memories…

Morning reading: Chapter 15 from Alcantara’s Indirect Procedures

Snare Drum

Improvisation/Warmup/Technique – rudimental style with sections including focus on flam rudiments – lots of inverted flam taps, roll rudiments, diddle rudiments, all combined, triple and duple feels, took on style of Les Parks rudimental solo (since I’ve been SR from his book so much lately)

Sightreading – Les Parks rudimental solo, Delecluse orchestral snare solo (basically, reading one a day from these snare books.. will be done with Parks book soon). I definitely noticed more tension while reading the Delecluse solo… I was clenching my jaw and more stiff in my arms and neck,,, tomorrow (and for many days ahead), I think I should focus on improvising in orchestral style and focusing on when tension arises. (Also, I need to play on snare drum, rather than drum pad…)

 

Short break to do Alexander Technique floor work, and focus on integrating neck, spine, legs, etc.

 

Four-mallets/Surface Drifts

Improvisation/Warmup/Technique – utilizing all stroke types, improvised over a  20-minute ‘C’ tanpura drone with the Indian rag/scale C, Db, E, F, G, Ab, B, with some linear/melodic improv, some chordal…trying to play ‘tonal’ harmonies within the chosen scale. About halfway thru I started singing along, vocally anticipating the notes I was playing, in an pseudo-Indian classical vocal style. I say pseudo because I am aurally familiar with the style, and though I have studied some Indian classical music theory (harmonic and rhythmic) and history with several teachers from India, I have not had any specific training in the execution of particular gamakas (ornamentations) of the styles/pieces/rags. Also, because of the limitations of the set 12-pitch scale of the Western marimba, I could not accurately translate the ornaments I was singing that went between the notes of the scale. Anyway…

MEMORY WORK Mm. 40-end – tried playing thru all from memory… no peeking first! I THINK that I was almost 100% accurate with notes and dynamics, though roll durations were a bit off because I was changing tempo in my head to accommodate the difficulty of various passages. There is one phrase (mm. 126-128) that I missed the RH rhythm, and I missed it yesterday too.

Mm. 40-end – with metronome at 1/4note = 80bpm (except 5s…these went to half time), and using sheet music for reference when necessary. Worked m. 40 a bit, and noticed measures throughout that I regularly play too slow in relation to others…

All 5s – with metronome at 50bpm, hands separate; hands together, no metronome

Played thru mm. 40-end, no metronome, from memory. Much better, more accurate tempo, dynamics and all notes were accurate. 😉

I didn’t get to practice while on campus today as I had hoped, but still feel good about regularity of practice and progress this week.

 

connecting the practice of technique with the art of the craft

Morning reading: Indirect Procedures, by Pedro de Alcantara, Chapter 14-Aesthetic Judgement

 

Snare drum

Warmup – Improvised starting with flam rudiments, and double paradiddles (not sure why… this is just what came out when I got behind the instrument); then turned improv into a Delecluse-style triple meter dance

Sightread – Delecluse orchestral solo, Les Parks rudimental solo

 

Drumset

Improvised in numerous styles starting with 16th-note HH hip-hop/R&B groove playing with various open HH notes and syncopated BD patterns. That turned into a drum and bass groove, then to something more heavy metal-ish, and finally, somehow, I ended up trading fours with myself in a super fast swing. How’s that for taking it where it leads me!? In any case, the hands feel awesome this morning, and likely that is because I wasn’t thinking about them… I was just playing and listening. 😉 Something I read in the book Indirect Procedures this week has infiltrated into my practice… about non-doing and not letting technique practice be machine-like (which I have a tendency to do, because it has at times been like a meditative practice for me). However, that seems to result in me not always integrating the musical/aesthetic side of my practice into my technical practice. While it has been good for my personal/mental meditation, it may effectively separate technique and music. How can I play a technically challenging piece musically, if I do not practice technique musically?

Let’s see if I can take this to the marimba…

 

Surface Drifts

Improvised including all stroke types, varying dynamics, opposing dynamics n each hand, at times improvising in the style of Steve Reich, at others in the style of Surface Drifts.

5s – worked through mm. 56-60 backwards, one beat at a time, for a while – working towards greater accuracy and comfort in transition from 57-58, and 58-59; also played through 5s in m. 53 and m. 72 several times.

Mm. 40-end – played thru once reading, then played from memory with very high note recall, though hands didn’t always get to the right place. 😉

Mm. 1-39 – played through each section several times, getting used to different room, different mallets, and the school marimba. No metronome, not pushing tempo at all.

I actually found that my note memory was more accurate in this setting than it has been at home the past few weeks… perhaps being in a different setting my brain/memory work harder or just differently, and therefore performed better. What great evidence for changing things up, not always practice in the same place, with controlled settings… you NEVER know what’s going to happen on stage, and being flexible in practice is certainly good preparation for that uncertainty.

 

discipline

Morning reading – Indirect Procedures, by Pedro de Alcantara (re: Alexander Technique) Chapter 13: Technique

 

Snare drum

Warmup – improvised in Lt. Kije-ish style, playing ‘boldly’ ppp-fff, slow to medium tempo, duple and triple, included lots of flams, flam taps, and  two- and three-note drags; focus on listening to tone (yes, tone… even on the drum pad!!)

Sightread – Les Parks rudimental solo (almost done reading through the solos in this book)

 

Drumset

Improvised melodic linear grooves… turned into some kind of samba groove… then triplet groove. Just taking it where it brings me.

 

Rip Tide

Set up 4.3 marimba with small BD, and cymbals in practice room on campus

Warmup – improvised 8s, 7s, 6s, etc., with crescendos, decrescendos and odd accents; improvised in range of piece.

The practice room at school is COLD!!! I hate AC, but I have to feel it, accept it, and choose to react to it with something other than hate! Hhhmmm…

mm. 1-42 – 1/4 note at 125bpm hands only, separate and together, worked mm. 30-42 extensively at 110-115bpm. Still sloppy, but my brain is recognizing the patterns sooner.

mm. 43-end – played through several times, in sections and hands only, without metronome… just getting used to cracked marimba bars and significantly different tone and resonance, as well metal sounds (I am not using the best, or even accurate instrumentation, just placing targets) different cymbal placement and different spacing of marimba keys.

I definitely need to mute the cymbals for practice in this room… for my sake, and for those around me. 😉

 


I was hoping to get in some practice on four-mallets today as well, but I am happy with the amount of work I got done on Rip Tide. In addition to setting up the space, I got my hands on a dehumidifier that is taking out the dampness and making the room a tiny bit warmer (thanks Gavin Vitale!!). Hopefully tomorrow it won’t take 45-minutes for my hands to feel warm!

 

Evening reading: Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

officially back to work…

Today is my first day back to teaching after a semester (and summer) sabbatical. The day I finished teaching last fall was the beginning of this blog project, and I definitely plan to continue. This exercise has been really helpful to me, as typing out my practice, actions and reflections, has given me the opportunity to put out way more content that I ever did with hand written practice journaling. And, I have been able to create a resource that can be of some use to my students… as I said when I started, this really is for me, but it is out there in the world for my students to take what they can from it. Additionally, posting publicly, though I know not many people are regularly reading my posts, has helped me to at least feel more accountable on a daily basis.

So, as I return to work, my goals are:

  • to practice at least 2-3 hours each day, with perhaps one day off a week
  • to maintain a rotation of practicing snare, drumset and mallet percussion (with micro rotations on content, repertoire, and technique)
  • to stay aware of working on myself while I practice (AT)
  • to wake up in the morning with practice and teaching on my mind first, rather than other bureaucratic obligations to my institution

So….

Snare Drum (at home)

Warmup/technique – 8s, stick control with clave accents, double bounces, 5-stroke, 7-stroke, improvised in rudimental style

Sightreading – Les Parks rudimental solo, Bach sonata/partita (on marimba)

Surface Drifts (on campus)

Warmup/technique – DV, SI, SA exercises

Played through all of Surface Drifts and worked on the 5s a bit, without metronome, slowly saying hello to a different marimba. It is a Marimba One, same as at home, but it feels different, sounds different, has different resonance, and I didn’t bring the mallets I have been playing with at home, so… basically, everything was different. It was not hard to adjust, but I did feel myself playing too hard at times and my left elbow was a bit tense.

Overall, I had a great first day back to teaching, and I am really excited that I not only got in a little over an hour of practice, but I also went to the gym after the work day! I must congratulate myself on getting off on the right foot… despite not being able to print my syllabi or login to the computer in my classroom. Who needs that?! 😉

just another day in paradise

Snare Drum

Warmup – 8s, stick control with clave accents, metronome at 100bpm

Played thru Surface Drifts RH/LH rhythms on snare, metronome at 100bpm – much better than yesterday

Sightread – Les Parks rudimental solo, metronome at 100bpm

 

Surface Drifts

Warmup – SI, DV exercises (half diminished chords, dominant 7 chords)

5s at mm. 56-60 – with 1/8th note at 90-95bpm, 1/4 note at 50-60bpm!!!!! This is definitely getting more comfortable at the faster tempos, tension is NOT building as I get faster. I think this has as much to do with how/what I am practicing as what I am doing at the gym these days! Thanks to my PT for understanding how to correct muscle balance by working areas that assist and oppose drum posture!! Also, completely memorized.

5s at mm. 53 and 72 – 1/8 note at 90bpm, hands separate and beat-by-beat following thru to next downbeat; each time moving to higher tempo or next section after at least 10 goo runs. Mostly memorized.

Grace notes – ALL – just ran each hand separately at least 5x. Mostly memorized.

Played thru mm. 1-40 including grace notes (one hand at a time), no metronome. Feels good today, though, no metronome.

keeping it simple – day two

I decided to take a day off practicing yesterday. I needed a mental break, and my left wrist was a little swollen/bruised/tender…I think I just hit it on something, but there was no need to inflame it more by practicing.

 

Surface Drifts

Warmup/technique – exercises for SI, SA, DV strokes

Mm. 1-39 – worked RH only with 1/8th note metronome at 95bpm; worked LH only with 1/8th note metronome at 90bpm; hands together with NO METRONOME; hands separate and together, worked sections from end going backward to beginning in order to get more repetitions with ending material than beginning which is more familiar.

5s/grace notes – worked all grace notes between mm. 1-39 with hands separate, some hands together

 

right is left, left is right

Snare drum

A few days ago I rearranged a mirror in my practice room at home to a space next to my snare drum. Since then I have been having fun trying to trick my brain into seeing my left hand as my right, by positioning myself so that when I play and look in the mirror I only see my left hand, but it looks like my right because of the placement. I have worked like this quite a bit over the past 10-15 years, in effort to trick my brain into visually and, ultimately, physically believing that my left hand is equally as dominant as my right. Sometimes I feel very obvious differences immediately, sometimes not… but, I do know, overall, that my hands have become much more equal – when playing anyway. I do try to do regular household activities with my left hand on occasion, with less luck; and, I definitely can not write with my left hand. 😉

Also, for the past few weeks, I have been dancing/moving around while practice snare drum and basic technique exercises on marimba (sometimes moving in tempo, other times not). I am not completely sure why I started this, but my feet remain planted, and I move my mid-section, I THINK in order to challenge myself to be mobile, flexible, yet planted in feet and solid in arms/shoulders. In any case, it is definitely helping me remain aware of my whole body while playing, rather than just my arms/upper body, AND it is fun. 😉

Anyway, with that in mind…

Warmup/technique – 8s, stick control – with varied, flexible tempo and dynamics throughout

 

Surface Drifts

Warmup/technique – improvised DV chords; played 93-end as slow DV block chords

93-end – alternating DV chords, as written

40-end – alternating DV chords, as written, with 82-end from memory (pretty accurate… form was there, though some notes, duration and dynamics were off)

5s – worked hands together, metronome at 8th note = 80-100bpm  (focused on m. 53, mm. 56-60)

40-end – ran thru at 75bpm (except 5s, which were played in half-time)

keeping it simple

Snare drum

Warmup/technique – 8s, stick control 16s at 116bpm; controlled bounces 2, 3, 4 into rolls at 71bpm.

Sightread Les Parks rudimental solos, with metronome

 

Surface Drifts/Four-mallet

Used Bach sonatas to work on DV strokes (chorale-ish mvts) and SI strokes (mallet 3 and 4, with gig-like mvts); SI mallets 1 and 4 with octaves and chromatic scales; SA strokes with M3, m3. Metronome on at 82bpm.

40-end – worked through various issues…no time to articulate what those issues were 😉

setting goals…

My goals for the day are to work through all of Rip Tide, and to get four-mallets in hands for at least 30-minutes.

Rip Tide

Warmup – scale exercises, exercise for piece at 140bpm

Beginning to end, in sections – all hands (including cymbals), slowly, no metronome, several repetitions throughout

Mm. 153-180 – hands separate (including cymbals and marimba) at 108bpm, 118bpm (could definitely be faster); hands together at 108bpm, 118bpm (can’t push much from here)

Mm. 119-152 – hands separate at 118bpm; hands together at 110bpm

Mm. 43-118 – hands separate at 122bpm; hands together and seat 113bpm.

Working with hands separate (including cymbals) at this point was really very helfpul…it forced my brain to reorganize my memories of the piece in different ways. I definitely had a more difficult time remembering notes with hands separate; my muscle and aural memory has become so engrained in my hands and my ear that my brain had ceased to be actively engaged in remembering/thinking/recalling the notes. THIS is why it is important to shift your approach once in a while, but particularly when you are working on a piece over a long period of time.

 

Four-mallets

Warmup/technique – DV, SI, SA exercises in octaves, ii/V/Is, thirds, major chords

Improvised 5s – with metronome at 68bpm

Worked on 5s in Surface Drifts, and played thru to end

Sightread Bach Sonata/Partita 4-mallet

august 19, 2017

Snare Drum

Warmup/technique – 8s, 16/32nds, stick control 1-8 no accents, 16th-note triplets with various accents – metronome at 97bpm

Sightreading – Les Parks rudimental solos

 

Rip Tide/2-mallets

Warmup/technique – GH Green exercise in all major keys, left-hand lead at 117bpm; chromatic scale at 117bpm; exercise for Rip Tide at 137bpm, 149bpm, 160bpm, 178bpm.

Sightreading – Bach Violin Sonatas and Partitas

Mm. 153-end – hands separate and together at 109bpm, 121bpm

Mm. 119-end – hands separate and together at 108bpm, 120bpm

just another day

Snare Drum

Warmup/technique – singles/8s/8-16s/doubles, metronome on at 83bpm-playing triplet based rhythms, shifting between fingers and wrist as the primary motivator

Sightreading – Les Parks rudimental solos

Controlled bounces – 3s, 4s into buzz rolls

 

 

what’s going on?!

Well, it has been a few weeks since I’ve posted my practice. I have been intermittently practicing between last minute summer travels, physical therapy and needing to allow my arms to rest, as well as preparing for the upcoming school year. Now that I am settled in for the semester (starts in less than two weeks!) and my arms are in better shape, I am ready to get back into a more regular routine!

 

Snare drum

Warmup/technique – 8s, double beat, doubles, controlled bounces into buzz rolls with 3s and 4s (all listening to pitch of sticks for tension changes in hands)

Sightreading – rudimental solos (Les Parks)

 

Rip Tide/2-mallet

Warmup/technique – chromatic scales (full keyboard), M3/m3/octaves, (alternating and double stops),

Exercise for Rip Tide at 150bpm, 160bpm and 170bpm

Sightreading – Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Violin

Played thru all at 120bpm, with metronome, marimba only

 

Surface Drifts/4-mallet

SI, DV, SA, DL strokes with chromatic scale exercises, 3rds, MA chords, octaves, in all mallet combinations

Improvised Bach chorale-like melodies, played opening chorale from Ewazen marimba concterto

Played thru all, no metronome, with music