PRCN2006 – Percussion Resource Class

Snare Drum

The snare drum belongs to the membranophone category as it is essentially produces sound from the vibrations created by a membrane. This membrane is often a skin (traditionally animal skin like calfskin however modern day replacement has been mylar) stretched over a hollow body wooden shell.

Traditionally the animal skin would be put into the flesh hoop (in diagram below) when wet.

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Different materials can be used for the snares alternatively referred to as the gut. Some of the materials used include gut, thinner metals, synthetic materials such as plastic. Different materials have different sounds giving it different uses. A possible usage suggestion for gut is to be used for louder purposes such as in a march outdoors. However thinner metals and synthetic materials are capable of producing much more refined sounds with softer capabilities suitable for more precise playing evident in orchestral snare drumming.

There are two sides the the snare drum. The top side is where the player strikes his sticks onto and this side has the batter head. The bottom side is referred to as the snare head as this side contains the snares. The batter head is often slightly thicker then the snare head as this is the surface that is played on.

The tension of the snare drum can be adjusted in a few different ways. Firstly to release the snares to get a sound without the snares the player has to let off the release lever as this lowers the snares from the snare head. A way to change the tension of the batter head or snare head is to adjust the tension rods with a drum key. Finally a more precise adjustment can be made with the adjust of the snare knob which is used as a fine tuner.

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Stick Grips

There are two ways to hold the drum sticks:

  • Traditional grip: as the name describes, it is the way the sticks were held traditionally due to the marching background associated with the snare drum.

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  • Match grip: This grip has both hands gripping the drum stick like the right hand from the traditional grip.

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When playing the snare drum one must think about the three points:

  • Think about pivot point
  • Hold the sticks with the thumb and index finger
  • Bend wrist and stay relaxed
  • Two drum sticks making a 90 degree angle
  • Elbows moved away from body

Basic Strokes

  • Full Stroke
  • Down
  • Up
  • Tap

Drum Rudiments

In drumming there are “rudiments” which could be referred to as the “scales” for drumming, being a set of technical exercises to develop the right technique and rhythmic vocabulary needed. In total there are 40 essential rudiments.

By clicking on the rudiment notation below you can access more resources such as exercises, videos and a play along track provided by Vic Firth

Single Stroke Rudiments:

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Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 10.17.17 PMFlam Rudiments

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screen-shot-2017-06-04-at-10-18-04-pm1.png * All rudiments should be performed starting slowly with gradual accelerando and ritardando 



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Rudimental Drumming Pieces:

As mentioned before instead of scales for drumming there are rudiments, and similarly instead of etudes in drumming there are rudimental drumming pieces which incorporate the various drumming techniques and patterns contained in the 40 essential rudiments.

“The Downfall of Paris”

Below are two different interpretations of the rudimental drum piece “The Downfall of Paris”:

Below (click link to open) is an arrangement of “Downfall of Paris” arranged by Steve Machamer 

“The Downfall of Paris” 1 – basic stickings with accents, single strokes, double strokes and Single Paradiddles.

“The Downfall of Paris” 2 – basic sticking with accents, Flams, single strokes, double strokes, and Single Paradiddles

“The Downfall of Paris” 3 – adding the drag (3 stroke roll), 7 stroke roll, and 15 stroke roll.

For further insight into snare drum playing click HERE to access the Video Lesson Series by Mark Wessel.

Drum Kit

Origins of Drum Kit:

During the 19th century particularly in the US with the civil war taking place marching bands would often have multiple drummers to play different sized drums. However towards the end of the US civil war experimentation began with the drummers creatively finding a solution to be able to play the entire percussion section consisting of multiple different drums by a single drummer. After this double drumming became popular and eventually bass drum pedal was created. In addition to these changes immigration also influenced the modern drum kit such as the china cymbal. By the early 20th century the drum kit some what resembled the  modern day drum kit.

To see a full historical timeline of the drum kit click HERE!

Parts of the Modern Drum Kit: 

An rear view of a modern 5-Piece Drum Kit:

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An aerial view of a modern 5-Piece Drum Kit:

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For video tutorials about the drum kit please access the following links:

How to assemble and set up a drum kit

Basic Foot technique

Basic rock beats:

Drum kit Notation

The drum kit is notated in percussion clef which is represented as:

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Different parts of the drum kit is represented using the various stave lines and space as well as a combination of cross note heads as well as filled note heads:

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For further video lessons on rhythmic notation used in drum kit and percussion playing, click HERE!

How to transcribe a drum chart from a recording

When transcribing a drum chart from a recording it is importantly to firstly feel the pulse and the groove of the song. Is it in 4/4? Is it Bossa Nova? Swing beat? shuffle? or straight 8s?  Most contemporary pop songs are in 4/4 time so this step should be quite clear. Counting out each section before notating rhythms can be beneficial as it gives you an overall idea of how long or how many bars each sections goes on for.

The following steps require a sounds knowledge and skill set in the use of rhythm notation so if you are not familiar with rhythmic notation click HERE for video lessons. 

First notate the simple rhythms which can be heard. This is often the Bass drum as it lies on main beats as well as with the snare drum. The most complicated parts such as the hi-hat or ride cymbal should be left until last. By sub-diving each beat the complicated parts will become easier to transcribe.

A technique which helps aid transcription is digitally slowing down tracks. You can either upload a mp3 file or copy and paste an online Youtube link. To access a website which allows this, click HERE.

For further insight into drum kit playing click HERE to access the Beginner Lesson Series by Stanton Moore.

Mallet Percussion

All of the Mallet Percussion instruments fall under the category of idiophones as they produce sound through vibrating without the use of strings or a membrane. However they are the pitched percussion within this category as they are all tuned to a chromatic western music scale system.

When choosing a mallet for Xylophone, it must be a mallet which does not damage the wood. When the mallet is too hard damage occurs, so brass mallets are to be NEVER used on the Xylophone or Marimba. Hard mallets such as brass mallets are to be used for metallic mallet instruments such as the glockenspiel or crotales.

Watch the video below to learn how the basic grip of mallets and the basic strokes


  • Often made from Rosewood
  • Usually sounds an octave higher than written



  • The Marimba sounds at its written pitch
  • Music can be written in bass clef, treble clef or as a both similarly to a keyboard instrument
  • Mallet’s should be those with yarn covering or soft rubbers
  • The size of Marimba’s range from four to five octaves

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  • Glockenspiel’s are made from steel or aluminum bars
  • lowest note F or G below middle C
  • Mallet’s used should be brass or hard rubber
  • The Glockenspiel sounds two octaves higher than written

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  • The Vibraphone has a pedal which can be used from dampening
  • Vibraphones are made from aluminum alloy
  • Has resonance chambers with paddles/fans run by a motor which creates a vibrato effect
  • Mallets used should be firm mallets with solid core or a mallet with a wooden centre and yarn covering.


Click HERE to access Gary Burton’s Vibraphone masterclass

Tubular Bells/Chimes

  • Similarly to the Vibraphone the Tubular bells/chimes has a dampening pedal
  • Made from steel tubes and should be played with a wooden or acrylic hammer
  • Sounds an octave higher than written however when played softly with a soft mallet, a fundamental harmonic sounding an octave lower can be heard.

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  • Crotales are made from Bronze or brass disks and are pitched/tuned chromatically
  • Should be played with hard mallets such as brass.
  • The Crotales sounds two octaves higher than written.

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Appropriate mallets exercises

For more mallet exercises click on the links below to access resources created by Steve Machamer:

Easy Scale in 7/4 

Elementary Ragtime Exercises

Chromatic Scale

Two Mallet Warm up Patterns

The Downfall of Paris (Melody)

Four Mallet Grips

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Changing Mallet widths


Four Mallet Exercises:

Below are links to access Four Mallet exercises arranged by Steve Machamer:

St Louis Blues with Chords changes

Voicing Blues Chords with 4 Mallets


Week 7: Timpani – History, types of drums, i.e. Pedal, dresden style, hand tuned, copper, fiberglass,

Modern Timpani: Dresden (German)

  • Foot pedal
  • Copper bowl (beaten)
  • suspended bowl
  • Tuning gauge (movable)
  • advantage over baroque = hands free while
  • Fine tuning knob
  • tension rods into spider plate

4 = standard


range of drums,

  • 32″/80cm
  • 29″
  • 26″
  • 23″

* Anything above A (on 23″) -> need piccolo drum (e.g. rite of spring – middle C)

Timpani’s role is to enhance fundamentals (I/V)

basic stroke,


  • choices,
  • History (baroque used all wood,
  • ball ended stick, covered with felt, leather, etc
  • Berlioz -> baguette to sponge




  • keep mallets in sleeves (protect the head)

Auxiliary Percussion


“The art of percussion playing” – Book

“turkish influence”

  • Bass drum (large soft mallet + “twig” like mallet)
  • Cymbals
  • Triangle

Mid 18th century, popularity of turkish gom music

Haydn’s Military Symphony

Mozart abduction from xlavio


bass drum, stick choice,

  • dampening -> use hand and leg (muffling)
  • rolls, regular
  • dynamics
  • tuning of drum
  • mallet -> affects sound

crash cymbals, how to hold, basic stroke,

  • how to hold (hands,legs)
  • More R and hold L arm
  • Strokes
  • Muting with stomach

tambourine various techniques,

  • orchestral (10-inch)
  • technique
  • palm,knuckle, finger tips (knee!)
  • holding and shaking wiht weak hand (L)
  • Soft roll on tambourine (lick finger) -> friction


  • Play away from open end (play in corner)
  • muffling
  • beater
  • Beethoven Turkish March

gongs (tam tam)

  • Orchestral
  • want no determined pitch -> blending effect
  • not too high, not too low
  • damping (use leg, hands, mallet)


  • Various sizes
  • composers like writing for woodblocks

Temple Block

  • originated from Asia/buddhism
  • tuned like pentatonic
  • intervallic relationship
  • “on the trail”
  • notation

Notation for instruments,

Latin Percussion

Introduction to congas,



  • “Key”
  • high pitched to cut through
  • Clave pattern
  • standard feel
  • 2:3 pattern/3:2 pattern
  • Rumba Clave


  • Sea pod/gourd
  • Metal/tin -> raspader (Haiti)

ago-go bells,

  • Brazilian background
  • muffle sound by squeezing


  • donkey’s jaw
  • vibra slap

cow bells,

vibra slap,



  • history of timbale/timps in haiti/french
  • move to cuba
  • habanera
  • Carry timpani -> too big so developed timbale


  • mexico? Venezuelan? South american?
  • Joropo Verrezuelam (maraca playing)


  • Home made shaker = use bird shot or seeds not rice

1940s popular era in NY

playing technique for latin percussion n


Week 11: Percussion Arrangement



2 thoughts on “PRCN2006 – Percussion Resource Class

  1. Yoshiah, You have a pretty good blog, and there are advantages to this kind of portfolio. The links to websites ,or my handouts allow for an easy way to enhance on the class time information given. Where it is lacking somewhat is towards the end of the semester from the Auxiliary Percussion, Timpani, and Latin instruments. All you included were the talking points without any real elaboration. Occasionally there are weird entries like this:
    ” Mid 18th century, popularity of turkish gom music,” and “•Sea pod/gourd.” (seed pod)
    You could easily show photos of the Latin instruments and give links to the Timpani hand-outs online, as well as be a little more specific with some of your dot points. Of course, it is very neat, and well organised with a lot of your own effort included towards the beginning.
    Your mark is 17 out of a possible 20 points.


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