5th Grade Percussion Auditions

It's that time of year!  It's time for a new batch of 5th grade students to experience that exciting time of choosing the instrument that they will play in band!  There are many questions that I receive regarding the percussion auditions as the process for percussion is quite different than for wind instruments.  Here is a detailed description of the audition process as well as a list of FAQ's that parents and students often have.

Audition Process:
Step #1 - Audition for a wind instrument. The purpose of this step is so that you are assured the wind instrument of your choice if we decide this is a better route for you.

Step #2 - Before leaving the audition room, the student should make sure that they take the fractions test.  This test helps to give me an idea of their ability to think in fractions of a beat.  Be sure to read the directions and do your best!  The completed tests that I receive are what I use to know that a student is interested in percussion so make sure you complete this step (and write your name on the top of the page)!

Step #3 - Over the following 2-3 weeks I will be auditioning interested 5th graders during their specials classes.  Each student will spend 5-8 minutes with me as I interview them and run them through a variety of basic coordination drills to check their aptitude for percussion.  Each student will be scored on 12-15 different items.  Once I complete all of the students, I will average the scores and let the computer rank the students.

Step #4 - The final step is the individual invitation to the students selected for percussion.  At this time they are allowed to accept their spot in the class or they can choose to stay on the wind instrument that they had previously chosen in step #1.  In the case that a student chooses not to join the percussion class, the next student on the list is invited until all spots within the class are full.


My student has already taken drum lessons.  Does this mean they still have to audition? 
Yes.  Every 5th grade student that is interested in playing percussion must audition.  While in certain circumstances percussion lessons can help, most often they do more harm than good.  The reason for this is the fact that lessons are typically once per week, which is simply not often enough for a beginner to learn the proper grip / technique without lots of bad habits creeping in.  Also, I'm looking for the students who have the most "end potential", not necessarily those who come into the audition knowing the most.  Students who are "wired" for percussion will catch up and surpass students who don't have the same level of aptitude but have taken lessons very quickly.

My friend has a student at another school who said that if you don't play piano you can't be in percussion.  Is this true?
Absolutely not.  While at many schools this is a fact, I do not feel that this should be a pre-requisite for playing percussion.  Piano certainly helps with students to excel with all  instruments, but the things that students learn in piano are all things that I can teach in class.  I'm looking simply for the students whose minds are "wired" for percussion and who will pick up the concepts easily.

What are the different tests that you use to audition students and could you show my student ahead of time?
The different tasks that I have each student perform are all coordination based exercises.  They are mostly the types of things that a student can or can't perform easily.  Basically over the last 12 years I have evolved the process to test the things that are hard or not possible to teach in class.  If I can teach it then it is not part of the audition.  Essentially I'm looking for those things that would generally be considered "natural ability."

How many students are in the class? 
There are generally 8-10 students in the class.  There are a variety of factors that can influence this number.  These include needs of the program, levels of auditionees, availability of equipment, etc.  While I would love to have 30 percussionists each year, it simply isn't feasible with the size of our classroom, amount of equipment for students to play on, etc.

What do you mean when you say "wired for percussion?"
This is the term that I use to describe students to whom the idea of rhythm and coordination come very easily to.  I make sure that students understand that this is not about intelligence!  Here is the way that I explain it that seems to work the best way for the students:

I start by asking for students to think about both their math classes and their reading classes.  Then I ask for a show of hands to see who prefers each one.  This is followed by the question "So, those of you who raised your hands for math - does that mean that you are smarter than those who raised their hand for reading?"  Their answer is always "Of course not!"  Then I ask the same questions the other way.  The idea is to show that some students are "wired" for math, and some are "wired" for language (this part has nothing to do with percussion by the way... it is simply to help them understand the concept.)

The students who prefer reading generally prefer it because it comes easy to them (they're wired for it) so they are successful with minimal effort.  I'm looking for the students who the concepts of  rhythm and coordination come easily to.  This will make the student more successful, they will pick up the concepts more efficiently, and the class will be students who are all able to move at close to the same pace. This makes for a better experience for all of the students.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me at and I'll be glad to answer them.  Who knows, maybe your question will make it on this post!

-Michael Lemish
Dir. of Percussion
Argyle ISD

Speed Note Reading Tutor
Oct. 29th, 2013

The speed note reading tutor is an online tool that helps students in learning to read notes on the staff and finding the various pitches on the keyboard.  Consistent use of this tool will be expected throughout the year in order to become more proficient.

Click here for instructions on how to use the tutor.

Click here to go to the online tutor!

Upon completing the tutor students have several options for finishing the assignment.
  • Do it again and improve your score / proficiency!
  • print out the score page, put your name at the top and hand it in.
  • take a screenshot/snip/convert to .pdf and email it to
Upon receiving any emails you will receive a confirmation from me stating that I did in fact receive it.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Welcome to the Beginning Percussion Page!

This page is dedicated to the 6th grade beginning percussion class at Argyle Intermediate school.  Please check here often for important information, news, exercises/lessons,  and photos/videos of the class!