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:
- Try thinking of of mimicking the musical line by simply playing with a crescendo as the musical line goes up and a decrescendo as the line goes down. A good way of practicing this is when you work on your scale exercises.
- Try singing the musical phrase and see where you need to breathe. That spot is usually where you need to end the previous “phrase” and begin a new one. Then, actually take a breath during the phrases of the music that you playing on your instrument.
- Practice playing phrases of music like you did with the musical line concept/exercise. Give a phrase a beginning, crescendo up to the middle of the phrase, then, relax your sound as you complete the phrase. While not all phrases are to be interpreted this way, many are.
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.
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