My students LOVE to play the drums, but there’s so much to do to set up before a drum unit.  I’m sharing the basics in this post.  What do you need and how you get started.
So what exactly do you need?  Drums!  I’ve taught for 20 years and before you scroll down and look at my fancy pictures, take a breath.  I’ve taught on a cart.  I’ve taught in a portable.  I’ve taught in a cafeteria with nothing more than a digital piano and a CD player.  I’ve taught in rooms with no equipment and I’ve had my PTA write checks for $5000 worth of instruments.  I’ve done it all.  My current teaching location had no drums when I came here 9 years ago.  Zip. Nada. Nothing.  I’m a firm believer in visioning and writing down what you want.  I made a 3-page list of everything I wanted.  And I told people.  And I wrote grants.  Lots and lots of grants.  And I was rejected lots and lots of times, but I learned instead of getting discouraged.  My second year, I received a $3000 grant which purchased the bulk of my drums.  (Always buy quality over quantity – tunable over non-tunable!)  I purchased 19 tubanos that year.  Then each year I added one or two until I had 30 total.  Slow and steady wins the race.  My drum ensemble includes 9-14″ tubanos, 10-12″ tubanos, 9-10″ tubanos, 2-14″ djembes and 1 ngoma (my drum).  I also have a variety of percussion instruments that can be used for ensemble work.  My first year, we used hand drums, congas, floor toms, gathering drums, empty milk jugs and anything else we could get our hands on.  Don’t wait for the perfect set-up to drum.  Get busy now!


I’m a firm believer in teaching students to be responsible for their instruments in every way possible.  As my students enter the room, everyone washes their hands with soap and water.  Everyone.  Yes, it takes a few minutes but it’s time I’m willing to sacrifice to stave off illness at the expense of my drums.  Once their hands are clean, students move the drums into place.  Yes, the students move the drums.  I teach my students how to hold the handle with one hand and protect the drum head with the other.  I want them to take ownership of the drums.  If they understand how to care for them and why to care for them (because they are expensive to repair/replace), they will be better invested in their care.


I don’t have chairs in my room so I purchased 30 stools from IKEA a few years ago.  Students can choose to get a stool, stand or kneel while we drum.  The IKEA stools are inexpensive and the perfect height for drumming (and ukulele playing too)!


Once the drums are out – we JAM!  I give my students about 90 seconds to simply drum however they choose.  Get all the sillies out of their system.  Explore the drum and all the ways it makes sound.  I have found that when I give my students some free play time on the drum, they are less likely to play around during our instructional time.


At the end of class, the students do one of two things: 1) if the next class is drumming, they move the drums one foot inside the circle, so that the next class can sit in their circle seats before we drum, or 2) help move them back into their storage area.  Because I lack space in my room, I store the drums on top of one another to maximize space.
Check out my next post: So You Think You Can Drum: Most Fun.  I’ll talk about all of the ways we have fun and jam in music class!