This year’s 2010 Percussive Arts Society International Conference lived up to its reputation, with a slew of great performances, presentations, and products from the exhibit hall.  This year, three items stood out to me as useful to the music therapist.

1)  The Remo “Not So Loud” Series takes two different approaches to dampening the sounds of large hand drums.  “Not So Loud” drums use fabric-style heads similar to the Brazilian tan-tan, which capitalizes on a low-volume, warm tone.   While not having the exact same effect as a tan-tan, the sound and volume of the drum may be very useful in group drumming situations where one does not want the volume to get out of hand.   The second approach is a padded cloth covering that fits over standard Remo (and perhaps other) drums.   This also brings the volume of the instruments down.

2)  The Toca Freestyle djembes with synthetic heads combine the lightest-weight hand drum on the market with the durability and cleanability of  their new synthetic head.   For those who have wanted to use a hand drum in sessions but were worried about lugging them around, the Freestyle series will likely surprise you with how little it weighs.  For those who have been concerned about natural skins because they are more difficult to clean and to replace, the new synthetic head provides a competitive option to Remo’s synthetic heads.  The price point for these Toca drums tends to be appealing as well.  There are many styles to choose from, and the djembes will be available with either lug-tuning or rope-tuning systems.

3) Pandeiros! :  This was the apparent year for pandeiros at PASIC.  The Brazilian tambourine was covered in at least four sessions, and many of the major percussion companies were displaying brand new or revised versions.  Of those presented, Cooperman maintained a dominant quality instrument, while also offering new versatile styles of jingles (including a shaker style, giving the pandeiro a uniquely subtle, raspy voice).   The price point on this instrument is higher than others, but the longevity and quality of the instrument will make the investment worthwhile.