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.
Nobody likes a loud classroom. I recently subbed for a colleague and I had to wear ear plugs while teaching. It was intense. But volume-phobia shouldn’t discourage you from teaching bucket drumming.
Here are some ideas for keeping the decibels down in your drumming classroom.
Get some cheap hand towels from Target or maybe try these from Amazon. Toss them on top of the bucket or fold them once or twice first. When the sticks hit them, the sound will be dampened by 10-15 db.
Reducing the number of buckets is the quickest way to reduce volume. When students work in partners, your bucket total will be cut in half. I never use more than 10 or 12 buckets at a time. However, make sure that all students have sticks; this allows students to air drum when it isn’t their turn to play on the bucket. A lot more on this topic here.
3. Teach your students how to play quiet
This one may seem obvious/obnoxious, but a lot of the time, students drum loud because nobody taught them how to drum quiet. And if you are able to control the volume at the source, the other techniques in this post become failsafes. Teaching students to play quietly on the bucket is very doable. Here’s how:
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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