The Book of Percussion Pedagogy

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Cort McClaren

General Info

Publisher: C. Alan Publications
Year: 1994
Cost: $52.20


The Book of Percussion Pedagogy by Cort McClaren utilizes the Common Elements Approach to teach percussion teaching methods. This book is full of essential information for all teachers, especially those who do not have a background in percussion and are looking for supplemental materials for teaching their students. This is an encyclopedia of percussion that is sure to answer any and every question teachers could have about the wonderful world of percussion.


Organization: Preceding the Table of Contents are dedications, thanks, and the purpose of the book. The rest of the book is organized into seven major chapters, with an eighth chapter covering how the apply the ‘Common Elements’ approach to teaching. The first chapter covers the Common Elements themselves which are used as a foundation for the rest of the book, the second goes over how a percussion section should function, and the rest covering snare drum, timpani, keyboard percussion, basic accessory instruments, and drum set. Following the eighth chapter is two appendices, Appendix A listing common instrument names and illustrations and Appendix B listing percussion instrument substitutions.

Content: Most, if not all, of the information in this book is curated towards instructors and is written as such. There are illustrations of potential ‘lesson plans’ or that which can be used in a lesson plan as a pedagogical approach, such as listing names of ensemble members in a table and listing which instruments each student plays in accordance with the day of the week. Especially in the beginning of the book, the material gives the instructor ideas on how to organize their teaching methods and how they can make use of their class time with their students. Throughout the rest of the book, it is conveyed to the instructor things to look for when teaching students about certain instruments and what milestones they should look for, as in how proficient a student should be with an instrument at a high school level. The aforementioned Common Elements play a major role in the progression of this book, with each chapter being essentially organized by these ‘elements.’ It should be noted however, that there are different teaching models provided in the first chapter of the book from which the instructor can choose how they would like to progress through the book with their students.

Uses: As it is mentioned in the ‘Purpose’ section, this book does what it claims to do: stimulate thinking of percussion in school settings, encourage teachers to use activities which allow students to reach their full potential, and essentially allow teachers to recognize Common Elements in percussion music. It is absolutely directed towards the use of an instructor as this book speaks of students as a third-party entity as there are sections of this book which may be considered completely irrelevant to students. I believe instructors at any grade level will benefit from using this book despite some concepts and ideas only being applicable or realistic at higher-levels such as high school or college.

Rating: While there are hardly any playing exercises in this book since it is focused towards the pedagogical use of an instructor, I feel this book can be a huge help to instructors as a guide of what to look and listen for in their ensemble. It is unfortunate that marching percussion concepts, along with more accessory and Latin instruments, are not covered as it would have been interesting to see how those types of instruments are viewed in terms of a Common Elements approach, and no reasoning is given that justifies the omission of these important, commonly used instruments. 4/5. User:Hondogracias

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