I stepped into a high school concert band rehearsal this week to find some typical scenarios associated with the percussion section within a concert band warm up.

During the warm up, the keyboard players rolled long tones and played scales, bass drums and snare drums kept time playing quarter notes, and the timpanist merely sat and waited with the students assigned to accessories parts for the day.

This is a typical scene in today’s high school programs. Isn’t there more the percussionists can do to be treated as musicians and not simply rhythmic technicians?


All players should be focused on tone and touch along with articulations and phrasing.

Snare drums can work on any number of skills, including stick control, duple to triple rhythms, two-height control, rolls, embellishments, and articulations and touch.

The keyboard players can play modified wind parts that work on any number of keyboard-specific skills, such as four mallets (independent/single alternating/double vertical/double lateral/independent rolls) and two mallets (double stops/scales/arpeggios/rolls).

Timpanists can outline scale passages and work on tuning along with basic tone and touch concepts.

Accessories players can double some snare drum rhythms (or develop an entirely new set of rhythm charts specifically for these instruments) during every warm up. This is the perfect opportunity for students to encounter instruments they are not assigned to play or have little experience playing. Don’t be afraid to pull out the congas, tambourine, bongos, triangle, guiro, tom toms, woodblock, etc.

Experiment and find what works for you and your students. Create a rotation system to give students a chance to experience all the available instruments. This is the perfect way for your students to witness the transfer values instrument to instrument.

Let me know how this concept is working in your classroom. Leave a comment below!