Many young percussionists have trouble executing a tambourine thumb or finger roll. While it is a relatively easy technique to master, students often ignore spending the time necessary to develop good technique.
Here are a few tips to expedite the learning process:
While the thumb roll is not too difficult to master, it is a technique that is often called for and execution must be both consistent and accurate.
One of the biggest lessons I learned out of school was that subbing in professional orchestras did not mean playing snare drum, xylophone, or bells–or timpani. It meant being really, really good at the stuff I never played in lessons (other than for audition preparation)–triangle, tambourine, castanets, etc. In fact, almost 85% of what I played in my first ten years of professional playing was bass drum and cymbals. And a lot of tambourine.
So do yourself a favor–if you’re in school, especially with symphony orchestras and wind groups, take a few tambourine parts and work them up. There’s no better place to experiment with instruments, new techniques, and colors than ensemble rehearsals. And take five minutes out of every day to play some hand-knee exercises (something like the Trepak from Nutcracker or Mother Ginger from the complete ballet), and spend a minute or two on your shake rolls and finger rolls. And never be afraid to bring some excerpts or parts into your lessons–you’d be surprised at what’s possible with these instruments, and many students never get around to it because they’re so busy playing everything else.
Here is a short list of suggested excerpts:
John W. Parks IV, Assistant Professor of Percussion at The Florida State University since Fall of 2003, earned the Doctor of Musical Arts in Percussion Performance degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He holds two Master’s degrees from Northwestern University, one each in Percussion Performance and Jazz Pedagogy, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Furman University. Parks has performed with diverse performing organizations ranging from the Eastman Wind Ensemble on their 2000 tour of Japan and Taiwan and the Schlossfestspiele Orchestra of Heidelberg, Germany to the Kansas City, Alabama, Key West, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee Symphony Orchestras.
John is currently President-Elect of the Percussive Arts Society.
Mr. Peter Philip DeSalvo, a native Long Islander, has directed school concert and jazz bands as well as numerous other ensembles for over 30 years. Mr. DeSalvo is a highly respected conductor, having worked with All-County and select ensembles in the Tri-state area. His performing groups have competed at the state, regional and national levels, always receiving outstanding ratings.
He earned his Bachelor of Music (BM) from the Crane School of Music, State University College at Potsdam, New York under the watchful eye of Professor James Petercsak, and received his Masters of Science (MS) from C.W. Post College of Long Island University, Greenvale, New York. Pete also studied 5 years with his mentor/teacher, Henry Adler, and is currently, under the tutelage of Bryan Carrott, completing his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at Five Towns College.
Mr. DeSalvo is an active member of the Suffolk County Music Educators Association (SCMEA), having chaired several festivals, has adjudicated for the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) solo & ensemble festivals for over 25 years and has been the co-chair of the Suffolk County Day of Percussion for over 10 years. He is also on the Education Committee of the Percussive Arts Society (PAS) and is currently the Downstate Vice President of the New York State Chapter of PAS.
Pete’s performance credits range from jazz to country, rock to classical, as well as numerous regional musical theater shows and is a founding member of the Stik Figures Percussion Ensemble. He has worked with jazz artists such as Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, Warren Vache’, Ray Andersen, Bobby Watson and Pete McGuinness. As a symphonic timpanist, Pete also has performed in concert under the direction of such luminaries as Aaron Copland, Stanley Chapel and Robert Shaw. His compositions are published by Bachovich Music Publishers and is endorsed by Grover Pro Percussion, Silver Fox Drumsticks and Mike Balter Mallets.
Mr. DeSalvo recently retired as Director of Bands at Sayville High School and is currently an Adjunct Percussion professor at Five Towns College. He also maintains an active performing, recording, producing, teaching, and piano tuning career, here on Long Island and in Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife, Trish.
Here are some tip for playing bass drum – aka:gran cassa, grosse trommel, grosse caisse
I think the bass drum is one of the most naturally expressive percussion instruments and I hope
you enjoy playing it as much as I have over the years!
Click HERE to learn more about the concert bass drum.
Questions? Feel free to contact me through Grover Pro or my email at the University of South Florida:
Professor of Music (Percussion)
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL 33620
McCormick has written articles, solos, and the texts Percussion for Musicians and 32 Duets for Percussion. McCormick performs with the McCormick Duo, a flute/percussion duo, which has received accolades in Gramophone, Fanfare and American Record Guide. He has recording credits on Arista, Bourges Prix Magis terium, Sony, GM, Continuum, Centaur, Nuerma, Caps tone, HoneyRock, and C. Alan labels.
An artist-clinician for Encore Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, and Grover Pro Percussion, which honored him with a signature drumstick, McCormick is a noted teacher, with many of his students going on to their own highly successful careers. In 2006, he was awarded Florida Music Educator of the Year. In 2007, McCormick was the first prize winner in the Keystone Percussion Composition Contest, an international competition to develop solo works that will add significantly to the concert repertoire for the instrument.
As a conductor, he has brought the USF Percussion Enemble to the attention of composers and musicians from around the world through its’ many recordings and first performances, which make the USF Percussion Ensemble among the most recorded percussion groups in the USA.
As percussionists, one of the most challenging skills to learn is subbing a percussion book for a show. It is a skill set that you must master to be fully prepared for the career challenges that lie ahead. In most situations, you will be expected to play the show without the benefit of any rehearsal with the orchestra or cast. You will be required to “make it happen” for your first performance. In addition, you will be using the “chair” players equipment and setup and this takes some getting used to.
Your primary goal in subbing a book is to sound as close to the chair player as possible. The best compliment you can get after subbing your first show is “I didn’t know that “David” wasn’t here tonight. You sound just like him.” This is very important because the cast and orchestra are used to hearing a specific sound from the percussionist. The swings on the show are preparing to a recording, and they need to hear consistency so they can prepare their part.
To prepare to sub a book, I suggest the following:
Subbing is a great way to keep your skills sharp and show other percussionists and conductors how versatile a player you are. Do a great job, and they will surely keep you in mind for their next opportunity. Have a ball.
One of the most important musical choices a percussionist makes—regardless of the instrument—is mallet selection. Selecting the most appropriate mallet for a passage makes all the difference but with the hundreds of mallets available, how does one make this choice. Here are some principals that I use that may help other percussionists, conductors, and music educators in the selection of mallets.
• Strive to make the best possible sound, no matter the instrument, the musical style or the environment. Quality of sound is foremost.
• A harder mallet produces greater articulation with a brighter, more abrasive tone. A softer mallet produces less clarity of articulation with a warmer, richer the tone.
• Dynamic volume is not determined by the hardness of the mallet in most cases. However, a stronger attack may be perceived as louder.
• A larger membrane or surface requires a larger, more massive mallet and a smaller membrane or surface requires a smaller mallet with less mass.
• An improper choice and/or use of mallets will produce a poor quality sound and can damage the instrument.
• There is no one, perfect mallet for every player, every instrument and/or every piece of music. Always be sensitive to the musical style and quality of sound.
• Creativity and sensitivity must be used when choosing the proper mallet to create the desired color from the instrument.
• Don’t hesitate to experiment and try something new.
When deciding on a mallet choice within a musical selection, one must be aware of these aspects:
• is the musical role of the part more rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic?
• is the musical role soloistic or supportive?
• should the desired sound blend or contrast with the other instruments?
• how much projection is needed and/or desired?
• what mallet choice is indicated by the composer/arranger and is it the best choice? At times, what is asked for is not the best choice for a quality sound.
• don’t accept a poor quality of sound due to a lack of mallet selection. Any great artist, craftsman or athlete has the proper tools to do the job (i.e. painter, carpenter, plumber, golfer, cyclist)
By combining all of these ideas, correct choices can be made regarding mallet selection that will produce a beautiful sound that is integral to the musical selection while maintaining the life of the instrument.
Remember: Be SENSITIVE, Be CREATIVE, Be EXCITED!
©2013, David L. Collier
While there are a number of different mallet instruments that we perform on as percussionists (marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, etc.), there is one important aspect to include in your performance; playing with phrasing and musicality. Of course, this is easy to say, though, hard to do. Playing with the proper technique for each of the mallet instruments in our percussion “family” is one thing, but, having these instruments sound like “melodic music” and not “rhythmic music” is certainly a challenge! Once you understand the correct rhythms and dynamics of your mallet part, try following these three things that should help to ensure that your sound is musical:
Dean Anderson is among the world’s leading contemporary percussionists. His credits include performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. Dean has been a featured marimba and percussion soloist with the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. Dean was the principal percussionist for the Boston Ballet Orchestra for 25 years and currently the principal percussionist for the Boston Cantata Singers Orchestra. As the solo percussionist with Boston’s premier contemporary chamber music ensemble, the Boston Musica Viva.
Dean has premiered over 70 new works, toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe, and recorded 17 albums for Phillips, RCA, Nonesuch, CRI, Delos, and Northeastern records. As former Chair of the Percussion Department of the Berklee College of Music, Dean crafted an educational program that features over 50 renowned faculty, 600 students, and a curriculum that encompasses every aspect of contemporary music.
He currently is a Professor in the Percussion Department at Berklee College of Music.
Ms. Nelson has participated in numerous music festivals, including the Pacific Music Festival, the National Repertory Orchestra, and the Tanglewood Music Festival. She is also an active chamber musician, performing with such groups as Philadelphia’s Network for New Music and Orchestra 2001. Most recently, Angela, along with Philadelphia Orchestra Timpanist Don Liuzzi, performed Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion along with renowned pianists Martha Argerich and Alexander Gurning at the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY. Since joining the Orchestra, Angela has enjoyed performing regularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra Percussion Group in children’s outreach concerts. She joined the faculty at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music in 2001 and teaches privately as well.
Angela made her solo debut in 2002 with the Bay-Atlantic Symphony of New Jersey performing Ney Rosauro’s Marimba Concerto. She then performed Maurice Wright’s Concertpiece for Marimba with Temple University’s Symphony Orchestra later that year. Angela and her husband, David, also a Temple University graduate, enjoy working as a percussion duo performing recitals and educational concerts for both children and adults.
Multi-Percussion is a fantastic musical medium that can invite equal creative energy from both the composer and performer. Below are three ideas I like to be mindful of.
Consider what multi-percussion is. The composer is asking you to combine several different percussion instruments to create something new, a hybrid instrument. A snare drum alone has its own voice, identity, and function, but when combined with a high-hat, bass drum, tom toms, and ride cymbal, it becomes part of a communal collective, its roll (no pun intended) changes. Like drumset, the combining of multiple percussion instruments should create a new “social order” among the chosen group of instruments.
Give the music direction. A tonal melody has a built-in automatic guide for direction made up of “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do.” Each one of these pitches has a relative function. Composers and performers use this to shape their melodies and give the music direction. In a multiple percussion piece with no pitched instruments, this eared, directive guide does not exist. We, the performers, must show the listeners what our guide is, what the instruments’ relationships to each other are. Because our ears are not built to hear a guide within non-pitched instruments, we must put extra care in showing what musical material is important. With this goal in mind the performer can make inspired decisions about phrasing, melody, shape, and form.
Make it easy on yourself. Take great care in instrument choice and setup. When choosing instrument placement, consider the technical demands of the entire piece. Be sure to thoroughly look over the entire score before committing practice time to your setup. Choose your mallets/sticks for an optimal sound on every instrument. Again, you want the instruments to sound like a collective, a community, a new hybrid instrument, not a series of random sounds. Making this happen can be helped greatly by the right mallet and/or stick. Learning a multi percussion piece means learning a new notation key. Spend time practicing the key outside of the score. On blank staff paper randomly place note heads within the notation key, no rhythm, just note heads. Practice your random creation slowly, as this will help you learn the instruments on the staff more quickly. Now when you practice the actual score you can focus on musical challenges rather than reading challenges.
Cangelosi has appeared as a performer and clinician at some of today’s most recognized festivals including the Piteå Percussion Repertoire Festival in Piteå, Sweden; the 2010 International Marimba Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the 2011 Zeltsman Marimba Festival in Appleton, Wisconsin. He has received numerous composition awards from the Massachusetts Percussive Arts Society, Sam Houston State University, and the Classical Marimba League. He has been commissioned for new compositions by request of the University of Delaware, Texas Christian University, Utah State University, California Institute for the Arts, Rice University, The Percussive Arts Society, and many individual interests. Casey has won several performance awards from academic institutions as well as the Percussive Arts Society; he is also a MTNA National Young Artist.