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Go To: West African Percussion, Drumset, Symphonic Percussion

crazy drum configuration I can't remember what piece this setup was for, but it certainly is an odd one! I can pick out: snare, tom, sus. cymbal, cowbell, woodblock, ratchet, guiro, who knows what else!

Symphonic Percussion

First, a little background on how I got to be a symphonic percussionist (or, what I did this summer...). The closest I've come in my formal studies to symphonic percussion would be high school band. Close, but no cigar. Even then, I was more into the marching and jazz bands than the concert band. After high school, I went to the Atlanta Institute of Music for more drumset, mostly jazz and studio techniques. How did I get hired for two orchestras? I went to an audition. I really went just for the experience of auditioning. I had no idea what I was doing, and no intention of making it, it was just something to do. Why did I make it? Maybe nobody else tried out, I don't know. The only thing I know I had going for me was that I can read VERY well, and I have no problem taking direction from someone who knows what they want.

The first two seasons, I kept waiting for the real percussionist to come in so I could stop filling in. But as I waited, I studied, I practiced, and I listened. I joined the Percussive Arts Society and read everything I could get my hands on. I got every method and etude book I could find. I bought classical and modern CD's by the truckload. I reinvented myself as a player and as a musician. Every aspect of my musicianship has changed since then. Following on this page are some of the resources I used and continue to use to learn more and refine my playing and understanding of this most demanding art form.

Books (text)

  • Drum Roll, the autobiography of James Blades. This book totally changed my thinking on symphonic technique, removed my embarassment of my history (Blades started out as a circus drummer), and reminded me why I do what I do.
  • Music Dictionaries. More than one. As many as you can get - each one will be remarkably different, especially when it comes to percussion. Also, there are dedicated percussion dictionaries, and orchestration texts help as well. Some that I use most often are:
    • The Oxford Dictionary of Music
    • Orchestral Percussion Technique (James Blades)
    • A Guide To Your Percussion Section (Vic Firth)
    • Dictionary of Percussion Terms (Morris Land and Larry Spivak)
    • Essential Dictionary of Orchestration (Dave Black and Tom Gerou)
  • Trade Journals, research journals, etc. See PAS under the web resources below.

Books (music)

  • Orchestral Repertoire series, compiled by Raynor Carroll, pub. Batterie Music
  • Portraits... series by Anthony Cirone. Available for snare drum, mallets, timpani, and multi-percussion

Web Resources

  • Percussive Arts Society. YOU MUST JOIN THE PAS YOU MUST JOIN THE PAS YOU MUST JOIN THE PAS YOU MUST JOIN THE PAS YOU MUST JOIN THE PAS. Did I get my point across? I connot overstate the influence of this group on my professional development. I would not have been able to to it if not for them. The wealth of knowledge contained on the website alone (research journals going back 50 years, and ongoing publication of Percussive Notes, and an open forum for students, teachers, and performers to discuss every aspect of percussion) is immesurable. The annual international and local coventions bring you face to face with the top players in the industry. JOIN THE PAS.

Some of my favorite pieces I've had the opportunity to play...

  • Beethoven, Egmont Overture and incedental music
  • Copland, Appalacian Spring (never liked it until I played it)
  • Copland, Lincoln Portrait (still don't really like to listen to it, but it's a blast to play!)
  • Elgar, Enigma Variations
  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Capriccio Espagnole
  • Bizet, Carmen suites (hate the music, but so many fun parts)
  • Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6, last movement (one note, tam-tam, pp, most intense, emotional note I've ever been asked to play)

some pieces I'd like to have the opportunity to play...

  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade
  • Ravel, Bolero (just to say I've done it)

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