Drumming & Barred Instruments for Elementary Teachers

As a former band director now teaching K-5 elementary music, I found comfort in teaching recorders, drumming and playing barred instruments (xylophones) mallets.  I needed lots of coaching on teaching children to sing properly. So I attended workshops and asked other teachers how to they do it. And so often the response from vocal majors was, teaching children to sing is easy.  Yes, but not for me! I am doing better, but I am still not  satisfied with my vocal teaching.

Here are some things that I have learned and use in teaching elementary children to sing, dance, play percussion instruments, drums and barred instruments (xylophones, Orff instruments).  I use simple hand percussion in K-1 and start adding more each year. This is certainly not the only way to do it or the only material available for you to use. SO…I invite YOU to add your thoughts and information in a comment at the bottom of this post. Share what YOU know so WE can HELP others. OK?

It is not uncommon for some to place little value on playing instruments, especially drums, in elementary music.  Consider this: there are children who will be interested in playing music on barred instruments or drums that are not interested in singing.  This may be the way to reach them and open their hearts and minds to other ways of making music-like singing.

“Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime. This experience cannot be left to chance. It is the duty of the school to provide it.” -Zoltán Kodály: Children’s Choruses, 1929.

Big Ideas

  • Jump first, ask questions on the way down.
  • Trust what you know and adapt it to your new situation.
  • Never stop learning – Attend Workshops and Clinics and Find Mentors, Use the Internet.
  • Plan ahead but have an auxiliary parachute.
  • Go slow. Be specific and clear on instructions.
  • Lots of repetition done correctly.

Barred Instruments or Mallet Instruments

There are so many sources available- online, in print and from your colleagues. Some materials are coordinated with a grade level curriculum like: GamePlan or Denise Gagne’s Music Play.  If you already have those programs, see if you like their mallet and drumming materials. There are also individuals not connected with a major curriculum that have written good materials as well. One of the best ways to find what you like is to attend a convention like TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) or TCDA (Texas Choral Directors Association)Visit the vendors at music conventions and look through all of the materials in one convenient location.  Check with your colleagues and see what they do or what they use.


Don’t be afraid to write your own pieces to match your student’s ability and interest. I have written out several and then used MuseScore to print it out(you could use Finale or whatever you use).  Just think 3 part choral SAB, no Tenor.  -Melody, harmony, bass line. 3 parts.  Add more parts if you need.  It is pretty fun when you write out something that you have found that your students already like. Just like Feierabend says, you are starting with something that is already familiar.

Artie Almeida

Artie is an excellent source of information and materials. Many elementary teachers that I know use and recommend her materials. Mallet Madness, Mallet Madness Strikes again and many more.  I missed the workshop she presented for our combined regions here in the Houston area.  I plan to catch her workshop the next chance I get.    http://www.artiealmeida.com/

West African, Zimbabwe

Learn about the culture of this area and how important music is in their community life. It helps the students understand cultural differences.

Walt Hampton.

Walt focuses on Zimbabwe West African xylophone music. I have talked with him in person at TMEA and also exchanged emails. Wonderful person and teacher. I recommend his book(s): Hot Marimba. Written for Orff instruments. Son of Hot Marimba and Marimba Mojo. He is a member/instructor/clinician of Will Schmid’s World Music Drumming workshops.  Find YouTube videos by searching Rugare Marimba Ensemble, Baduku Marimba Band for some excellent performances by Walt’s groups. http://www.vosa.org/paul/sales_folder/hampton_mojo.htm#author

Dancing Drum – Steve Campbell and Lindsay Rust

I met Lindsay and Steve at a percussion fundraising event in Houston, then again at the Houston International Festival and later TMEA. They are outstanding.  Their book on West African drumming and xylophone – EXCELLENT!!!! It is arranged so you can make it as difficult or easy as you need. They do a great presentation as well. I had them come out to my school and do an interactive performance. Every child got to participate! http://dancingdrum.com/collections/dancing-drum-publications

Kalani Das

Kalani is another favorite of mine. His clinics were so good at TMEA. He not only presented the technical side of how to play and what the instruments are called and where they are from, but Kalani also presented the why, the culture and the approach of drumming with children (and adults too!). He has a tremendous amount of useful information on the internet. http://kalanimusic.com/

Drums, Drumming and Drum Circles or Groups

Teach drumming like you do a song. Follow the teaching methods of Kodaly, Feierabend or Orff. Say, clap or patsch, play. Keep it-  “Tuneful, Beatful and Artful.” – John Feierabend.

Classroom management is important also.  Just like talking in choir.  “Play and extra beat-ya gotta take a seat.”  I got that one from Steve Campbell of Dancing Drum.


These people are awesome. Their products for music classes are well-known.  Their website is filled with good information too! Check out their information on Drum Circles http://www.remo.com/portal/pages/drum_circles/index.html and Health Rhythms. http://www.remo.com/portal/hr/index.html

Will Schmid’s World Drumming

Good information and clinics held all across the country. http://www.worldmusicdrumming.com/wschmid.html

Chris Judah-Lauder

The first TMEA region workshop I attended was presented by Chris Judah-Lauder.  It really helped me figure out how to do things in class.  Very well planned out, stepwise approach to teaching children to sing, move and play together. She adds percussion, drums, mallets, and recorders to her songs to make “Performance Pieces.” I have two of her books: To Drum and Canya Conga. Really helpful ideas and fun pieces. http://chrisjudahlauder.com/

Kalani Das

Drumming books are really good. The Amazing Jamnazium, Together in Rhythm. Now he also has a West African book that is good too.

PAS (Percussive Arts Society) PASIC will be held in Austin this year! Go to a drum circle facilitation workshop if there is one. http://www.pas.org/pasic/pasic-contents

Drum Circles

Look up Drum Circle Facilitation on the internet.

Christine Stevens (The Art and Heart of Drum Circles).

I met Christine Stevens at a PASIC workshop the last time the convention was held in Austin. What I took away from her is how making music together with others and for yourself enjoyment is so important to improving the quality of your life. She is a lovely person and has a wonderful book and a very informative website.

Kalani Das- He has lots of good information on leading drum circles in his materials and websites.

Kenya Masala

– is a drum circle facilitator and educator.  I met Kenya at PASIC in Austin. What a wonderful guy and so willing to help.  The X8 Drums folks are great too!  http://www.x8drums.com/v/artists/kenya-masala.asp

Arthur Hull.

Probably the most influential person in the drumming and drum circle facilitation areas. I have one of his videos that helped me work with my students better. http://www.drumcircle.com/

T.R.A.P. – The Rhythmic Arts Project

Eddie Tuduri is doing amazing things with life skills and mentally challenged children…adults. http://www.traponline.com/

Drumming for At Risk Students

There is a lot of work being done reaching at risk students through drumming. For example: Beat for Peace, Drums for Change. D.R.U.M. There is an amazing group in Australia – Holyoake: Drumbeat-Building Resilience Through Rhythm. http://www.holyoake.org.au/content-red.php?CID=80

Try an internet search for Drum at risk students.  Lots of information will show up.  https://www.google.com/search?q=DRUM+at+risk&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=DRUM+at+risk+students

Bucket Drums, Trash Can Bands, Found Percussion

These are examples of more ways to add variety to your music program and put into practice the skills taught in music classes. Groups such as Stomp, the Blue Man Group, and Percussion 1 (a group here in Houston).

Skye Quinman

Bucket Drumming 101   http://www.bucketdrumming101.com/yuck/ I like her piece that she wrote called Yuck.



Tell me what you think! Leave a comment or thought.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s