Taping sticks make them more durable, safer, and slightly quieter. They also look cooler.
Junkyard percussion is an extremely practical and musical performance ensemble for your students.
Unfortunately, some teachers who want to teach bucket drumming don’t feel comfortable enough to get started. Others just don’t know where to begin.
Here are some solutions to those common problems.
1. “It’s too loud."
It’s true: bucket drumming has a higher volume ceiling than other ensembles. But that should not deter you from teaching bucket drumming. Earlier this year, I described three simple/quick/cheap ways to reduce the volume of your classroom. With a little care, nobody should ever worry about hearing damage when teaching bucket drumming.
2. “I don’t know where to get the instruments."
Don’t worry, I do! Just use this shopping list to gather the instruments you need. The list explains what, where, and how much stuff you need. If you are looking for buckets on the cheap (or free) take a look at this list of bucket sources.
The #1 question I get about bucket drumming is : "What stuff do I need?" The infographic below shows you: what to buy, how much it'll cost, and what to do with it once you've bought it. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about where and how to get buckets on the cheap.
Click for a printer friendly version of the list
Click for a pdf of what the raw materials look like at the hardware store.
Mistake #1: Focusing on novelty instead of music
It is unique and unusual to use a bucket as a musical instrument. Use this novelty to grab the attention of your students but don't over do it. Don’t waste too much time marveling with your students about how unusual it is that a bucket or chair leg can make a great timbre. In other words: Ignore the instruments and focus on the music.
FIX: Instead, focus on the timbre each instrument creates. Emphasize the character of the sound, while de-emphasizing how strange the instrument is. Capture the attention of your students by performing different timbres on the same instrument.
Mistake #2: Getting students hopes up by showing Stomp at the beginning of the unit
Don’t get me wrong: Stomp is great. But it’s a theatrical show performed by adults, so don't show it at the beginning of the unit. The danger is that your students could be disappointed when they realize their performance isn't as fully choreographed or sophisticated.
Fix: Show stomp when you need to increase the creativity in class. Manage student expectations by showing videos that are similar to what will actually happen in their class, especially videos with performers close to the students' actual age.
Or better yet, at the beginning of the unit, YOU perform for the students. You don’t need a masters degree in percussion to sound like a boss on a bucket. Just practice two or three fancy sounding things; students will assume that you can play 100 fancy things(even if you can't!). More importantly, performing for your students shows that you are competent and capable. And nothing is more realistic or motivating than live performance. I will perform for two or three minutes at the beginning of the first class to prime student interest. Which leads me to #3...
Mistake #3: Thinking you can't do it because you're not the drumming type
Just because you aren't a card-carrying drummer, doesn't mean you should be intimidated by bucket drumming. I'm not the world's greatest singer, but I sing in my class because my students need to sing in order to learn. Your students also need to drum, so pick up those sticks and fake it until you make it.
Fix: Even if you’ve never touched a pair of drum sticks in your life, you simply need a little practice(maybe 5 minutes) and you will be more awesome at drumming than a 3rd grader (or whatever grade you teach). Maybe attend this workshop and keep your goal realistic: "I just need to drum two grade levels about my students. I don't need to be a pro."
Mistake #4: Using too many buckets
Big Classes + Buckets are loud = Cacophony (and maybe hearing damage)
FIX: Have students work in partners. Both students have sticks; one drums on the bucket, the other drums on their legs. This cuts your bucket count in half. Your ears will thank you.
Mistake #5: Forgetting about movement
Fix: Get those students out of those chairs and moving around the classroom. Here are some ideas to start with:
Also check out this post for another example of bucket movement: Chaotic But Awesome Bucket Movement Activity
Learn how to avoid these mistakes and a lot more by attending the Summer Junkyard Percussion Workshop. Hands on experience, lesson plans, and food!
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Today I started the bucket drumming unit at New City School for grades 4/5. Reality is almost always different than theory, so I thought I'd post what I actually did for this lesson plan compared to what I might have written in The Bucket Book.
23 Students, 7 buckets, enough sticks for every student.
This took 35 minutes of class time. We also covered resting, relaxed, and ready position. Placing the sticks on the carpet is a good relaxed position while sitting on the floor. I don't often spend an entire class period on buckets, but this was the introductory class, so I wanted to budget enough time for teaching routines such as holding sticks and resting position.
The rationale for only 7 buckets for 23 kids is mainly volume and classroom management. I teach in the student's homeroom classroom (so not a music room) and it's pretty loud acoustically. Fewer buckets = less noise. We made 7 buckets work by sitting in a circle and rotating the buckets around every 30 seconds or so. It also controls off task behavior because students don't have a bucket right in front of them to distract them. And yeah, it's easier for the teacher to haul them in and out of the classroom. Always a plus!
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
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