Monday, April 10, 2017


Ever since I was in high school, playing in a percussion ensemble of my own, I have loved going to the BYU Percussion concerts, and I've always wanted to take my children to one! The college has added a group specializing in Eastern music since I was there, and that is really strange and interesting (though the regular Percussion Ensemble is still my favorite). The steel drums group, Panoramic Steel, is always really fun too.

So, we made sure to schedule a field trip to the "Evening of Percussion" concert during this unit. We loved it! And the children were using my mallets and drumsticks to drum on everything for the next few weeks…but that was inevitable, of course. :)

A few other percussion-related resources:

This is an interesting video about a day in the life of a symphonic percussionist

Demonstrations of how to play African log drums.

We looked up videos of pretty much every percussion instrument on YouTube, just so we could hear what each one sounded like. It's interesting to hear the difference between a marimba and a xylophone, for example, or glockenspiel and celesta.

Here's a sample of a piece written for water percussion

You've probably heard of this percussion group called "Stomp." They create percussion music with all kinds of "junk" like garbage cans and brooms, and with their bodies too. We watched a couple videos of this and the children liked it. (I played a percussion piece in high school where we just clapped, drummed on our knees, stomped, pounded on our stomachs, etc. to create the music, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!)

Have you heard this piece by John Cage for prepared piano? So weird and cool. I've always wanted to play something for prepared piano.

And of course, there's also Cage's famous piece 4'33", which consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of just…silence. Or rather, all the ambient sounds—people coughing, programs rustling, etc—ARE the music. It's one of those avant-garde concepts that cause lots of arguments about "what is music"—but you can't argue that the idea is interesting! I've always thought it would be fun to hear this one performed live.

Carl Nielsen's 5th Symphony has a really cool snare drum part—the snare drummer is basically directed to "fight against" the conductor of the piece in one section. The drum part calls for wild, ad-libbed drumming, even playing in a different time signature than the rest of the orchestra, and without regard to what the rest of the musicians are doing. It's a symbol of war and chaos. Eventually the drummer is "defeated" by the rest of the music and goes offstage, still playing. You can read descriptions of the piece here and here. And you can listen to it here (for that crazy snare drum part, start at about 15:40)

And here is a video of the children drumming on the couch and other things. They really love doing this and they love watching videos of themselves doing it. :)

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