We Got the Beat Posted on April 4, 2014 by Kari McMullin Reply The Blue Man Group came to my daughter’s school this week to teach them a little about what they do. You can read more about it here. My husband and I saw them in Las Vegas over New Year’s—I know I’m late to the party in discovering them, but I instantly fell in love. I could probably write dissertation on the history of drums, and many people have done just that, with more expertise and eloquence than I can. Nevertheless, here are some interesting tidbits for you to think about, next time you find yourself drumming in Kindermusik class: You don’t actually need a physical drum to do percussion for a song. While people have been using their bodies for percussion for centuries, the modern, human “beat box” developed as hip hop and rap began implementing drum machines in their music, starting in the 80’s. Of course, it didn’t take long for the human beat box to infiltrate all types of music: Though it seemed obvious to me once I learned it, bagpipes are either “on” or “off.” A piper cannot employ volume swells. Therefore, the drums in a pipe band (though they have many functions) serve to lend a pipe band further interest through the addition of dynamics: Steel drums from Trinidad and Tobago aren’t really drums—at least, not in the way we think of a snare drum or bass drum. They are called “drums” because they originate from oil drums or other similar steel containers. They are a percussion instrument, of course, but they belong to the “idiophone” group of instruments, rather than the “membranophones” (the difference being whether one is striking a membrane to cause a vibration sound, or the whole instrument itself). Being idiophones, the steel drums are related to wood blocks, triangles and marimbas (all instruments we get to play with at the studio!). What a plethora of possibilities for participation n percussion!