Thursday, May 16, 2013

DRUMS: Rat-a-tap-tap Rhythms with Reasons!

     Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup beating the bongo here!  Let's talk about drumming with Pre-K and K children!  You don't have to be a music teacher to engage your students in drumming exercises that will benefit their brains and bodies.  Today's blog will get you started.
     Active Music stimulates every area of the developing brain.  Early literacy skills such as rhythm, steady beat, pattern and sequence are a natural part of drumming – and the children just think it’s fun – and “cool!”

EQUIPMENT: You don't need to purchase drums to start.  Container drums are great - the children on the right are using empty baby-wipes containers that I have sealed shut with packing tape.  Empty oatmeal containers, 2.5 lb plastic nut/rice 
jars (mine came from Costco), coffee cans, Tupperware, pots & pans - there are lots of inexpensive (recycle-able) options.  Experiment with the different sounds made by different materials.  The boys in the picture (left) made drums from craft containers - great for storing other smaller instruments such as kazoos, a scarf, egg shaker, inside!

SPACE:  I start with hand drums - leave mallets or drumsticks for later.  I ask the children to sit in a "Safety Zone" - not too close so that they don't accidentally whack-a-friend while drumming!  Drums on the floor - they are not safe or secure on their legs.  They can sit criss-cross, legs folded with the drum in front of them OR in a V-seat with the drum between their legs.  Sitting on knees is ok - but I prefer "drums on the floor, bottoms on the floor!"

TIME:  Keep drumming time short (5-6 minutes to start) and fun.  Accuracy with beat-work will come, but it takes practice and ear-training. Encourage children to listen and do with enthusiasm!

BEAT IT!  Start with easy beats – two hands on the drum, then alternating hands as children become more adept.  Here are some great starters (you can hear this sequence on my Stinky Cake cd):
This is the Way We Play Our Drums (tune: Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush)
This is the way we play our drums
Play our drums, play our drums
This is the way we play our drums
So early in the morning!
  (speak/sing – these are music dynamics – an opposites, too!)
I can play my drum very softly!   (they play)
I can play my drum very loudly!        “
I can play my drum very slowly!        “
I can play my drum very fast!             “

   Children should use their pointer fingers as “drumsticks” to gently tap the first verse.  Open hand and let’em wail for the second verse!

Tap a drum, tap a drum, tap tap tap
Tap a drum, tap a drum, tap tap tap
Tap a drum, tap a drum, tap tap tap
Tap a drum, tap a drum – SHHHH!

v.2  Bang a drum!

NOTE:  if you put ½ cup of something (popcorn, rice, etc) in the drum before sealing it, you can do v.3 – Shake-A-Drum!  It's a favorite.  We do some additional "listening" to determine who has rice (soft sound) and who has beans (louder sound).


 Now let’s add a familiar song:
This Old Man
This old man, he played one                 hold up one finger
He played knick-knack on my drum     tap drum
With a knick-knack, paddy-whack      beat drum with alternating hands
Give a dog a bone                                in time with the song
This old man came rolling home!          Roll hands in front of you

v.2  he played knick-nack on my shoe – tap shoe
v.3  he played knick-nack on my knee – tap knee
v.4  he played knick-nack on the floor -  tap floor

Echo Drumming – you play a pattern, then the children echo it!  We start "hands on knees" (picture right) so that they listen first, then repeat what they heard.
    I would not add this activity until after a few drumming sessions.  With children 2 – 6 years old, I start by using the syllable “ba” for each beat.  It emphasizes the sound, and they can copy it with greater accuracy.

BA BA BA!   (they play the even, steady beat back to you – BA BA BA!)
BA BA BA BA BA!          (they echo)
BA BA BA BA BAH BA  (they echo)
BA (rest) BA BAH BA!     (they echo)

Now let’s get up and put the beats in our feet.  This is a Kodaly-based pattern.  I use a mini-timpani drum – but anything that you can beat out a good, loud beat with will work!  Be sure the children are all travelling in the same direction.  This is a spoken piece.  When you're done, let each child have a chance to play the larger drum, encouraging them to play both loud and quiet.

When the Drum Says…
Walk walk walk when the drum says walk
When the drum says stop, you stop!    (pause)
Jump jump jump when the drum says jump
When the drum says stop, you stop!     (pause)
Run run run when the drum says run
When the drum says stop, you stop!      (pause)
Tiptoe, tiptoe tiptoe when the drum says tiptoe
When the drum says stop, you stop!     (pause)

The Beats:  The “walk” beat is a medium tempo and steady.  My “jump” beat is 2 quick beats with a slight pause – as in a gallop tempo.  “Run” – fast, but not too loud!  “Tiptoe” beat is quiet and quick.

NOTE:  As the children get more familiar with the different beat patterns, you can stop saying the lyric and just beat the rhythms.  They should be able to identify what rhythm goes with what movement.

    There are many wonderful types of drums: wave drums, bongos, djembe, etc.  But even mastering the activities above is a great way to introduce your children to the joys of rhythmic drumming!  Children of all abilities love to drum – what are you waiting for???

Yours for a Be-bop-a-loo and a Wham-bam-boo!
“Miss Carole” Stephens


  1. Wonderful! I know first graders would also love all this drumming. Thank your for the teacher tips that make activities like these work well. Nice!

  2. You're welcome, Carolyn! Yes- this kind of drumming works well with students from 2 - 8 years old. Drumming is also a nice time to practice sitting correctly, as illustrated in today's (5/18) blog!


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