Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drum Circle Ideas for Elementary School

Playing drums, other percussion instruments (including body percussion), and/or movement can be very beneficial for children and adults alike. If you don’t have instruments then make them, use found items, or use body percussion or movement. Combine all three. This isn’t a “method”, just ideas that can be used to create your own ways of doing things.

General Patterns
Echo: The leader gives a four-count rhythm for everyone else to echo. Try to echo both the rhythmic pattern and the dynamic (loud & soft) pattern. Go around the circle letting everyone have a chance to be the leader.
Answer: The leader plays or speaks a pattern and everyone else answers with a pattern that is related, but not the same.
Follow-the-leader: The leader plays a pattern (four or eight counts) over and over and everyone joins in playing exactly (as closely as possible given the possible variation in instruments) what the leader is playing. At some point the leader will change patterns and everyone will change accordingly.
All-Join-In: The leader plays a pattern and everyone joins in playing a complementary pattern (something that fits but isn’t the same, think of filling in the gaps). The leader may change the patterns after a while and everyone will follow or the leader might adapt the lead rhythm to match someone else.
Mixing-it-up:  Classify and group the instruments and have a second leader show signals for when the entire group, individuals, or specific classifications should play.

Miscellaneous Considerations
Choosing leaders: Leaders may be volunteers or, if everyone volunteers the group can devise a “fair” way to choose leaders.
Stopping: There should be a commonly agreed upon signal for stopping. This could be a distinct rhythmic pattern that everyone can recognize easily and join in. It could be combined with a visual signal as well.
Seating: A circle seems to work the best and, if there is not enough room, a double circle works well.
Choosing instruments: Let individuals choose instruments and “take five” to experiment with their respective instruments. At various points let people switch instruments. With children it can be a fun challenge to have them make a silent agreement with someone across the room to switch and then change places without making a sound. A time limit can be set for added interest.
Integration: This could easily be combined with “other” subjects such as playing and saying times tables: Leader—“6 times 3”  Group—“18!”; maybe do four times tables and then a brief chant such as “We know our times tables, yea, yea, yea (or yo. yo, yo or hey, hey, hey)!”

A cool website is


  1. Hi Vince! I enjoy your posts! I was watching "I Let Her Go Go" on youtube and wanted to know the source for the song.. can you please help?
    Aimee @

  2. Hi Vince! Thanks for your posts; always interesting. I noticed your youtube video of "I Let Her Go Go" and was wondering about the source. I would like to use this song in an upcoming workshop but would like to know where you heard it/found it. Thanks in advance for your reply! The videos of your university classes are excellent!


What are your thoughts?