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MUSIC 3P03 Percussion Methods

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. John Brownell


Office: Togo Salmon Hall NULL

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23884

Office Hours: By Appointment

Course Objectives:

This course surveys fundamental performance techniques for the percussion instruments found in Western orchestral music: the snare drum, timpani, keyboard percussion instruments (xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba, and vibraphone), bass drum, cymbals, small accessory instruments, drumset, and hand drums.

In addition, basic maintenance and tuning of the instruments will form an important part of the course content.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

There is no required text. Materials culled from various sources will be distributed from time to time. An excellent, easily available reference work that is not required is:

Cook, Gary

  2005 Teaching Percussion. New York: Schirmer Books (plus accompanying 2 DVD set)

Method of Assessment:

Evaluation will be based on the following criteria:

Snare drum test                                            25%

Midterm take-home test                                 20%

Final take-home exam                                   25%

Concert review                                             10%

Participation                                                 20%


Grading Scale:

A+ 90-100      B+ 77-79       C+ 67-69       D+ 57-59       F 0-49

A   85-89       B   73-76       C   63-66       D   53-56

A- 80-84        B-  70-72       C-  60-62      D-  50-52


The concert review is a short, newspaper review length (approximately 800 words) report on any performance that features a preponderance of percussion (typically a percussion ensemble concert but any “percussion-intensive” performance will suffice – see me if you are not sure).

This is a “hands-on” course. A great deal of class time will be spent playing which accounts for the weight given to participation.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late assignments will be penalized 10% per week for every week or part of a week they are late to a maximum of 30%. Exceptions will only be made if official documentation such as a doctor’s note can be provided.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Class Schedule


September 11

Introduction and overview, Snare drum

September 18

Snare drum

September 25

Snare drum

October 2


October 9

Snare drum test

October 16

Midterm Recess, No class

October 23

Keyboard percussion

October 30

Keyboard percussion, Bass drum, cymbals, accessory instruments. Midterm take-home exam distributed

November 6

Percussion ensemble. Midterm test due.

November 13


November 20

Drumset, Latin percussion

November 27

Latin percussion, Percussion section case study.

December 4


Final take-home exam distributed. Concert review due.


Other Course Information:

Instructor email: