Principal Instruments: Percussion

The Guitar Department principal instruments include:

  • Drum Set
  • Vibraphone
  • Hand Percussion—Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Middle Eastern/North African, and West African styles; stick drums (timbales, drum set, etc.), hand drums, and all accessory percussion instruments
  • Orchestral Percussion—snare drum, mallet percussion, timpani, hand percussion, multiple percussion, and drum set technique
  • Marimba
  • Steelpan

During your first semester at Berklee, you will declare a principal instrument. 

No matter what major you end up pursuing, you will complete at least four semesters of private instruction, labs, and ensembles with this instrument. This fulfills your performance core requirement.

Entrance Requirements

During orientation, you will audition with the Percussion Department to get your ensemble ratings. These are used for placement into private instruction and ensemble courses. Learn more about placement auditions.

What the Program Gives You

Upon completion of the performance core, students will:

  • synthesize and integrate knowledge of contemporary and traditional styles into musical interpretation;
  • synthesize and integrate knowledge of posture, breathing, and instrumental technique into their daily practice routines;
  • demonstrate technical proficiency on their principal instrument;
  • demonstrate the ability to sight-read music in a variety of styles;
  • play music in a variety of contemporary and traditional styles;
  • play in ensembles of varying size, instrumentation, and stylistic orientation; and
  • apply knowledge of musical styles and harmonic practices in improvisation.
Required Courses

Private Instruction

All students complete four semesters to fulfill their performance core requirement:

Performance majors have an additional four semesters.
Professional music majors and music education majors have an additional two semesters.

Instrumental Labs

Specialized labs bring together players of similar performance levels and provide training in specific aspects of percussion performance. Labs cover a range of skills such as basic grips, sticking techniques, basic time feels, and snare drum/drum set reading skills, as well as more advanced chart/lead sheet reading, brush techniques, odd meters, polyrhythms, and improvisation studies.

Browse instrumental labs in our course catalog.


Through ensembles, you will hone essential performance skills and techniques. They help you to broaden your stylistic range, to expand your network of musical friends and colleagues, and to gain diverse group-playing experience.

Ensembles are offered in multiple sections for varying levels of ability. You choose the group and style that appeal to you. Your eligibility is determined by ongoing auditions that measure your growth as a performer.

More than 350 faculty-supervised ensembles rehearse weekly at Berklee.

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