On My Trolley

Using the Music (or Percussion) Trolley in Schools

Teaching at a number of schools in different areas of the North of England has given me an insight into the use of the trolley of instruments. This resource is often to be found gathering dust at the back of a storeroom with a collection of instruments in various states from pristine to beyond repair.

Perhaps I visit schools in areas where there have been some difficult dealings with the music trolley. Looking at the instruments on the trolleys and the collections of beaters, mallets and sticks that are supplied to strike the instruments I am not surprised there is damage and perhaps some caution in the use of the trolley in class creativity.

I understand this and setting some ground rules at the start of the session could help. Find the loudest or most piercing sounding instrument and make a signal for everyone to stop playing. Make sure everyone understands what to do when they hear your signal.

The following picture shows some of the variety of materials and shapes of striking surface for playing percussion instruments. In general:

Wood, metal and plastic headed sticks are loud

Wool, rubber and felt can often bring out tone in the instrument at a medium and quiet dynamic

Brushes and rutes are soft

All sticks

If you are working on specific rhythms with beginner students sometimes a mnemonic, word or phrase, is useful to help pupils remember. I ask the students what their favourite book, film or interest is and then ask them to work out the word or phrase that will help remember the rhythm.

As an example the following rhythm that has been named: unicorn, lemonade, cherryade, butterfly, J2O, BB-8, theropod, elephant and Viktor Krum by my students. These are the ones I can remember.Plus 2:16_1:8

To help with using the percussion instruments on the trolley in some traditional ways I have published a book of duets that pair up many of the most commonly found instruments. It is available as an instant download in PDF format from https://payhip.com/b/gQzR

I am interested to hear from users of the book if other resources are needed. A collection of mnemonics, tips on what each instrument can do and how to play them (short films) or any other ideas that might be useful. Please tell me if you think of any from your experience(s) with the trolley.

© P.R. Birkby 2018

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Starting Percussion

Four Session

Four sessions for the beginner percussionist, listen to the complete tracks at https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/album/four-sessions-for-drums-and-percussion

Download the sheet music from https://payhip.com/b/adWR

Free play a long tracks available at https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/album/four-sessions-for-hand-percussion

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April 1st

Decoys and whistles

Toot Tango 2 for some April first fun https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/album/toot-tango-2

Download the sheet music from https://payhip.com/b/qVPn

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Strings and Bells

Spring Daffs

Welcome to Spring https://soundcloud.com/music-54-4/welcome-to-spring

Download the sheet music from https://payhip.com/b/3bPV A4 size

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Demands of many deadlines


The track a day, #atrackaday, challenge has been very useful in concentrating my mind on an effective use of time and resources. I have uncovered many unreleased recordings as I delve through the archives and this week have put together the album of the Work In Progress series.  The first books in this series are now twenty years old and the publications for a percussion ensemble of 10 players included the score, parts and music minus one recordings for each part.

It was interesting to listen to them all again with more experienced ears especially the various standards of recording and production.  I have put them together as a short album on the Bandcamp site https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/album/work-in-progress

Research for my previous post revealed that 66% of resolutions for the New Year are broken before the end of January.  By curating the music I have discovered into themed collections I am already approaching the end of March.  Not a bad start to the year.

(c) Peter R. Birkby 2018

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A Track A Day


Or for some social media #atrackaday

Introducing my New Year’s good intentions, after a holiday period of coughs and splutters, even though George Arnett in the Guardian article a few years ago found that 66% of resolutions last less than a month and 86% don’t last the year. My aim is to post a new track each day during 2018 and I’m now on day 9 (started early).

During my housebound weeks I listened to music and found lots of it, many pieces that I had composed during the past few years and then stored, suppressing all those creative ideas to complete the PhD now doesn’t seem worth it. Now it has been rediscovered the obvious action is off the hard drive and into the ether so you can give it a listen and decide for yourself rather than just reading about it in the blogs.

I hope some of the music resonates with you in some way, there are always percussion sounds on much of what I produce, and there may be some surprises in there as well. The more complete tracks will be available to listen to at https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/

The mainly MIDI versions will be posted on https://soundcloud.com/music-54-4/

And there will be some tracks with film that you can access at https://www.youtube.com/user/DDoDV

Any sheet music to go with the tracks will be available on https://payhip.com/prbpnews (priced in £s) and https://sellfy.com/prbpnews (priced in $s)


Hope you all have a happy listening year and today’s track is Within The Glass Copper Skin from Urban Music https://urbanskyline.bandcamp.com/album/urban-music

© Peter R. Birkby 2018

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A to Z of Percussion


A couple of years ago I published a collection of blogs about percussion. It was an A to Z of percussion instruments and to save searching I have now collated all the links on one page. Here are all the links:









E, F and G


H, I, J, K and L


M, N, O, P and Q


R and S


T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z


I did receive some helpful comments after the last publication and I updated the collection with the information from colleagues and fellow percussionists. If you spot an omission of error please get in touch and I will rectify it. Keep striking, or in my case bashing.

© P. R. Birkby 2017

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