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Percussion Handbook
  • Percussion Handbook


    Download a PDF version of this Percussion Handbook. 


    Goal Statement

    Today's college percussion curriculum at the undergraduate level must present a wide variety of literature and opportunities to the student. At Capital University we strive for excellence in all aspects of percussion performance. We are dedicated to providing an educational environment that promotes a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of percussion in the music industry.


    Undergraduate Degrees Offered for Percussionists


    For Prospective Students

    Audition Requirements

    Auditioning students must show competency in at least three of the following five areas:

    • Snare Drum- Contest solo from Albright, Podemski, Wilcoxin, Cirone, Lepak, Firth, or equivalent.\
    • Mallets - Contest solo or etude, employing two, three or four mallets. The student may also use improvisation to demonstrate keyboard skills.
    • Timpani - Contest solo, etude or excerpt of at least moderate difficulty.
    • Drumset - Demonstrate basic styles, i.e., Swing, Latin, Rock, etc. The student may play a short solo, fours, etc. to demonstrate improvisational skills.
    • Hand Percussion - Performance of styles to demonstrate knowledge of fundamental patterns and styles.


    Additional Requirements for Audition:

    • Snare Drum Rudiments
    • Scales and Arpeggios
    • Sight-Reading


    The student must supply all sticks, mallets and literature for the audition. Large instruments (drum set, timpani, marimba, etc.) will be supplied; students are encouraged to bring their own snare drum or any other equipment they feel is necessary to enhance their performance.


    Percussion Curriculum

    Instructor: Robert Breithaupt (primary instructor)
    Office: Conservatory Complex 006
    Phone: (614) 236-6234
    E-mail: BBreit@aol.com 



    Level 101 and up Capital grading scale applied (total 500 points)
    Each lesson or class - 350 points
    Individual Exams - 50 points
    Final Jury - 100 points
    Grading Scale: As specified in the Conservatory Handbook



    Mandatory at all lessons. Each unexcused absence or unprepared lesson may result in lowering of the semester grade by one letter. Three or more unexcused absences or unprepared lessons may result in the student being dropped from the roster and failing the semester of study.

    Please Note:
    The stated schedule and procedures in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances.

    University policies governing drop dates, penalties, plagiarism, incompletes, and academic integrity as detailed in the Capital University Undergraduate Bulletin "Undergraduate Academic Policies, Regulations and General Information" will be observed.


    Individual Exam Requirements

    In most semesters each student is expected to perform sight-reading and prepared materials provided in a short time frame, usually less than 24 hours. This is to promote maintenance of reading and preparation of skills consistent with those expected upon graduation as a percussion major, regardless of the specific degree area. Students at the 101 and 102 levels may be asked to perform scales and arpeggios, and rudiments as well as to perform sight-reading and prepared work, although it is understood that these areas should be addressed as a part of a daily practice regimen.


    Level 202 Exams

    Separate elements to an overall requirement for passing from the 202 level in the percussion studio are tested via a written test. Any of the elements may be tested at any percussion jury exam, but all must be completed with an overall score of 75% or better to allow for the passing of the entire sequence. Following completion of the 202 level exams, the student may choose the focus of the studio lessons from that point. Special Project in Percussion concept remains an option for all students. For example, an individual may wish to concentrate on drum set, vibes, timpani, etc. All normal programming balance will remain a requirement for junior and senior recitals in Bachelor of Music programs unless otherwise determined by the instructor. 

    Instrument Competencies  

    Snare Drum

    Goal: To demonstrate competency in the musical and technical elements of basic snare drumming and the relationship to other percussion instruments: grip, strokes, the level system, rolls, rudiments, sight reading, etc. To perform standard literature in both the concert and rudimental style and to understand the correct application.

    Competency: Will be demonstrated through completion of lesson materials, jury/mid-term performance and/or practical application in concert ensembles.


    101/102 Requirements 

    Individual Exam Requirements 

    • Understanding and application of stroke/rebound technique (Stone Books)
    • Application of concert and rudimental technique (PAS rudiments)


     Sample Literature 

    • Podemski Etudes
    • Cirone Etudes
    • Wilcoxin Solos
    • Pratt Solos
    • Albright Solos


    201 Requirements 

    Individual Exam Requirements 

    • Understanding and demonstration of Level System and various systems, e.g., Moeller, Stone, etc.


     Sample Literature 

    • Cirone
    • Albright
    • Pratt
    • Firth


    202 Requirements 

    Individual Exam Requirements 

    • Synthesis of knowledge of stroke, performance technique as applied on snare drum and other instruments
    • Application of concert and rudimental style to literature


     Sample Literature 

    • Albright Etudes
    • Cirone Etudes
    • Delecluse Etudes



    Goal: To demonstrate competency in musical and technical elements of both two mallet and four mallet marimba performance: sight-reading, two/four-mallet grips, stroke, motion, rolls, scales/arpeggios, exercises, etc.

    Competency: Will be demonstrated through the completion of lesson materials, solo literature, jury and recital performances.

    101/102 Requirements 

    • Successful completion of Individual Exam requirements
    • Understanding and application of two/four-mallet technique


     Sample Literature 

    • Bach - Violin Concerto in A Minor
    • Bach - Chorales
    • Kreisler - Tambourine Chinois
    • Leavitt - Classical Studies for Pick-Style Guitar
    • Musser - Etudes
    • Mazas - Duets
    • Peters - Yellow After the Rain
    • Smith - Etudes
    • Stevens - Method for Movement


    201 Requirements 

    • Successful completion of Individual Exam requirements
    • Two/four mallet dexterity exemplified through lesson/solo literature
    • Sight reading skills confident in various keys and tempos


     Sample Literature 

    • Abe - Frogs
    • Bach - Chorales
    • Burritt - Etudes
    • Green - Xylophone Solos
    • Houliff - Etudes
    • Smadbeck - Etudes


    202 Requirements 

    • Literature choices reflective of recital preparation


     Sample Literature 

    • Abe - Wind in the Bamboo Grove
    • Burritt - October Night
    • Smadbeck - Etudes
    • Rosauro - Preludio
    • Stout - Mexican Dances


    Drum Set

    Goal: To demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of styles, coordination and reading on drum set.

    Competency: Demonstrate styles through performance experiences and the discussion/transcription of various elements. Coordination demonstrated through the completion of lesson materials and/or the successful participation in a university jazz ensemble or professional drum set performance experience. Successful participation in the big band satisfies the chart reading competency. Discussion of soloing in context.

    202 Requirements 

    • Styles - Demonstrate various swing, rock and Latin styles through performance of literature and/or ensemble/professional experience. Transcription and style presentations in a lecture setting can contribute to the evaluation of competency.
    • Coordination - Demonstrate understanding of coordination studies. Presentation/analysis of such can be considered in evaluation of competency.
    • Reading - Demonstrate an understanding of chart terminology and application through lesson materials and/or ensemble performance.


     Sample Literature 

    • Chaffee, Riley - Methods
    • Reed - Syncopation
    • Houghton - Essential Styles/The Drum Set Soloist
    • Fronseca - Brazilian Rhythms for Drum Set
    • Uribe - Afro Cuban/Caribbean Rhythms for Drum Set
    • CD - Turn It Up & Lay It Down (play-a-long)
    • Comping Exercises



    Goal: To demonstrate competency in the technical and musical elements of fundamental timpani performance: grip, stroke, rolls, dampening, pedaling, tuning, etc. To perform standard pedagogical literature in the studio; application of techniques in a musical/ensemble context.

    Competency: Will be demonstrated through completion of lesson materials, jury performance and/or practical application in concert ensembles.


    Sample Literature 

    • Carter - Eight Solos
    • Firth - The Solo Timpanist
    • Goodman - Modern Method for Timpani
    • Peters - Timpani Method (202 Reading Assignments)
    • Orchestral Excerpts



    Goal: To demonstrate competency of pedaling, dampening and fundamental chord voicing techniques.

    Competency: Demonstrate skill through private study, transcriptions of solos, midterm exams and juries and/or successful participation of university jazz ensemble or professional experience.


    Sample Literature 

    • Friedman - Dampening/Muffling for Vibraphone
    • Molenhof - Music of the Day
    • Standard Tunes


    Hand Drums

    Goal: To demonstrate competency of fundamental hand drumming technique.

    Competency: Participation of at least one semester in the Ethnic Percussion Ensemble.


    Electronic Percussion

    Goal: To demonstrate a fundamental understanding of technological applications as applied to computer and notation programs.

    Competency: To be demonstrated through prior skill, composition, lectures, participation in MIDI Ensemble.


    Opportunities within the Studio

    Special Project in Percussion

    The Special Project in Percussion is designed to allow any full-time percussion major at Capital University the opportunity to study, in-depth, any area of percussion at the 301 level or beyond.

    To participate in the Special Project, one must present to their percussion instructor a proposal that will discuss the area of study, the reason for studying that area and in what manner the student will present the final project.

    Requirements during the project semester will be:

    • Outline of project proposal
    • Lecture/demonstration at the end of the semester
    • Progress discussion and demonstration at each studio class
    • Formal research paper of at least 25 pages in length due at the end of the semester
    • The Special Project does not exclude the student from the possibility of participation in any ensemble, recital or any other activity during that semester, but does assume that all effort toward the studio lessons for that semester be directed toward the project. Please note that this is optional and not required in the curriculum.



    Students at the junior or senior level who have completed an adequate number of courses in the major and supporting areas to be prepared to meet the requirements of the internship. Students must have attained the 301 performance level prior to beginning the internship and have attained a 2.5 GPA overall. A student must apply for the internship by scheduling an interview with the department chair or by providing the department chair a one page, typed request for consideration for an internship. A typed resume for possible submission to potential supervisors should also be prepared. A recommendation from a faculty member or former employer must also accompany the application.


    Library Index Referrals

    When checking out/in library materials, use the following information to determine where the music should be filed (in alphabetical order by title).

    • MB Method Books
    • JBM Jazz Method Books
    • XS Xylophone Solos
    • MS2 2-Mallet Marimba Solos
    • MS4 4-Mallet Marimba Solos
    • VS Vibraphone Solos
    • TS Timpani Solos
    • SS Snare Drum Solos
    • MPS Multiple Percussion Solos
    • C Concertos
    • CM Chamber Music
    • E Excerpts
    • PS Steel Drum Solos
    • SDB Steel Drum Band
    • D Duets
    • PE3 Percussion Trios
    • PE4 Percussion Quartets
    • PE5 Percussion Quintets
    • PE6+ Percussion Ensembles-6+ Players
    • JPE Jazz Percussion Ensembles
    • L Large Files (The L Will Appear After The Catalog Number)
    • RF Reference Book


    The left-hand column represents the first digits of the catalog number that will be followed by a number. The right-hand column represents the labels that appear on the filing cabinets.

    In addition to an extended library of solo and ensemble literature and method books, our library also consists of numerous reference books, instructional and music videos, CD's/records/tapes and journals and magazines specific to the field of percussion. All materials are available for student use.


    About the Director of Percussion: Robert Breithaupt 

    Robert Breithaupt enjoys one of America's most diverse musical careers.

    Breithaupt is considered one of the nation's leaders in percussion education. He is Professor of Music and Department Chair of Music Business & Industry Studies at Capital University. Since 1978 he has developed one of the most recognized undergraduate percussion programs in the United States, producing students that are successful in performing, teaching and the music industry. He is the co-director of the Summer Drum Set Workshops, the author of the textbook, The Complete Percussionist, the DVD entitled Snare Drum Basics, and presents and is features in clinics and seminars worldwide. He is also a past-president of the Percussive Arts Society, the international society for drummers and percussionists.

    While leading the Jazz Arts Group (JAG) as Executive Director since 2001, he has also served as the drummer of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra since 1980. As a consultant and speaker, he promotes the organizational structure of JAG, one of America's leading non-for-profit jazz organizations, as a model to be replicated by other communities.

    He has performed with a virtual "Who's Who" of great jazz talents, has served as an extra percussionist with the Columbus Symphony and continues to perform with many of the nation's finest orchestras as drummer/percussionist trumpet virtuoso Byron Stripling and for Broadway star Sandy Duncan.

    Breithaupt is an endorser and consultant for the Yamaha Corporation, the Sabian, Ltd., Innovative Percussion, and Remo, Inc. As a businessman, Breithaupt was one of the founders of Columbus Pro Percussion, Inc., and served as co-owner and vice-president for twenty-five years.

    The recipient of numerous honors and awards, he was awarded Bowling Green State University's Outstanding Graduate Award, participated as a fellow in the Jefferson Academy for Leadership and Governance, was a participant in the prestigious Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders in the Arts, a joint program of National Arts Strategies and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and currently serves as the chair of the Columbus Cultural Leadership Consortium.

    Contact Bob Breithaupt by e-mail or at (614) 236-6234.


    Contact Information

    Robert Breithaupt - Professor of Music
    Capital University Conservatory of Music
    1 College and Main
    Columbus, Ohio 43209
    Office Phone: 614-236-6234
    E-mail: BBreit@aol.com