Author: Facundo Alvarez, Percussion teacher and Facilitator
Hi, If you are starting your learning path in percussion and looking for guidance to move forward in it, stay tuned!, because in this post I’m going to share with you the 10 fundamental skills that you have to develop to become a great percussionist.
All the information and advices that I’m going to share with you in this post can be applied to any percussion instruments, such as: Bongó, Cajón, Conga, Djembé, among others.
Also, all the contents of this post comes from my own experience of more that 20 years as percussion teacher and facilitator.
This first skill is directly related with our role as percussionist in a band, that is timekeeping.
To move forward and improve this ability, you have to work in three separate areas:
How you that?, well basically follow this rule:
For a great percussion tempo is not an issue. What I mean is tempo can´t change your sound or your way of playing or your musicality.
Yes, I know you’re going to tell me that maybe in the point that you are right now, there are some tempos that are out of your reach because they are too fast. I give you that, however keep in mind this idea, if you look for popular music, you’re going to find out that on average, songs are mostly between 90 BPM and 200 BPM.
So if you train yourself to be able to play between these two tempos, you’re going to be more than well.
In the Online Percussion Classes, I offers individual and face to face classes for you to start learn to play percussion from scratch and learn to play and make music with the percussion instrument you like – Bongó, Cajón, Conga, Djembé or Timbal Brasilero.
In the Online Percussion Courses I offer you different options for you to start to play percussion from scratch, develope as percussionist and learn to play and make music with the percussion instrument that you like: Bongo, Cajón, Conga, Djembé or Timbal Brasilero
Figures are the main content of rhythms. In fact rhythms are built from the combination figures and their silences: quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteen notes, among others . So being able to play and combine them is vital for your development as a percussionist.
To develop that ability you have to train yourself in playing them separately and combined in all the ways you can find and imagine, in order to expand your playing boundaries.
As part of your musical and rhythmic training you have to develop the ability to recognize different bar types. What is a bar?. We can define the bar as the space in which the music happens. And we define them for the amount of beat they have.
Again, music is a wide and diverse universe and in it you are going to find different rhythms built in different bars. So the more bars you’re available to recognize the more rhythms and music you´re going to be able to play.
As a percussionist you have to be able to play in different musical contexts, what I mean you have to be able to play in a band among a drum set and other instruments, or in a percussion ensemble, or in a duo with a guitar or a piano, or in whatever set up you can find.
To develop this ability in the most productive way I recommend you to play over different songs with different instruments set up, so you can experiment with different music contexts and see how you adapt your play to each of them.
Improvisation is a key ability in our development as percussionists and musicians, because each time that we improvise we are going to develop our own personal voice on the drums. It’s true that we start playing percussion mimicking what others play, but the best way to build our own way of playing it is going a step further and create our own version of those rhythms. Improvisation is the best way to do that.
So lose the fear and allow yourself to take the risk to play something new from any rhythm that you learnt. By doing that you´re going to expand your playing boundaries.
Making music in a way is putting creativity to work by combining sounds and creating melodies and rhythms. So being creative is really important to your development and growth as a percussionist.
To play out of the box, implies to always go one step further than any rhythm or musical idea we learnt in the past. What I mean, by doing that you are going the ability to develop a personal way of playing and sound. Give it a try, you wont regret it.
Singing is a vital ability to develop as a musician and obviously as a percussionist, both to learn to play and to express yourself with them.
One important concept that you have to learn is that as a percussionist you´re not only playing rhythms, you´re also playing melodies.
In every percussion instrument you are going to find different notes. The basics one have at least two sounds or notes -show examples-, in general one bass sound or low pitched and a sharp sound. while others has 3 or more -show examples-.
Following that you can sing any rhythm copying the pitch of the different sounds. This ability is great, first to help you to learn and remember new rhythms and second as a resource to create and play new rhythms.
For 20 years I´ve dedicated myself to develope educational and recreational materials and experiences, with the goal of facilitate access to percussion learning to people of all ages
In all the projects I work motivated by the premise that "Percussion is for everybody" and that "Everyone can learn to play percussion".
My main goal is to help, as many people as I can, to live the unique experience of making music with percussion instruments.