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.
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
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.
A common hurdle for music teachers new to bucket drumming is where to get the buckets. While buckets are very affordable ($3ish) from large hardware stores like Home Depot (the bright orange ones are my favorite), it's possible to gather them for free with a little leg work.
Below are all the places that I've heard music teachers say they've found buckets for bucket drumming. Some are donations, others are simply used and then tossed by the original owners. Feel free to post other sources in the comments.
Click here to download a pdf version of this list.
If you already have buckets and they get stuck together a lot, try some of the preventative measures in this post.
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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