Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum dum dum...

Welcome back to week two of "Montessori Music Week" here at What DID We Do All Day?  ! Today, I am going to talk about drums and little bit about the Montessori philosophy concerning "care of the environment. Tomorrow we will be back to the bells with some free downloads for your music theory works!

Now, on to the matter of a good drum.  As an economical choice for primary and elementary-aged kids I really, really like this drum:

It is unusual in that it it can be played either with the included, soft mallet or with the hands.  Only use a soft mallet with this drum.

Some similar Remo drums come with more of a "stick" which I don't like.  Wood mallets will damage the head. It seems to me that those plastic sticks would as well.  The other mallets are perfect.

This drum doesn't have to be tuned.  It stands on its own feet.  If the child is big enough to hold different types of drums properly (upper elementary) there are a lot of other choices.  If you have questions about those, ask me.  However, if you don't hold a hand drum properly it doesn't sound good.  A footed drum like this one makes everything a lot easier on the child.

The diameter on this drum (10") is a good size for hand-drumming.  Many of the other Remo choices (conga, bongos) are so small in diameter they are really only good for drumming on the edge.  You want the child to be able to experience the low sound they get from drumming with the palm in the middle as well as the high sound achieved by drumming with  the fingers on the edge.  This drum is made economical by its 7.5" height.

A couple other choices:

My favorite drum, and usually the favorite of kids is a 26" tall Remo tubano.

These come in 10, 12, and 14 inch diameters.  Kids always pick the 14" and it sounds really cool to boot.  The floor tom is $30 though and the tubano is $140.  Again, this is a footed drum but its height is perfect for a small child standing or  for a larger child or an adult to play seated.  The floor tom really is just a short tubano.

At home, we are currently using these:

These are great drums and are my favorite next to the footed tubanos.  They take some work to make sure the kids are holding them right.  My boys really can't hold them correctly, so they play them standing with the included strap.  Ours our "loaners" so you will see I keep them up high so they aren't damaged when I'm not looking.

There are a lot of drum choices in the Remo rainforest collection collection.  I like the following:  floor tom, tubanos, djembe, and frame drums.  The kids do not seem to like the bongos or the conga due to the small diameter of the heads.  I had a larger set of tunable bongos in a different brand that they liked a lot better.

I like the Remo rainforest collection because they don't need tuning.  However, a permanent drum head means the head can't be replaced when damaged.  If you hit these with things you shouldn't or rub them up against wall or furniture while transporting them you can damage the head.  I used multiples of every drum in this collection for five years, almost daily, with 200 kids I trusted.  I trained them very carefully how to care for them and none of the drums were damaged in the years I used them.  I had very high expectations for the kids behavior.  I was not a Montessori teacher, but I think I taught them how to use and care for these in a very Montessori way.  After I had Kal-El and went back to visit the school, several kids came up to me with tears in their eyes to say that many things had been "ruined" while I was gone because the teacher didn't have those expectations or train new students in the same way.  Also, whereas I taught the kids to store them on labelled spaces in cabinets with doors, the new teacher didn't like "wasting time" teaching the 30 kids how to all get an instrument from the cabinets in an organized fashion.  Instead, she just left all the instruments on the floor around the perimeter of the room where they were often hit with just about anything by any visiting sibling or outside group that had use of the room.  A child who is used to a Montessori lifestyle in which the "care of the environment" is  purposefully taught should have no trouble.  Time spent teaching the child how to properly retrieve and care for things from the beginning may mean a little extra time spent before you can get started on what an adult might see as the "real work."  However, that time is paid back tenfold by quick and appropriate retrieval and use of the materials in the future.

I bring this up because no drum is indestructible and I want to warn families that they will have to teach children what they can and can't hit them with and how to carry them properly.  You also want to think about storage. If you put a drum on the bottom shelf and bang the head into the top shelf every time you put it away, your drum won't last very long.  The 26" tubanos should not be carried by the head. The head will eventually pop off. They need to be carried with one hand on the handle and the other underneath the bottom.  Before being allowed to carry the drum, the child should have developed a good level of body awareness so that they aren't banged into every other piece of furniture, or other kids with drums, on their way to and from storage.  All of the "walking the line" activities in the Montessori environment are great preparation for this.

If you are looking for the rest of my series on Montessori Music, there is a tab at the top of my blog under the header, or they can be found here!

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