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Beginning mallet exercises in the method books present no serious challenges for your percussion students. Anyone can be shown a B-flat on an instrument, told to hit it on the count of “one”, and do a fairly decent job no matter how they hold the mallet.

But your students will not develop the ability to play and read music of greater difficulty without an awareness of the basics of good mallet technique. With poor hand position, the heads of the mallets can collide with each other, your students will have difficulty executing quicker passages - and they'll most certainly hit wrong notes when sight reading.

To understand the challenges when it comes to playing mallet instruments, you might want to have a look at an earlier piece posted to the site, Sight Reading on Mallet Instruments.

Following that, and making sure that your students are incorporating a solid grip (as outlined in the Sight Reading on Mallet Instruments), see that they follow these five points:

1) the mallets form a “V” shape
2) in general, the head of the left mallet is placed above that of the right (when playing a scale, for example, the left mallet strikes mid-way between the upper node and the middle of the bar; the right mallet strikes mid-way between the lower node and the middle of the bar).
3) the wrists are kept low, held just above the keyboard
4) the wrist, not the arm, lifts and drops the mallet
5) eyes stay on the music; the upper row of bars can be seen with peripheral vision

For variety, have your students play lines in the method book with the right hand alone, then the left, then alternating hands.

You should be able to see if your students are following the guidelines from your seat. Keep an eye on them, and remind them regularly of the points listed above.

A good technique, one that will allow your percussionists to play more challenging parts with ease as time goes on, must be considered carefully right from the beginning.

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