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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 a broad spectrum of percussion experiences that will translate to the development of applicable skills.

    Undergraduate Degrees Offered for Percussionists 


    Audition Requirements

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


    • Snare Drum- Contest solo from Albright, Podemski, Wilcoxin, Cirone, Firth, or equivalent.
    • Mallets - Contest solo or etude, employing two 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.   




    Course Meeting Time
    Percussion Students will receive a minimum of one academic hour of contact with percussion faculty per week, for a minimum total of 14 hours of contact for the semester.

    Primary Percussion Lessons - (1 credit)
    Prerequisite: Conservatory Major

    Primary Lessons, required of all Bachelor of Music degree majors, normally consist of 14 hours of private (one-on-one) studio instruction on the student’s primary instrument, delivered one hour per week throughout the semester and are valued at one (1) academic credit each semester, plus an area jury at the end of each semester.

    Primary Lesson course numbers coincide with the student’s performance level, as determined by the area jury process. Normally, students audition into the Conservatory at the 101 level, with normal progress consisting of advancement to 102, 201, 202, 301, 302, 401, 402 in consecutive semesters. For students entering at a higher level (e.g. 201) advanced levels are offered as needed (403, 404, etc.). Minimum study and level achievement on the primary instrument is determined by the student’s degree curriculum. Special fees are applied for one-on-one instruction.

    Performance Level Primary Lessons - (2 credits)
    Prerequisite: Conservatory Major and acceptance via 102 Level Jury or other means

    Performance Level Primary Lessons: Following the 102 Level of study, any student may audition to study on the primary instrument at the Primary Performance Level (201P, 202P, 301P, 302P, 401P, 402P). All BM in Performance and BM in Jazz Studies degree majors are required to study six semesters at the Performance Level Primary Lesson (2.0 credit hours) on the primary instrument. For composition majors, five semesters of Performance Level composition lessons are required. Performance Level lessons are valued at two (2) academic credits each semester. For additional details related to performance levels, see the current Conservatory Student Handbook. Special fees are applied for one-on-one instruction.

    MUSIC 100 - Hour Lesson (1 credit)
    Optional hour lessons each week for music majors on a secondary instrument. Placement is subject to faculty load availability. Special fees are applied for one-on-one instruction. Repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: Music Major and acceptance by the studio instructor.

    MUSIC 099 - Half-Hour Lesson (0.5 credit)
    Half-hour lesson each week for non-music majors or music majors on a secondary instrument. This is the required minimum (4 semesters) for Bachelor of Arts in Music majors. Prerequisite: BA Music Major or acceptance by the studio instructor. Special fees are applied for one-on-one instruction. Repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: Acceptance by Studio Instructor and/or Area Head. Offered each semester.

    Course Goals and Objectives
    Students will learn the principles of percussion performance through the study of stroke, touch, tone, motion and other fundamental techniques essential to a comprehensive understanding of percussion performance on all instruments.  Pedagogical principles will apply to developing excellence in both playing and teaching.

    Course Learning Goals (outcomes)
    - Students will learn fundamental skills applied to all percussion instruments
    - Students will apply musical elements, e.g., phrasing, tone, touch, etc. to all percussion instruments
    - Students will apply technical skills to musical application in both solo and ensemble settings
    - Students will become familiar with materials and repertoire appropriate for collegiate study at their various levels and will learn to apply those elements toward successful musical and career goals
    - Students will develop the analytical and communication skills applicable for percussion study through various writing and verbal assignments and presentations

    Assessment Plan
    Grading Scale: Consult the Conservatory Student Handbook for an explanation of how jury and semester grades are decided. It should be noted that the grade is based on work for the full semester and not just the performance at the jury. The Conservatory Grading Scale is as follows (Number or Letter Grades will be assigned):

    A=96-100    B+=88-91    C+=76-79    D+=64-67
    A-=92-95    B=84-87    C=72-75    D=60-63

                       B-=80-83    C-=68-71    F=0-59

    Evaluation Methods
    The student will be evaluated through lessons, studio class and jury settings.  Appropriate progress is required for the student to matriculate through the various performance levels.

    Assignments and Examinations
    Lesson Attendance: Attendance at all scheduled lessons is required. Students must notify the instructor if a lesson will be missed and provide a reason for the absence; the instructor will determine if the stated reason is reasonable. If a student misses a lesson and does not notify the instructor in advance, the lesson grade will not be made up, and the student will not receive a passing grade for that lesson.

    Studio Class/Jury Examination: Because performance ability is an essential part of the Music degree programs, the student is required to demonstrate performance ability before faculty during the course of the semester and at the end of each semester of applied instruction. The purpose of this is to assess the student’s progress and to serve as the prerequisite for advancing to the next level of applied instruction. Please refer to the Conservatory Student Handbook for information on the jury grading system.

    Lesson/Performance Evaluations: The student will be graded on each week’s performance. (A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, F=0).

    Level of Musicianship: The general level of instrumental skill and musical artistry in relation to expectations for the registered course number, e.g., 201, 202, etc.

    Performance level lessons: In addition to the requirements for all students, performance majors will demonstrate a greater depth and breadth of knowledge through a variety of methods, e.g., higher level performance on both half and full recitals, more difficult repertoire during each semester, and higher level of expectation in seating of ensembles, etc. Capital’s percussion faculty will provide guidelines to differential between 1.0 and 2.0 credit hour lessons on an individual student basis.

    Progress: Appropriate progress must be demonstrated throughout the semester.  Students may be held at level due to the lack of overall progress consistent with level advancement, e.g., lack of comprehensive progress in overall percussion study, not simply progress on an individual instrument such as marimba or drum set, etc..  For example, a student who demonstrates progress in one or more areas (ex: snare drum, marimba), but does not demonstrate appropriate progress in another (drum set, timpani) may be held at level until faculty determine that the comprehensive development is adequate to constitute level advancement.

    Master Class/Recital Attendance and Performances
    Attendance at all percussion master classes and studio performances, including percussion studio member’s recitals are required. Students may be excused from these events only with the prior permission of the instructor.  Reasons for missing an event could include a previously scheduled academic class, ensemble rehearsal or performance, or an event that the instructor determines is substitute for the event, or an emergency. 


    University Policies

    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.

    University policies may be found at: http://bulletin.capital.edu/content.php?catoid=4&navoid=69.

    Academic Success Support
    This service provides valuable support services and resources for students as they study and work to meet their academic goals. Regular drop-in and appointment hours and available for the Math, Science, and Writing Centers.

    Students can schedule an appointment ahead of time by calling Academic Success at 236-6327, emailing academicsuccess@capital.edu, or stopping by the Academic Success location on the second floor of the Blackmore Library.

    A wide range of subject area tutoring is also available; consult the Tutor Yellow Pages (available in the Academic Success office and on the Academic Success website at http://www.capital.edu/academic-success/ to find a tutor for a particular course.

    In addition, online eTutoring (www.etutoring.org) is available in accounting, anatomy/physiology, biology, chemistry, math, physics, statistics, and writing. Students can also contact Academic Success to schedule individualized study strategies consultations or peer academic advising sessions. For additional information about Academic Success programs and services, contact Director Bruce Epps at bepps@capital.edu or 236-6461.

    Percussion Department Chair Contact
    Students may contact Robert Breithaupt at any time for any issue:
    e-mail: rbreitha@capital.edu; cell: 614.477.8395

    Disability Services
    Capital University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. If you are seeking academic accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, you are required to register with the Office of Disability Services (ODS).

    To receive academic accommodations for this class, please register with ODS and meet with me at the beginning of the semester. Further information may be obtained by contacting Jennifer Speakman, Disability Services, in the Center for Health and Wellness by phone (614)236-6114 or email jspeakman@capital.edu. The syllabus is available in alternate formats upon request.


    The Music LibGuide is a one-stop shop interface providing access to Music resources available through the Blackmore Library.  It is designed to help students and faculty find music books, articles, CDs, DVDs, scores and other appropriate material for research.

    To access the guide, go to the Library home page and choose the Libguide tab in the middle of the screen.  On the next page choose the Music link, which will take you to the home page of the Music LibGuide.  There are separate tabs at the top of the page for a broad range of features.  These include pathways for finding books, articles, music materials (including audio streaming files from the Naxos Music Library), internet resources, biographies, career/job help resources, the use of MLA style for citing resources in papers, and the use of RefWorks.  The latter allows one to export citations of books and journal articles from databases and the catalog into a research paper, and to create bibliographic references.  The internet resources section includes links to professional music associations, reference websites, and digital scores and special collections in the public domain.

    Instrument Competencies

    Please Note: Any literature listed is representative only.  Choices may vary by instructor approach, student needs and other factors.

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

    • Sample Literature
    • Cirone Etudes
    • Wilcoxin Solos
    • Pratt Solos
    • Albright Solos

    201 Requirements
    Understanding and demonstration of Level System and various systems, e.g., Moeller, Stone, etc.
    Sample Literature

    • Cirone
    • Albright
    • Pratt
    • Firth

    202 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, literature etc.

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

    101/102 Requirements
    Understanding and application of two/four-mallet technique
    Sample Literature

    • Bach - Chorales
    • Kreisler - Tambourine Chinois
    • Leavitt – Classical Studies for Pick-Style Guitar
    • Musser - Etudes
    • Stevens - Method for Movement

    201 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   
    • 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, including the completion of lesson materials and/or the successful participation in a university jazz ensemble or professional drum set performance experience.

    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
    • Fonseca - 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 (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 ensemble setting where hand drums are utilized. 

    Progress Continuum

    The categories under each primary area are level 202 goals.  Position on the continuum is based on the students’ current comprehension of these categories.

    Snare Drum
    Knowledge/application of stroke techniques, style, reading, tuning, construction

    Keyboard Percussion
    Knowledge/application of grips, stroke techniques, literature, reading

    Knowledge/application of grips, stroke technique, literature, tuning, reading, construction

    Drum Set
    Knowledge/application of basic coordination, style, chart reading, tuning



    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
    • Research paper of at least 25 pages in length

    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.