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Best Orchestration for Marching Percussion

This article contains a collection of tips & techniques for percussion orchestration & instrumentation. Develop your ear through listening and imitation!

Set Marching Percussion orchestration goals

  • Idiomatic interpretation is the primary musical objective
  • Program objectives
    • recruitment and retention
    • player development (know your ensemble)

Marching Percussion orchestration topics to master

  • Indoor vs. Outdoor setting
    • acoustic parameters and limitations
    • spacial relationships
  • Indoor medium is conducive to exploring the low end of the dynamic spectrum
  • Tuning ranges
    • SATB for battery
    • Concert Percussion Ensemble for Pit
    • Pit has contributed to higher ranges
  • Creating effect (use of contrast)
  • Implement mallet section
    • definition and projection
    • blend and sonority
  • Length of sound/articulation = dampening techniques
  • Segmental scoring
  • Unison scoring
  • Contrapuntal scoring
  • Creating a texture
  • Notation (clarity, legibility, detailing)
  • Use of dynamics (contouring, contrast, coordination with wind score)
  • Playability
    • impact drill and movement
    • dynamic extremes = fewer notes
      • louder more people
      • softer less people
    • tempo marking
  • Understanding the impact of tempo (scale)
  • Drill and staging considerations for effect (antiphonal, split ensemble)
  • Coordination of pit and battery voices
  • Use of accent
  • Frequency of accent can imply a dynamic level
  • Visual effect
    • use of sequence
    • drum movements
    • high sticking
    • backsticking and stick flips tosses twirls
  • Rim shot — a sound, not a dynamic
  • Hand cymbal section, or not
  • Orchestral influences… rhythmic vocabulary, sustain qualities

The Phrase Chart – creating a plan

  • identify phrases
  • define their function
  • tempi, dynamic shape
  • establish the lead voice

 

Building Percussion Vocabulary

Published in Percussion Education Resources on Apr 11, 2010. No comments yet.

A photo of DCI Hall of Fame member Thom Hannum.Music is our universal language, and building a vocabulary to communicate our ideas is an essential step for all musicians. Included in this article are some fundamental elements of percussion we all use as players and writers. Mastering these basics will help you organize your approach to practice, soloing, and writing music. Be patient! Go slow and gradually speed up when you feel comfortable. Use a metronome and keep track of your tempo during all practice sessions.

Basic Beat Patterns and Accents

Develop a consistent motion in your strokes. Establish a comfortable grip and relax your fingers and hands. The natural reaction is for the stick to rebound. Let it happen! Play these at all dynamic levels.

Basic Snare Drum Technique

Published in Percussion Education Resources on Apr 11, 2010. No comments yet.

There are a number of effective methods for learning basic snare drum technique. So be open to suggestions and seek a teacher to help guide you through the fundamentals. Below are some guidelines to get you started. Have fun!

Stand Assembly and Instrument Position

Spread the base of the stand far enough to create a stable platform.
Insert the top into the base of the stand.
Place the drum into the basket while avoiding contact with the snare strainer.
The drum should be at about waist level and slightly angled for your comfort.
Tighten all stand wing nuts.
Basic Snare Drum technique: drum stands.

Tuning and Stick Selection

Now it’s time to tune the drum for the best possible sound. I recommend following the steps outlined in Tom Freer’s Pearl article, Basic Snare Drum Tuning, which can be found at Pearl’s website (www.pearldrum.com). Have your teacher help select snare sticks that work for you. Something equivalent to a 2B or a 5B usually works fine. The balance point is 1/3 of the way up from the butt end of the stick. Grip the stick near this point for the best response and bounce.

Grip Guidelines and Posture

Learning to hold the sticks properly is essential for improving technique. Use the photos as a guide and make sure to memorize the feel of the following guidelines: #1 Fulcrum (thumb and first two fingers), #2 Finger contact (comfortably wrap all fingers around the stick; not too tight), #3 Bead placement (as close together as possible for an even sound) and then striking area (center of the drum head), #4 Wrist motion (down position and up position).

Basic snare drum technique: grip & posture.

Stand with your legs slightly separated and your arms resting comfortably by your side. The drum should be at waist level. Put your hands in the playing position with the sticks in the center of the drum head. Your shoulders, arms, and hands should remain relaxed.

Stroke Motion, Rebounds, and Stick Heights

Make sure the bead of the stick goes straight up and down. Try your best to land in the same spot on the drumhead with each stroke. No slicing motions!
Relax your fingers, hands, and arms so the stick will bounce.
Change stick heights to help control dynamics.
Here are the basic strokes you’ll need to learn one by one:

Basic snare drum technique: Stroke types.

Now combine these strokes into one exercise. F-D-T-U See example #1 below.

Multiple Bounce

Play a down stroke and let the stick bounce freely as many times as possible. Practice this with the right and left hand. Now you have the basics to play a multiple bounce, or buzz roll.

Flams

A flam consists of an up stroke in one hand while playing a down stroke in the other. Play the upstroke just before the down stroke. See example #2 below. As you play make sure to review and maintain the grip guidelines.

Basic snare drum technique: right flam.
Right Flam
Play an up stroke in your left hand and a down stroke in your right hand

Basic snare drum technique: left flam.
Left Flam
Play an up stroke in your right hand and a down stroke in your left hand

Single-double-triple beats
Use full strokes and make sure your feel the natural rebound of the stick. Go slow at first. Then gradually speed up the tempo. See examples #3 – #5 below.

Basic snare drum technique: Single-double-triple.

Percussive Arts Society Rudiment Sheet
Any good snare drummer has a knowledge of the 40 International Drum Rudiments. These patterns use all the basic strokes plus single, double, and triple beats and are a great way to improve stick control and expand your musical vocabulary for solos. Download a copy from the Pearl website and get practicing.

Music Reading
Reading music is very important for your development as a musician. See your teacher to supplement your practice with reading excerpts. I suggest looking at the Rhythmic Building Blocks segment of my article, Building Percussion Vocabulary.

Practice Tips
Here are a few simple reminders for making your practice more effective:

Go slow at first, then gradually increase tempo. Stay relaxed.
Always review and maintain the grip guidelines and posture.
Practice dynamics.
Use a Pearl practice pad.
Play along to a recording of your favorite music. It develops your timing and makes it fun!

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