Drum Up a New Sound

This is a follow up article to Adding Percussion to the Middle School Orchestra

Orchestra Director Marion Carl Sievers states that choosing when, where, and how to add percussion to a string orchestra arrangement depends on stylistic, cultural, and practical considerations in the music. If the music is a dance or is written in the Swing, Latin, or Rock style, then percussion and perhaps keyboards and electric bass can make the music more exciting.

African, Arabic, Middle-Eastern, and other ethnic music often uses drumming, particularly hand drums. Using mallet percussion to strengthen or add a new timbre to certain melodic lines is another creative idea. Mallet percussion can be staccato or legato, if the damper pedal is used or the notes are rolled. Different types of mallets make the instrument sound either brighter and more piercing or mellow and blending. No matter how much students clap, count aloud, or listen to a metronome, pizzicato sections tend to rush. The steady beat of a percussion instrument may help avoid this tendency.

Suggested string arrangements that include percussion:

  • Serengeti Dreams, arranged by Robert W. Smith
  • Ahlan Sabaya Alfarah, arranged by Kenneth Sarch

Web resources for rhythm drumming:

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 21, 2008 © National Association for Music Education