Percussion Activities for Kids

Originally published on Savvy Auntie and Chelsea’s Blog.

I recently had the pleasure of experiencing an invigorating concert integrating art with science by the “outstanding – no, make that astonishing” (Ottawa Citizen) TorQ Percussion Quartet at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. As part of the Loops 13 Conference for the presentation and review of recent progress in loop quantum gravity research, the performance was entitled “A Shift in Time” and examined “the phenomenon of time and space in a rhythmic paradigm” (2013 Pushing the Perimeter Series), each piece exploring a specific music compositional device and the surrounding variations: metric modulation, phasing, spatial aural spectra, and acoustic delay.

TorQ’s opening piece, “…dust into dust…” (from Strange and Sacred Noise by John Luther Adams), captivated listeners in an overwhelming and at times violent envelopment of sound – thundering, then gently cascading by turns. The entire performance was a wonderfully intense and fulfilling listening experience, an enjoyable plunge into natural and electronic themes that inspired me to refashion the pieces into percussion activities that would encourage children to delve further into the entrancing realm of sound.

As a performance group, TorQ is committed to the mission of furthering music education in schools, making it a priority to share the variety and vitality of percussion with students. Through school concerts, which typically involve different musical styles on a variety of small instruments (e.g., marimba, vibraphone, and cajón), they hope to encourage young percussionists and aspiring musicians to further engage in interesting musical experiences.

Most school programs don’t have a lot of percussion development as part of their music program or as part of the band program, so we come in and we do something that most of the kids have never seen before. – Jamie Drake, TorQ Member

Percussion Activities

Below are three TorQ-inspired percussion activities for kids, using everyday household items:

Note: Auntie supervision is advised.

1. What to Do With Bottles and Wood (4+ Players)
Inspired by TorQ’s rendition of Casey Cangelosi’s “Theatric No. 4”

What You Need
-Wood blocks
-Bottles (different sizes)
-Drumsticks (or sticks)

How to Play
With similar intentions as the original piece, this group activity allows young players to “choose their own adventure” by experimenting with the household objects provided and exploring different methods for creating sound and rhythmic play. One child may start off the group on a particular beat, and one by one the others may either choose to follow suit or compose their own rhythms – embark on their own “musical paths” – to create either unison or dissonance with other players. This activity promotes concentration and focus in young minds.

2. What to Do With Improv Conducting (1 Conductor, 3+ Players)
Inspired by TorQ’s “Improv” contemplation of the question “What is space and time quantum?”

What You Need
-Small instruments (e.g., pots, pans, and bells)
-Drumsticks (or sticks)
-Room for movement

How to Play
Allow the players to choose their own instruments and have them stand in a half-circle. Designate one child as the conductor of the group. When the game starts, the conductor will direct the group at random in any form or fashion. Movement and spontaneity are key components of this activity. Players are encouraged to interact with others and their instruments to produce the rhythms as instructed by the conductor. This exercise encourages cooperation and group effort and will definitely get the kids moving!

3. What to Do When the Internet Dies (4+ Players)
Inspired by TorQ’s performance of Ann Southam’s “Natural Resources – or, what to do ‘til the power comes on”

What You Need
-Table
-Colored tape
-Drumsticks (or sticks, one per player)
-Small instruments (e.g., bells, bottles, and wood blocks)
-Room for movement

How to Play
Equally space out five strips of colored tape lengthwise along both sides of the table, and have two players stand on either side. The two players will begin creating a rhythm by tapping their drumsticks to each of the five strips, making sure to stay in sync with each other. The other two players will take turns placing small instruments onto the strips of tape and rearranging their positions while the first two players continue tapping, effectively creating new sounds and changes in rhythm.

Caution: Given the exciting and highly mobile nature of this game, players may have the tendency to “get out of hand.” Keep a close watch on fingers!

The TorQ Percussion Quartet was formed by four Canadian percussionists looking to add new vitality to percussion repertoire and performance. Members Richard Burrows, Adam Campbell, Jamie Drake, and Daniel Morphy are committed to making new music accessible to audiences that span generations and geography. In addition to promoting new music, TorQ members are strong believers in the importance of music education. In combination with Ontario-based organization Prologue to the Performing Arts, TorQ performs approximately 70 shows per academic year to elementary and secondary school audiences. Follow them on Twitter (@torqpercussion).

Photo: Courtesy of ZoomerMediaGreen Glade Public School

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: