Beginner Tactics

I had heard of a beginner percussion concept in which the 6th grade percussionist do not start on percussion at all.  Instead they start on another instrument.  Then after the 1st year the band director interviews some of the better kids in each section to find out who might be interested in playing percussion and they are switched over going into the 7th grade year.

Has anyone tried this method?  I would like to hear your thoughts pro/cons on this concept. 
I've heard of this and honestly, don't know how well it has worked.

I'm naturally opposed to it because there are so many quality, objective ways to place the correct students on beginning percussion that I'd rather take my chances on ";missing"; on one or two than make them start a year later.

Another reason I personally am opposed is that there is no real logistical way to make this work where I teach. The other part of that is that 7th graders where I teach have to be performing by Christmas and going to contest in April. I'm not sure that's going to be a good situation technically-speaking if the student has only been playing for a few months.

Now, there are still some true junior high schools in the area (grades 7, 8 and sometimes 9) that don't start band until 7th grade, but they are also not taking those beginners to contest that first year, either. From what they report, 7th grade beginners learn information faster and retain information better. In essence, the added maturity makes the beginner experience a higher quality one.

Another thought to consider is the ";un-doing"; of the learning of the initial instrument. When you boil all instruments down to the essentials, they all share rhythm, pitch and pulse. Are you okay with the remaining concepts the student learned on another instrument just going to waste? Take french horn for instance; is it wise to spend so much of the first year discussing embochure, lip slurs, air support, posture and right hand hand placement, only to throw all of that instrument-specific technique out?

Just my $.02 on the matter. (I really have to stop drinking coffee after 8 p.m....)
I tend to agree with Eric on this topic.  Also, I don't understand the logic behind switching after one year.  I can't imagine the parent investing time and money into an instrument for their child only to have them leave for another instrument the following year. 

One thing that my 6th grade band director did was make every percussionist learn mallets before even touching a drum.  I had to know half of my major scales before I got to play on a snare drum.  I thank him to this day for making me learn mallets.

I've also heard people discuss the idea of starting every kid on percussion for a few months or a semester, to better instill the ideas of rhythm and music theory. Without a huge amount of focus on technique beyond the basics, you get a much better visual representation with the keyboard, without getting bogged down in fingerings, etc.
Some good insights...

Bryan along the same lines of what you are saying, it seems I heard once of beginner percussionist starting hand drumming only basically a drum circle as opposed to snare drum while also learning keyboards.

I saw that Tom Augnst starts his percussionist at 4th grade.  It works well for him, I am sure.
I don't teach young students or within a school system, so my insight is limited. But from my personal experience as a kid, I took piano lessons for four years before switching over to drums when I was 11. I didn't realize it at the time, but I think it helped me in many ways. Understanding how to read treble and bass clef made for an easier transition into the percussion section than my friends who may have only taken drum lessons. Like Gabe said, having an early start on basics like key signatures and scales is way more valuable that a young student might realize at the time!

I guess the thing that doesn't quite jive with me about delaying placement in the percussion section is the subtle message it sends. As in, maybe that you're not fit to play percussion until you've studied a ";real"; instrument first. That may be a bit overboard, but it almost comes off to me like that. If a music teacher approaches percussion with the same care and respect they apply to winds, strings, voice, keyboards, etc., I don't really see the purpose in keeping a young percussionist away from their actual instrument of choice.
Just to play devil's advocate in this discussion,

My son began his band career in a similar situation. The beginning band program was limited to flute, clarinet, trumpet and trombone. Those were the choices but from there you could switch later to sax, percussion, etc. He played trumpet for 1 year then switched to percussion. This was starting in the 5th grade. By the time he was in 7th grade, his second year of percussion and first at a new school, he had a better sense of time and rhythm than other students who had started only on percussion or drums. His mallet playing ability was far ahead of them. The rest of the story though is that in 8th grade he switched to french horn. He did this because the band needed horns and he was looking for a new challenge.
I too have heard of this method and agree with the above points.

Just a thought. . .
I have found in doing this that I spend a LARGE amount of time reforming the mentality and concepts that most beginning students of percussion walk into your classroom with on the first day. Our craft is so closely tied to the visual media of rockband, Rock drum-set videos and ";Drumline"; the movie that it's takes a good amount of time and effort to reshape the beginning students understanding of what it means to be a quality, contributing musician and master percussionist.

Great point, Robbie. I fight this most each year when I do beginning percussion try-outs. Students want to come in and play ";drums."; I explain to them that there mallets too and you would think from the look on their faces that, for some kids, I had magically grown a second head. For about the last five years, I've wanted to produce a video to upload to YouTube that gives a brief overview of what percussion looks like (quick three minute video: just shows a little bit of everything). Then, when a student is interested in trying out for beginning percussion, I can include the link in the material I send home.

I'm working on one as we speak for my beginner interviews in two weeks. :) We'll see how this goes. . .
Um, I'm gonna wanna copy of that...
[quote author=RGreen link=topic=3630.msg19114#msg19114 date=1273108141]
I'm working on one as we speak for my beginner interviews in two weeks. :) We'll see how this goes. . .

This could be something more and more schools do to get itself out in the community. I think I'll put it on my list:)
I'll PM you a link when I'm done. . . Maybe it will help. I've also written a guide to buying percussion equipment for the parents as well. After years of students walking in with the wrong equipment and being forced to pay 50-60.00 for 1 pair of mallets by some of the local stores, I felt it important to educate the parents on what their options were both locally and on the internet. It seemed to pay off this year.
Hey Robbie,

I would love to get a chance to see the link when you finish if you don't mind.

Thanks man!
I have a buddy who's one of those curve-wrecker types; this guy really, truly [i]started out[/i] playing drums at, like, an intermediate level. You only had to show him stuff once. He'd instantly understand it. I think Jim probably even remembers this guy. My buddy, Bill. (Yeah, me and Jim go way back. We're tight. He calls my house. Late. Sometimes there's booze on his breath. It weirds me out, Jim. I'm gunna be honest. The rash. What you did to that cat. It just makes me wanna... you know... not answer). Bill started out playing clarinet, or something like that, and moved through the woodwinds, to trumpet, to baritone, to piano, to the Jew's harp, to the inverted Mexican wheelburrow. By the time he started playing drums, he'd already mastered the art of learning how to play an instrument.

Anyway, at first I had a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that this guy just learned faster than me. And when it became painfully obvious that he'd become a better drummer than me, I was filled with that vitrioloic combination of denial and jealousy. So I tried to tell myself that it was because he'd already played all these other instruments prior to becoming a drummer. That was how I kept my ego delusion in tact at the time. But, looking back, I think there's some validity to that. I mean, dude's always gunna learn faster than me. He's more intelligent than I am. He's on staff at Berklee now and runs some military supercomputer at NORAD, or whatever. But, again, looking back, I can really see that his familiarity with chromatically-tuned instruments, with theory, with listening, and with the quest of absorbing music information in general, really gave him a superior tool set to approach drums with.

I mean, I hate it when people justify some suicidally non-scientific claim, like astrology or something, by citing one or two examples that run contrary to an established scientific axiom, but I have to believe that playing a chromatically-tuned instrument gives a drummer a more three-dimensional view of the drums as an instrument, as well as relief from the demand of playing rhythms [i]and[/i] tones, in the case of, say, a snare drummer, which has to give a student a sense of ease, mentally.

Granted, it's what I [i]have[/i] to believe to justify Bill's sounding like Vinnie Colaiuta and my sounding like I've never owned a metronome, (I suck at the drum set), but I think he'd probably agree.
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