Block Chords are our Friends

marimbarollHow many times have you stepped up to the marimba to work on a passage and it seems like you have never seen the music before even though you spent hours practicing the day before? Well guess what? This happens to everyone including me. It is frustrating and makes you want to throw your mallets across the room. If this sounds familiar, I want you to start incorporating block chords into your practice routine.

If you think about it, we use block chords in our warm up routine (or at least you should be). Block chords allow us to warm up our big muscle groups and work on accuracy. So why do we only use them in warm ups? Here’s are some tips on how to use them on your next difficult marimba and/or vibraphone piece.

I have been working on Vignettes by James M. Stephenson for an upcoming recital with trumpeter Rob Frear. (BTW, this is a great piece if you are looking for some… [Continue Reading...]

Are We There Yet?

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Recently, as I was putting the finishing touches on the University of Texas Percussion Group Fall 2014 Concert I discovered a connection between the composers; all had recently won Pulitzers.

2014 – John Luther Adams
2013 – Caroline Shaw
2012 – Kevin Puts
2011 – Zhou Long
2010 – Jennifer Higdon
2009 – Steve Reich
2008 – David Lang

With the exception of Puts, I had works by JLA, Shaw, Long and Higdon all on the docket. That represents 4 out of 5 of the last Pulitzer Prize Winners in the music category. Most of us are more familiar with the works of Reich and Lang than the previous 5 names on the list, but it was, in the end ridiculously easy to make an entire program of works who’s genesis began with a prize winner. And, Puts for what it’s worth, has several very nice offerings for percussion as well. So, what does this mean?

I believe we are living in an important time for percussionists, especially for those who play… [Continue Reading...]

Musing on a Career Teaching Music in the Private Sector

Wahlund Photo (680x432)Today’s guest post is by return contributor Ben Wahlund. Ben is a percussionist, composer, and educator based in the Chicago area and earlier this year shared Of Drumming and Farming (his PASIC Manifesto) on DrumChattr. He returns today with a great article that I think most of us can appreciate and hopefully institute into our daily lives. If you have something you would like to contribute, please send it us and we will be glad to check it out.

Musing on a Career Teaching Music in the Private Sector
By Ben Wahlund – Black Dog Music Studio

These are ideas that I’ve compiled in no particular order while sitting in a comfortable chair at the end of a long day. I may change my mind tomorrow, but these are the thoughts at my fingertips now (BW – 11/12/13).

Your career is only that – a career. Life is much bigger than your career. Invest time and energy appropriately.

Band Directors hire you… [Continue Reading...]

Understanding the Problem at Hand.

Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the problem at hand. In our “neurotic” (obsessive) percussion culture we often concern ourselves too much with playing the geekiest, nerdiest, and most expensive gear. While this obsession isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and often is the most important thing) there are some instances, especially for younger players, where it can throw us off course.
As usual, I like to take things I learn in life and apply them to my teaching and playing. I recently got back to water skiing. And, as is often the case, I was reminded of something I learned way back in my skiing hay-day (too long ago) that applies to my profession today. You see, I learned to slalom ski (one ski) on mediocre to good equipment. After several years of experience I was invited to try a top of the line, very expensive ski. I got up, hit a cut as hard as normal and the next thing I knew I was eating serious water. I learned the hard way that… [Continue Reading...]

Flashback: It’s All About How You Spend Your Time

One final article. Have a great beginning to your year! (Originally posted on August 26, 2013).

For most of us in the college ranks, school has started or starts soon. I had orientation meetings on Friday as well as large ensemble audition placements with my students at CSULB. When I got home today, I received an email from the new Director of the Bob Cole Conservatory, Dr. Carolyn Bremer. She has been the chair of the Cole Conservatory for the past three years and was just elected Director over the summer. Below is the email she sent out (posted with her permission). Some of it is specific to to the BCCM, but a lot of it is applicable to music students everywhere. Have a great year and please add your thoughts below.

It’s All About How You Spend Your Time
By Dr. Carolyn Bremer

One of the most difficult aspects of life as a music major is managing your time. We put a lot of demands on you in ensembles, academics, lessons,… [Continue Reading...]

Flashback: Karl Paulnack Welcome Address

Here’s another article that I hope will help to inspire you as you begin the next school year. (Originally posted September 13, 2001).

Over the summer, I came across this speech that Dr. Karl Paulnack delivered to the parents of the incoming class at The Boston Conservatory. The speech is a thoughtful justification for studying music and the arts. If you have never read this speech, I would recommend that you sit down and take a couple of minutes to read through it. I hope it inspires you to forward the link to your students and make some comments below.

Check out Dr. Karl Paulnack’s website for more information about him and his studio at The Boston Conservatory.

Karl Paulnack Welcome Address
One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined… [Continue Reading...]

Time Management 101

Summer is almost over (Boo!) and this week, the Director of the Bob Cole Conservatory, Dr. Carolyn Bremer, wrote another great opening article for the department’s blog. Everyone should take some time and read this now!

Time Management 101
By Dr. Carolyn Bremer
August 2014

Opening speeches (notes) are meant to instill inspiration for the coming year but I can say quite honestly that inspiration is encountered every day at BCCM. Instead, this is about how to accomplish what you need to do, maintain your sanity, and reach your potential.

One of the most difficult aspects of life as a music major is managing your time. We put a lot of demands on you in ensembles, academics, lessons, classes outside of music, concert attendance, and learning from your peers. The theme of this missive is:

Time Management 101

You’re a Music Major. You have classes, you have to practice, you have rehearsals, you need to learn music for ensembles and for your lessons, you have theory and history and general ed homework, practice sight singing, practice for class… [Continue Reading...]

The Blue Devils win 2014 DCI World Championships

The Concord Blue Devils won their 16th DCI World Championship on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Blue Devils scored a 99.65 (the highest score ever in DCI) in their final performance. The Bluecoats (97.175) won 2nd place and The Cadets (96.875) placed 3rd. The Blue Devils had an amazing year, winning every competition leading up to finals. The Santa Clara Vanguard placed first in percussion for their final performance.

For complete results and recap analysis, check out DCI.org. Congratulations to The Blue Devils.

Were you there or did you watch it live? What were your favorite moments of the season? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the 2014 DCI season.

Here’s the Blue Devils show from Salem, VA on 07/29/2014.

Japan’s “New World”

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Attention all auditioning orchestral percussionists: audition for Japan’s “New World” Symphony; the Hyogo PAC Orchestra. I recently returned from a healthy week long visit to HPAC for the PAC Percussion! series of concerts on August 2nd and 3rd. Every year in August the orchestra organizes two concerts (the same) featuring the PAC percussion section with a guest artist. For more information about this years concerts click here.

As it turns out there is an inspirational story around the orchestras inception. According to HPAC’s site: “During the decade following the great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, the courage, persistence, and compassion of Hyogo’s local residents brought about a miraculous renewal of the devastated region.” In 2005 the orchestra opened as a symbol of cultural rebirth of the region. Since then it has seen it’s 4 millionth audience.

HPAC orchestra is a resident orchestra exclusively affiliated with Hyogo Performing Arts Center under artistic direction of Yutaka Sado. During a three-year term, 48 international core members… [Continue Reading...]

Top-end Style Bodhran Exercises

James Yoshizawa Drum Set DrumChattr

It has been a while since we have featured a video by James Yoshizawa. Today, James is here to introduce some Top-end style Bodhran Exercises. There are two ways to play the bodhran: 1) The Kerry Style (the most common way), which is played with a double-headed tipper (or stick) and 2) the West Limerick style (or Top-End style), which uses only one end of the tipper. The second style is the newer tradition and popular with beginners.

Download the exercises and check out the video. How many DrumChattrers play bodhran? Leave a comment below.