My top five percussion instruments for jam sessions in the care home
In our jamming sessions in care homes the percussion instruments play a big part in enabling everyone to take an active role in making a piece of music together. They are accessible and inclusive because they are generally small and light. There is also no pressure to choose musical notes. We find that these instruments can be accessible to people living with dementia and also people who are frail and may have reduced movement. Choose simple, accessible percussion instruments and make sure your chosen instruments make a good range of sounds. Then, when everyone plays together, you’re giving the band the best opportunity to make a sound with a good texture and depth.
Here are my top five percussion instruments that everyone seems to enjoy in our sessions. We use many more instruments both percussion and musical in the jam sessions. But I feel these five instruments are at the centre of our inclusive and accessible jam band sound.
The Guiro has two ways of making a great sound. You can tap it with it’s stick or, because it has small ridges, make a hollow scraping sound that is pleasing to the ears. You can hold the Guiro in one hand and play with the other. Or secure it on a table or in the lap to play it one handed (a couple of cushions works well for this). We use a traditional Guiro and an ethnic frog which sounds humorously froglike. These instrumnets come in many variations, but always with a hollow inside and a ridged outer surface.
The Shaky Eggs
The Shaky Eggs are fun to play with and they make a lovely gentle sound that still cuts through. They sound like they have a small amount of sand in their shells. The Shaky Egg is versatile as you can put them up your sleeve or in a sock if you find them hard to hold. A few eggs in a glove can make a highly accessible shaker. They look lovely and familiar. Grabbing a Shaky Egg to join in with the jam isn’t too much of a commitment. When playing the other instruments might feel like a big thing to take on if you don’t see yourself as a musician. We love to have a big bag of Shaky Eggs to make sure there’s plenty for everyone.
The Chimes are tuned so high that you can join in our jams without fearing hitting a wrong note. They resonate and add a serene ringing tone to the band. Although they are a small, delicate instrument, they make a strong sound with just a light strike. I feel that the Chimes add an airy magical element to the sound of the band – while the other instruments are rattling, banging and clacking.
The Snare Drum
The Snare Drum, using brushes, is very popular with our fellow jammers. People have played for up to an hour non stop having never played this instrument before. It brings another texture of sound to the band. Sometimes people play a rhythm resembling a Scottish country folk band. Other jammers swirl the brushes to resemble the sound of the sea or a river. A pair of brushes is a great addition to your percussion kit as they work well on any drum (or other skinned instrument like a tambourine). Using the brushes opens up a whole different range of sounds to using drumsticks or your hands.
The Maracas are often the first percussion instrument people choose. As soon as they start playing we are transported to somewhere hot and exotic. I think that is the appeal of these lovely simple shakers. They can be played as a pair or singly and are quite easy to grasp with their generous handles. You can always add some anti-slip gripper material to the handle to help with the grip. Wooden Maracras sound good when clunked together or tapped on the table too. Choose nice colourful ones, I think the bright, joyful colors are part of their appeal.
What are your favourite percussion instruments for your care home jam sessions?