(Re)percussion

6 06 2007

I’ve always wondered about the drum instructors we’ve had here in school – how narrow their vision for their subject seems to be.

I’ve always been irritated by drum numbers during recitals – poorly-composed pieces played poorly by poorly-educated students. Time and time again I’ve made suggestions to the instructors to expand their scope by including other percussion instruments in their curriculum…and time and time again, I’ve gotten the same answers: Percussion is different or We don’t offer that. I wonder why they just can’t admit that they don’t know anything about other forms of percussion.

The latest excuse I’ve gotten is that a drummer can’t be a percussionist since the demands on the hands are different – one emphasizes the use of wrist motions while another requires finger motions. Granted, in the case of hand percussion (bongos and congas), some arguments can be made there…although there exists quite a few people who present a strong case for being both a drummer and a percussionist (Alex Acuña is an example) – but otherwise, I find the statement to be rather…misinformed.

Before I make a fool of myself for mouthing off, are there any drummer/percussionists out there? What are your takes on this issue? Are they really mutually exclusive? For the sake of distinction, I define drummer as someone who’s music centers on the drumest, while a percussionist plays mostly hand percussion.

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3 responses

6 06 2007
Drum Guy

i don’t believe the term “drummer” or “percussionist” and be defined, as drums and percussion describe eachother to a certain extent or really, “drums/drummer” falls under the umbrella category of percussion, though could be used to describe anything or anyone not associated with bells, vibes, marimba, etc.

when i was in school i was probably in a similar situation to what you describe, though it was only because the staff the band program could afford was for high school marching band, for concert band and wind ensembles the instruction was not much better. i learned to read music for vibes from a student 1 grade below me, NOT from the teacher!

i was unable to audition for the jazz band because there was no one to provide instruction on the drumset.

for the most part we only played what we knew and the experience and knowledge of the instructional staff was quite low.

however, i’ve now moved well beyond high school, i believe that in high school you should be well versed in all percussion instruments, the drumset, hand drums, mallet instruments, this only better prepares you for college/university level percussion study (hoping that the college/university level is not having this problem) and makes you more marketable if percussion performance (set, symphonic setting, other) is what you want to get into.

everyone can have specialty but at a young age i doubt we all know exactly what we want to do. being able to move from instrument to instrument helps a great deal.

as all instruments are very technical there are many similarities, if you are wanting to study percussion and don’t mearly entertain the idea or use it to pass the time it is quite easy to master the technique used on all instruments, many of them DO crossover.

you should be a percussionist, or you should at least start out as one, a drummer is also a percussionist but that label can vary as to what it describes, so let’s call them “people who use hands/sticks/mallets 🙂

7 06 2007
tala

If I’m not mistaken, in broad strokes, a ‘percussionist’ uses [any] instrument in ‘rhythmic context’ by hitting it (with or without the aid of another implement), shaking, scraping, scratching or any applied force that will make the [said] instrument vibrate.

Percussion is of latin origin, its root meaning to strike or beat.

{Hence in theory} A drummer is a percussionist then. but a percussionist isnt always a drummer. He can have the cymbals, or the triangle, or the bongos, or the…. {and so on} hehe.

http://bij013.blogspot.com/, is an amazing drummer. he might have a better answer.

I play no instrument. I’m just a geek who likes gushing over how well people can play. hehe.

8 06 2007
GTI

Wow. Percussion people found me! Many thanks to Drum Guy and tala 😀

Allow me to say I agree with you in that the ideal for a high school music education should be as broad as possible. My peeve really is when instructors – who call themselves “artists” – don’t want to step out of their comfort zones and stretch themselves by learning. I’m aware it’s not always a pleasant process, but I do believe that any self-respecting artist should at least acknowledge the need for it. Otherwise, what exactly are we?

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