Four mallet etude "Pent Up" now available for free!

Sorry for the long silence! There were a couple of updates that I wanted to post earlier this year, but my photos documenting the projects got erased and life has gotten in the way of replacing them.

A couple of updates first - over 100 copies of the teacher edition of the book have been downloaded! That is huge! Thank you all so much for your support and I hope you are finding a use for the text in your classroom. Remember, the book is designed to be entirely modular, Take what you need from it and hack it however you see fit!

The main reason for this post is that there is a new product up today, as always, available for free on the store page. This four-mallet etude was written for one of my students when I ran into the need to address some issues that other literature wasn't quite serving:

1) It had to be playable on a xylophone or vibraphone
I actually don't have a marimba on my middle school campus, and getting students to show up to a different school to practice is difficult.

2) In addition to the fifth and fourth intervals, I wanted sixths to be focused on as well.
The sixth is neglected in a lot of early marimba literature, despite how useful it is. When playing on this area of the keyboard, it isn't much bigger than a fifth, so in it goes!

3) I wanted to jam in as many techniques as possible into a short etude.
This piece works on all common four mallet stroke types while also emulating patterns that are commonly found in early marimba literature and front ensemble writing. These included rolls with the inside mallets only, musical cells that develop in complexity with repetition, and finally locked intervals that move around the keyboard to create musical phrases.

4) It needed a lot of flats.
My kids constantly need to be reminded of key signatures, I wanted to write something where they couldn't avoid flats and have it sound even close to correct.

This is not the end-all, be-all of marimba lit but it is a great assessment for the end of a four-mallet unit and is attainable by even the most basic for four-mallet students. More advanced students can benefit from the dynamic explorations.

On a slight change of subject, if you enjoy the content on this page please consider giving a donation. All of the material here is hosted without expectation of pay, but it would be nice if I didn't spend a lot of money maintaining it! If you can't donate, please just consider sharing the site with friends. As always, feedback is appreciated as well! Thanks!

Practice Pads on a budget

Teaching in a school with less resources means that a lot of the time your students just have to work with less than those in a better equipped program. For my percussion students this year, there were only a few who could commit to renting a practice pad and bell kit from the music store as one normally does. That means during class-time I have had to come up with creative solutions for working on drum technique. While there are a few snare drums in the program, there are not enough for each kid to have one, nor are there enough practice pads to go around. I have been doing things recently like having students double up on drums or rotate between playing on a drum or the back of their padded chairs. While this is fine for teaching basic rhythms and technique, more nuanced playing has been limited by the equipment. Knowing that Fall Break would be at the end of this corner, I have shuffled my curriculum around to focus more on mallets at the beginning of the year so we could tackle drums head-on after I could solve this.

Now, what I am about to talk about has been no secret in the drumming community for quite some time. This "lifehack" has been around since the debut of the first Real Feel practice pad. However, I am positive that some band directors do not know about it, so I decided to post a guide to make practice pads for your program on the cheap. These practice pads do not hold a candle to a quality practice pad and should not be used as such. If you are a student of percussion, you really owe it to yourself to have an assortment of pads and there are many companies like Offworld Percussion, Beetle Percussion, and REMO that each offer something unique and well worth owning. However, this sure beats hitting the back of a chair!

Step One: Acquire materials.
For each pad you will need the following materials
-A type of rubber
   Now, good old gum rubber is the best solution here, but it has become quite expensive! You can still get it by requesting samples from different suppliers, but it will take quite a few samples to make a pad of decent size. Recycled tire rubber is great for a harder, more articulate surface and can be found in 12" x 12" sheets at Tractor Supply. For this project, I wanted something soft that the kids could play in the back of the room without disturbing the winds, so I used foam-rubber mouse-pads. The mouse-pads were given to me for free by a very confused gentleman in my school's technology department who said they were collecting dust in a box because everyone uses laptops today. They were still in the shrinkwrap!

-A type of wood
   I used an old piece of plywood I found lying in my band room storage!

-An adhesive
   I used Gorilla Glue because it is affordable and reliable.

-Sandpaper
   To make rough edges smooth.

Sizing up the competition...

Sizing up the competition...

Step Two: Measure twice, cut once!

   I admit to having heard that adage a lot in my youth. In this project despite doing that, I still messed up a few cuts. Either way, it wasn't a big deal. This is a handmade project and your flaws show charm! I wanted the pads to sit flush on the drum head like the Real Feel pads do, so I stole their dimensions for the length and kept the sides of the wood flush with the pad. Fortunately, the length of the pad was an even twelve inches, so this wasn't too bad. A few hours later I would discover that the front edge of the Real Feel has an octagonal shape for a reason. If you want these to fit on a drum, you'll need to round the corners a little bit. I eventually decided I didn't care that much because not having enough drums was why I got into this mess!

Sanding was the most time-intensive part of this project, but was made much less stressful by my father lending me his sander and garage to trash. Thanks Dad!

Sanding was the most time-intensive part of this project, but was made much less stressful by my father lending me his sander and garage to trash. Thanks Dad!

After sanding the wood down to a smooth finish and cutting up each individual pad to size, remember to sand down the freshly cut edges. You want to keep your percussionists' fingers splinter free and functional!

Cut, sanded, and dampened!

Cut, sanded, and dampened!

Step three: Assembly.

This is the easy part, put glue on the back of the rubber and press the rubber to the finished wood. Now if you have never used Gorilla Glue before, there are a couple of things to know: you need to dampen the material to which you are bonding the glue, the glue needs pressure to form a good bond, and the glue will expand during the bonding process. The dampening part is easy enough, but the pressure thing initially gave me pause. I don't have an abundance of tools and clamps are definitely not among those I do have, so I took a different approach after reading advice online and used heavy books.

Being a nerd, I had several heavy books laying about. Since these were not clamped, I let them rest for about two hours before checking in on them.

Being a nerd, I had several heavy books laying about. Since these were not clamped, I let them rest for about two hours before checking in on them.

After patiently waiting, I have to say that I am pretty happy with how everything turned out! The pads all came out well glued and I have drummed on each for multiple minutes without any issue. This could even be a fun project for kids who are just starting to make their own practice pads!

The finished product!

The finished product!

At any rate, I hope this helps somebody else out there!

-James

Student Edition added to "All Products" page

It occurred to me as I was making copies of the text for students that having a PDF file with all of the "Director Pages" chopped out would make my life a lot easier. So I made one and uploaded it to the store. Again, this product is 100% free and available through a Creative Commons license so feel free to download, share, and modify to your heart's content. I hope this helps some of you out!

-James

Fixing that triplet roll section of your show

   It is the summer time and that means marching band season is in full swing! Things that we put out of our mind throughout the rest of the year like just how much time we spend on marching fundamentals and how hot the sun is for three-hour rehearsal blocks are now part of our everyday lives. There are many challenges for the band director as they try to put together a marching show, especially when working in an area outside of one’s specialty like percussion or guard. Inevitably at some point in your show you will be faced with a section that has eighth notes leading into triplet rolls, and likely, your drumline section with struggle with the timing of it. They might rush, they might drag, but regardless it will be bad and the time keepers for your band will find issue with keeping time.

   As a young instructor, I would often assume that it was the inability of my students to play triplet rolls in time and would make them play triplet diddle exercises for long stretches only to be frustrated when it didn’t translate into the show music. After a time, I reasoned what many of you probably already have figured out, that the problem isn’t the rolls themselves but the transition between the eighth notes to triplets. Replacing the triplet check pattern in our roll exercise with an eighth note pattern would help, but it would still take a great amount of rehearsal and I was annoyed with how much time a simple measure would take to clean.

   Toward the end of my undergraduate study I was performing in a group under the tutelage of Tyler Orbison, a seasoned veteran of the DCI and WGI instructional circuits. His solution to this problem was very elegant and is one that I have employed in my instruction ever since. The issue isn’t that students aren’t understanding that the subdivision changes and they need to feel the difference in pulse, it is that they need to feel the eighth note subdivision within the triplet rolls. Since they will only be playing triplet rolls for a few beats at a time and the rest of the music around it is in a duple feel, it is easier for the mind to stay with the eighth note subdivision throughout than bouncing between multiple subdivisions in a quick period of time. Please note that while this is a useful tool, it is not a magical panacea that will instantly clean up the rolls, it is still going to take a lot of quality reps.

   Below you will find a PDF of the exercise in two different forms, the first written out in an easy to understand notation with simple rhythms that the students can count through. The second version showcases what this actually looks like in practice. I will comment that this exercise also works well as a rote-teaching method where you play through each cell individually before moving to the next. The students do not need to understand the theory behind the practice, just the feel of the notes against the met.

s2rolls.jpg

Version 1.0 launches today!

Today v 1.0 of the book is available! I am very excited to finally have all of the known typos, formatting issues, and glitches sorted out into what is now a competent product. I want to thank all of the beta readers and people who have helped with this project! Please share and spread the word!

-James

Updates 6-28-2017

Sorry for the long silence! I have just completed a move across the U.S. and I had to put updates on hold for just a little while. The project is still moving forward and v 1.0 will launch within the next couple of weeks. I ran into a few issues when migrating the original files over from Mac to PC with font compatibility and formatting being the biggest problems, but I think the document is now in good order and will be ready for the primetime in just a short time.

I want to thank everyone who has downloaded the book and sent feedback so far! There have been a lot of little formatting issues that I had overlooked and your support has been very helpful! Please continue to share the page and let me know what I can do to make OSP more useful for you in your classroom!

-James

Wow! - 4-30-17

Thank you guys so much for all of your support of The Open Source Percussionist! Eleven people have now downloaded copies of the PDF and between Twitter and the Yellowboard, over 100 unique visitors have been to the page! Updates will be coming later next week fixing some typos and formatting errors in the current PDF. If you have any other feedback please do not hesitate to send it my way via the contact page!

-James