Percussion with no backline and also it's me?
September 14, 2019 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I play in a band. Usually I'm a back-up singer and back-up trumpet and mascot/dance/sing-along leader. A year or so ago, the guitarist picked up a tambourine and a rectangular shaker and handed them over to me. I've done all right so far, but I feel like there is so very much more I could do on both fronts in a way that's good. We used to play with drummers much more often, but haven't had one of late. That means I'm the percussion and have learned on the job, but could learn much more. Halp?

We play a lot of Americana (old country, old gospel, some famous mariachi songs 'cause we got two trumpets, into Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen). We have a guitarist and upright bass who have played all over NYC with all kindsa people, famous and not. We have the other girl in the band, who is classically trained and plays accordion and proper trumpet. We have a harmonica player who sings like an angel. We do lots of four-part harmony and lately have been getting into more break-outs when a song gets loud and rowdy and then we all back up from the mic and it's hand claps and us just singing our parts real loud. The crowd is into it.

I would like to be more ready for this. I think I gotta get a tambourine with a head (this one's just a frame and I get such precise bruises) and would like to be better at shaker technique and tambo technique and just basic percussion in general. Grew up playing horn in F and violin, and there's no sheet music in these lands where we've gone. Videos and word-advice and anything are welcome. Thank you.
posted by lauranesson to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can’t speak to learning percussion techniques, but if I were you I’d consider getting a stompbox or a cajon.
posted by gnutron at 9:16 PM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

They're often terrible but drum circles are actually a decent low-pressure way to practice percussion and learn some tricks. Swap meets and farmer's markets are the most likely places to find them, but randos busking can be great. Someone once quipped that the best drummer anyone's ever seen is currently playing buckets somewhere outside a subway stop.

Yes, get a tambourine with a skin - you can do much more interesting things with it because of the drum head. I recently watched a pretty serious percussionist do paradiddles on a Chilean tambo by licking his thumb and drawing it across the skin quickly with pressure. Stompboxes are great, and I really enjoy using kick pedals to hit other things, although given your instrumentation you might consider a small kick drum.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:53 PM on September 14, 2019

but if I were you I’d consider getting a stompbox

If you're strapped for cash, I made a serviceable stompbox with an old cigar box and some dirt cheap piezo mics I got for $2 on aliexpress.
posted by signal at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2019

I never even knew a stompbox was a thing that existed! I'm so happy I asked. Thanks, y'all. Still on the lookout for, like, basic rhythms of various genres. I know if I keep at it, I'll find a good nerdy YTer with the advice I need. For now I shall continue on my offbeats.
posted by lauranesson at 6:14 PM on September 16, 2019

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