pictures and recordings – we are all in ;-)

Rip Tide (session one)

Today is the day… I am going to practice with the record button ON!! I hope by the end of the day I will have at least a few sections that sound decent enough to post, simply to give Michael a sense of how the instruments are sounding together. I have the BD set up behind/beside me and am playing not with my heel, but with heel up, on the side kick pedal that is set up to my front/right.

Warmup – exercise created for this piece, with 8th notes on BD added, at 120-150bpm. I used this time to figure out how to stabilize the BD and the secondary pedal (both of which were running away from me…so, I got barbell weights to hold the drum, and put the non-slip rug stuff under the pedals), and to check physical ability to play for short periods with most of my weight on my left foot. I started having issues around 140bpm, but I tried 150bpm anyway. Verdict = not really successful beyond 140bpm. I also tried kicking the pedal that is attached directly to the BD with my heel, and… of course, I whacked my ankle/lower leg bone with the beater…that was fun. Maybe I’ll have pictures of the bruise tomorrow? ūüėČ Regarding the balance though, I feel like I can do this by alternating my weight with my left knee bent, and with my leg straight… that also gives me the opportunity to change my right foot BD technique, if it gets fatigued.

Today I am using the Keiko Abe mallets. The general dynamic of the piece has the BD usually at mf, while the marimba and cymbals vary from mf to ff. I think these mallets are the best option to articulate the cymbals and marimba above the BD, but I have to wear ear plugs for long practice sessions with these. So, ear plugs in so I don’t kill my ears, and headphones on so I can hear the metronome… I feel like a mess. ūüėČ

Mm. 153-end – everything in, no metronome, time fluctuating to make it work (around 110bpm)

Mm. 94-152 Рeverything in, no metronome, time fluctuating to make it work (around 110bpm)

Mm. 1-93 –¬†everything in, no metronome,¬†time fluctuating to make it work¬†(around 110bpm)

Conclusions – mm. 153-180 is the most difficult section to put everything together, so I need to hit this every time I practice this piece. Also, from this point forward, I need to be playing with everything in, all the time. I have the marimba parts down. I didn’t feel fatigue in either leg, but I think the slow tempo was keeping me relaxed.


Rip Tide (second session)

Now, we record…

So, below are basically my first takes on the various page layouts. They are by no means the best of the day, but they are on record, and can give Michael an idea of how the sounds are mixing. I do have some volume control issues across the board, but I know this is just my first week of playing with all instruments set… so, I am trying to be patient with myself. This is the process and, in this format, my process has become part of my performance.

Listen, and imagine all of this at twice the speed… right now I’m around 100bpm, and must get close to 200bpm!!



conflict and resolution

Rip Tide (first session)

Warmup – exercise at 140, 150, 160 and 170bpm. focus on maintaining relaxed jaw and neck.

Mm. 153-end¬†– putting everything together (cymbals, BD, seated position, etc.). I worked on this without the metronome, but around 100-110bpm. I am struggling with this section; not the technicality of putting the parts together – that is fine. I am conflicted about whether or not I will need to sit and/or need to play the double kick pedal. At this point it is doable both ways, and I think it will be at least up to 160-170bpm. I’d prefer to NOT sit, and to use only one foot, playing the pedal normally. BUT, if it turns out that I can’t do that at the faster tempo, or if I get too unbalanced standing on one foot the entire time (mostly an issue for practicing, not the performance – the piece should be less than 5 minutes), then I will need to completely change the bass drum technique to playing with double pedal, seated, and with pedals behind me. As I write, I am thinking that thus far, it has been pretty easy to go back and forth between these two… so it may turn out to be equally as easy to change later? Not sure. In any case, I think right now I am going to stick with standing and one pedal. I will keep the double pedal connected, in case I find it possible to switch feet at opportune times, making it less taxing to practice. Hhhmmm…

Mm. 153-end – worked with metronome at 110bpm (everything included, standing, playing BD with right foot); not too bad. It’s hard to hear metronome with everything going, so headphones are now in.


Rip Tide (second session)

Mm. 94-152 – worked with (and without) metronome at 110bpm (all in, same as above); again, not too bad.

All – worked through 2x mm. 94-end at 55bpm… to solidify muscle movement/memory a bit; worked through all at 100bpm.

A few notes to self:

Last page is memorized… I am not intentionally trying to memorize this, but it is happening slowly. Ultimately, I think it will be memorized, though maybe not for the first few performances.

Running the entire thing with all instruments in, I am able to see places that I will be able to rest and stand on two feet. Really, the piece is not that long and I will be able to stand on one foot throughout. But, I do need to build up the tolerance to practice the piece for even these shorter 45-60 minute sessions.

I should be spending most of my practice time now building the tempo up to 120bpm with all instruments in. Currently, I can play everything, all instruments in at about 110bpm, with some transition issues and only a few measures that consistently trip me up. So, next goal point is 120bpm.

I am ready to record this for Michael, so he can get a sense of the sound of my chosen instruments/mallets as a whole. I am going to record without the metronome, and probably fluctuating the tempo to play each section at the fastest accurate tempo possible. This means probably fluctuating between 100-120bpm.


Rip  Tide (third session)

Ran all (without metronome) – 1x only.

Changed BD head, and worked through all with BD positioned behind instead of in front… so, playing kicking the heel down, rather than the toe.



sometimes things just keep getting better (thankfully!!)

Surface Drifts (first session)

Warmup – DV, SI (with 5s), and DV alternating block chord exercises, focus on flexible, moving spine and full back and abdomen.

All 5s (from memory) – hands separate at 60bpm; hands together at 50bpm, working backwards from the end of each phrase. Better than yesterday, but still have issues with one particular transition.

56-end – ran all. Felt very good; hands not tired, sections are starting to feel more integrated!

Surface Drifts (second session)

Two quick runs of all 5s – second time was better ūüėČ

Mm. 1-39 – worked on memory and choreography; good progress here… need to focus more on mm.26-39… not memorized at all. Mm. 1-25 = memorized.

Hands are feeling great today!!



just another day

Surface Drifts

Warmup – DV, SI, DV alt chord exercises

5s (mm. 55-60 from memory) – hands alone at 60bpm. Both hands are accurate at this tempo, though the left hand gets a bit more stiff.

5s (mm. 55-60 from memory) – hands together at 45bpm. Worked from last 5 backwards, adding each beat progressively until had full phrase. Not too bad, but definitely not steady…issues transitioning from last beat of m. 58 into m. 59.

other 5s (m. 53 and m. 72) – worked on memory and hands together slowly, no metronome

60-end – ran once…didn’t hate it.



finally putting it all together… now time to push tempo

Rip Tide (first session)

Warmup exercise – at 130-140-150bpm (feeling tired this morning)

Mm. 43-118 (marimba and cymbals)- 2x at 100bpm; 2x at 105bpm; 1x at 110bpm in sections and identified weak sections; worked those spots without metronome, gradually building tempo until playable at 110bpm. I was able to get everything up to 110bpm. When I come back for the next practice session, I will try running it all at 100bpm, then 110bpm, before I do anything else.

Rip Tide (second session)

Mm. 43-118 (marimba and cymbals) – played through at 100bpm and 110bpm. Accuracy = okay. Worked without metronome a bit.

All (marimba and cymbals) – played through 1x without metronome, but around 105bpm; there are a few problems spots, but the most in need of work is mm. 165-194 – this is where the cymbal parts are more dense and the marimba lines are more sporadic (and, I have spent very little time with cymbals here). SO, that is where I should start tomorrow.

All (marimba, cymbals and BD) – played through 1x without metronome. Not bad with all together, though tempo fell a bit… Over the last few practice sessions, I have been progressively forcing myself to look more at the bass drum part while playing the marimba and cymbals only, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to add it now. Technically, it wasn’t too difficult because the BD parts are mostly ostinato 8th notes. I do, however, need to get myself back to sitting on the stool while playing – I just did this standing up, alternating playing with right or left foot when I got tired. The tempo is too slow right now to necessitate playing with the double kick pedal, and I am not sure that I will actually need it to be double kick in the long run either. If the tempo actually gets up to 180-200bpm, then perhaps. We shall see.

For the next session on this… 1. SIT, 2. add BD, 3. focus on mm. 119-end.


polka dot bandaids

Surface Drifts (first session)

Warmup – DV, SA strokes, canvassing whole body to identify tension in each position before moving on; DV alternating (improvising chords, etc.), playing 16ths, 5s, 16th-note triplets at 90-100bpm, working on easy spine rotation, endurance and volume without tension

Mm. 60-end – worked on measures with DV rolls only, focus on position, spine rotation, volume and endurance at 90-100bpm (similar to exercise above, but with specified notes). With this exercise, I was able to maintain spine rotation and felt my arm was free of tension from fingers all the way back to spine.

Mm. 60-end – worked, as written, at 80bpm. This is going pretty well… I was able to work through this 5 times (with many stops, and lengthening notes quite a bit), without adding tension and without feeling physically fatigued. I did break skin though, so I am now sporting two polka dot bandaids around my middle fingers. ūüėČ In this section today, I did not have to actively think about the modulation from DV alternating rolls to the DV/other hand playing lines… it happened quite naturally for most occurrences, and it was definitely easier to do smoothly without following the metronome. Overall, I don’t really think this section will feel like it has a steady pulsed anyway, so this is just fine.

5s – worked SI strokes, playing triplets and 16ths with metronome at 70bpm (hands moving in¬†octaves in improvised chromatic lines); played 5s, hands separate at 70bpm; mallet one is still lagging behind the others…


Rip Tide (second session)

Warmup exercise at 150-170bpm, incrementally speeding up

Played through all at 120bpm (mallets only) Рidentified again that the same measures as before are still the weakest, so that is where I decided to focus.

Mm. 80-118 – hands separate at 150bpm


blog title

Surface Drifts

(first 60-minute session)

Warmup – I started early this morning, so I had to do a long warmup (about 20-minutes) of DV, SI, SA exercises. My focus was feeling the rotation around my spine when playing alternating strokes, and feeling a full lower back and abdomen.

As an aside, I never really articulate the exact¬†exercises that I am doing each day (who has time for that?!). Anyway, they are mostly made up on the spot, but at times are derivative of exercises from L.H. Stevens’ Method of Movement book. I do this because I want to work technical issues specifically related to the pieces I am working on, and because I really don’t want to do the exact same thing every day. I also use this time to improvise chord progressions, melodies, and Steve Reich-like sounds on the marimba.

Mm. 60-92 Рworked with DV block chords throughout, picking up tempo each time, and really focusing on getting the balance of dynamics correct

(second 60-minute session)

Mm. 60-92 – worked through with DV block chords at 70bpm, and 80bpm; then, worked DV alternating chords at 80bpm. I have decided to really work the interpretation with the rolls played with DV alternating only when both hands are rolling, blocking chord hand alone -as 16th notes- when there is a line in the other hand. The difficulty with this is transitioning from one to the other without noticeable change in roll texture; and, the issue is really more about where my ear is, not the technical challenge. So, while playing the DV alternating rolls, I gradually shift my ear to hear the hand that will be playing the upcoming DV block chords to hear them as 16ths notes… this allows the piece to breathe more freely. I don’t have/want to maintain the same exact roll speed throughout, so this will work.

Mm. 93-end – read through 1x with DV block chords throughout (had a bit of tension, so took a moment to stretch and realign); worked through applying the same roll concept described above at 80bpm, and again focus on balance/dynamics

Mm. 60-end – read through one time… these measures take a lot of endurance to pull off!

Mm. 1-24 – played through a few times, from memory

5s – played through a few times, from memory (hands together and separate)


baby steps with cymbals in!!

I had a great morning ear warmup listening to the sounds around my back yard… I heard at least 8 different birds calling, crickets, the chipmunk stealing the bird food, the overflowing stream coming down the mountain by my house, distant highway sounds, local traffic, ¬†neighbor dogs, intermittent wind chimes blowing around the yard, and the wind lightly whipping through all the different trees in my yard. It was beautiful and relaxing, and just the right thing to put me in the mood for practicing… or sitting on the back porch all day. ūüėČ


Rip Tide (in two 45-minute sessions)

Warmup – chromatic exercises; M9, m9, M7, m7 double stops up and down the keyboard

I created an exercise specific to this piece to work on progressively building tempo (and, I should do this at the beginning of every practice session on this piece from now on). Today, I worked it at 170bpm. The tempo of the piece is to be 200bpm… though I am not sure that I will get it beyond 170-180bpm. However, if this exercise can be played at 200bpm+, it will help the overall tempo of the piece.

Here is a recording of the exercise I created (the chosen notes are only those within the range of the piece).

Playing with cymbals – improvised double stop 8th note patterns in range of piece, adding cymbal strikes at random

Mm. 153-end – read through without metronome, with cymbals; worked without cymbals at 120bpm. At 120bpm, I played through 5 or 6 times at this tempo with 90%+ accuracy. So I think I can say, with confidence, that the entire piece (mallets only) is at 120bpm! And now, the bulk of my work for the next month should be focused on getting the piece at 120bpm with cymbals and bass drum included.

Mm. 153-end (cont.) – worked with cymbals at approx. 90-100bpm (no metronome). After working this for a while, I tried recording… unfortunately, each time I mentally tensed up and was not able to get a good recording (too focused on mistakes). I’ll try again next time.

Mm. 119-152 – read through with cymbals approx 90-100bpm; worked with metronome (mallets only) at 125bpm

I am feeling a lot of progress today… I think adding the cymbals (which is making me not look so intently at the marimba notation) is actually forcing me to work more from muscle memory than from my reading. When I went to mm. 119-152 mallets only, it was quite easy to push the tempo up another 5bpm, and I realized that even then my eyes were working differently, as I was trying to peripherally see the marimba part AND the cymbal/bass drum parts. FYI – the cymbals are notated on a staff above the marimba, and the bass drum is notated on a staff below the marimba, so I am really having to widen my sightline.

Soooo…. just for fun, I tried reading the whole piece at 130bpm and it was fairly accurate – maybe 85%, with the most mistakes in mm. 94-118, which is right in the middle of the piece… I have been working from the end and from the beginning so much, that I think I have neglected the middle. So that is where I will start tomorrow.


Rip Tide¬†(later in the day… in two 20-minute session)

Exercise from earlier…

Mm. 94-118 – read through 5-6 times (mallets only) at 120bpm = good; added cymbals, around 100bpm = also good.


finding my footing

Surface Drifts

Warmup – SI, DV, interval exercises; focus on bent knees, using only necessary muscles/motions, full back/spine and abdomen (I tend to shrink my lower back into a tight curve, and to suck in my abdomen. I am definitely more relaxed when I don’t do these things.) Between exercises, I did standing deadlift poses (to awaken hamstrings, and find stable footing) and down/up face dog poses and high planks (to awaken wrists and ¬†shoulders).

Choral warmup (from beginning of Eric Ewazen marimba concerto; sight-read Bach violin fugue

Mm. 1-39 – worked on accuracy, tempo (tried pushing a bit, but without metronome), positioning, focus on choreography from one position to the next


Recording Session with Patti Van Tassel and Andris Balins at Dryhill Studios.



one hour at a time

Again, I am working on being productive with shorter practice sessions that are disrupted by other daily activities…


Rip Tide

Warmup – chromatic exercises (full instrument, and within range of piece), incorporating all cymbals into 8th note patterns within chromatic scales (learning the instrument with the cymbals included) = 120-130bpm

Work with cymbals – read through all including cymbal parts… not too difficult to read, though tempo was about 90bpm. My plan is to incorporate cymbals into each section once I can play 120bpm mallets only.

Mm. 153-end – mallets only at 115bpm

Mm. 94-152 – mallets only at 120bpm; with cymbals at 100bpm

Mm. 1-42 Р all at 130bpm

Mm. 43-93 – mallets only at 120bpm; with cymbals at 110bpm

Everything above was done over the course of two 1-hour timed practice sessions (each hour was separated by numerous household chores and errands, etc.). I am so used to practicing for 3 or 4 hours straight (with many short breaks) that this feels wrong…¬†like I am not practicing, or I¬†am not really digging in. BUT, looking back at this list, I did accomplish a lot and felt good while doing it. I’ve just got to get used to this method of practicing.