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(Download free copy of First Duet here)

The First Duet for Four Tom Toms has been written to serve two purposes.

The first is simply to offer beginning percussionists an extended piece of music that will provide them with a challenge and engage them musically.

The second is to provide the band director with the opportunity to work on fundamentals with the brass and woodwind players while the percussionists are productively working off on their own.

The First Duet for Four Tom Toms is comprised solely of quarter notes, quarter note rests and half note rests, rhythmic notation that parallels that of the first few lessons in the popular beginning band method books.

The problem for the director of the beginning band is that the wind and brass players, while also learning basic rhythmic notation, are struggling with their embouchures, breath control and the fingerings of their first few notes as well. Even if the percussionists are learning where B-flat, C and D are located on the xylophone, they likely will not be as challenged or involved as the rest of their classmates during these first classes.

Guidelines for incorporating First Duet into your program

Before sending your percussionists off on their own to work on First Duet for Four Tom Toms, make sure that you spend time working with them on the basic snare drum grip. It is extremely important they begin to consider the importance of a good technique from day one.

Notation

They will also need some directions regarding notation before being left to their own devices.

1. In an effort to create a challenge to your beginning percussionists, First Duet presents quarter note rhythms played on two drums per percussionist. You will have to explain the notation of the two parts to your students. While a number of combinations of instruments or drums will work, I recommend that you incorporate four tom toms, tuned high to low in the order on the page.

2. As your students may not have been introduced to the repeat sign and the half note rest in their method book, you may also have to explain those symbols to them.

Technique

1. Make sure that your students understand that they must remain aware of their grip as they are working on the piece.

2. It is also of utmost importance that they understand that they need not hammer the stick into the drum. Explain that greater or lesser volume is achieved by dropping the stick from a higher or lower level (this technique will be discussed in depth in an upcoming article).

3. Point out that when they are playing two notes at once, the notes must strike the drums at exactly the same time (it would be a good idea for them to practice playing single strokes together on a drum or pad, lifting both sticks to the same height, dropping them together and listening carefully to the attack).

Finally, you might want to suggest that your students add dynamics to the piece. They will have to make their own decisions with regard to this as there are no dynamics printed on the page.

Once your percussionists have worked on their own in a practise area either for a period or for sections of several periods, they can return to class, perform their duet, and discuss their musical choices with their classmates.

At that point, you may want to integrate the percussion section into the rest of the class or, you might assign work for the rest of the class and focus on specific techniques with the percussionists.

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