So, I had to take a few days off to recover from snow day shoveling inflammation in both my wrists and elbows. Totally lame, but it was necessary… we had over three feet of snow in less than 36 hours and more came down later in the week. In my time off practicing, I did spend a day in the studio with Patti Van Tassell, finished my new lit reviews for PAS and got to the Music Square, the local music shop, to buy new drumheads for my kit (trying out the new Evans Calftone heads on the toms) and some new sticks (got Questlove’s super long and thin Vic Firth’s). So, still productive musically. 😉
Michael Gatonska had a chance to listen to the recordings I made last week of mm. 60-end of Surface Drifts (more on his thoughts/preferences later) and he sent me a field recording his did at China Lake and asked if I might try playing Surface Drifts with it in the background, just to see… maybe the piece will end up being played with a pre-recorded soundscape??
Here is his China Lake field recording.
Technique/warmup – MA/MI scales and arpeggios up and down entire instrument; improvise focusing on using leading tones to move around; chromatic lines moving in opposite directions in each hand; all exercises 120-160bpm.
Started working on music by reading through everything hands together at the maximum (accurate) tempos I achieved last week, which I indicated should be the slowest I start all further practice with so I can begin the drive to push the tempo even remotely near 200bpm. (Remember, the tempos I set last week were 70bpm at the end, and only up to 120bpm at the beginning of the piece, so very slow). As I did this today, I found that I was about 90% accurate with the notes, even after having a significant 5 day break from practicing. That is good news to me; it means that I am actually solidly at those tempos, and am ready to push ahead.
Today, I started to integrate double bass drum part!! In order to do this I sat on a bar stool with the marimba as low as it goes 86.5cm (had to shift hanging position of mallet bag). I learned two things doing this – 1. obviously, playing marimba sitting down totally changes the visual perspective to sheet music and instrument, as well as the physical relationship (distance, height, balance, etc.) so I must continue this way from now on, and 2. being comfortable playing at its minimum height (and close enough that I can reach the still not set up cymbals) requires me to sit at a height that leaves my knees at least around a 160degree angle and my feet are actually under the large resonators. As a result, I may actually be more comfortable with the bass drum behind/beside (to the right) me, playing the downstroke of each kick with my heel, rather than my toe. Hhhhhmmmm……
In any case, I worked that way on the following pages, at the following tempos, trying to play the double bass drum part with my heels on the floor (no pedal set up yet):
- Pages 10-end at 70-80bpm (80bpm = minimum tempo for tomorrow)
- Pages 8-9 at 80-90bpm
- Pages 6-7 at 90-100bpm
- (100bpm got a little messy and my eyes are starting to cross. When I spend too much time on this movement, my eyes get seriously crazy… I am zoned in on the notated music somewhere between too focused and not focused at all, and everything starts to look the same. So, I took a break before going on.)
- Pages 3-5 at 100-110bpm
- Read through all (including bass drum part) at 80bpm
- Measures that are still giving me trouble = 83-86, 97-99, 138-142, 161-164, 169-170
So, doing that I realized that some of the more difficult passages are actually easier to play at the lower position because my eyes are closer to the instrument and the music, making it easier for me to see both at the same time. And, interestingly, playing the double bass part did not mess up my hands, nor did it require me to go slower. In some places the starting and stopping of the bass part did leave me starting on different feet, but I don’t think that matters as long as they both sound the same. Final thought…to all upright bass players: how do you manage to sit on a bar stool for long periods of time without cutting off the circulation to your legs?? I will be getting padding soon, but I can’t see it making much difference.
Warmup/technique – improvising, trying to sing notes before I hit them; basic four-stroke warmups
Read through all – just refreshing hands and mind. Tomorrow I will dig into this again, and hopefully will have more specific feedback from Michael on the recorded materials!