channeling cage

I didn’t actually play any instrument this weekend, (and won’t much today or tomorrow) as I was working on final preparations for an upcoming concert of John Cage!! I got to forage for plant materials for Child of Tree, and spend some time realize my scores for Child of Tree and for Cartridge Music. Concert is Tuesday!!

Rip Tide

Improvisation/Technique – TTs and m2s… 😉 I just played around with melodic ideas that highlighted TTs and m2, because they are my favorite intervals, starting with simple overlapping crescendos and decrescendos, and becoming more melodic. Technical issues focused on included double stops, building tempo, dead strokes, and more…

Rip Tide mm. 94-152 –  worked hands separate at 180bpm (this tempo is fine in right hand, but about 5pm too fast for comfort in left hand); hands together in two-beat sections at 170bpm (there are still a few measures in this section that I end up flamming the quick transitions from lower to upper manual in LH and from thunder sheet/splash cymbal to keys in RH); THEN, played thru whole section with metronome on at 150bpm… NOT TOO BAD!! A lot of inaccuracies, tension okay, reading was mostly fine (meaning, eyes on music and still hitting targets), but this is 20bpm faster than last major breakthru in tempo.



what does it mean to be free?


Improvisation/Technique – in a somewhat disjunct improv, I played over a steady 8th note pulse in BD (prep for Rip Tide, etc.), then focused on grooves with two or three consecutive 16th notes on BD (again, focus on BD technique and use, etc.). Not much else to say about this, except that there was more tension than I want in my right shoulder and right leg…. need to think (or not think) about my use. I played a bit with the tension and position of the BD pedal, making it more flexible and  with a starting position closer to the head; I want to see if this adjustment allows me to play more smoothly. I did play a bit after making the adjustment and felt like it may be an improvement, but I need to get used to it.

I’m going to see Roger Waters in Albany, NY tonight, so I’m done for the day!!

morning practice


Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – thinking about good use, particularly in BD foot when playing multiple note, improvised beginning with a triple meter groove (rudimental style, then shuffle, then swing) that fell into slow and fast grooves incorporating 2/3 and 3/2 clave as well as partido alto patterns, then moved into an off-kilter groove with unpredictable groupings/accent patterns of two and three 8th notes – this began more uniform, with open HH notes on all BD attacks, then becoming more random, trying to calculate long term polyrhythms between limbs while maintaining a backbeat in 4/4… not totally successful on this last part, but interesting and fun to try. So, maybe more of that next time. 😉



accessing all my tools

4-mallets/Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – worked through all stroke types, playing tonal melodic lines, and some more ‘free’ improvisation, ended with an ostinato bass line in LH with RH executing M2/m2 in various polyrhythms over it

Surface Drifts: mm. 1-39 and grace notes – had great conversation with pianist Adam Kent re: chopin-esque melisma/grace notes that influenced practice today (think about finding harmony in the composite grace note figures, work on executing single hand linear passages, hear/find groupings and work polyrhythms of groupings rather than each individual note); worked grace notes -hands separate – while playing bigger phrases through all of mm. 1-39 with no metronome; working backwards from 39 to beginning – hands separate in two-beat phrases with metronome at 90bpm

no excuses!

I think yesterday was the first work day that I was not able to practice at all. I had three major deadlines on Monday, and still got in the practice room that day for about 90 minutes. Yesterday, though, it was catch up on course prep and meetings, and I was so tired after work that I fell asleep on the couch at 8pm. My first response is disappointment and frustration, but I have to move forward and accept this new day. So, I am on my way to practice now, before heading to campus for the day. 😉

4-mallets/Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – started with flowing chordal variations with 212343 sticking, moved to linear folk-ish melodies, then started playing chord progressions attempting to sing various notes of the chord while playing others – working on ear, ability to harmonize, etc. Then played Ewazen marimba concert chorale, singing the alto line, rather than the soprano melody. Wow, (vocally) that was not easy!

Surface Drifts grace notes (finally!!) – ALL HANDS SEPARATE, focused on learning/memorizing grace notes in m. 40; worked on grace notes in all other measures.

5s – played through all 5s; then, worked on m. 72, m . 53, and mm. 56-60, beat-by-beat at 70bpm, then focusing on most difficult transitions with metronome at 65bpm (at times hand separate)



thinking of Deane today

4-mallets/Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – started softly again today, with an improv that harnessed my inner Christopher Deane (reminiscent of his Etude for a Quiet Hall); that turned Cmi blues improv, with some focus on creating melodic lines and sometimes playing more rhythmically/harmonically; constant focus today on listening to the tone of the instrument as I strike, improvising lines that force me to think musically as well as physically to reinforce maintaining good tone even in difficult positions

Mm. 1-39 – played through without metronome, working briefly problem spots; then focused on circled/difficult measures, two-beat by two-beat, with metronome at 70bpm (focused mostly on mm. 1-23)



killing it softly

Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – focus on use while playing soft dynamics this morning, free improvisation including SI, SA, DV strokes

Mm. 1-39 – worked through, softly, no metronome, around 60-65bpm; worked mm. 9-12, mm. 26-29, and mm. 31-35 beat by beat with metronome at 70bpm; then, all other measures in this section in two-beat phrases at 80bpm (focus on most difficult beats, circled in music).


That’s it for today! Long night of playing ahead. 😉



many ways of doing and being


Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – playing along with various tracks (in prep for upcoming gig), I improvised focusing on relaxed use, often forcing left-hand lead, with single, double, and flam rudiments, etc.


4-mallets/Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improv/Technique – brief improvisation with focus on SI, SA, DV strokes. Improv today began quite meditative, and somewhat meandering – my mind was preoccupied and I was feeling a spazing muscle in my right shoulder (due to yesterday’s arm workout), so it felt like just moving hands – however,  after a few minutes, the sounds made me listen and it became more intentional. Then, I moved into improvising chords and melodic lines over the chord progressions in the Bach Violin Sonata sitting on the music stand. And then…

Sightread – Bach Violin Sonata No. 1, Fugue

Surface Drifts 5s – worked thru hands separate and together at mp, with focus on use and positioning, no metronome, but around 50bpm. It is much easier to maintain good use when playing soft; perhaps I should build tempo at soft dynamic, and build volume/velocity at slower tempos simultaneously.

Surface Drifts mm. 1-14 – in two-beat segments, building tempo at 80bpm, highlighting two-beat phrases that pose greatest challenge to good use



Surface Drifts mm. 15-39 – in one- beat segments, focus on building tempo

grace notes!!

days could be easier

Morning read: Of Poetry and Protest, Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin



Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – actually played on drumpad this morning, improvising with technical focus on singles, doubles, and flams at various times

Played along (on pad) with several tracks in prep for upcoming gig


2-mallet/Rip Tide

BD technique – Worked on playing steady 8s with BD foot, sitting and standing, at 140bpm and 145bpm; tried to do this with dynamic control, with independent crescendos/decrescendos in both hands and in right foot

Mm. 43-93 – two-beats by two-beats, into following downbeat at 170bpm; played through all at 154bpm – had to stop and restart a few times, but considering that this is about 15bpm faster than last time I ran it, I don’t think it’s too bad. There was definitely more tension in the long run, though, and more mental strain trying to read music that fast.

Worked through all with BD, around 130bpm, no metronome, perched on a very high timpani stool. This works with one foot…at this tempo.

BD amendments

Morning read: Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the US
4-mallet/Surface Drifts
Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – SI, SA, then DVs into opening chorale of Eric Ewazen’s Marimba Concerto
Mm. 40-end – played through 2x as block DVs
Mm. 1-12 – worked beat by beat at 85bpm, a few beats difficult, otherwise good – found that I can change sticking in m.1 to make this MUCH easier… 32notes between 1e can be played as DV in LH
5s – work without metronome, but around 65bpm, full runs of all 5s, m.58 beat 2 and 3 are keeping me from having whole section faster
Rip Tide
Set up BD at home (16in floor tom with BD legs and mount) and at school (a 12in tom, with BD mount). I think I’m gonna do this with one foot. 😉
Played through a little, working on position of BD…didn’t actually practice much though.

focus pocus

Morning reading: Steven Schick’s Percussionists Art, Chapter re: To The Earth, by Zweski



Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – through improvisation, worked on building speed of singles and double stops…with mental focus on use, as well as music. I think I am starting to find good use even when in different positions/postures.


4-mallets/Surface Drifts

Sightreading – Bach partita

Improvisation – included DV, SI strokes (in all variations), focus on endurance in outside mallets, and left hand, in particular

5s – working in similar manner as with Rip Tide, playing one beat at a time into the following downbeat, trying to build tempo, hands separate at 70bpm.


Drumset/Snare drum

Improvisation/Technique – improvised in various styles (rudimental, samba, swing, rock) with focus on double 16ths in BD as fast-ish tempos. Right leg gets tense, but I am able to resolve it once I notice the tension… not sure if tension is resulting from lack of strength, poor positioning, or inefficient technique?? TBD, I suppose. 😉

Music – played with recordings and charted out a few tunes for upcoming gig


Surface Drifts

5s – worked hands separate and together at 60bpm – there are a few transitions that are difficult with hands together at this tempo, but separately, I am able to maintain good use, so just need to do that more. I think, too, that next session I can push to 70bpm hands together for most of the 5s.

TO DO TOMORROW – Grace notes/mm. 1-39

building tempos

2-mallets/Rip Tide

Sightread – Bach partita

Warmup/Improv/Technique – improvised in dorian scale over a C# drone, focus on incorporating double strokes that move from naturals to accidentals, and building tempo/endurance with double stops; then played around a bit more with the natural to accidental stroke, notice more specifically today that the LH is more inaccurate when moving outward nat to acc than inward, and that the issue is over-reaching combined with not rebounding high enough from the naturals – when I thought about accenting the second note (the accidental), the issue was resolved, though with some tension.

Mm. (94)119-151 – began by working this section with the same approach as yesterday, playing 2 beats into the next downbeat, at 160bpm. I can only mentally handle this approach for about 20-minutes, so I got through mm. 119-134, took a short break, then played mm. 94-151 straight through, no metronome as fast as comfortable – with many sections pushing 145-50bpm with ease (though some wrong notes)!!! I also read through with hands separate, and in this way both hands were pushing 180bpm!!!

Mm. 1-93 – worked hands separate at 170bpm (LH struggles with endurance and maintaining good rebound/use at this tempo, partially due to the larger intervallic jumps and numerous shifts between naturals to accidentals; RH is fine).

a good day to play

Morning reading: The Percussionist’s Art, by Steven Schick – Intro, and started the first chapter, Because the World is Round

2-mallets/Rip Tide

Sightread – Bach partita

Warmup/Improv/Technique – yesterday in practice, I noticed that my use, tone and aim was bad in LH 8th-note passages (in Rip Tide) that included movement from naturals to accidentals, in both close and farther reaching intervals (in this piece the farthest single-handed reach is no more than a 5th). So, I intentionally incorporated a lot of this type of movement in my improv, sometimes playing with only LH, sometimes only RH, sometimes linear, sometimes double stops, altering tempos, dynamics, and style throughout

Mm. 94-118 – worked through, with metronome at 170bpm, playing hands separate and hands together, in a few ways. 1. striking 3-4 repeated notes for each written note, and 2. playing two beats into the downbeat of the third, so the practice of the two-beat phrases overlap. Intention is to build capacity to play smaller phrase at performance tempo, with good use, and ultimately lengthen to full phrases (over the course of the next weeks/months of practice). Some phrases posed more difficulty, partially because this method takes things out of context a bit, both physically and reading, so some phrases were repeated quite a bit and some needed single hand repetitions, and others even needed to be played at 1/2 tempo several times between attempts to play at 170bpm, in order to maintain good use. Also, my RH is often late at this tempo when returning to marimba from thunder sheet, so the double stops sound like flams. This ended up being very draining, both mentally and physically – after 40-minutes of this, I actually only got through about ten measures of this section….and needed to stop.

Mm. 94-153 – using same method as above, worked through the whole section (went much faster than my earlier session today); then played through all, without metronome, and felt like use was good throughout.

just working on myself playing my instrument

Morning reading: Alcantara’s Indirect Procedures – Conclusion


2-mallets/Rip Tide

Warmup/Improv/Technique – within range of Rip Tide, played around with singles and double stop 8s, dynamic contrast, static and moving lines… pushing tempo, integrating cymbals, etc.,

Mm. 94-118 – read thru both hands separately BUT playing with both hands when reading (different perspective); then played through both hands separately, as written, RH=170-180bpm (hands only), LH=160-170bpm (with and without metronome… was able to retain good use at these tempos hands separate for quite a while. When bad use creeped in, I slowed down to 120-130bpm, alternating hands separate and hands together.

productivity in short sessions = it’s working!

Morning reading: Alcantara, Indirect Procedures Chapter 18 – Stage Fright



Warmup/Improv/Technique – Going in, my intention was to work on endurance, as well as double kicks (two 16ths in a row) at faster tempos, on BD; I also wanted to work on playing in triple meter, leading with my left hand, feeling alignment between left hand and right foot playing together, dynamic control of all limbs. I ended up playing for about 45-minutes straight, working through all the above mentioned technical aspects through improvising melodically, but also sightreading through a few triple meter Les Parks rudimental snare solos over BD on 1 and 3, and HH on 2, and playing with phrases/dynamics over a changing tempo shuffle. I am sure more went on in that 45-minutes, but overall, I feel like I touched on everything I went in to work on, and was able to do so with a more musical approach.

The reminder from Alcantara’s book chapter about integrating technical and musical practices has really shifted my mindset in practice. I notice that since I have been thinking more about musicality during ‘technical’ practice, my hands are warmed up MUCH faster, and I am able to notice tension creeping in and can adjust myself quickly, rather than existing in a state of thinking about avoiding tension… which really only left me in a constant state of tension. I have always viewed my technical practice as a meditation, almost letting my hands move while my mind drifted into nothingness. I don’t think that is inherently a bad thing, and I do feel like what I have been doing these past few days/weeks is meditative in another sense. It is more productive and mentally/musically engaging, and is keeping me inside what I am doing rather than outside. (There is a chance that I have not actually understood the purpose or practice of meditation, but that is for another time and place.) I do believe there is still room (or need?) for me to do technique in the meditative way that I used to, but this more musical approach to technique MUST be present as well.



I did not get back to practice today… a bit tired, and felt such immense productivity in my morning session that I feel okay not doing more and letting my brain rest.

making space

Morning reading: Alcantara, Indirect Procedures, Chapter 17 – Integrative Practice Strategies. This chapter reinforced many strategies that I already use in practice (maintaining tempo of small phrases, but slowing down the pace, or while putting extra space between small phrases; also, making gestures of required of specific music without worrying about hitting the ‘right’ notes), but made me think of them in terms of AT work (using the slower pace, or the extra space to remind oneself of personal use, tension, posture, etc.)…. I am hoping to integrate some of these ideas into practice today.


Sightreading/Warmup – sightread a 4-mallet solo that I am reviewing for the PAS journal, Percussive Notes. It is mostly linear, so I read it first with two mallets, then with four.

Improv/technique – played with SI strokes, overlapping right and left-hand entrances with dramatic crescendos and decrescendos, sounding a bit like Christopher Deane’s Vespertine Formations; technically moved into DVs with a similar musical approach, then fell into playing the opening chorale of Eric Ewazen’s Marimba Concerto.

Mirror of the Navigation in the Western Sea – (this is one of the mvts of Gatonska’s marimba piece) I don’t often specifically practice this piece – a graphic score – but, every improv that I do is preparation for it. Today, I decided to go right into the score, setting it within 5-8-minutes, nothing fixed on the marimba, just 4-mallets. The result = a way more melodic and chordal improvisation than I am usually inclined to do when presented with absolute freedom, and I ended up using some of the cymbals that are set around my marimba for Rip Tide. This may be a result of so much recent improvisation focused on imitating or playing in different styles, rather than completely free improvisation.

Surface Drifts mm. 1-39 (with most focus on mm. 25-39) – Worked this section beat-by-beat, playing one beat into the downbeat of the next, between 70-80bpm (likely approximate performance tempo), focus on shifting with good use, and using space between each repetition and each beat change to remind self of AT. There are a lot of challenging shifts in this section, particularly mm. 25-39, so this type of practice, at performance tempo, is very useful to help me move toward ultimate performance tempo… assuming I do it comfortably. For the most part, I was able to do this, though I did have to stop after about 20 minutes to do some AT work on the floor. After I returned, use was better and I continued for another 20 minutes.

Surface Drifts mm. 1-39 (again, later, on campus) – continued working on these measures in a similar way…working backwards from the end of the section to the beginning. The practice method I started earlier has highlighted a few 32nd note passages that I need to change to DL strokes rather than two SI strokes.

Surface Drifts 5s, and thru to end – played thru 2x, then played thru to the end

In addition to more work with mm. 1-39 in a similar manner as today, try Surface Drifts 5s (again) same technique as above, at 65bpm.

fela kuti and the roots

Morning reading: Indirect Procedures, by Alcantara, Chapter 16: Daily Practice (again)

Sightread Bach Violin Sonata, to ‘clear the air’ 😉


Snare drum/drumset

Warmup/Improv/Technique – improvised with singles (first hands only, then added feet), moving into rudimental style improv, then settled into a sparse linear groove and played around that for a while. I thought a bit about the tension that built in my left foot during last practice session, but didn’t try ‘working’ on anything around it.

I also thought about sightreading, but decided that I really didn’t want to. 😉 So, instead, I played along with a few tracks of The Roots, and a few tracks of Fela Kuti. My BD foot started getting tense during a fast tune with a samba bass pattern… I kept playing with the tension probably longer than I should have, but my awareness was solid.

FYI – my dream job as a drummer is playing with The Roots. 😉


Rip Tide

Warmup/Improv/Technique – Worked at drumset a bit to start this piece – working on BD (single foot) speed, endurance, and flexibility. Changed tempos a bit, playing mostly singles in hands, and often double stops on toms (in lieu of playing double stops on marimba).

Sightread – Bach again, different Violin Sonata – a fugue that requires four-mallets that I played with two-mallets, challenging myself to determine – as I was sightreading – the right notes to play/not play in order to best maintain the voices of the fugue.

Mm. 153-end – read through RH part with both hands, read through LH part with both hands (new physical and mental connections for memorization)

Mm. 94-152 – read through all 2x (hands only) slowly and softly, without metronome, around 110bpm; then, with metronome on at 122-134bpm, worked in sections, focusing on choreography/movement/use of self when picking up tempo, when hitting wrong notes, when playing more challenging sections… for the most part, I was able to maintain relaxed use, as I was noticing tension before it arrived… or, rather, I knew where I had the tendency to tense up, and why, and was therefore able to prevent it from happening.  😉

September 1, 2017

Morning reading: Alcantara, Indirect Procedures Chapter 16 – Daily Practice


Snare drum/drumset (not drum pad!!)

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – I decided to do my snare work at the kit…. I started by improvising with singles notes just on snare, but expanded to toms also, then added BD, and HH… I noticed while doing this that I was having a hard time controlling the volume of the HH, specifically, not being able to play as soft in HH foot as I am in hands and BD foot. So, while the improv was still based in singles, I shifted to a linear improvisation in multiple time signatures integrating all limbs with a focus on dynamic contrasts and control across the linear phrases. Improv shifted to include doubles and flam rudiments, and cymbals.

Sightreading – Delecluse orchestral solo (with snares off playing singles for rolls, over BD/HH on beats 1 and 2); read that solo again with snares on incorporating buzz rolls, and lots of rubato in tempo, while maintaining BD/HH under. Then improvised in that style before moving on to read Les Parks rudimental solo, with BD/HH under. More improvising with doubles in rudimental style commenced after.

Groove/style – began with a linear groove, but my mind shifted to something a student did in auditions this week and I decided to play a shuffle which then led me to vamping the Purdie shuffle for about 15-minutes. 😉

Through all of this, I noticed several things: 1. tension in my left foot, 2. that I no longer prefer the sound of the Zildjian New Beat HH (actually, I have NOT preferred this for a long time, just need to take the plunge to get a new set), 3. that I tensed up all over when reading the orchestral solo with buzz rolls, and 4. that as tension in my left foot built it contributed to more tension overall. Throughout, I was definitely aware that there was tension, and was able to reset and center myself from the spine, and ended feeling physically okay… but, the last thing I noticed was when I stopped my jaw released. So, the jaw clenching continues. No judgement, it just happens. It may stop tomorrow, maybe not.



Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – started by tinkering around with simple linear diatonic lines, incorporating leading tones (technically playing with RLRL alternating strokes or RRLL, etc.). Just playing around led me to play some melodies that sounded Aaron Copland-ish, so I decided to go full out with that in my improv – mostly working around in the key of Bbmajor. Then, I played with the exercise I created for Rip Tide, but instead of playing with metronome, I varied dynamics and played rubato with lots of dramatic tempo fluctuations; I also played around improvising double stops in the range of Rip Tide, incorporating some patterns from the piece in different rhythmic phrases.

Rip Tide (mm. 153-end) – first read thru (hands only, marimba and cymbals) with no metronome, mf dynamic – felt good!