Teaching a new unit is hard. Especially getting started. Here are the resources that I get asked about the most when it comes to teaching bucket drumming in a k-12 setting. Each item is a link to a blog post with more information and help.
The good news is that most instruments/accessories are readily available and cheap. Which is one of the biggest selling points of bucket drumming.
There's no perfect solution for this problem, but this post gives three different ideas.
Seven is an easy bucket drumming piece that is suitable for students in 3rd grade and up. The piece is written for two parts and is called Seven because the main motive comprises seven notes. The two parts sometimes interlock, contrast, or play together.
Seven can be played by any number of players and may be taught by notation or by rote. Score and Parts can be downloaded below, as well as a lesson plan and a Cheat Sheet in case you wish to make your own arrangement. Here is a video of a basic arrangement (don't be fooled by my serious expression, it's a really fun piece!):
How to Teach it:
Whether teaching by notation or rote, I have students do a lot of movement and chanting/counting out loud before they begin to play the bucket.
I typically start by teaching the two transitions with students counting "1 2 3 4" or "1 2 3 4 5 6 7" out loud as they play. This is an easy way to start and gets the group playing together in unison before they have to play separate parts.
Transition 1 (Letter D) is most successful when students move their bodies to the beat.
Transition 2 (Letter F) involves dynamics, so it's convenient to talk about how to play at a musical dynamic by using appropriate stick heights, as bucket drumming can get loud if you're not careful.
After teaching the transitions, your next goal is to get the students to play the main groove first on body percussion and then with sticks.
On the score, the main groove is found at Letter C and on the Cheat Sheet it is Bucket Part 1 and Bucket Part 2. If students first learn a composite part that contains all the pats and claps and then learn their individual part, things tend to go smoother. (See the measure labeled: Body Percussion - Combined).
Then play Body Percussion Part 1 and Body Percussion Part 2 together. Transfer that experience to sticks and buckets and the hardest part of the teaching is done. The claps become stick clicks and the pats are either bucket center or rim depending on the part.
Then all there is left to teach is the slow groove at G, the flashy but simple stick clicking at H, and the roll at the end. Put it all in order and the piece is done.
Click on the image below to download!
The title explains it all. If you are looking for other volume reducing ideas, check out this post about partner drumming or this one explaining how to turn down the volume.
The #1 complaint from teachers about bucket drumming is that it's super loud. Which is a completely fair criticism, but not one that should discourage you.
I've previously posted a bunch of things that you can do to reduce the intensity and duration of bucket drumming. I'll also be posting a giant list of things you can do to reduce volume next month, but right now I thought I'd go in depth on one of the best techniques: Partner Drumming.
Drumming in partners allows you to cut your bucket supply in half which in turn helps to reduce the volume of your classroom. I started having students play in partners out of necessity: I simply didn't have enough buckets or sticks for all the students. But the math soon became clear:
Fewer Buckets = Better Music + Happier Music Teacher
Nowadays I never use more than 12 buckets at any one time which reduces volume and makes setup/hauling far easier. Students work in partners which accommodates 24 students plus a few keeping the steady beat with a glass bottle and shakers and you now have 30+ students.
So here are some thoughts about how to get it going:
1. Set Up
More math: 2 kids + 1 bucket + 1 pair of sticks
Have partners sit across from each other like so:
2. Make Sure Everybody Has a Job
Whatever music you happen to be teaching (Grooves, Unisons, Play along etc.), have one partner use the sticks and the other person do something else. Here are some ideas for the non-stick student:
Reminder: Make sure the students face each other.
Honestly, the most productive choice is for the non-stick partner to chant and air drum while watching their partner. Here's why: If their drumming is in unison with their partner, then they both know the part and are good to go. If they are not in unison, something is wrong but facing their partner gives them a chance to see what it should look like and hopefully adjust.
I know what you are thinking: "What if both students are confused?" Check out #3 for a partial (yet effective) solution.
3. Get Everybody in Circle
Actually two circles. And only if you have the room as other shapes can work too (ex. parallel lines). As you are teaching/rehearsing, have the inside circle rotate even minute or two so the students get an opportunity to work with many different partners. Have them rotate or dance to the beat (Thanks Jim Solomon for that idea). Make sure the students take turns using the sticks (don't worry, the students won't let you forget!)
Not only do students get to move and work with different people, but it also creates an opportunity for student feedback: ask students to give a tip to their new partner after seeing them play. Students know how to talk to other students more effectively than grownups.
4. Get Creative With The Jobs
You've made sure that everybody has something to do. Great. Now make sure the jobs all feel legit; students will know if you are giving them busy work. Here's an example of a legit job: one student tilts the bucket while the other student drums on it with sticks. This changes the timbre and may logistically sound chaotic, but it's not. Take the first measure of Unison #7 for example:
This type of arrangement helps to involve all the students all the time. To provide stick equity, work in a four beat stick hand off at the end of the unison. Make sure the switch is in rhythm as this will help keep everybody on beat. It might look like this:
Remind the students handing off the sticks to simply hold them out front in the air; the other student just grabs them and is ready to go. Stay on beat. The form of all this would be:
Student 1 Plays Unison #7 - Hand off Sticks - Student 2 Plays Unison #7
So hopefully some of these ideas will be useful for your classroom. Let me know if you have any questions.
If you'd like to learn more in person, I run an all-day bucket drumming workshop each summer. Details can be found on the workshop page.
Registration is now open for the 2018 Summer Junkyard Percussion Workshop. Just click on the Workshops link for all the details.
This will be the 4th year I've offered this professional development day. Last year was fantastic with 25 teachers from 8 different states. This year will be great as well as we'll cover lesson plans, activities, materials, classroom management, and composition/improvisation.
Minneapolis is gorgeous during the summer with a lot to see and do. Make a long weekend of it. (Even though as I write this in April, we're supposed to get a foot of snow!)
Discounts (10%) are available for blog readers using the prom code: BLOG. Feel free to email me at: David@thebucketbook.com if you are interested or have any follow up questions.
Shopping for music stuff at a surplus store like Ax-Man Surplus is a combination of a treasure hunt and working in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory: You don't know what you are going to find and the results might be a little bit scary (but awesome). I always have a fun time at Ax-Man AND they have a teacher discount!
Here are 7 things that I've recently found at Ax-Man that I'm planning on using when teaching bucket drumming (there are about a billion other cool things at Ax-Man):
#1: Ball Bearings
They may power those blasted fidget spinners, but they also make fantastic fill for shakers. Louder, crisper, and more defined sound than rice.
#2: Duct Tape
There's a lot of duct tape at Ax-Man, and I mean a lot. Like an entire aisle full. Pick up a big roll of the black, red, or classic grey and a couple rolls of colors/patterns for accents. I wrap sticks, safe guard sharp surfaces, and generally repair stuff with duct tape. You'll need a bunch.
#3: Rubber Pads
#1 Complaint from teachers on Facebook: "Bucket Drumming is too loud." Not any longer. Grab some of these silicone rubber pads and toss them on top of the buckets to dampen the sound. And if you end up really liking the sound, just peel the paper off the back and stick them to the buckets!
#4: Foam thing
+ Duct Tape
+ Wooden Dowel
= Bass Drum Mallet
Still not convinced? Only $0.35 each!
Skinny ones for sticks, thicker ones for mallets (see #4). Bonus thing: check out the plastic dowels behind the wooden ones: They'd probably make great scratcher sticks.
Because your classroom doesn't need to look like a junkyard.
You go to plug in the ipod to the speakers...where's the cable?...it was just here...I need to play music for this next class...the students are walking in the door... Don't let this happen to you, people! $1.95
I'm David Birrow. I teach and play percussion. This blog is a companion to The Bucket Book. Contact me at : David@TheBucketBook.com or learn more about me at: www.DavidBirrow.com
Learn how to teach bucket drumming like a pro! Full day workshop this June in Minneapolis. Drumming, food, free stuff! Click on Workshops for more info
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