Drum, Drum, Drum – teaching about untuned percussion

Here are a couple of Music Lesson planning ideas for teaching about percussion in the elementary, middle or even junior high school music class.

Making drums is always a fun activity with younger students. Students can make their own drums if you have enough materials, otherwise you could do it as a class project. You’ll simply need a large empty can, some rubber or chamois for the drum head, a large rubber band to hold it on, and a small stick to play it with.

The can can be placed upright on the drumhead material. Mark a circle that is 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) greater in diameter than the can. Cut out the circle; stretch it tightly over the open end of the can, and secure it with the rubber band. The pencil or stick can then be used to play our rhythms

Some cultures in Africa use “talking drums” to mimic spoken language. Have the students break out into small groups and take turns playing a message to their peers with a drum, handclaps, or other makeshift percussion instrument. See if anyone can understand the content of the message.

Call and response rhythms: With drums, handclaps, or makeshift percussion instruments, play a series of rhythms and let students repeat those rhythms together.

Show students and discuss the differences between tuned and untuned percussion instruments. You could have a quiz where you name an instrument and ask the class to identify them as untuned or tuned.

You can spend some time talking about idiophones and membranophones – what they are and how to know which is which. Name some percussion instruments and ask students to identify them as one or the other.

Have students make percussion instrument flash cards, from artwork provided here at the Fun Music Company website. Ask them to cut out the pictures and affix them to index cards; write the instrument names on the backs of the cards.

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