Auditioning Drummers and Percussionists

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There exist many concepts of audition procedures and requirements. Some are based on tradition, and some on contemporary concepts. The necessary coordination, muscle development, control, and rhythmic skills are all rooted in the student’s ability to play snare drum and develop a clean stroke. Snare drum technique carries over into playing any instrument with sticks or mallets. The rudiments, each in with their own demands, will develop the necessary strength of the hands, muscles, and quickness of any drummer. Rudimental proficiency will lay a solid foundation on which to develop all other grips and skills, to include drum set, keyboard percussion, timpani, or marching battery instruments.

Percussion instruments are the oldest instrument in the world, yet most of the percussion instruments we hear in music have been invented or developed only in the past 100 years or so. Things have changed much faster in the past 40 years of drumming than in hundreds. The concepts of symphonic and rudimental technique have grown exponentially from the 60’s and 70’s. Things that were standard then (such as always using brass mallets for bells, using timpani mallets for suspended cymbals, or playing bass drum with a “circular” motion) have gone the way of the Dodo bird. With the invention of newer synthetic materials, plastics, and rubber, mallet choices have drastically changed. The instruments have been present in our music and culture now for about 80 years which has led to more academic development of concepts, grips, and technique. Keyboard percussion, auxiliary percussion, timpani, drum set, and snare drum technique and concepts have rapidly evolved over the past 40 years, which has fueled a recent transition from the infancy stage to a better grasp of concepts and technique.

Percussion and drum set notation is not even standard yet, so some percussion music concepts are still in their infancy compared to instruments such as piano, violin, viola, cello, basses, guitar, flute, clarinet, trumpet, etc. that have been around for hundreds of years. Since they have been around, these older instruments have a solid foundation of nomenclature, terms, technique, pedagogy, notation, possibilities of the instrument, articulations, and design.

The concepts mentioned below are suggestions and in the spirit of developing the language of percussion instruments to become more universal and with common standards. The goal is to improve evaluation, standards. The evaluation is not valid (in educational terms) if it does not measure what the needs are for each specific area of percussion proficiency. All education degrees include an entire semester on this very process - - “valid assessment”. All education majors are taught how to develop a Unit of lesson plans and how to create tests to evaluate students on those lesson plans. The entire education evaluation and assessment course is based in driving home the significance of insuring that the test is “measuring what it is supposed to be measuring”. I hope this information can lead to more accuracy and a properly designed system to evaluate percussion proficiency in the symphonic setting, drum set setting, and marching percussion setting. Each setting has its own particular requirements for interpreting music, technique, grip, and dynamic levels.