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.
We just returned from the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), held this year in Austin, TX. During the 3-day event over 3,000 percussionists gathered for clinics, masterclasses, performances and a exhibits filled with the world’s top percussion products.
This year we celebrated our 30th consecutive appearance at the PASIC show, that’s three decades of showing the world’s finest percussion products! The focus this year was on our new Pro Concert Castanets which feature a micro-tension adjustment and solid granadillo wood castanets. In addition, we unveiled our new line of Grover Custom snare drums, including models with solid rosewood,maple and bubinga wood shells. One of the hot items at the show was our 5.5″x14″ 10-ply maple shell drum with our “toaster” style lugs and wooden hoops.
Percussionists crammed our booths, including top pros from orchestras like Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Boston,Paris, London, Cleveland and many others. Alan Abel from the Philadelphia Orchestra used our tambourine in his clinics and Will James from the St. Louis Philharmonic, used our new G2 and G3 snare drums in his lab. We also met with top studio percussionists who told us that our products are used on top rated tv shows like Dancing With The Stars and American Idol. Taylor Swift’s drummer stopped by to tell us that our tambourines can be heard on all of her top hit records! He said that one of Nashville’s most successful producers requires insists that our tambourines be used in the studio!
Here is a glimpse of the action:
Our new John Tafoya Signature Mallets are now available for preorder in the Grover Pro Shop! These new models will start to ship in early November. Based on advance interest, we expect these to sell quickly!be top sellers.
If you’d rather hand select your own mallets, visit us this November in Indianapolis at PASIC 2011, booths #843-#847.
Formerly Principal Timpanist of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C., John left the orchestra to accept the prestigious position of Chair of the Percussion Program at Indiana University.
The Tafoya Signature Mallets will be unveiled at PASIC ’11. If you’re coming to the show be sure to stop by our display in booths #843, 845 & 847, and check them out for yourself. Do it early in the show, timpanists are sure to be fighting over these wonderful new mallets!
We just returned from PASIC 2010 held this year in Indianapolis. It was a tremendous show and a smashing success for us!
Thousands of percussionists checked out the wide range of super-high quality products on display in the Grover booth. Here’s a short list of what percussionists drooled over: 13 models of tambourines, 10 models of triangles, 34 models of mallets, our new temple blocks, Spectrasound Mark Tree bar chimes, our new Titanium G3 Concert SD, plus much more!