Polishing, Percussion and New Perspectives

One day last month, I was cleaning my studio ready for the next week of lessons and in an uncharacteristic departure from my usual OCD, I moved a few things around.  I know, I’m a wild woman – stick with me!  Anyway, my streamlining worked well but I was left with a little empty shelf/windowsill, and coincidentally, a small collection of percussion instruments without a permanent home.

Purely for aesthetic reasons, I bundled this handful of instruments together and ‘displayed’ them in an effort to enhance the musical theme of the room.  Pleased with my clean and tidy teaching space, I vacuumed, locked up and gave my ‘domestic-Goddess spree’ no further thought.

Until I began teaching that week…  My little percussion exhibition actually ended up changing the lesson content!  Over the following fortnight, around 75% of my private students spontaneously picked up an instrument and began to play while they were singing.  After berating myself for not thinking to do this sooner (or on purpose…), I decided this was brilliant for many reasons;

Percussion Instruments

  • Most students had not played a percussion (or any) instrument before and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to do so within an established ‘safe’ environment.
  • I gained further insight into each student’s sense of rhythm and tempo, internal pulse etc. and they began to consider these elements for themselves.
  • It added a new and light-hearted flavour to the lesson; a diversion from the norm which allowed much ‘freer’ singing, in some cases.
  • It was a great exercise for students experience and physicalise the heartbeat of a given song and gain a new perspective on something familiar; adding another ‘layer’ of comprehension and connection to the music.

In terms of how well everyone played, results were predictably mixed but it really didn’t seem to be that important – the playing was done in the spirit of fun and everyone learned from the experience, myself included.  That small (seemingly insignificant) change made a huge difference to mine and my students’ thinking and it’s only one of potentially thousands of tweaks you could make to your teaching approach.

My point?  Make small changes – they matter.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll only win what you’ve always won”
(‘Do or Die’ by Eureka Machines)

This song has been my earworm the entire time I’ve been writing…

P.S. The air-freshener made a disappointing instrument.
P.P.S. Yes, I have zombie gnomes in the garden.
P.P.P.S. If you’re interested in some of the science at play here, please read our earlier blog ‘Sound is Movement‘ to dig a little deeper.


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