In my last article on this topic, I wrote about how we’ve been using games to get kids excited about learning drumming. These games work; we’ve been continuing to use them with younger students. You can read that first article here: Drum Lessons For Kids: Focus on Fun.
Here are 3 new ideas that you may find helpful with 4 to 6 year olds:
1) Coloring ActivityKids need to know what the different parts of the drum set are. We’ve been using a coloring game to teach them. The coloring page has a cartoon-ish looking line drawing of a drum set, with spaces for the kids to write down the names of each drum or cymbal. And the fun part is the coloring—they can color each drum or cymbal with any color they like. They simply have to name the part of the drum set that they are coloring (that’s how we sneak in the learning part), and tell us why they chose that color.
Some examples of the answers we get?
“I colored the bass drum green because I like frogs!”
Do frogs have anything to do with drums? Well, no, but if this youngster likes frogs and wants to color the bass drum green, it’s OK with us!
Plus, our goal is accomplished: he now knows the name of the bass drum and what it looks like….and he’s not likely to forget it.
2) Arts and Crafts ActivitiesWe have the kids build a drum or percussion instrument from scratch, using household items. The easiest one to make is a home-made “shaker.” A shaker is just that—-a percussion instrument you shake (rather than strike) to provide a rhythm. A shaker is just a container that has particles inside.
Taking an empty 16 oz plastic soda bottle, filling it with uncooked rice and screwing the top back on is a great way to quickly make a shaker. Its fun. And they’ve made their own percussion instrument.
Then, we have the kids guess how many pieces of rice are in the teacher’s shaker, and who ever gets closest to the right answer wins a prize. Fun.
3) Human Drum SetWith the human drum set game, we have several kids make different repeating rhythms with their voices. We show them the separate sounds we want them each to make, and the rhythm we want them each to sing. When the kids sing them simultaneously, they are making a drum beat, and each kid is providing the sound of a different part of the drum set.
For an example, see what each of three kids might sing and how they fit together:
Kid 1: chick chick chick chick (continuous eighth notes, just like a cymbal)
Kid 2: Boom Boom (a bass drum pattern)
Kid 3: bap (a snare drum pattern, on the backbeat)
When it all happens at once, they’re creating a drum beat: “boom boom bap.” The exercise demonstrates how the different parts of the drum set fit together to make drum beats.
These fun ideas have been working for us. We hope they work for you too.
Here is a simple game to try. It will give some structure to your practicing and help your drumming (of course, because you’ll be practicing). The game will help improve your concentration, reading and groove. It is meant for beginners and or kids.
Take a page of beat exercises you’ve been working on….good examples would be The first page of the eighth note beats in “The Funky Primer” or the first page of beats in “The Mini Monster Book of Rock Drumming.”
Before you can play the game, you must have spent a good amount of time working on each exercise on the page….make sure you can play each exercise. If you are still struggling with the mechanics of each exercise, you are not ready for the game.
The idea is to play each exercise multiple times, and then, without stopping, go to the next one, and play that one multiple times. Continue this until you go from the first exercise on the page to the last. If you can do this, without stopping, you win.
1) You win the game by getting to the end of the page.
2) No stopping.
3) Pick a tempo and stick to it.
4) Play each exercise multiple times before going on to the next one.
5) No mistakes.
6) If you stop, or make a mistake, you have to go back five exercises. (if you mess up on exercise #7, you have to go back to #2)
Two other versions of the game
1) Go backward, from the last exercise to the first
2) Go forward AND backward: from the first to the last, and then from the last to the first.
At first try to play the game without a metronome…..when you can play the game successfully without a metronome, start using one to add a level of difficulty.
This game will solidify your ability to play the beats you’ve been working on, and force you to practice a lot. Plus….it will be fun.
FUN IS THE NAME OF THE GAME.
Recently, here at BANG! The Drum School, we’ve been giving more and more drum lessons to younger kids and we’ve noticed that teaching them has a new set of challenges. The kids we teach are usually no younger than seven years old, but even at that age, their attention span can be limited. We’ve found a few ways to keep the interest of the younger set, however. The basic idea? Yup, you guessed it. Playing drums is fun! We keep things light, enthusiastic and positive. We use a lot of games. I have a six year old who is learning to read music and he is actually enjoying it because of this approach. The following are some of the ideas we’ve been using to get good results with these students. If you are a parent or a music teacher (of any instrument), hopefully these will be helpful to you. Remember, fun is the name of the game.
THE PARENT IS THE TEACHER’S ACCOMPLICE
Truth be told, the way I began figuring out how to teach younger kids was with the help of the parent of one of my students. Stella is a great mom, and her son is 6 years old. When Stella came to BANG with her little guy, Charlie, she was armed with a bunch of snacks, a bottle of water and an encouraging smile. One day, she brought pizza. We’d work on a little hand technique, and then Stella would offer Charlie a bite of pizza. We’d play some drums, then Charlie would have another bite of pizza. Little bits of “work” would be followed by little rewards. Snack breaks work. But the big picture here is that the parent can play a major part in setting the tone of the lessons if they want to. Stella is the opposite of the overbearing parent….she is helping me excite her child about drums.
ATTITUDE AND PERSONALITY
The overall attitude and personality of the teacher is key. Kids are interested in fun. That’s probably why they are taking drum lessons in the first place. Don’t spoil it by being too serious. When I teach younger children, my attitude is happy, encouraging, fun, low-key and even silly. The drum teacher is the younger student’s buddy, baby sitter, coach, clown and music teacher. Yes, I’ve got lots of music information to get across, but I’ve got to do it in little doses, and mix that in with a healthy amount of fun and games. A drum lesson with 7 year old should be more like a wonderful drumming party, not a serious lecture.
IT’S OK TO MAKE MISTAKES
It’s important to create a low-stress environment by communicating to the student that mistakes are part of the process of learning to play an instrument. If a student feels to pressure to be perfect or is under the impression that errors are not allowed they will feel stress and then the lessons will no longer be fun. I always tell students that it is OK if they make mistakes, that they don’t need to apologize for them and that I make similar mistakes when I’m learning something new (which is the truth).
This is a great game to engage kids while sneaking in some information of importance about the musical instrument being taught. To help kids learn the different parts of the drum set, we’ve been playing “Simon Sez.” I’ll say, “Simon says, hit the snare drum two times,” or “Simon says hit the ride cymbal once.” It is rare that I can trick these kids when I don’t say “Simon says,” and they are so engaged in the game that they don’t realize that they are actually learning what all the different parts of the drum set are along the way.
HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU DO “X”?
A big part of drumming is consistency. Drummers need to play repetitive patterns at a steady tempo and for relatively long periods of time. When a child is learning a pattern on the drums–a new drum beat, for example—they have a tendency to work on it until they can play it correctly a single time, and then stop. I want to encourage kids to play the pattern over and over and over again, because that is how musical patterns are absorbed. In order to motivate kids to do this, I like to play a game where we count how many times in a row the student can play the pattern that is being worked on, and then repeat that game, trying to break the high score. This method results in children playing a drum pattern over and over again, which is exactly what needs to happen in order for them to master any exercise.
MATCH THE METRONOME GAME
In this game, we turn on the metronome, pick a tempo and then either click the sticks together, play on the practice pad or a cymbal and attempt to match the pulse of the time keeping device. I always vary the tempos: slow, medium and fast. Steady tempo is an essential skill for all musicians, but for drummers it is everything. You can’t be a drummer if you can’t keep time. For younger students, breaking skills down into their essential elements is helpful, and that is what this exercise does. Instead of asking a 7 year old play a snare drum etude or drum beat along with a metronome, we’re simply having them play the exact pulse that the metronome is playing. The task is a much more reasonable one to have a child of that age complete, but it still teaches the basic time keeping skill, and that is our goal.
DRUMMING “FREE PLAY”
Part of the joy of making music is hearing the sound that the instrument makes when it is played. This “Free Play” exercise allows that to happen, and I’ve seen students experience great joy when they are encouraged to hit the drums any way they like…..no rules, no patterns, loud or quiet, fast or slow…..they are told to do whatever they want to do. This reinforces the notion that playing music is fun, and much of the time gets the child very excited. That joy and excitement is exactly what we are hoping for as it can be a big motivator.
DO WHAT I DO
Otherwise known as the rhythmic mimicking game, the teacher plays a rhythm and asks the student to play it back. Simple, but effective and fun, this is another game that keeps children engaged.
GIVE THESE IDEAS A TRY
Please give these ideas a try. Hopefully your young drum student will stay inspired, motivated and spend more time practicing their drumming skills as a result.