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Studio Class 14

General Concepts for Playing Percussion in a Large Ensemble

Dr. Jason Kihle, Associate Professor of Percussion

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Gong or Tam-tam

  1. Warm it up first
  2. Consider hanging a towel so it dampens faster

Bass Drum

  1. Stand behind it, not next to it
  2. Strike just below middle
  3. Have a black towel clipped to the top edge of the drum if dampening is necessary


  1. We want overtones from the sound so we don’t have a specific pitch
  2. Don’t hit directly on the cross piece of the triangle
  3. Hold it up so it can be heard
  4. Consider rolling with middle finger

Suspended Cymbal

  1. Use vibraphone mallets; start roll slightly before you want to hear sound
  2. Roll speed doesn’t need to be fast
  3. Remember the suspended cymbal is a deadly weapon and can wipe out an entire band; you usually don’t want to do a loud roll as loud as the cymbal can go

Crash Cymbals

  1. Be able to play different techniques depending on the part
  2. Heavy cymbal in dominant hand
  3. Thumbs off the bell
  4. Line up heavy spots and make sure they are at the bottom

Instruments with a sounding delay: shaker, maracas, cabasa, chekere, etc.

  1. You must practice starting the sound slightly sooner when you are playing with other instruments


  1. Stroke: come out of head to the spot at which you started
  2. Players tend to play too close to the middle of the head
  3. If your roll speed is too fast, it will choke the roll
  4. If your hands are too close together, it will choke the roll
  5. If your mallets are too flat, the head will fight you; the answer is to play on the edge of the felt