Tap into the Magic of Drumming, Part 2

Drumming activities can tackle many elements of music and world cultures. Sue Keeble shares her experiences:

Music Concepts

  • Timbre—producing contrasting resonant sounds between the tone and bass
  • Rhythm—patterns played within the framework of a steady pulse
  • Form—performing contrasting sections
  • Texture—one rhythm vs. multiple rhythms

Young children can play the rhythm of a rhyme and improvise with the high and low sounds of the drum, while older children can freely improvise within a safe and noncompetitive environment. Keeble says, “There’s nothing that makes a child feel better than hearing classmates hoot and holler after a great drum solo!”

World Cultures

Keeble has studied and taught West African drumming. Once her students have learned one style, they can compare it with others. She says, “While I may not have a collection of doumbek drums from the Middle East or Koto drums from the Far East, young students can easily watch a short video and immediately dive into a lively discussion about the differences in sound, shape, and style of drumming.”

Keeble’s students love West African drumming with its “repetition of the main rhythm and the contrast provided with its many ‘breaks’,” she says.

Getting Started with Drumming

Keeble recommends taking lots of drumming classes. She says, “Exposure to different styles of teaching and playing the drum will serve as inspiration for developing your own ideas.” She likes the clear and exciting arrangements in Jim Solomon’s book D.R.U.M..

“Don’t give up,” Keeble advises. “Drumming is messy when you first start. Discipline is a large part of a successful drumming class. It’s so powerful when children learn to respect the drum by knowing when it should and should not be played . . . but this takes time.”

She also recommends allowing yourself to make mistakes. “Less is almost always more. Even the simplest arrangements designed for young children can work extremely well with upper elementary and beyond,” she says. “Contrasting sections are key to making a simple arrangement work with older children. Change rhythms that don’t jive with your kids . . . once again, simplify.”

Music Connected to Life

Keeble related to her teacher’s description of the role of drumming in West Africa (see Part 1), helping people through their joys and sorrows. “Bolokada mentioned that ‘nobody complains’ when hard labor is accompanied with drumming,” she says. “Music can serve a greater role in our lives than performance on the formal stage. We can learn about our history in a multitude of creative and imaginative ways that aren’t connected to a computer screen or a textbook. . . . I find this very inspiring.”

Part 1

NAfME member Sue Keeble teaches at Sangamon Elementary School in Mahomet, Illinois.

—Linda C. Brown, November 30, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)