From banging out some beats on the drum kit, to beautiful marimba solos, Figurenotes works brilliantly with percussion. After all, rhythm is at the heart of the Figurenotes way. 

Figurenotes is perfectly suited to playing in a band. We pride ourselves on creating a rock band in a very short time, which we nearly always do on our training days. We might use hand percussion, a cajon, or a full drum kit. We have even been known to introduce cup rhythms and body percussion.

Using Figurenotes with untuned hand percussion is simple. Whatever hand percussion you have, assign a colour and shape to each. You could stick symbols or stickers on the instruments, but this isn’t necessary. Make sure you can remember which is which. Try to be consistent from lesson to lesson. You can write the parts in the software. If you are writing for an ensemble with many players, you might like to write each part out as a melody line/percussion line. Alternatively, lump them together within a single percussion part. You can see an example of a drum kit part below.

We are not prescriptive when it comes to labelling hand percussion, as everyone has different equipment in their classrooms. If you want a more structured approach, try the Figurenotes drum kit.

The layout of the Figurenotes drum kit

You can see here that the kick drum is a black square, which will sit at the very bottom of your percussion part in the Figurenotes software.

Next, you have your snare and toms. These are represented by circles and will sit in the middle line of your percussion part.

On top, we have the cymbals represented by crosses. These will sit in the top space of your percussion part.

You’ll notice that the percussion part is written in the same way as the kit sits: kick drum at the bottom, cymbals at the top.

An example drum beat with labels

But what about people playing tuned percussion?

Tuned percussion works in the same way as piano. We place stickers on the instrument and match to the note on the page. If you are using limited notes, such as pentatonic chime bars, you made need a ‘black key’ sticker. To make these, we recommend using a CD pen or similar to draw a small arrow on the sticker itself. You will not need to do this is there is an F and a G either side, so just sticker up the natural notes to start with.

Let’s say you want everyone to play the same rhythm on their various percussion instruments – why not write a rhythm in one colour and have everyone play together on their various instruments? Body percussion works brilliantly for this. Markku’s Rhythmic Canon, available through the Resource Base, is a fantastically fun way to instil a sense of pulse and learn rhythmic changes within that.

We would love to hear your ideas on using Figurenotes with percussion. Join ‘Figurenotes – Let’s Make Music‘ on Facebook and let’s get a discussion going. You can find it through our Facebook page.


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