Playing with Percussion (Day Sixteen of Homemade Music)

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I often look to singing as the first general introduction to music because, well, it’s an instrument that everybody already has! What’s the next most available instrument? Some sort of percussion.


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But wait, you say, I don’t own drums! No matter. People everywhere and in all times have had some sort of percussion available. You have tons of percussion instruments already lying around your house. You have hands, legs, feet, and a floor. The band I play with has used cardboard boxes, suitcases, chains, and I can’t remember what else to provide rhythm for the group. Any surface will do to produce a beat. If you have a minute and a half, this will provide some inspiration for you:

If this is your very first time playing with percussion, don’t be intimidated. For all my years in music, I’m still very clumsy when it comes to actually playing a drum (as my musical friends can well attest), but it’s fun to try regardless. Try practicing thumping an even, steady beat on a table top with your hand.  Work to keep it even, and avoid getting faster and faster (rushing) or slower and slower (dragging) for now.

A great way to jump in on percussion is to make a drum circle with friends or your kids. It’s low pressure, encourages your group playing skills, and helps everyone let their guard down a bit.

What is a drum circle? Everyone grabs a drum or some other sort of percussion (drum, shaker, wood block, triangle, hand clapping, etc.). One person picks a starting rhythm and plays it over and over, keeping it steady and even. If you’re all new, you can all try playing the same rhythm together. As you get more comfortable, gradually add different rhythms that complement the first. You’ll most likely be able to tell quickly whether it feels right or not. Keep it going for a little while, then start over with someone else giving the first rhythm.

Don’t know how to pick a rhythm? No worries- just try saying a sentence. How about introducing yourself? “Hi, my name is Abi.” Repeat it over and over til it falls into a steady pattern. Now, try striking your drum (or table top, or knee, or whatever) with each syllable. You may be surprised how easy it is to fall into a groove.

Check out some of these great examples of beginners joining in a drum circle:

Anyone can try a drum circle, no matter his age or ability. Even toddlers will enjoy joining in, even if they are less than accurate! 😉 No drum circle? That’s okay, you can still get in a lot of practice yourself until you can find some willing victims eager participants to join you. Happy grooving to you!



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