Teaching Percussion

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Gary Cook

General Info

Year: 2005
Edition: 3rd edition
Publisher: Schirmer Books
Cost: Book Cost - $134.95   |   Supplemental Books - $0.00

Cook, Gary. Teaching Percussion 3rd edition. New York, Schirmer Books, 2005.


Since its first edition in 1988, Teaching Percussion has been the standard percussion instrument/methods text. Providing a comprehensive introduction to every aspect of percussion education, technique, and performance, this text helps students develop musical understanding and performance skills. Now in its third edition, updated and revised with over seven hours of instructional videos, Teaching Percussion presents a balanced percussion technique applicable to all instruments. The text, illustrations, and many examples and exercises acquaint students with the special needs of all percussion instruments. With this effective, self-contained book, students in music education programs, private study, or percussion pedagogy courses will develop a broad musical awareness and comprehensive technical proficiency.


Chapter I: Classification of Instruments

The first chapter goes in depth about the classification of instruments like idiophones, membranophones, and aerophones. It discusses notation and how it can be confusing for percussionist. For example, there might be questions like: Did the composer want me to roll this note? Should the triangle keep ringing? Should the vibraphone pedal be down? Do you want a gong or tam-tam? Percussionist have to listen intently to the piece while playing and decide what to do. They have to know if the context of what is going on around them (mood, instrumentation, dynamics, time period of piece) and choose the best sound to go with it. Percussion playing requires a “high level of intelligence, a sincere curiosity about music especially about playing percussion, and a dedication and clear understanding of what it takes to become a percussionist/musician” (11 Cook).

Chapter II: Snare Drum:This section is about learning percussion through snare drum. It discusses fulcrum, grip, stroke, double strokes, rolls, accents, sticking, and phrasing. The explanations are in very vivid and detailed. It also gives examples and exercises to work on these techniques.

Chapter III: Multiple Percussion:This section is about multiple percussion. It discusses different ways composers will notate the music and shows common abbreviations for instruments being used. It also gives a list of multi-percussion pieces people could play.

Chapter IV: Keyboard Percussion:This section covers the origins of several different classifications of keyboard instruments, including the range and mallet choices. Techniques such as grips, playing areas, and phrasing on keyboard instruments are explained in detail.

Chapter V: Timpani:In Chapter V the historical origins are covered, such as early compositions and the evolution of the timpani tuning system. Explains the importance of developing the timpanist, using skills like pitch recognition and audation. Cook then describes the physical features of the timpani such as heads, bowl sizes, ad tuning systems. Timpani technique is explained as well as how to tune the timpani for playing and grips, playing area, muting, and cross-sticking.
Chapter VI: Bass Drum, Cymbals and Accessory Percussion:In Chapter VI, a brief general history of each instrument in the chapter is given, along with the instruments name in English, Italian, German and French. Every instrument covered that includes a mallet or stick will have a picture of the aforementioned in the section covering the instrument as well as pictures of the instrument being discussed. Something useful in the section over the bass drum, is it gives a detailed illustration of how to build a homemade humidifier for the upkeep of calfskin heads. The cymbal, triangle and tambourine section share similar qualities as each shows how to pick an appropriate sounding instrument, as well as proper ways to execute strokes. (The triangle section shares brief instruction on how to build homemade triangle clips) The remainder of the chapter discusses several other accessory instruments that one may come across in the percussive world. (i.e. slapstick, ratchet, finger cymbals etc.)

Chapter VII: Latin America and World Percussion :The chapter begins with the more commonly used hand drums: The bongos and congas. It discusses the instruments origin, history, the materials the instruments are made from, as well as what is used for the head of the instruments. The chapter also gives a verbal analysis of how to properly play both instruments. Timbales are then covered in the same way the previous instruments were, as well as involving set-up, and what types of sticks are used on the instrument. In the chapter, with each instrument described, there are small notation examples for each instrument, most of which cover fundamental foreign rhythms. (This includes a section over 3:2 and 2:3 claves, as well as covering the instrument, claves, itself) The remainder of the chapter proceeds to introduce other instruments, such as guiro, maracas, afuche/cabasa etc.

Important to note is that the author at the end of the chapter goes into explicit detail regarding steel drum bands, covering everything from construction, to band set-up, to finding music for the instrument.

Chapter VIII: Drum Set :The introduction to this chapter includes a very detailed and in-depth history of American jazz drumming. Starting with an explanation of the the original drum-sets, evolving into dixieland and second-line New Orleans style drumming. The history progresses into discussing swing and big band music. The history section wraps up with contemporary eclectic and rock styles. The next section covers modern instrumentation of the drum set, the example it uses is a five-piece set up: three toms, a snare, and a bass drum. Different cymbals, and the appropriate tuning of a drum set are then discussed. There is quite a large section following this involving electronic percussion systems as well as extensive information on MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) software and hardware. The chapter concludes with an analysis of psychomotor disciplines and how to develop your hand and feet techniques, this is accompanied by several groove studies and short playing 'chart' at the end of the chapter.

Afterward: The Student and Teacher: The afterward section is about the student and the teacher relationship. There didn’t used to be iPhones, iPads, computers, and electronics around everywhere for students to get distracted, so the approach to motivate a student has to change. Electronics can be uses to a student’s advantage by e-mailing teachers one would never get the chance to meet, watch a video of a solo piece played by the composer, and take online classes that expand one’s musical knowledge. Technology may be a distraction sometimes, but it can also be very useful in moving forward and advancing one’s musical ability. All in all, the teacher and student relationship is very important and fundamental to learn successfully, so use the internet to help but don’t fully rely on it to get better at playing.


“Teaching Percussion 3rd edition” resembles an encyclopedia of sorts into the world of teaching and learning percussion. It gives in-depth looks into staple instruments while mentioning several novel and foreign instruments to the Western world. For nearly each instrument in the book, the origin, construction, use and playing technique is provided, with some instruments having more detailed descriptions than others, such as an entire chapter being dedicated to snare drum while the apito, or samba whistle, only has a very short paragraph. Chapters 6-11 focus on the different playing techniques, construction, and origins of over 50 percussion instruments, including but not limited to bass drums, sandpaper blocks, and drum set. There is more information available for more commonplace instruments such as the triangle and cymbals, but these chapters also include instruments which one may never see in a high school ensemble, such as the tabla and cuíca. In addition to coverage these instruments, Chapters 10 and 11 include how percussion parts in written music can be interpreted in different ways to help the player play the notes on the page truer to the composer’s intentions along with several exercises which help develop proper strokes, rolls, and finger control.

Due to the length of the book and how many concepts it covers, it is hard to find any shortcomings. Referencing the “Percussion Methods – Criteria” document on Canvas for this course, this book seems to hit all the marks, making it an ideal choice for a method book. Given this was published in 2006, I felt it would lack appropriate coverage on technology in the percussion world or that it would discourage the use of them which it surprisingly does not explicitly recommend against the use of things like MIDI instruments or electronic drum kits, although it warns about the lack of technique and feel required to get a good sound out of these instruments. Since 1988, there has been two revisions of this book which have taken into account newer psychological studies about music and included DVD videos and audio tracks, so there have been many improvements from the original. User:Hondogracias


Additional Study Materials

Works for Percussion by this Author

Cook, Gary. Teaching Percussion 3rd edition. New York, Schirmer Books, 2005.

Additional Resources