Snare Drum Warm-Up Part 2

Snare Drum Warm-Up Part 2

In September, I shared my updated snare drum warm-up. It was my hope to start the conversation about creating a unified warm-up that hit all the basic building blocks on snare drum in a 10-15 minutes. I would love to hear if anyone has been using it and if it has worked. I found over the past 6 months, that it has helped me focus and prepare for my practice session along with getting me warm. I also feel that while I enjoy using the warm-up I needed a metronome to keep me honest and continue to push me. So, I decided to program my metronome with the different lines so I could be more effective in my execution of the warm-up. (I have written before about my favorite metronome app for the iPhone. Tempo Advanced is a killer app and is the best $2 you will ever spend. It is now available on iPhone and Android and has recently been updated to include polyrhythms. More about that in a future article). I programmed each line of the warm-up into Tempo Advanced and created a set list that progresses through the entire sheet. I wanted to figure out a way to share this everyone and it wasn’t until last night (when I found Reflector) that I was able to record my iPad screen. I uploaded the video to YouTube and now anyone can use this video to practice with the sheet music. In the future, I would like to program it at different tempos. Before I do that, I would like some feedback from you. Let me know what you think. Does it work for you? Is there anything I should change? Have a great weekend and happy practicing. —————————- Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on February 21,...
Snare Drum Warm Ups

Snare Drum Warm Ups

As an educator and professional performer, I have noticed that over the years, my practice time has decreased for one reason or another. I have also noticed that the older I get, the harder it is for me start playing without first warming up. This summer, I decided to sit down and write out a snare drum warm ups/routine that I could do every day that would take 10-15 minutes. Today, I want to present my warm-up and talk about each exercise that comprises the warm-up. I know there are a ton of other warm-ups that have been posted and written down (see below for a brief list). Creating a warm-up routine is an individual process and what works for me will not work for everyone. It is my goal that you will take this warm-up, use it for a couple of weeks, and then begin to create your own. I know that over time, I will be editing and updating this warm-up, but here’s the warm-up as it stands: Snare Drum Warm-Up As I was putting together this warm-up, I wanted to accomplish these goals: 1) It had to be 10-15 minutes. If it was longer, I don’t think I would do it every day. 2) It had to hit the major muscle groups and technical demands required to play snare drum. 3) It had to be something I could share and continue to develop/adapt over time. With that being said, here’s the rationale for the exercises I chose: A: I wanted to start with 8 in a hand. I have been teaching Percussion Methods this semester (the first time since grad school) and in the Gary Cook book, he uses the term “cloning” when he has both hands play at the same time. The first exercise does 8 in a hand with both hands playing together. Make sure to start at a slow tempo and use a lot a big range of motion to the get the muscles loose. To take this to the next level, use the fulcrum in the back of your hand to warm up the big muscles in your arm. B: Now that the blood is flowing, I wanted to do some singles. I use Tempo Advance’s speed up function to increase the speed of the metronome by 2 every time I repeat this exercise. This allows me to start slow and increase the speed gradually throughout the exercise. C: Next are paradiddles. This is the first time I start to use my arms as I do a wrist lift to execute the accents. To make it different, I start the exercise with triple paradiddles. D: Next are flams. I go back to 8 on a hand and add flams at the beginning. This also introduces the down stroke on the last eighth note of each measure. E: More flams. This incorporates 4 flam rudiments that are very common in the Wilcoxin Rudimental books. As I was growing up, I didn’t practice Flamacues beginning on the LH as much as I should have and this helps to work on them. F: After 8-9 minutes, my hands are ready for rolls. I like to work on double and triple/multiple bounce rolls during my warm-ups so I can work on my fine motor skills. I generally do these exercises for 30 seconds and then switch hands. Make sure that once you start you don’t change the tempo. G: Long Rolls. Just Relax! That’s it. Try...
Teaching Musicality to Percussionists

Teaching Musicality to Percussionists

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why young percussionists are not being taught musicality? Why is this and how can we fix it? My wife is a flute teacher and she teaches musicality to kids in 6 grade. So why is that percussionists get to college and don’t know the basics about shaping a line? Here are some of my beliefs as to why students don’t get taught about musicality: 1) Percussionists don’t learn a mallet instrument until high school. 2) High school percussionists don’t study mallet instruments with a private teachers. 3) Marimbas are expensive and not readily available for students to have at home. 4) There are too many instruments to learn and develop technique that musicality is usually the last thing to be addressed. And the list could go on and on. I know these are excuses, but we need to address the problem and try and find a solution and the best way to do that is to identify the problem. So, the problem has been identified. Now, how do we fix it? There are many ways to teach musicality, but in this post, I am going to offer up a couple of basic concepts for the young percussionist in hopes that we will begin to think about being musical. As you are developing your musicianship and musicality, remember that the more you learn about music (theory, ear training and analysis) in combination with listening will make you a better musician. Something you play today will (hopefully) be very different if you were to play the same piece in 5 years because of the knowledge and experiences you encounter as a musician. Rule #1: Do Something Just playing the notes and dynamics is not enough. You have to “do something with the notes.” If you sound like the playback of a midi file, you are not doing anything. The only way you are going to know if you are “doing something” is to record yourself. (Check out Adam’s post Say Cheese for great tips on recording). You don’t need a great recorder. Use your smartphone and record yourself once you can play through the piece. Try doing 2-3 performances and see what you like. Musicality is very subjective. But, you have to make informed decisions. (See the paragraph above about learning theory, analysis, etc.) Rule #2: Follow the Shape of the Line One of the basic rules of musicality is to follow the shape of the line. One concept I teach is to remove all of the stems and flags from the music. All you are left with are the note heads. You can visualize this or input the notes into Finale if you really want to see the final outcome. Now, take a pencil and connect all of the note heads: OK, it is time to play this line. As the line goes up, get a little louder and as the line goes down, get a little softer. Now come the subjective part. How loud or soft should you get? That is a good question. I am not talking about getting a full dynamic louder. A listener should be able to hear that you are getting louder or softer. A dynamic is not a finite value. There is “room” within a dynamic to add shape. Record yourself as see if you are actually shaping the line. Rule #3: Practice this a lot! As with anything we do, repetition is key to improving your musicality. I can’t stress...
Audition Advice 102

Audition Advice 102

Last month, I wrote an article about Audition Advice. We received a lot of good feedback on the post. Be sure to check out the comments for additional tips. I am planning on releasing my tips as a PDF document in the new year. I also wanted to draw your attention to some videos on this same topic that feature professors from Indiana University. We have previously featured “Kevin Bobo explains how to “play hurt” in an audition” from a video series called “Project Jumpstart Workshop: The Art of Winning Auditions” from February 8th, 2011. There are a couple of other videos from this series that I would also recommend. After you have some time to watch these videos, are there any other videos or resources that you would recommend? Let us know. How to Prepare for Nervousness in Auditions How to Face Rejection in Auditions —– Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on December 21, 2012. The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by kj.vogelius on...
Audition Advice 101

Audition Advice 101

Auditions are just around the corner and I thought it would be a good idea to crowd source an audition advice post so that we can give some advice to incoming freshman and transfer students who will be auditioning soon. To start off the discussion, I thought I would present my observations and suggestions from past auditions and ask other teachers and percussionists to add their comments below. In a couple of weeks, I will compile all of the comments and create a master list of audition advice. Audition Advice Run your entire audition several times prior to your live audition. Perform your audition music for an audience and video the performance. Do not let the audition be the first time you play through everything in order. Dress appropriately. No Jeans. No Tennis Shoes. No Shorts. No Track Suits. No Sweats. (I have seen all of these on an audition). First impressions count. Ties are optional. Be comfortable. Practice performing in the outfit that you are going to wear to the audition. Make sure you play a concert snare roll when you are playing a concert snare drum solo. I don’t want to hear a double stroke roll on a Mitchell Peters, Anthony Cirone or Jacques Delecluse etude. Also, practice playing your rolls soft to loud to soft. Play a marimba and snare drum piece that has rolls. It is great to play a flashy piece, but it is more impressive to play something musical. Play a 2 mallet and a 4 mallet piece. Excerpts are great. If possible, play on a variety of different instruments before an audition. (For example, play your marimba piece on 4-5 different brands of marimbas). Practice Tuning Timpani. Make sure you can tune 4ths, 5ths and Octaves quickly. Don’t play a piece that requires 5 timpani. If you are playing a timpani piece for the audition, make sure the piece includes some timpani techniques (rolls, dampening, crossing/shifting) and doesn’t have a lot of tuning changes (you never know which type of pedals will be on the timpani). Practice sight reading EVERYDAY on snare drum and marimba prior to the audition. When you get to the sight reading portion of the audition, take 15-30 seconds to scan through the piece before you start. Once you start, do not stop. Pick a tempo where you think you can play through the entire piece. Take a couple of private lessons with a teacher other than your private instructor. It is good to get an unbiased opinion of your playing prior to an audition. It is also good to work on your nerves when playing for a new teacher. Figure out the order you want to play your pieces in prior to the audition. Don’t come into the audition and say “Uh, so what do you want to hear?” You don’t have a lot of control of what happens in the audition and if you can take control and ask if you can play the pieces in a logical order you will feel more relaxed. Have a copy of the audition music for the panel. Organize the music in a binder and put it in the order you want to play it. Make 2-3 copies of the music. If you are playing a lot of pieces, use tabs to split up the music so it is easy for the committee to find the music. Know the name of the person you are auditioning for. Do some research...
John Luther Adam’s Inuksuit Resource Guide

John Luther Adam’s Inuksuit Resource Guide...

“…to act in the capacity of the human” John Luther Adams is one of the 21st Century’s most important composers. He has written a lot of extraordinary music for chamber ensembles, orchestras, solo instruments and specifically percussion ensembles. Most of his music draws inspiration from the outdoors, especially the landscapes of his home in Alaska where he has lived since 1978. Inuksuit (2009) was premiered at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and received it’s US premiere on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina. I am fortunate to be performing the West Coast premiere at the 2012 Ojai Festival under the direction of Steven Schick. Over the past couple of months, I have been building a resource guide for percussionists who will be presenting future performances of Inuksuit. This guide is in no way complete. If you know of other resources, please let me know and I will add the links and resources to the site. John Luther Adams: The Music of a True Place Inuksuit, with an introduction from composer John Luther Adams (Furman Concert) Doug Perkins Discusses the Individual Parts Thanks to Dan Savell for letting me know about these videos. Highly recommended! Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 NYC Park Avenue Armory’s Performance WQXR Interview, JLA, Douglas Perkins and Adam Sliwinski Inuksuit Tumblr Blog Program Note (From Armory Performance) My music has always been rooted in the earth. For over thirty-five years I’ve composed music inspired by the outdoors, to be heard indoors. After hearing my percussion cycle Strange and Sacred Noise performed in the Anza-Borrego desert, the New England woods, and on the tundra of the Alaska Range, I was moved to create a large-scale work conceived specifically to be performed outdoors. Inuksuit is inspired by the stone sentinels constructed over the centuries by the Inuit in the windswept expanses of the Arctic. The Inuktitut word translates literally: “to act in the capacity of the human”. This work is haunted by the vision of the melting of the polar ice, the rising of the seas, and what may remain of humanity’s presence after the waters recede. How does where we are define what we do and who we are? How do we understand the brevity of our human presence in the immensity of geologic time? What does it mean to act creatively with and within our environment? The musicians of Inuksuit are dispersed over a large area. Listeners, too, are invited to move around freely and discover their own individual listening points. There is no preferred listening point, no “best seat in the house”. Rather, every listening point is potentially the best seat. You may choose to root yourself in a central location for the entire performance, listening as the music gradually expands to fill the site. Or you may choose to wander freely, following wherever your ears may lead you, discovering musical moments and spaces that no other listener may ever hear. Inuksuit has been performed at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies, on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina, and at the Round Top Festival in Texas. This performance at Park Avenue Armory, the first ever to be presented indoors, features seventy-two percussionists— fifty-four in the drill hall and eighteen in the smaller rooms on the west end of the building. Microphones located around the exterior bring the sounds of the surrounding streets into the space, turning the Armory inside out, as Inuksuit becomes part of the never-ending music of this singular city.             —John Luther Adams —– Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on June 4, 2012. The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike...
2 Mallet Double Sticking Considerations

2 Mallet Double Sticking Considerations

The semester is in full swing and have been continuing to teaching marimba fundamentals to my students at CSU, Long Beach. One concept I talked about was 2 mallet double sticking considerations, so I thought I would list my ideas here and see if anyone in our community had any additional thoughts. 2 Mallet Double Sticking Considerations: 1) When executing a double sticking, use your dominant hand whenever possible. We strive for evenness between the hands, but you are always going to have more control of your dominate hand. 2) Do your double sticking on the smallest interval. It is much easier to do a double on a second than an octave. 3) Double from the “black keys” to the “white keys”/naturals whenever possible. I have seen too many people get their mallet stuck when trying to double from the naturals to the accidentals. 4) When figuring out if you are going to use a double sticking, make sure that the double sound even and you are creating a good sound. An audience member should not know you are doing a double sticking. It needs to sounds as even as your alternate stickings. 5) There are going to be times when another sticking works better and that is ok. The main goal is to create music and musical phrases. Am I forgetting anything? How do you teach your beginning marimba students about double sticking. Please leave your comments below. —– Originally posted on DrumChattr.com on September 6, 2011. The photo in this post is courtesy of Yamaha Percussion...
Three Things

Three Things

The other day during one of my college percussion lessons, I mentioned to a student that with all of the things we need to learn as percussionists, I think there are three things that we should always be working on. I know it is naive to believe that these are the only things to be working on, but if you can continue to improve these areas, you will become more “marketable” as a musician. Student performers tend to think about the next thing they need to prepare for an audition, a rehearsal or performance. We all get stuck in this train of thought, especially in a school setting. Believe it or not, this is also true for the professional musician. With my teaching, family and playing schedule, I don’t have the same amount of time to spend in the practice room as I would like. When I only have a 30 minutes to practice, sometime it is hard to pull out a piece that I am working on for the next concert. I have found that if I maintain these three things, I can continue to grow as a musician and maintain my chops. As I have written about earlier, there are many valid and musical reasons to learn a 15 minute virtuosic marimba solo, but if you get a freelance orchestra gig, they won’t care how well you play Merlin if you can’t read the xylophone part of the show tune your are playing at the Pops concert (especially if there is only one rehearsal). With that being said, the three things you should always be working on are: Reading All musicians should spend 15-30 minutes A DAY sight reading. It doesn’t need to be melodic reading (although that it is probably weaker than your rhythmic reading) it just needs to be music you have never seen before (AKA Sight Reading). Where can you get music? The number one source of free, public domain sheet music is IMSLP.org. If you are not aware of IMSLP, it is the internet’s largest source of free, public domain sheet music. For sight reading, I would suggest starting with Bach or Mozart Violin or Flute Sonatas. If you have someone else who wants to do some sight reading, check out the Bach Inventions. This is just a starting point. There is so much music on the site that I promise you will never read everything. How to sight read? There are many beliefs about how you should sight read something. Generally, once you play through it once, you aren’t sight reading any more. But, I generally do it a little different. Here are my steps: First, I scan through the music and see what the most difficult part is going to be. That section will determine my tempo. I always use a metronome when sight reading because it keeps me “honest.” Depending on your level, you can use the metronome on every beat or just the down beat of the measure. Once I figure out my tempo, I make sure I check out the road map and key signature and then it is go time. I read through the piece once without stopping. Once I have read through the piece once, I spend 30 – 60 seconds going over the most difficult passage and then I read it once more. Before you say, “The second time is not sight reading,” I know that. I think it is important to improve upon my...
Technology and Its Use by Percussion Educators in the 21st Century

Technology and Its Use by Percussion Educators in the 21st Century...

Over the summer, Dr. Tracy Wiggins (UNC Pembroke) asked me to contribute to an article he was writing for The Percussive Notes journal. After waiting 6 months, it has finally been released in the January 2012 issue. The article features an interview with three other percussion professors, including Norman Weinberg (University of Arizona), John W. Parks IV (The Florida State), and Thomas Burritt (University of Texas, Austin). I was honored to be a part of the article. Thank you Tracy! Technology Article For more information about the Percussive Arts Society, please visit their website. PAS is an international society of percussionists and if you play drums, you should be a member of this great...
What is Proper Stage Etiquette?

What is Proper Stage Etiquette?

There is so much to know about being a musician that sometimes the little things are not addressed. Some of those “little things” are etiquette issues. As teachers, we can only do so much in lessons and ensemble rehearsals. So I’ve have decided to start a list. I would like to start an open dialogue about etiquette issues and create a comprehensive list that can be turned into a PDF that we can all share with our students. I welcome any feedback and contributions. My previous blog post, Ten Things I Wish I Knew Going into my First Ensemble Rehearsal addressed rehearsal/concert etiquette. I got a lot of good feedback from people who left comments in the chatter section. Today, I would like to talk about Stage/Performance Etiquette. Have you ever gone to a performance and remember more about the poor stage etiquette than the performance? Me too! These suggestions may seem obvious, but I am writing this post because I have witnessed performances this semester that have demonstrated poor stage etiquette. So, let’s start at the very beginning (“a very good place to start”): Entering the Stage When you first walk onto the stage, SMILE and acknowledge the audience. Walk with a purpose and get to your set-up without looking around or trying to see if your mom is in the audience. The person with the longest distance to go should enter first. If the applause continues until you get to your instrument, take a bow, otherwise you can acknowledge the audience with a head nod. Look like you are excited to play and SMILE. The audience has taken time out of their schedule to come see you and it is your role to be positive about your performance. Look like you are having fun even if you are nervous. If you look uncomfortable, the audience will feel/be uncomfortable too. During the Performance Do not talk during the performance, even if you have a lot of rests. Sit there and enjoy the music and be ready to play when it is your turn. Remember, once you are on stage, the audience can see everything you are doing. If you make a mistake, KEEP GOING. You are going to make mistakes and it is your responsibility to perform through your mistakes as if nothing unusual happened. Bowing When you bow, bend at your waist and don’t look at the audience–you are not greeting someone. My percussion teacher at USC used to tell us to bow and say “I can see my shoes.” The bow should last for a count of 2 (aka 2 quarter notes at 60 BPM). Don’t be quick. Enjoy the moment. People are clapping for YOU!! Take a bow (or two) and then exit the stage. If people continue to clap, go back out and take another bow. Set-Up This may be a personal issue I have, but I think it is important to avoid moving equipment during the show. I know this is not always possible, but less movement is always better. Try and program/set-up the first half and the second half of the concert with as little instrument movement as possible. For my percussion ensemble concerts, I draw out diagrams and we rehearse the set-up during the dress rehearsal. I also take two short pauses during my percussion ensemble concerts so that we can set-up 2-3 pieces per set. Going to a concert and seeing stage hands and performers move equipment should be minimized...