the stick bag is purchased, individual sticks can be replaced on a need-to-replace basis, and students should never have to purchase the group of sticks and the bag ever again if they keep it in good condition, with the possible exception of the snare drum sticks/bell sticks.

The stick bag can be purchased online, or at local music stores, such as Meyer Music or Marshall Music.


The primary book we use is: "Tradition of Excellence Book 1 for Percussion"

 Any students who do not order this book themselves have the option of purchasing the book through the school.


The last and most important is the practice kit. Percussion kits will are necessary for at-home practice as well as during percussion class.  The school does not have enough instruments for every student in the large class to use, so transportation of the kit to and from school on the days we have class is important.  The good news is that most mallet/snare pad kits are on wheels and carry like airport luggage (so no extra backpack/arm weight!)

Meyer Music is a great local store to purchase some practice kits.  When purchasing, the important thing to consider is that the kit comes with a snare pad and bells.  They should come with an interchangeable stand that can be used for both.  Students will need to spend time practicing on both the snare pad and the bells as part of their daily practice routine.  I recommend the snare pad versus the snare drum, since the snare pad is MUCH quieter, and has a similar feel to the snare drum, plus snare pads are usually cheaper than drums.

The kit can be purchased online, or at local music stores, such as Meyer Music or Marshall Music.

Do we need to purchase a reduced size marimba/xylophone or an actual snare drum?

There is no need for a reduced size xylophone/marimba or snare drum unless you really want to.  We don't require anything more than a practice kit, which comes with a practice pad (similar to a snare drum, but a LOT quieter!).  The xylophone/marimba and snare drum does have a much better sound, but bells/practice pad are all that is needed to practice at home.  The practice kits can be found online or at local music stores such as Meyer Music or Marshall Music.

How is the 6th grade percussion class structured?

We start the percussionists on the snare pad for roughly the first half of the school year.  This allows for students to work on technique and proper stroke without having to the additional hassle of hunting for specific notes (like on bells).  Once the students have had a chance to practice their technique, we switch to mallets (bells, marimba, xylophone), and then onto many of the other auxillary percussion instruments (i.e. triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum, etc. etc. etc)

Can I use the school percussion instead of lugging the practice kit back and forth?

All the 6th grade percussion students get to meet in a like-instrument class (we don't meet as a band until 7th grade and up).  We all learn snare drums at the same time, then we all learn bells at the same time.  Because of this, the school does not have enough instruments during the 6th grade year to allow for students to use school-owned percussion.  HOWEVER, from 7th grade and up, the percussion kit should stay home to be used as a practice tool. After 6th grade, the percussion music will be primarily band music, and thus students will be assigned many different percussion instruments for every concert, which means the school will have plenty of instruments to use at school, and students will not need to bring their practice kits after 6th grade.

How often should the percussion items be brought to school?

The method book (music book), Stick Bag, Bell Kit (with snare pad), and pencil should be brought to school on the days the percussion class meets.  Once you have received your schedule, be sure to keep track of which day it is, (a 1-Day or a 2-Day), and bring the necessary items to school on the morning of the same day the class is held.  Even us teachers have difficulty at times trying to remember which day it is!  Be sure to check the main (front) page of the EGR Middle School website, where you can find the calendar which keeps track of which day it is.  egrms.egrps.org

My locker is too small to fit all of this stuff!  Where can I put the bell/snare kit?

On the days you have percussion class, bring the practice kit (with bells and snare pad) to the band room in the morning.  There are many cubbies in the band room which are large enough to fit the percussion kits, and this will allow for more space in your locker to keep your other items safe until the class meets later in the day.  Things to leave in your locker: your method book and your stick bag.  You may alternately store your method book in the practice kit as well as the pencil, but definitely leave your stick bag in your locker.

Many of these bell kits / practice pads look the same, how will I know which one is mine?

We will provide name tags free of charge on the first day of percussion class.  We also recommend writing down the serial numbers of the bell kit / snare pad and any other helpful means to identify which items are yours.

What's the difference between being a Percussionist and a Drummer?

One of the most important decisions a child going into band can make is the choice of instrument. What a child plays will have a profound effect on his future progress and happiness in band. Unfortunately, many times these decisions are based on an incomplete understanding of what is necessary to become successful at a given instrument, and what pitfalls need to be avoided.

The greatest area of misunderstanding applies to percussion. This instrument (actually group of instruments) is very difficult in many respects, and too often students who begin on percussion are not well suited to the instrument. We must remember that "percussion" is not "drums" - Rather it is a section of instruments including snare drum, bass drum, timpani, bells, xylophone, cymbals, and many others, all of which the student will be expected to play and master. The child most qualified to learn percussion is one who is an independent learner, and is able to grasp concepts easily and is self-motivated. Some of the characteristics necessary to play percussion are:

a. A well developed sense of rhythm. This is usually innate - that is, unlike most musical skills, a student who does not possess a natural sense of rhythm and pulse will find it very difficult to acquire, especially in a large group setting where individual attention is scarce. There are a few simple tests that we can give to assess a child's rhythmic sense.

b. Well developed note reading skills. Because a percussionist is responsible for such a wide variety of instruments (not, as some think, just "drums"), they must begin with note reading skills already in place. Students who are beginners on percussion will all begin on bells, and may not even open their drum case for the first few months. Therefore, it is highly advisable that a percussion stu- dent have taken piano for at least a year.

c. Well developed physical coordination. For a child to begin on percussion, he/she should be able to perform some simple tasks that we will administer to test his/her coordination and ability to dissociate --That is to do one thing with one part of the body while doing something else with another (Sort of like rubbing your tummy and patting your head.)

d. The ability to "do nothing". Because band meets in large groups, and the majority of the instruction is not directed towards the percussionists, a child who is interested in percussion must have the capacity to sit quietly for long periods of time. Very often well meaning teachers and parents will identify a child as being very active, and feel that because percussion seems like such an "active" instrument it would be the correct choice for such a child. Wrong!! Because these children get comparatively less attention from the teacher due to the nature of the instrument and the class setting, yet they have spatial freedom and a wide variety of equipment at their disposal, there is a much greater likelihood to become a discipline problem and a much less positive experience in band.

e. A highly developed sense of responsibility. Percussionists are responsible for thousands of dollars worth of musical equipment. They must be very careful and responsible about the handling and storage of these instruments.

If this seems limiting, frankly it is. The number of students who are actually suited to percussion is very small - Somewhere in the area of 8% of a well-instrumented band should be percussionists. One of the great things about band is the large number of different instruments, and the flexibility that is offered in later years through jazz band, and marching band. Many of the drum line members in high school marching band, for example, play a different instrument in Symphony or Concert Band, but play on the drum line in marching band. 

The important thing is that the child is in band, and will reap the benefits of this wonderful activity for years to come.

 Please email Mr. Wells with any additional questions: