The following is adapted from “Developing an African Drumming Program for Your Music Classroom,” created by ThisWorldMusic in partnership with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
This is the first in a series of three installments on arranging for an African drumming ensemble: 1) Arranging for Classroom vs. Stage; 2) Arranging Drumming with Singing and; 3) Arranging for Performance.
1. Arranging for Classroom vs. Stage
For teaching polyphonic drum ensemble music in a classroom setting, a “mixed chorus” type of instrument distribution scheme is ideal. In the example below, the classroom diagram assumes three basic instrument types: bell, rattle and drum. Arranging the instruments in this fashion facilitates a “play-and-pass” lesson plan in which students get to cycle through playing each of the three parts that comprise the ensemble rhythm.
In performance, however, it is typically better to divide the ensemble into sections by instrument type. For example: if one of the three students playing the bell is especially strong, then seating the other two bell players in close proximity will help cohesion. This is analogous to the role of a section leader in a symphony orchestra.