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(Download Technique Builders for the Beginning Snare Drummer here)

Keeping the middle school and high school snare drummer stimulated during the first weeks of classes is difficult. The fact of the matter is, the beginning lessons in the band method books do not require students to play with a functional snare drum technique, and the exercises are neither challenging nor engaging.

The exercises have to be played at a tempo slow enough to allow the rest of the music students all wind players to concentrate on the many things they need to learn as they struggle with their instruments: breathing, their embouchure and fingerings. The snare drummers may have been instructed as to how to hold the sticks but, given the technical simplicity of the music they have to play, they could just as easily get away with grasping them like baseball bats.

In order to get your drummers working on a good snare drum stroke and developing their coordination from the very beginning not to mention keeping them engaged with challenging material it is necessary, especially during the first few weeks, that they play more than the method book requires of them.

With that in mind, I've created a page of sticking patterns, Technique Builders for the Beginning Snare Drummer,, that can be substituted for the method book snare drum parts. They are comprised of quarter notes and eighth notes. Of course, the counting of eighth notes will have to be taught far sooner than when method books introduce them, but since the tempos of the beginning exercises are slow, playing at the speed of the eighth notes is important for technical development.

I suggest that you first play through the method book exercise as written; the method books do have combinations of notes and rests that are not included in the sticking patterns, helping the students with counting and learning how to follow the conductor's beat. Having played through the method book pattern the rhythm that everyone else in the band is playing you can then instruct your snare drummer to substitute any of the Technique Builders on the page for the line the class is practising. This will result in your drummer playing a different rhythm than the one that the class is playing. As the percussionists become more familiar with the patterns, they can try, in an eight-bar exercise for example, playing four bars of one pattern followed by four bars of a different rhythm. Ultimately, by simply reading down the list, they could even try substituting a different Technique Builder for each bar of the exercise.

Note that in the patterns where both left and right hands are playing together on the snare drum, the students must focus on the sticks hitting the drum at exactly the same time.

For further interest, get them to try patterns #6 and #11-15 on two differently pitched drums, playing the right hand on the higher one and the left hand on the lower one.

So, slip a copy of Technique Builders into your percussionists' method book, and keep one handy for yourself. Call out the different patterns from time to time and keep your percussionists on their toes. I hope it will add to their enjoyment of playing in class, while at the same time going a long way toward developing a good, basic snare technique.

Let me know how it works.

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