10 reasons to stop whatever you’re doing & play percussion

The best job in classical music

Amazing repertoire, incredible instruments and some of the most high-quality humans available to the world of classical music

1. Playing percussion enables you ouo comprehensively steal the show with very little effort on your part.

Strings are pretty, sure. You kind of see why some people would like wind instruments, and you can acknowledge that brass has a certain swagger. But what’s all that compared to the orchestra’s percussion section?

2. Percussion parts can always be relied upon to stand out and make an impression.

Whether you’re playing a massive bass drum or a teeny little triangle.

3. The conductor might *think* they’re calling the shots, but percussionists know it’s actually them.

Especially in works by Beethoven, where the timpani are demonstrably in charge of everything.

Mwahahahahahaha!

4. Being in charge of cymbals is pretty much the best thing in the world.

Getting the exact angle can be quite tricky – as can holding on to the damn things.

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But once you’ve mastered finding that sweet spot, cymbals are as jelly in your hands. It’s a bit like a drug.

5. In fact, all percussion instruments are great.

Percussionists get to play with all the toys in the world – and the later the repertoire, the better, weirder, and less technically instrument-y they get.

Look how happy this guy is with his vibraslap!

These men and women were BORN to wield ruddy great hammers in Mahler’s Symphony No. 6!

And check out these army musicians let loose on BONA FIDE CANNONS for Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture! From 7’54.

6. Drum solos in orchestral music legit ARE the best

The opening of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, the end of Verdi’s Requiem… basically the whole of Shostakovich 5 (especially the bits where the timps are marked fffff).

But with great power, comes responsibility. Can you even imagine the kind of pressure the timps are under in the run-up to the last two chords of Sibelius 5?

7. Unlike other orchestral musicians, percussionists can easily moonlight in other styles of music.

Pop, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, big band, samba, marching bands, steel bands, folk groups, raga… the list goes on.

8. On an individual level, percussionists are difficult to pigeonhole.

Everyone knows what they say about conductors, sopranos, brass players and violists – but it’s difficult to stereotype percussionists. They really are a wide church (or a full range of nutters, depending on how you look at it).

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However, as a group, they do tend to be willing to have a go at just about anything. Roughly half of all percussionists didn’t start out that way: they were playing something else and got distracted.

9. Want to to get fit? Start playing percussion.

It’s true that, up until the point you join a pro ensemble, your life between gigs is mostly filled with pain and heavy lifting. But the pay-off is physical: you’ll never have to join a gym and your upper-body strength is matchless.

10. Percussionist pin-ups are without question the most badass.

Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie, Simone Rubello, Catherine Ring, Bob Becker, Keiko Abe, Joby Burgess…Who would you add to that list?

If you like percussion, you’ll LOVE Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. Developed in collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, the app uses gaming technology to teach you how to play Steve Reich’s famous piece. Download it for free here.
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