For me (when I was young) it was learning all of the different instruments and learning "odd timings". Now it seems to be keeping up with all of the new technology coming out.
As a Band Director, I can tell you the hardest part of playing any instrument is the self discipline that is needed to consistently practice. For a percussionist, learning all the different instruments in the percussion family can be daunting. It's a huge family.
People, (including drummers), tend to see percussion as a snare drum. That's barely the tip of the iceberg. The instruments range from drums, to mallet instruments, to chimes. Here's a link to a nice list of percussion instruments: http://www.ranker.com/list/percussion-i … reference.
In terms of playing, the hardest thing for my percussion students to grasp is how to play accents. They feel if the give a slightly harder tap, then the accent is audible. Not so. An accent on percussion means you have to hit the instrument significantly harder. That way the audience isn't guessing whether something was different or not - they know.
Do you have a budding percussionist in your family?
I was the worship leader in a contemporary Christian rock band until I retired. To me, the hardest part of being a percussionist was getting the timing right. The drummer was excellent, but I played all the little percussion instruments like the bells and tambourine. It was sometimes difficult to keep up the timing while singing. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable.
Jokingly, it would be lugging around the numerous & heavy equipment! However, in my mind there is one major difficulty in being a drummer / percussionist. This is the tendency of mistakenly "speeding up" the tempo when playing drums to songs. I've noticed many drummers do this including those in long established bands. And, I believe it is most difficult when one is “in the zone”. Being in the zone is losing oneself in the music, where nothing else exists, & it is extremely pleasurable!
Another item, in my humble opinion, is reading tablature, which is the contemporary method of writing orchestration(s) for drum sets. X's Are positioned on a line in a measure showing where / when each instrument is to be struck..This is as opposed to traditional musical notations with whole, half, quarter, eighth notes etc. And so, reading the score is more-so involved as opposed to playing a single percussion instrument such as the timpani, or the snare drum. And as well, there is the physical work / nature of playing the drums. One must remember that all the appendages of the human body, both feet, arms / hands are actively used when performing on drums, so there is the physical end of it as well. One must be in fairly good shape to do an awesome “Wipe Out” on the drums!
Should you want to see an amazing drummer check out Jeff Beck's "Space Boogie" on YouTube. Jeff Beck is a progressive rock / fusion instrumentalist from the '70's. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPc819ryy0g
Been a drummer for our church and various bands for 6 more years and also a record producer. For me the hardest part being a percussionist is the dynamics, not timing. Timing should be the easiest because it is expected of a percussionist. Finding the right dynamics on a music can be tricky. When you roll, you should tell the singer, other musicians and the crowd if it will be the climax, to low or high the volume, also noting the genre of the song. Not all sort of rolling, match the genre of the song.
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