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Pen Ultimate
July 11, 2013 12:56 PM   Subscribe

In an idle moment, you've probably drummed on a desk with your pen. But chances are middle schoolers could show you some skills. Masters like Shane Bang and many less well-known practitioners are pushing the old idea of pen-as-drumstick - Pen Beats, aka Pen Tap - to new heights. posted by Miko (18 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh Lord this takes me back to teaching at an inner-city high school again.... Awesome post.
posted by resurrexit at 1:01 PM on July 11, 2013


OK, Shane Bang made me do my involuntary-laugh-of-surprise-at-sick-skills laugh. Great post.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2013


Awesome post. Gonna share with the kids.
posted by cross_impact at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2013


Great post, Miko. Came in to say what resurrexit said. I'd never gone to a school where anyone idly made pen beats. I picked it up after teaching and, to this day, still mindlessly whap out a little beat, sans pen/pencil, while I'm waiting for water to boil, for a post office clerk to call me ... basically anywhere that my hands can reach a surface.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2013


...imagine what they would be able to create if they had control of the full means of production?

God damnit, people, we socialists have been saying this for years!
posted by cthuljew at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish I could remember the last name of this kid I was in school with from 7th grade through high school, who these days would probably be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. He drummed incessantly (and foot-tapped) and annoyed the hell out of everyone because of it. Then came the talent show freshman year in high school and there he was on stage, with a band, and people roared and stamped when they were done. I really hope he's gone on to have a successful career in music.
posted by rtha at 1:31 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh this is great. Kenny bites it in that first video... but the whole presentation is just awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 1:49 PM on July 11, 2013


"Remember, I'm using crayons. Like a boss."
posted by odinsdream at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2013


Is the video that loads when clicking the "Shane Bang" link actually just pens? It sounds like someone off screen is punctuating it with drums.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2013


Is the video that loads when clicking the "Shane Bang" link actually just pens? It sounds like someone off screen is punctuating it with drums.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:55 PM on July 11 [+] [!]


It's him, hitting the table with the meaty part of his palm.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:09 PM on July 11, 2013


Bonus points for thread title.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:49 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by cashman at 6:56 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to check up on Lyric (2008) every so often to see if he had anything new out.
posted by cashman at 7:00 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what to say.

I am mixed race, half black, grew up latchkey working class raised by a single Korean mom.

These kids, who look like kids I grew up with, are putting what I recognize as the tools of education and inscription (computer mouse included) to very different uses than what I did growing up.

Which is totally fine as long as children of their cultural context and background are praised and encouraged for also using such tools as they were designed to be used (yeah, I mean reading, writing, and drawing).

But on one level for me, these videos also strengthen the idea that the best these kids might do is find a way to entertain others with pens and pencils that most of them will never put to use as anything other than percussion instruments.

Ugh. I feel like I'm being a downer. Maybe because I thought the three clips I saw featured moderate (as opposed to sublime) virtuosity. Maybe because I want more for these kids and I hate the part of me that feels this way because that attitude devalues precisely what these young kids have accomplished.

Honestly, I really don't know what's wrong with me, but I read these clips as glimpses into the failure of North American education.

Am I sitting in front of a plate of beans, unaware that these kids are all right?
posted by mistersquid at 7:31 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first link ("but chances...") does a good job explaining why this is a positive thing. So what if the kids aren't virtuosos - they're dealing with complex rhythms and counting, as well as (and perhaps most importantly) teaching this to each other. I'd much rather teach a kid who knows what it feels like to put time and effort into learning something difficult (like pen tapping!). Learning difficult things, no matter what they are, teaches persistence - a virtue that we often lack in today's fill-in-the-blank school culture.

Also interesting that the tapping game seems mostly done by young men, when "traditionally" rhythm games seem to have been more in the realm of things that young women do. (I have no research to back this up.)
posted by Wulfhere at 8:12 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


These kids, who look like kids I grew up with, are putting what I recognize as the tools of education and inscription (computer mouse included) to very different uses than what I did growing up.

Which is totally fine as long as children of their cultural context and background are praised and encouraged for also using such tools as they were designed to be used (yeah, I mean reading, writing, and drawing).


I mean, I'm a child of white academics who went to very good public schools followed by a very reputable university and I spent plenty of time drumming on desks not to mention figuring out ways to turn scholastic supplies into projectile weapons. I can't promise you these kids are all right, given aforementioned failure of the education system but I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually have much to do with the tapping either way despite the symbolism.
posted by atoxyl at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2013


Check out Impaktor, the amazing new app for iOS. It takes pen/pencil/finger drumming to a new level.
posted by shotintoeternity at 11:12 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Check out Impaktor

wow. thanks!
posted by progosk at 12:34 AM on July 12, 2013


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