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Play It Again: Percussion



A bit rusty? Don't be put off. Browse our helpful hints, and watch a video guide to get you started.

Hints and Tips: Playing Percussion

There are many percussion instruments, but some players opt to specialise in playing the timpani, which is an art in itself.

The timpani should be arranged around you in a horseshoe shape, with the lowest drum on the left and the highest on the right, or vice versa depending on what you prefer - experiment to find out.

Use an adjustable swivel stool so you can reach each drum comfortably, and sit at a height which keeps your posture as natural as possible.

The tuning of your timpani will depend on the piece of music you're playing, so once you know, tune up using the pedal mechanism on each drum.

Practice playing rolls, different rhythm patterns and damping notes - it's also useful to practice re-tuning and glissandos (slides) and developing your sense of relative pitch so you can do this during a performance. Keep your wrists loose and don’t let tension creep in.

Apart from the timpani, percussion instruments come in all shapes and sizes, from the triangle and tambourine to the marimba and gong, and as a percussionist you'll need to master all of them.

For many percussion instruments, including the timpani, you'll need a range of different sticks or mallets. Get used to the various stick techniques, but don’t overdo it at first as the muscles and tendons can be easily strained.

Good counting and sense of rhythm is vital for all percussionists and is something you'll need to develop, along with your coordination and control.

If you're performing make sure you give yourself plenty of time to set-up beforehand, laying the various instruments out so you can easily get to them. The same applies for the timpani.

Be sure you have everything you'll need, from different types of beaters to stands for instruments such as suspended cymbals. For some instruments you'll also need to think about transport, as they can be big and bulky.

If you’re looking for a percussion teacher local music shops should be able to point you in the right direct, and adult education colleges and local authority Music Services are also a good place to begin.

When buying or renting instruments it's best to go to a specialist percussion dealer - they also often have good websites so you can compare prices.

If you’re interested in joining an amateur orchestra ask for information on local groups at your library or local Music Service, or try online by searching the Amateur Orchestras website by location.

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