Vocal Percussion

The Competitor's Edge

In this edition, the focus is vocal percussion

Don’t isolate your drummer.

Call it a pet peeve, but in all my years writing this blog I’ve never understood why groups still insist on isolating their drummers. I get that a percussionist may not be able to participate in the full group choreography, but more often than not, if the movement is simple or rooted more in staging transitions than active motion, there’s no reason why the VPer can’t be part of the masses or at least directly beside them on one end. Isolating the drummer casts a spotlight on that performer, and more often than not, the effect seems to be unintentional—thus, more distracting than valuable.

The double-edged sword of the drum solo.

If your group features a truly exceptional beatboxer, there is value in giving that person room to operate as a featured performer in a full-on drum solo. The effect can help differentiate a group and make them more memorable. Just the same, time management is important—a lengthy drum solo risks putting your group in a time crunch. Moreover, while an impressive beatboxing performance can entertain the crowd, if it runs more than ten seconds or so, it risks boring the audience, or feeling like you’re just killing time to the judges, rather than the doing something more musical.

The other consideration in deciding whether to include a drum solo is whether your drummer is, frankly, good enough to justify that level of attention. Vocal percussion isn’t easy, but by the time you’re reaching the competition stage there’s a good chance that most, if not all, groups are bringing along competent percussionists. Thus, the questions is whether your drummer has a unique enough skillset and polished enough talents to truly stand out—not to mention whether a drum solo fits your song selections and the identity you’re projecting via your set.

How have you seen vocal percussion contribute to or take away from a competition set? Let us know in the comments section.