Basics


Basics about drums (bass, snare and timpani), marimbas, xylophones and cymbals.

The percussion family is the largest, oldest and most diverse family of musical instruments. Percussion instruments are played by striking a drumhead, bell or bar with a stick, mallet, or the hands.

Some important members of the percussion family:

The bass drum is the largest and lowest pitched drum in the band or orchestra. It is important because it keeps the rhythm for the rest of the instruments. The snare drum is much smaller than a bass drum and is higher in pitch. It has a "snare" which vibrates against the bottom head to create a very distinctive sound. Drum students will learn many basic "sticking" techniques on a snare drum. More advanced students may have the opportunity to play on a "drum set," which is the same set of drums and cymbals you might see in a rock & roll or jazz band. Common mallet instruments include marimbas and xylophones.

If you are a beginner, your instructor will probably start you out with a "percussion kit" which includes a practice pad for drum work and a "bell kit" to help with note reading. Some school music programs will use a "snare kit," which includes a snare drum, drum stand, practice pad, drum sticks and a carrying case.

Beginning percussion students focus on two main areas: note reading and drum techniques. Note reading percussion includes learning to read the rhythm patterns needed in order to play the various drums, and learning to read standard notation in order to play the various mallet instruments.

Accessories


Your music instructor may recommend some accessories. The following are just a few of the accessories available at Portmans Music. We can help you learn what you may need and how to use them.

For all percussion instruments: mallets, sticks, stick and mallet carrying bags.

Mallets: Mallets are used for playing the marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, bells, glockenspiel, wood blocks and cymbals. Marimba mallets are usually yarn wound. Vibraphone mallets are usually cord or yarn. Xylophone mallets are usually plastic. Bell or glockenspiel mallets can be plastic, metal or hard rubber.

Sticks: There are many different types and styles of drumsticks. Drummers choose sticks based on the stick's weight, length, diameter and tip size. Most drumsticks are made of hickory, oak and maple. Generally, a stick should allow you to play for a half an hour without fatigue. Your band instructor will be able to help in choosing the right shape.

Stick and mallet carrying bags: Carrying bags help to protect sticks and mallets as well as help percussionists organize their equipment. Bags are made from vinyl, cordura nylon, canvas and leather.

Cleaning


Cleaning and Maintaining Your Snare Drum:
  1. Clean the stand with glass cleaner and a rag.
  2. Clean the practice pad with a damp rag. Use a scrub pad if needed.
  3. Clean the batter head (top head) with a damp rag. Use a scrub pad if needed.
  4. Clean the chrome on the drum with glass cleaner.
  5. Set-up the stand and be sure all tightening screws and moving parts are working.
  6. Check the drum for dents, damage and missing parts.
  7. Check the heads for dents and damage.
  8. Check the lug nuts for proper tension. If they seem to need adjusting, ask your instructor for help.
  9. Check the snare and the snare throw-off. Move the throw-off back and forth and see if the snare is functioning properly.
  10. Check the string or tape used to attach the snare.
  11. Put the drum on the stand to insure proper fit.
Cleaning and Maintaining Your Percussion Kit:
  1. Clean the stand with glass cleaner and a rag.
  2. Clean the practice pad with a damp rag. Use a scrub pad if needed.
  3. Clean the bells with glass cleaner and a rag.
  4. Clean the frame with a damp rag if needed.
  5. Set-up the stand and be sure all tightening screws and moving parts are working.
  6. Check the practice pad and mount on stand to insure proper fit.
  7. Check the bells and mount on stand to insure proper fit.
  8. Make sure that each bar is attached to the frame. (Check for missing nails.)
  9. Inspect frame for cracks.
Watch How-To Video

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