Drumming in Eight

The kids love drums. Any drumming activity always meets with approval from them, though I haven’t always been so pleased myself. This activity went better than many.

What You Need:

  • Two drums
  • Playing cards


  • Sort through your playing cards. You need one ace plus one each of the numbers two through seven. The suit does not matter.

How to Play:

  • Explain how musicians usually count to four in each measure because most music is in 4/4 time. Dancers like to put two of those measures together and count to eight. For this activity, we’re counting to eight.
  • Give the student one of the drums. Keep the other for yourself.
  • To get the hang of how to play the drum, we always start with the easiest challenge: Both of us playing quarter notes as I count out loud to eight. (I always give them a preparatory measure or half measure first.)
  • After that we go through a series of challenges in more or less this order:
    • Pick a random card. Rest for every beat except the one drawn.
    • Pick a second card. Play on both of your cards.
    • Pick a third and fourth card. The teacher plays on those beats while the student continues to play on the first two cards drawn.
      • Note: I find that many kids struggled if the beats alternated. For example, if their numbers were 2 and 6 and my beats were 5 and 7, they had trouble. If we swapped cards so they had 2 and 5 and I had 6 and 7, it seemed easier.
  • It is also possible to go through the same series of challenges to practice eighth notes. For this version, there are no rests. Hit the drum on every beat, but on the beat that matches the card, double hit (play eighth notes) instead.
    • One of my students inadvertently did this when I wasn’t planning on it. He always hit twice on beat seven because there are two syllables in it. By the time we finished the lesson, I still hadn’t managed to train him out of that.



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