Creating Drumming Ensemble Using

Nursery Rhymes or Known Chants

In this exercise students have the opportunity to build and extend known a drumming ensemble using rhythms that are familiar and internalized. (Please note that in a classroom where there is a diverse ethnic population, you will want to teach the rhyme first.)

  • Begin by chanting a known rhyme such as “Hickory, Dickory Dock” while keeping a beat with drum sticks on your knees.
  • Chant the rhyme again and play the rhythm by hitting the drum sticks together.
  • Now perform the rhythm with the sticks a second time without saying the words (Note: This allows the children to begin working on inner hearing.)
  • Divide the class in half. The first group will keep the beat by alternating bass tones on the drums while the other half plays the rhythm on the sticks. Now switch – drums play the rhythm while the sticks keep the beat.

Paired or Ensemble Practice:
· Divide the class into pairs or small ensemble groupings and have them practice taking the beat and/or rhythm.
· Extension: Play the rhyme twice switching beat and rhythm parts in the middle without stopping. (When performing the rhyme on the drum, play all syllables as tones with the exception of the rhyming words “dock”, “clock”, and “dock”, which are played as bass tones”. Students could work on other rhymes or create ostinati to accompany their piece, creating a multi-textured ensemble.
  • Circulate around the room listening to small groups perform or allow class time for individual groups to play. Record your assessment observations noting individual competencies.

Teaching the Rhythmic Round

  • Bring students back to the drum circle.
  • Tell them you are going to create something new in this performance of “Hickory Dickory Dock”.
  • Choose half the class to be listeners while the other half of the class will perform the rhythm of “Hickory Dickory Dock” twice.
  • As the group is performing the instructor will play the rhythm as a round entering two beats later. After the performance discuss with the students what happened.
  • Lead students to discover that they have performed a “round”. Brainstorm a list of rounds that the students may already know,
  • Divide the class in half, with each group having instruments with different timbres (sticks and drums). Perform the rhyme as a round playing it twice. Now try it as a round in three parts adding another instrumental colour (i.e. shekere). As students gain confidence try adding dynamic variations (i.e play the first part piano, and play the repeat forte.) Note: To solidify the underlying beat you may want to add the gankogui playing the pulse, alternating between the high and low bells.
  • Extension: In the performance circle have the students number off 1, 2,3, 1, 2, 3 etc. Now try the rhyme in a 3 part round where each student is responsible for their own part. For students who find this difficult, have them say the words of the rhyme aloud as they play. Another strategy is to make eye contact with another person who has the same number and focus on them as they play their part.

Paired Practice
  • Students may have the opportunity to gain independence in this skill by working in small groups. Again, the instructor may assess progress by observing individual groups or by having groups perform for each other. It is possible to differentiate the complexity of this activity by having some groups work on the round in two parts where there are two or three students on each part. More advanced groups might work on the round in four parts where each person is responsible for one part.

Building the Rondo
  • At this point the students have practiced all the components of the ensemble. Now they are ready to put them together. One possible performance scenario might be:

A Rumble (come to a pianisso roll). Cue the gankogui to begin playing the underlying pulse.
B Have each group perform the rhythm of the round individually beginning with sticks, followed by the shekere, and finally by the drums. Finish the B section by playing the entire rhythm with all three instrumental groups.
A Rumble (come to a pianisso roll). Cue the gankogui to begin playing the underlying pulse.
C Play the rhythm together once using all groups. Then play as a three- part round repeating the rhythm twice – the first time softly (piano) and the second time loudly (forte), As each group finishes have them begin playing a soft roll.
A Rumble (come to a pianisso roll). Cue the gankogui to begin playing the underlying pulse.
D Play as a three part round where students are performing their part independently 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 as in the extension activity in the previous section.
A Rumble - begin very softly and gradually crescendo to the climax ending with one loud accented stroke.

* You may want to allow small ensembles to perform as part of the rondo or to replace some of the large suggested performance groupings above.