patience pays off… finally ;-)


Remembering my goals from yesterday, I am intentionally NOT working out of any books…except, of course, my warmup with stick control in the hands (accompanied by songo in feet today), and stick control in feet (both at 1/4 note = 135bpm). After warmup I just grooved, with the bass drum played by the left foot only, trying to equalize competency and ability to nuance the dynamics in both feet. My left foot is definitely not as delicate, or as strong as my right on the bass drum, so lots of work to do here. Time and patience is the key. Also, I need to tweak the tension and grease the left pedal… it is squeaking, and the left/right pedals don’t respond the same! I’d like to blame my incompetence on the machine right now… but, I know it’s just me. ūüėČ

Played along with Sonny Rollins’¬†Blue Seven again (trying to learn the melody, bass line, and solos on mallet instrument, so I am multi-tasking here…really focused on hearing bass line), ¬†Wes Montgomery Quartet playing West Coast Blues, and Cecil Taylor playing Enter Evening (another goal is to play something like this on a pitched instrument).

I had to do it ;-)… Soph Musical Time ex 51-56 comping snare (with 4 on floor), and with BD comping – both at 1/4 note = 165bpm.

Rip Tide

Again, need to focus on pages 6/7/8/9.

Technique – 8th note exercises at 1/4 note = 155bpm.

Page 6/7/8/9 – Worked through reading RH and LH alone, but with a static eighth note in the opposite hand at 1/4 note = 130bpm; worked hands together around 90-100pm (didn’t actually practice with metronome), with some stopping to rep patterns…

(FYI – This rant is for my students, if you’re reading.)¬†Yesterday I was at 80bpm with many of the difficult passages… today I am 10-20bpm faster throughout…that is a huge leap for one day, and considering that I have been stuck at 80bpm for weeks. I notice that I am starting to be able to read the RH and LH as two separate linear patterns, rather than reading each 8th note interval; also, muscle memory in my hands and aural memory in my ears are also both starting to¬†help out, as sometimes these will dictate my motion rather than simply reacting to reading the music. ¬†I think I am on to something with this whole practice thing…this is what is supposed to happening, and it definitely a result of SLOW and INTENTIONAL practice for MONTHS!!! Sometimes (usually) things don’t progress at the pace you want it to, and you really need to have the patience to settle into the discomfort of not knowing if you will be able to reach your goals because they seem so far away.

To end this practice session, I read through the entire piece with the metronome at 1/4 note = 90bpm. Some could have been faster, pages 6-9 that I have been working on are definitely doing well at that tempo. And, it was done with little mental or physical tension. I do need to add pages 10-11 to my list of pages to focus on now, as they are the least familiar to my hands and my eyes.


I had a lesson with my dear friend Adam (young student of mine), and we got to improvise together based on several themes – one of those was ‘irritating phone customer service’ because, when he arrived, I had just spent over 60-minutes on the phone with the bank (after forwarding me to 5 different offices, they still did not resolve my issue). He loved it (and so did I)!! He said “so, this is how drummers let off steam, huh?” Yes. Absolutely.

Surface Drifts

Not happening today… must drive to Elmira for rehearsal tonight. Leaving soon.

do what doesn’t feel right!!


Stick control in hands with samba in BD/HH; stick control in feet with alternating hands in rhythmic unison (16ths) at 1/4 note = 90bpm; Soph Essential Techniques ex 1 5-22 at 1/4 note = 100-110bpm; Latham Funk Studies hi-hat off beat groove exercises at 1/4 note = 120bpm; Soph Musical Time ex 41-50 at 1/4 note = 135bpm with snare and BD comping.

I know I need to spend more time out of books, and with recordings, but…. we all have the tendency to do what comes easily. For me, it is reading.

So, here I go…my goal this week is to get out of these books!!!

Played along with Sonny Rollins Blue Seven – mostly focused on playing time, comping and soloing in style similar to drummer Max Roach on album

Rip Tide

Eighth-note exercises¬†at 1/4 note = 165bpm. ¬†At the moment, it feels as if 160bpm is going to be my highest possible performance tempo for this piece. Not sure how this is going to affect the intent of the piece (supposed to be 200bpm), but I am doubtful that I will be able to maintain control at any speed faster than that. Again, these are my thoughts at this moment… still months away from performance.

Page 6/7/8/9 – worked hands separate at 1/ note = 150bpm; hands together at 1/4 note = 80bpm

Played through all at 1/4 note = 80bpm. Mostly accurate, but had to stop and work a few measures (marked those in music). I think it is time to start adding the metal instruments, and picking up the tempo of everything incrementally.  I know what notes/patterns are there and the more I read through all, the more quick the recognition will be.  Continue to work pages 6-8 most for several weeks.


Listened and read through score of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

when your head is not in the game…

Been a bit distracted the past few days, so it is a bit of a task to get into things in the practice room.

Rip Tide

2 mallet warmup; creating and transcribing melodic lines over ii V I’s

Played through everything RH and LH separate at 1/4 note = 150bpm. Page 6 is definitely better today (patterns are more quickly recognizable to the eye and there is less tension in the hands… muscle memory at work), so the other day of concentrated practice on it really helped. Today, I am tackling page 8.

Worked hands separate incrementally speeding up from 1/4 note – 100bpm-135bpm; hands together working slowly at 1/4 note = 65-80bpm… slow for sure and not much progress on the tempo, but it feels better in the hands, and I am getting a better idea of which side I need to focus on.

Moving on

When my head is not in it, I sight-read. Today, I read through all of Bach’s Dmi Cello Suite = my favorite.

sleep practicing!!

I love it when I wake up in the morning during dreams of practicing! The brain is quite amazing… I must have spent over 60 minutes practicing while I was sleeping! I call that efficient. ūüėČ

Time lag piece (with Andris Balins)

Thinking of different types of instruments and techniques to record/work with separately – keyboard instruments (maybe divide metal vs. wood keyboard instruments); snare; toms/bass drums; cymbals and other metal; playing with different implements/techniques – striking, scratching, wiping, rubber ball rubbing,


Slow Blues in F (Aebersold playalong); ii V I’s in several keys – with both of these I was focusing on landing on chord tones on the downbeats and trying to create melodic lines rather than rhythmic lines.

Sonny Rollins Blue 7 (read chart, listened, played along)




day two of alternating daily schedule…

Day two of alternating daily schedule… I should be focused on Rip Tide and drumset, with a bit of memory work on Surface Drift (no music!).

Rip Tide

Using Samuels vibe mallets today… too soft, but with the Balter blues I need to wear ear plugs to practice!

Technique – unison RH/LH 8th notes at 1/4 note = 150bpm (improvising patterns within the range of the piece, sometimes one hand static while other moves, sometimes both hands moving); Major scales (one-handed) playing 8th notes at 1/4 note = 150bpm.

Layout 1-5 – read through RH/LH separate all at 1/4 note = 142bpm (hands felt good and relaxed for most of this, but there are definitely sections that I am less familiar with… circled these in music, particularly on pages 6 and 8 for both RH and LH alone).

Soooo….. working on pages 6 and 8 today (most of Layout 3-4)!!! ¬†1. Layout 3, I¬†began by incrementally speeding up RH and LH alone from 1/4 note = 120bpm up to 145bpm, and was able to read easily and maintain relaxed arms up to this tempo. ¬†2. Layout 3 hands together at 1/4 note = 80bpm…no faster than the last time I played, and any push forward results in tension or inaccuracies. After almost two-hours on this, my brain is fried and I can’t even fathom doing this with page 8… so, I am leaving it for now and leaving it for later (or more likely, tomorrow).

Here is Rip Tide page 6. Remember, this needs to be at 1/4 note = 200bpm.

Surface Drift

Brief warmup – yesterday’s practice left the skin on my R middle finger a bit tender; spent about 30 minutes doing memory recall on pages 1-2, then tried repping it a few times at 1/4 note = 50bpm. Was generally fine, though with metronome I tended to stop to remember fragments, without it I probably just slowed down. Need to do more of this.


I had a great 2+ hour session with Art Falbush (trumpet player and improvisor extraordinaire) this afternoon… we talked about free improvisation and tonal improvisation, and how to marry the two. We played a little, and listened a bit (to Thelonius Monk¬†and Cecil Taylor), but mostly we talked. I am excited to get into this and see how it can influence my improvisations in realms I already live.

visualizations and memory tests

This morning (while still in bed) I decided to ¬†check my memorization of Surface Drift Layout 1 by visualizing the notes. I noticed that I could actually remember everything, and thought I was recalling the notes faster than I have been while actually trying to play them at the instrument… this led me to recognize that my visual memory of the piece was coming from the sheet music alone, and not the visual image of the instrument – or my mallets hitting the instrument, or from physical muscle memory – so,¬†that means I am looking at the music more than the instrument. AND, I need to stop that!

Also before practicing today, I realized that up until now, I have just been taking one day at a time… a luxury afforded to me due to sabbatical (thank you!). However, that means that some days I totally neglect one piece because I am caught up in another. This won’t work for me for long, so I think it is time to create goal sheet (assuming major public performance in November, and several smaller practice performances need to take place before that). So, below is the beginning stages of organizing my time…

The plan is to alternate the following two daily plans for now:

Day 1 (in no particular order) Р30+ minutes technique/warmup; 90+ minutes on Rip Tide (this is primary focus for this day); 30+ minutes on drumset; 60+ minutes on Surface Drift (mostly memory work); 30 minutes sight-read on any instrument

Day 2 (in no particular order) – 30+ minutes technique/warmup; 90+ minutes on Surface Drift (this is primary focus for this day) ; 60+ minutes on drumset (including double bass drum technique); 45+ minutes on Rip Tide (mostly just reading through and building tempo); 30+ minutes improvising on any instrument


Surface Drift

Layout 3 – worked on all roll types again in this section, listening to the music to determine what roll types fit where… still want to record and get Michael’s (composer) opinion. Played with metronome at 1/4 note = 76bpm.

Layout 1- worked more on repetition, memory, and building tempo. Currently memorized almost through the end of page 2 and comfortably playing at 1/4 note = 50bpm.

Layout 2 – read through hands separate, then tried to read together. Actually not so bad… I was able to read pretty accurately… at 1/4 note = 10bpm… yes, you read that right = 10bpm. How about that tempo? I need to get to 80-100bpm. So, I need to get it memorized asap… there is no way to see all those notes and the music simultaneously.

Ripe Tide 

Well I planned to get to this, and I thought about it, but I just didn’t do it today. Back again tomorrow. (Oops… day one on a new practice plan and I’ve already faltered.)¬†ūüėČ

Feedback piece

I did get to talk with Brett Masteller Warren today about a piece we are working on together. He is about to start building contact mics and speakers to bring over next week, so we can test out some ideas! Put together Stokhausen’s Microphonie + David Tudor + Brett + Julie+ ring modulators + timpani + graphics…. what do you get? I have no idea, but it will be fun to experiment!!


not a bad day, quite surprising actually…


Technique – focusing on range of piece (A3-D4), 1. I improvised random chromatic and diatonic patterns in 8th note rhythmic unison at 1/4 note = 150bpm; 2. I had LH alternate Eb and Bb (pattern found at beginning of piece a lot), while improvising chromatic/diatonic patterns in RH at 1/4 note = 130bpm.

I worked page 1 at 1/4 note = 130bpm hands together, and 1/4 note = 150 hands apart; page 2 at 1/4 note = 100 with hands together, and 130bpm hands apart; worked all of Layout 2 hands separate at 1/4 note = 130bpm and hands together 1/4 note = 92-100bpm. Read through Layout 3-4-5 at 1/4 note = 130bpm hands separate.

Not a bad day, quite surprising actually… hands were feeling really strong, without tension while moving around at these tempos for the first time.


Technique – SI – each mallet individually, focusing on strength right now; SA scales 121212 and 343434; played ii V I chord progressions with DV rolls, ripple rolls and SA rolls.

Layout 1 – worked hands separately at 1/4 note = 65bpm; memory tested page 1 = I’ve got it!! Started working on memorizing page 2… by end of day, I actually had 3/4 of page 2 memorized as well… learning curve people!!

Layout 3 – worked through with DV rolls and metered SA rolls. I am starting to think that this section will actually end up being a combination of various types of rolls, maybe depending on the dynamics, not sure… still need to record and send to the composer. I am having a very hard time playing the last few lines = SA roll on the highest Bb/C in the RH, while playing the A right next to it with the mallet 2 in LH at ff. It is a very awkward angle, and needs to be so loud. I feel like I need to switch to DV strokes in RH just to make it loud enough, but it sounds too much like a rhythm and not a roll. Here is a sample from¬†the end of Surface Drift.¬†Any suggestions??¬†Sounds coming soon, I promise!



This weekend, I really felt the need for silence.

So, I didn’t practice at all and, instead, started reading a new novel titled 4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster. I highly recommend it, and anything he has written!

more of the same

Rip Tide

Technique – 1. played 8th notes in both hands in unison at 1/4 note¬†= 150bpm… need to start pushing tempo (even without moving this was difficult due to lack of endurance). 2. still with unison 8ths, I maintained a static note in LH and improvised RH in chromatic motion – and the opposite direction – at 1/4 note = 150bpm.¬†3. still with unison 8ths, tried to have both hands improvising chromatic lines in opposing directions.

Mirror of the Navigation of the Western Sea (Mvt III of this same marimba piece) – a graphic score (improvised, possibly fixed marimba)

Improvisation on score – limited myself to only 2-mallets, and did not add anything to marimba.

my zoom recorder needs fixing AGAIN

Rip Tide

Nothing. I didn’t plan to take a few days away from Rip Tide, but I must need a break from it. ūüėČ

Surface Drift

Technique (60 minutes) – similar exercises as before; also, SA 16th notes with inside and outside lead (from m2 – octave) at 1/4 note = 100bpm (to develop strength and endurance for layout 3 rolls). Mallet 1 is weak, and generally need to strengthen outer mallets.

Layout 3 (45 minutes) – metered (triplets and 16ths) SA rolls at 1/4 note = 80bpm; DV rolls at 1/4 = 80bpm; ripple rolls – just read through and mostly at¬†mp (this is the hardest roll type to play at¬†ff). Should record soon…. must fix Zoom recorder!

Layout 2 (60 minutes) – tried to think through sticking; originally, I though it would be a lot of 12121212 in LH and 34343434 in RH simultaneously, but… it is so fast (and spread out) I think 1111111/222222 and 333333/4444444 will actually be easier to control.

Technique needs for Layout 2¬†– develop ability to play 5s and 6s in both hands simultaneously, while moving in opposing directions in uncoordinated chromatic lines… at 1/4 note = 100bpm. WTF Gatonska?!?!?!?! ¬† ūüėČ

Layout 1 (30 minutes ) – tested memorization of page 1… definitely getting better.


a light day, but much listening

Rip Tide


Surface Drift

Technique – similar to previous

Layout 3 – again, worked through all types of rolls and reading at 1/4 note = 80bpm. This feels like the right tempo, which is 20bpm slower than the composer indicates. Will have to ask him what he thinks.

Layout 1 – worked through all three pages with hands separate (working on muscle memory) at 1/4 note = 60bpm. 32nd notes (played in one hand are very difficult even at this tempo). Did not put hands together today. No memory work.

LISTENED to both movements (midi files) today for the first time since I really started practicing them.


no holidays for those who must practice

Rip Tide

Worked through all several times – first 2x through I read the RH and LH lines separately, but with both hands playing the same line in octaves. I did this at 1/4 note = 120bpm… purpose = to work on endurance and getting eyes to focus on R or L or center at different times. Next I read through RH and LH separately at 1/4 note = 130bpm (getting faster!!).

Worked on Layout 1-2 trying to push it at 1/4 note = 100bpm… lots of inaccuracy, but needed to try pushing the tempo up a bit.

Finally, I worked through the entire piece varying the metronome from 1/4 note = 60-80bpm where needed.

Surface Drift

Layout 3 – actually turned the metronome on this one today at 1/4 note = 80bpm, then at 100bpm – playing DV rolls throughout. It definitely gave the piece a different forward motion, and I realized that I previously wasn’t counting much… just rolling through things at whatever length I wanted.

Technique – focused on ripple rolls (1243)

Layout 1 – worked through all; tested memorization of page 1

Layout 2 – basically sight-read through (in many places one hand at a time)

together we are weaker (my hands are anyway)

Rip Tide

Read through all RH/LH separate at 1/4 note = 120bpm with about 85% accuracy…. not great, especially for hands separate!

Worked the following with hands together: Layout 1 at 1/4 note = 100bpm; Layout 2 at 1/4 note = 85bpm; Layout 5 at 1/4 note = 70bpm. Keeps getting slower… and Layouts 3-4 are the most difficult to coordinate due to more irregular patterns.

Surface Drift

Just tested memory of page 1 – first two motives are close; third motive = not so much.

slow and steady… always

Rip Tide

Read all hands together at 1/4 note = 70bpm

Surface Drift

Layout 3 – I have started using these pages as a long warmup, starting by reading slowly with DV block chords, then DV rolls, moving to metered and unmetered SA rolls and then ripple rolls.

Layout 1 – read through all pages; worked on memorizing page one. Up until today, I hadn’t put any of this movement to the¬†metronome. I now know that I am currently at more than 50bpm slower than performance tempo at 1/4 note = 45bpm. ;-(

double bass!!!

Rip Tide

Technique – Started working on double bass drum technique alone – playing 16ths (RF and LF lead) at 1/4 note = 70bpm; worked on coordinating RH/LH playing unison 1/8th notes on tom and snare, while playing alternating 1/8 notes in feet.

Considering whether to play heel up or heel down. Not too fast for DB technique, so either can work. Need to be able to control mf – ff.

Read through beginning to end hands together (still not feet) at 1/4 note = 65bpm; worked layout 4-5 hands separate at 1/4 note = 100bpm, hands together at 1/4 note = 70; worked layout 1-2-3 hands together at 1/4 = 80bpm.

Surface Drifts

Nothing!! Busy day, and spent a ton of time on drumset playing around with other things. ¬†ūüėČ


I have actually been playing drumset every day too, but for not logging it… mostly because I am reading through several books right now, and playing along with records. Books working through include: Ed Soph’s Musical Time, Ed Soph’s Essential Techniques, Rick Latham’s Advanced Funk Studies. Just trying to reacquaint myself with my YA maple custom. Need to change the heads, and tweak the left BD pedal¬†tension.¬†Once my hands start to feel good, I will probably begin logging this too.



Rip Tide

Layout 1-2 – RH/LH separate at 1/4 note = 100bpm; RH/LH together at 1/4 note = 70bpm

Layout 3-4-5 – RH/LH separate at 1/4 note = 80bpm; RH/LH together at 1/4 note = 60bpm

So far away from performance tempo, and still no BD included.

Surface Drifts

Technique – similar exercises

Layout 1 – have stickings (at least tentatively) figured out for all three pages in layout!!

Layout 3 Рcontinue to work on trying out different rolls types, maintaining one type throughout, combinations of various rolls types, etc. Still not sure what will be best, but for now it is helping to get repetitions in (memory) and to build endurance to play the long ff rolls.


RIP TIDE (2-mallet marimba)

Layout 1-2 РRH and LH alone at 1/4 note = 100bpm, RH/LH together at 1/4 note = 75bpm; layout 3 hands together at 1/4 note = 60bpm, hands separate 1/4 note = 80bpm; layout 4-5 hands separate at 1/4 note = 80

SURFACE DRIFTS (4-mallet marimba)

Layout 3 – reading, determining sticking, working on endurance to play sustained rolls for long periods, also trying out ripple rolls, DV rolls and misaligned SA rolls for this section… need to send recordings of all these options to the composer to see what he likes best. But, need to be able to play at least on of these pages consistently before I can do that. (hopefully, by end of February).

Layout 1 – working on stickings throughout page 1 and 2; start working on memorization of this section soon

Layout 2 – continue reading one hand at a time