Monday, November 26, 2007

Schoolhouse Rock: Ten Great Ways to Use a Gathering Drum

My Remo gathering drum almost always travels with me from school to school as I see clients for music therapy. The gathering drum is a wonderful tool that can be used as an instrument, but also in many non-traditional ways. A small gathering drum about 8 inches tall and 22 inches in diameter is a good size for working with an individual student or a small group of younger children. Remo gathering drums are made of synthetic materials which are less affected by changes in weather. My Remo gathering drum has proven to be very resilient and continues to make a nice drum sound after seven years of heavy use. Here are my top 10 recommendations, in no particular order, for using a gathering drum:

1. Thunderstorm - Create a rainstorm that comes and goes using soft body percussion such as snapping and clapping. As the rainstorm moves closer the gathering drum can be played with fingertips and then gradually played with the entire hand to create heavy rain and thunder sounds. I add even greater thunder effect by using a Thunder Tube, also made by Remo.

2. Fishing - Turn the gathering drum over so that it creates a "pond" for paper or toy fish. I use the pond to fish for songs, numbers or alphabet letters. You can sing the song, "You Get a Line, I'll Get a Pole," and provide water sounds with an Ocean Drum.

3. Group drumming - Gather up to 4 children around the drum for songs such as, "The Ants Go Marching In." Use the surface of the drum to facilitate learning about personal space, sharing, taking turns and cooperation.

4. Reward - The gathering drum is visually impressive. I have found that many children will pay attention to the sound and sight of the gathering drum in significant ways. The drum can be used as a reward object earned throughout the day or as a positive reinforcer for demonstrating waiting and focus of attention skills.

5. Big and little - The gathering drum naturally fills the requirement for being large. Other smaller drums can be used to illustrate opposites for size or sound.

6. Heartbeat - Play a steady beat on the drum and use it to set the pulse for a group drum circle with the other children playing smaller drums, shakers and bells.

7. Create a circle - I have often used the gathering drum to help small groups create a circle. Circles are sometimes difficult for kids to establish and maintain, even with something drawn on the floor. The drum acts as a natural obstacle for dancing or marching around it in a circle. I like to use songs like Hap Palmer's, "Marching Around the Alphabet," and place letters of the alphabet on the drum head for the children to pick up when they come to a stop.

8. Sensory integration - The gathering drum can be very appealing to children who are sensory defensive. These children may not actively drum, but they will often place their hands on the surface of the drum to feel the vibrations. For some children, the desire to feel the vibrations may outweigh defensiveness about the smooth texture of the drum head.

9. Attention - Use drum mallets to play the drum and immediately obtain attention. This will work very well if you also play the drum with a recognizable two-beat rhythm. Teachers commonly do this by clapping a rhythm and having the class clap a simple response. The gathering drum offers a unique timbre as well as volume in order to naturally draw attention.

10. Umbrella - This may be the most unique use for the gathering drum, but there have been times when I have been thankful for the large covering surface as I go to and from my car in bad weather. The advantage to using a Remo gathering drum for this purpose is that it is virtually unaffected by rain, snow, heat or cold!


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