Check PatternsAn ideal book for private lessons, small group instruction or percussion ensemble rehearsals, A Percussionist's Guide to Check Patterns focuses on mastering the essential basics of reading and controlling one-beat rhythmic patterns. It provides a systematic approach to sticking duple- and triplet-based rhythms that all beginning to advanced percussionists encounter in everyday music. All musical examples are written for non-pitched percussion, keyboards and drumset, and the step-by-step presentation is guaranteed to improve syncopation control and coordination skills if practiced thoroughly. The accompaniment CD is perfect for individual practice, private lessons, small group instruction, or percussion ensemble rehearsal.


The book's author, Thom Hannum, has long been regarded as one of the nation's foremost marching percussion arrangers, instructors, and clinicians. He is probably best known for his work with the DCI World Champions, Cadets of Bergen County and Star of Indiana. Thom is also a member of the design team for the Tony Award Winning show Blast! Thom currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts and is the founder/director of Mobile Percussion Seminar.

Those of us who have spent any time with a drumline, whether it be through marching band or drum corps, are very familiar with the term "check patterns".  The concept of having someone or something (eg. metronome) play a constant flow of subdivisions while we work to perfectly line-up a particular rhythmic pattern, has been around since the earliest days of military drumming tradition.

A Percussionist's Guide to Check Patterns is a 104-page book, with supplemental CD, that addresses two main areas for the developing musician. First, it uses basic rhythmic building blocks as a means to help the percussionist improve the accuracy of their reading skills, via pattern recognition. Secondly, the physical aspects of performance is enhanced by building technical control of syncopated rhythmic patterns through a consistent sticking method. Identifying and improving pulse control, rhythmic accuracy, note and rest lengths, as well as natural stick flow are all positive results from this type of approach.

A Percussionist's Guide to Check Patterns begins with a well articulated introduction, explaining the concepts behind the method, followed by an in depth section on how to use the book. It's important to note that everything notated in the book is written for non-pitched percussion (eg. Snare drum), keyboard percussion (aka mallet percussion), and drumset. Examples and suggestions are given for all three instrument types, plus individual and ensemble applications.

The first section of the book, The Foundation, helps establish and build the recognition of duple and triplet rhythm patterns, reinforce consistent stickings, connecting stick motions, perfecting a feel for the downbeat pulse, plus boosting control of note lengths and spacing for rests.

The second section, The Musical Phrase, introduces basic rhythm patterns and their variations in two short musical phrases; Duple Check Patterns and Triplet Check Patterns.

Section three, Mastering the Variations & Phrases, expand the duple and triplet concepts. The music examples in this section can be used to form duets and increase ensemble awareness of mixed or matching phrases.

Section four, Combination Phrases, combines the duple and triplet rhythmic patterns already learned, creating longer musical phrases. It also makes use of alternate duple and triplet notations, some of which are visually easier to read and/or recognize.

The final section, Mixed Combination Phrases, combines the use of all the duple and triplet variations into one musical phrase. Combinations make use of three, two and one note patterns.

The accompanying CD is meant to supplement the use of a metronome. It will help the student or ensemble learn accurate subdivisions at slow, medium and fast tempos; ranges are explained in the book for both duple and triplet exercises.

A Percussionist's Guide to Check Patterns (Book/CD), which comes with a free Vic Firth Check Patterns poster, is an excellent resource for individual practice, duets, and large ensemble rehearsals or method classes. The mixed instrumentation, that is non-pitched percussion, mallet keyboards and drumset, makes this book extremely flexible and versatile for instructors who may be teaching an unlimited number of students, all playing at the same time. Great for students and players at all skill levels; highly recommended.