a few days to note


Watched a video with  Ron Miles (cornet), Jason Moran (piano), Bill Frisell (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), Brian Blade (drums) before practicing yesterday morning, recommended by Art Falbush. Wow, what a thoughtful group of musicians. And, it led me into a really contemplative improvisation, slow moving, and lyrical. Not much thought about technique specifically, but I definitely got warmed up. Then… I headed off to work and didn’t get back to practice. ;-(



Marimba/Surface Drifts

Today, I am working my way into the marimba slowly… started with a little improvisation, technical and musical, then started reading the Bach Violin Sonata on the music stand. I felt distracted and disconnected, so I did some AT work on the floor. When I came back to improv again, with a slightly more quieted mind, I started with one note, and listened… I ended up spending about 15 minutes playing 4-note chords (with lots of close intervals), and rolling up and down the length of the bars leaning into the difference in resonance between playing on the node and playing in the ‘right’ spot on the bar. That felt really good. I was also switching between cross-grip and Stevens grip. Not sure why? 😉

Surface Drifts mm. 1-40 – played thru all, each hand separate and playing with two-mallets instead of four-mallets; played through all, hands separate, with four-mallets; THEN, worked phrase by phrase in 2-beat, 3-beat, 4-beat phrases (overlapping downbeats) and finally in full length phrases at 75bpm.

Surface Drifts mm. 1-40 (again) – continued with the same approach as earlier… until the skin on my right middle started getting tender (time for a bandaid). During this session, I did start thinking about how to musically and physically end the big phrases in this section (each phrase ends with gradually slowing rhythm and a diminuendo)… I’ll spare you the details, but in short, I am playing the last note of (mostly) each phrase with the left hand, and stopping the motion in my right side simultaneously when striking the left. It will work best if the motion from both sides is slow and connected in time and is held until the next phrase begins.

Channeling Chopin tonight (needing inspiration for the grace notes in Surface Drifts) by listening to a 1957 vinyl recording of Chopin Nocturnes played by Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes. And, after the student recital this evening, I spent about 30 minutes sightreading Chopin on piano.

On to tomorrow…


dreamt of a meeting with John Cage ;-)

I woke up this morning recalling a dream I had in which I was at an event with John Cage. He was presenting to me and my students, and during a break in the event, he and I sat down together, he offered to let me have any ONE of the scores/resources that he had available at his house(??). The item I chose was apparently an educational book he wrote about creating improvisational scenarios in the classroom. I don’t know if such a thing actually exists. In any case, he was really excited about my choice, which in turn got me super excited about explaining the improvisation work my students and I have been doing in percussion ensemble. It was an amazing dream, I think, thanks to my conversations with Art Falbush this week about finding and re-finding the inspirations of our youth to help us keep our love for music alive.


AT work on floor and short meditation before practicing.


Marimba/Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – hhhmmm….interesting. So, while I went in with Cage on my mind, I actually started and ended in very Steve Reich-ian way, starting with two notes (highest F and C), in ‘ah’ 1 repeating rhythm, and using additive procedures, incorporated more notes and slowly changing rhythmic/harmonic variations until all the space was full. Somehow that transitioned into a more sparse and delicately melodic section in which I was attempting to sign the pitches in my head before striking. And, in order to close the improv in a sensible way, I moved back to a busy Reich-ian rhythm and slowly deducted notes while very gradually decrescendo-ing.

Sightreading – Bach Violin Sonata II Andante in Ami (it’s always Bach!) 😉 Every time I read this movement, I remember my professor Dr. Scott Herring’s beautiful performance of it.

Surface Drifts mm. 1-40 – (I have been focusing on these measures solely for the last few weeks because they are the most difficult to keep in my memory, and also most difficult to push the tempo.) I worked mm. 28-40 hands separate (starting with LH) and together, without metronome. Then read thru mm. 15-40 a few times before working beat-by-beat and in whole phrases with metronome at 55bpm. (Hey, I finally made it more than eight measures in an hour! I suppose the learning curve – at this tempo, anyway – is starting to lean upward!)



being present

I only got in the practice room for about 45-minutes this afternoon. But, a few lengthy and very useful conversations about meditation and mindfulness (in life and in the practice room) with Art Falbush helped me to find the head space I needed to be productive in the short time!

Marimba/Surface Drifts

Improv/Warmup/Technique – finally, today, I felt like I was able to listen again! The improvisation had direction and was purposeful, musical, and open. I started with a simple melodic motive that I slowly embellished in numerous iterations; this, then, fell into longer melodic phrases following intentional (though simple) I IV V chord progressions in several keys; then my left hand fell into a repeating 7/8 groove, and my right hand took over improvising modal melodies.

Surfacen Drifts mm. 28-40 – I worked this section hands separate (from memory) for a while without the metronome; then worked hands together (from memory). These measures are finally starting to get in my hands and head!!

one hour = eight measures


Warmup/Improvisation/Technique – improv included the following: paradiddle rudiments between Rfoot and Lhand, reading a 6/8 rudimental snare solo with Rfoot and Lhand and Rhand playing 16th’s on HH, swelling 8th notes (trying for speed) in all limbs with dynamic ups and downs varying between limbs, playing 3:2, 4:3, 5:4 polyrhythms between hands and feet, among other miscellaneous ideas.

Feeling the 90s today – played along with Sublime album


Marimba/Surface Drifts

Improvisation/Technique – a bit meandering again, but improv included to following: focus on SI and DV alternating strokes, started with linear/melodic improvisation, moved towards block and alternating DV chord progression, then melodically arpeggiating chords in F, ended executing chromatic-ish scales and fragments with SI strokes in unpredictable sticking patterns… all with maintaining good tone, and good use particularly in back.

AT work – on floor and standing (also did stiff leg dead lift motion)

Surface Drifts mm. 1-40 – worked mm. 28-40 hands separate at 62bpm (after a few runs of each, was able to play from memory); mm. 28-40 hands together (from memory as much as possible), first without metronome, then with metronome at 50bpm and 55bpm (in full phrases).

Really? Oh Danny Boy?

Surface Drifts/4-mallets

Warmup/Improvisation – chordal improvisation with swelling chords, alternating DV… somehow turned into an augmented “O Danny Boy” ?? I guess I just let it take me. 😉

Sightread – Bach fugue (from violin sonata)

AT work – On the back porch! It was so nice to lie down, listening to the fall winds blow through the trees and all the wind chimes I have strategically placed around the yard. I must admit, it has been very difficult finding the time to listen these past few weeks. Even when I have had the time, my  mind has been so preoccupied with course prep and all the looming deadlines, making it seem impossible to simply sit and let go.  I hope today begins a change that can be held through the end of the semester.

mm. 1-40 – played through all, slowly, some from memory, without metronome; worked beat by beat from end backwards, with metronome at 55bpm… playing backwards, phrase by phrase, I only got through the last 8 measures of this section in the course of 45 minutes.


Surface Drifts

Warmup/Improvisation – started with a pentatonic (black key) improvisation, focusing on swelling chords played with alternating SI and DV strokes; moved to diatonic improvisation, using soft to hard mallets (left to right), focusing on playing linear passages with odd sticking patterns and trying to not let the various mallets or sticking patterns dictate the phrasing.

AT work standing and on floor; stiff leg dead lifts (no weight, just trying to wake up hamstrings); shoulder/upper body stretching

mm. 93-end – played through once with block DV chords (16ths), focus on balance, entrances, and dynamic accuracy

mm. 60-end – played through once with block DV chords (non-metered), focus on balance, entrances, and dynamic accuracy

5s at m. 53, mm. 56-60, and m. 72 all from memory –  worked hands separate and together, without metronome, around 55bpm; then worked hands separate and together (in one-beat phrases, and as full phrases), with metronome at 55bpm

grants, record labels, and getting back to my instruments!

Sometimes a musicians work is not at the instrument! That has been so true this past month. I have been able to practice, but it is often only a few 15- or 30-minute sessions during the week. I have, however, been making a lot of progress toward completing the first of the two albums of music I started during sabbatical. Last week I was in the studio working on final mixes with Andris Balins, and just listening to the two tracks back to back, over and over. This week was all about completing grant applications and researching record labels. Trying to get this to a record label was definitely not on my mind when I started the project, but why not!? I also woke up one morning with a new tentative name for the first album of this project (this album will include the feedback loop piece and the time lag accumulator piece); the title, “unsounding/resounding” or “unsound/resound”. Thoughts??

In any case, I have spent so much time sitting at the computer writing that I really had no interest in blogging about it!! 😉 Today, though, I just finished submitting midterm grades and have a bit of a break from all the computer work (at least a few days before the next written deadline…ugh!). So, I am going to practice all morning!!


4-mallet warmup/improvisation – improvised without much in mind, not really focused, but did play around with chord progressions for about 15 minutes, working in all stroke types (just needed to get hands into it this morning… having my head in the game would be nice too).

Alexander technique – did a little work on the floor, and in standing position

Snare – worked through a few pieces I am playing with my students in percussion ensemble.

Sightread – Bach Violin Sonata No. 2 grave

Surface Drifts – Played through all, slowly and at medium volume… I don’t want to overwork the hands by pushing too quickly

(yes, I was all over the place today!)

short bursts of productivity!

I have been practicing in short bursts over the past week, but haven’t had the time to keep track of my activities on this blog… the same is going to be the case this week, but I want to make sure, for my record, that I am archiving what I am working on. Posts will be brief though.

I got in the studio with Andris Balins yesterday for a several hours, and got what we both believe is a much superior mix of our timelag/xylophone piece. I’m going to post to soundcloud soon, and definitely want feedback from anyone willing to listen!


2-mallets/Rip Tide


Sightread – Bach violin partita

Rip Tide mm. 94-end – worked each major section slowly, and at max tempo, without metronome


a much needed break

I took a few days off after the John Cage concert last Tuesday. It was definitely a much needed break, for many reasons: too many meetings, a lot of work to catch up on, and several deadlines with very quick turnarounds. Also, a bit of mental fatigue from Cage prep…and the world in general. ;-(

This week, I am back to it, but again have several morning meetings that will thwart my practice sessions. And, unfortunately, I just do not have the energy to create and practice at the end of the day. So, I am hoping to get in several quick and productive 15-30 minutes sessions during the days while I am on campus.

Here’s to another week…



I needed to start off the week improvising. This was a bit directionless, musically speaking, but I played for about 30 minutes, including grooves that highlighted 2:3 and 3:4 polyrhythms, then shifted focus to developing BD endurance and speed (for the benefit of Rip Tide). After a while, I actually put on the metronome and worked on 8s on all limbs, together and in various combinations at tempos between 200-160bpm (I started faster, and had to slow down as I got fatigued). My attention was definitely on preventing tension up the spine and down the leg and into the ankle; I was able to maintain good use for the most part, with a nice relaxed flick of the ankle to strike the kick drum.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd lately, so I spent the rest of this session playing along with Dark Side of the Moon.


Rip Tide

ALL – played through entire piece, with BD, cymbals, marimba, all in, without tempo, but around 130bpm.

Mm. 1-93 – worked sections (all in) with metronome at 132bpm; it is not too difficult to add BD after working hands so much. At school, I have timpani stool set up, and a floor tom with kick pedal mount… this works very well. When I try to push tempo and have to play with BD foot heel up, my dynamic level is less controlled and the BD tends to get too loud. Also, playing in a smaller room just makes everything loud, and therefore, harder to hear. Marimba keys are smaller and closer, so inaccuracies all over the place. I must get better at adjusting to the two set ups…

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