The Snare Drum Plays the Zoo
by Brian J. Harris
Review by Eric Stuer
[at left: the back cover]

Sooner or later someone had to write this book. It is designed to help kids aged 4 and up to learn to read standard snare drum notation more easily by using animal names for common rhythmic figures. Here's four bars of four four:

tiger tiger caterpillar pig

tiger caterpillar tiger pig

pig, [sheep] dog, chihuahua pig

butterfly caterpillar kingfisher pig

I believe it will be useful not just for beginning kids, but for adults who have felt intimidated by traditional counting methods. What a great idea..it really works...I've been walking around all day singing

"tiger caterpillar butterfly piiiiiG!"

A complete table of the animals and the rhythmic figures they represent is available here in PDF format, suitable for printing

Author Brian J Harris, a prolific Arizona based percussion teacher, has gone to great care to choose words that flow very easily as the rhythmic figure they are intended to represent. Still one must be careful, because even though, for example, the word "porcupine" falls very nicely into triplets, that is not the only way it can be pronounced.

This is why it is stressed in the introduction that the proper learning sequence should be employed when using the book, the same one we used when we learned our native language: hear first, then speak, then read. He adds that, after reading, it is time to write, and opportunity is given to do that as well. in all the book is 104 pages with over a dozen instructional photos, 20 solos, 119 reading exercises, dozens of technique exercises, 21 composition assignments, and a CD with 50 audio tracks. These features combine to help the beginner learn to play, read, and write 20 different rhythmic symbols, 11 dynamic symbols, and a variety of repeat symbols.

Everything about this product, from the content to the graphics to the printing to the associated website with it's 'book-owners' only area is first rate.

Does Mr. Harris throw the old 'learning to count' method of reading out the window? To his credit, he does not; he includes at the end of the book, a valuable page on counting, and suggests in the intro that it be used at the teacher's discretion throughout.



Eric Stuer, October 2004

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