Adding Percussion to the Middle School String Orchestra

Using percussion instruments with a middle school string orchestra can introduce new and exciting sounds. The addition of percussion provides rhythmic stability, new timbres, visual interest for the audience, and emphasis on certain melodies. The percussion section can involve musicians from outside the string orchestra or string students who learn percussion.

Orchestra Director Marion Carl Sievers suggests considering the following issues before adding percussion and assigning parts:

  • Stage size––Will the stage accommodate orchestra and the percussion instruments?
  • Dynamic balance––Will the percussion parts cover the sound of the string sections?
  • Ability-level of percussionists––Three percussion options include: (1) hiring professionals (2) using students from the band (3) teaching orchestra students how to play the instruments and the parts
  • Availability of the instruments––Can the orchestra program borrow the instruments from the band or an outside source?
  • Rehearsal time––Do students have time to learn the percussion parts and fit them into the ensemble?


More next week on adding percussion to the middle school string orchestra: effective rehearsals, suggested repertoire, and different percussion techniques and styles.

This article was adapted from an article by Marion Carl Sievers, MENC member and Orchestra Director at Dickerson Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Nicole Springer, August 14, 2008 © National Association for Music Education