Renegades play “Pan in A Minor”

Panorama, the National Steel Drum Festival in Trinidad and Tobago, is in full swing. The panorama groups have been preparing for the competition which happens every year on the Saturday before Lent. The groups are made up of 100 performers. For full coverage of the 2011 Panorama Festival, visit Pan on the Net’s website.

One of my all time favorite tunes from Panorama is Lord Kitchener’s Pan in A Minor. This award winning 1987 performance is by the Renegades Steel Drum Orchestra directed by Jit Samaroo. The Renegades, and Jit’s arrangements, are know for there tight engine room (rhythm section) and use of unison hits throughout the arrangement.

Is this the first Panorama video you have ever watched? What is your favorite Panorama tune or arranger? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 21, 2011 by Dave Gerhart.

2011 NAMM Report Part #1

Yesterday, I attended the 2011 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in Anaheim, CA. It was good to catch up with friends and see some of the new products in the percussion world. While I didn’t get to see everything on the show floor, there are a couple of products I would like to review for our community.

In my opinion, the biggest percussion release at NAMM was Zildjian’s Gen16’s, the AE (Acoustic Electric) Cymbal. While hanging out in the Yamaha booth, I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Brechtlein perform on the Gen16s. According to the Yamaha reps, this was the first live performance of these cymbals. As you will see in this photo, the cymbal design has been maintained, but there are hunders of wholes in the cymbal which allow the cymbal to be much softer than a “traditional” cymbal. According to, “Unlike most existing electronic percussion systems, the AE Cymbal is not a sample trigger device. Instead, it’s an actual cymbal, and plays like one, but at reduced volume levels, utilizing a unique dual microphone and DSP engine to amplify and model the cymbal’s output.” At first, I thought the cymbal was triggering an electronic sound. But after visiting the Zildjian booth, I found out that there is a dual microphone system under the bell of the cymbal, located in the black area above the blue light. These cymbals are a great addition to the electronic world of percussion and can also be used for quiet practicing. While at the Zildjian booth, I was able to try the cymbals. They are very responsive and feel like “real cymbals” as apposed to the rubber pads on most electronic drum sets. I am looking forward to seeing how these cymbals are adopted in the percussion community. Check out Zildjian’s Gen16 website for more information.

While not new at the NAMM show, I was able to check out Remo’s Tablatone. According to, “The Tablatone Frame Drum utilizes “loaded head” technology found in the Tabla drums of India. Skyndeep® drumheads, Acousticon® drum shells, and the unique Tablatone Dot deliver warm and focused fundamental tones and crisp edge tones.” They have two models of the Tablatone: Red Radial (pictured) and Fish Skin. I preferred the fish skin because of the dark tone of the drum head. This unique frame drum will be a welcome addition to the line of Remo frame drums.

Along with these instruments, there were other new releases from Toca, Vic Firth, Alesis, and Roland. Toca introduced the Jingle Side Kick, a 6″ tunable-head tambourine with a mounting bracket. Vic Firth introduced new signature drum sticks, including the new Peter Erskine Big Band Stick, the M36 Stefon Harris vibraphone mallet and more. For a complete listing, visit Vic Firth’s website. Alesis and Roland introduced new electronic drum kits and percussion controllers.

And finally, at the Drum Workshop booth, I was able to see Neil Peart’s new drum set. Check out the photos below. The drum kit included straight cymbal stands, a MalletKat controller, a Roland V-Drum Kit and painted cymbals. This drum set will be featured on the upcoming Rush tour. It was the center of attention and one of the most talked about items at NAMM.

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The NAMM show is always an experience. It is a trade show and is not open to the general public, although it seems like most people do not have trouble getting into the show. The show is a sensory overload and it is almost impossible to visit every booth. Did anyone else attend NAMM? What were your thoughts and impressions? What was your favorite new percussion product? Leave your comments below.

Originally posted on on January 14, 2011 by Dave Gerhart.

Four-Stroke Ruffs: The Magic Recipe

By: John W. Parks IV, D.M.A.
The Florida State University

Many players are intimidated by the ubiquitous four-stroke ruff, especially by soft ones (Kije, Festive Overture). Of course, loud four-stroke ruffs can be a challenge as well (third movement of Shostakovich 10)! Where do you place them? How do you place them when the conductor is making a huge expressive gesture with a downbeat the ensemble seems to “slide” into (last four bars of Scheherazade III, for example)? (more…)

Guiding Principle #4: From Macro to Micro – Part II

Guiding Principle #4: From Macro to Micro – Part II
By Thomas Burritt

Holy Macro – Part I discussed the idea that a single, large scale perspective, can direct and define a set of smaller instructions that aid in the achievement of a task. The defined task involved learning the marimba solo “Velocities” by Joseph Schwantner. The large scale perspective instructed us to begin the learning process with from the Macro (beginning with composer background and formal understanding) and work down to the Micro (learning of individual notes and phrases).

For today’s post we will begin with Macro Instruction #1: Composer Context. I can’t overestimate the importance of this step! It is clear, after hearing many performances of Velocities, (and not just by students) that performers often fail at communicating the contrast of 2 important qualities of Schwantner’s music:

1: Articulation/Timbre
2: Resonant Structures

A simple trip to the iTunes store allows the listening to a wide variety of Schwantner’s
work. It won’t take long to realize the importance of timbre and articulation. I particularly enjoy, for example, how Schwantner incorportates piano and harp with crotales, triangles, and glockenspiel. These orchestrational organizations help define his compositional qualities.

In Velocities, Schwantner is exceptionally clear in regards to articulation, using terms like: brutale, marcatissimo, legatissimo, etc. In fact, I often wish more composers would be so clear! What does this mean for us the performer? A multi-tonal mallet, with a synthetic core for example, would allow the performer to realize differing articulations. An important feature of my playing, for example, is relaxing the grip for legato articulations and squeezing the grip for marcato articulations. A rubber core mallet for example, while very articulate, basically only creates one kind of attack at all dynamic levels. A multi-tonal mallet can often provide a more legato attack at softer dynamic levels. In the very least, understanding Schwantner’s work can help us choose the right mallet.

As percusssive and articulate as Schwantner’s music can be it also features resonant and fluid qualities. The second movement, as a whole, of his Percussion Concerto is a great example of this style. I particularly like his treatment of the almglocken and the overall emotional qualities of this music. Given Velocities “moto perpetuo” qualities creating fluid and resonant sounds at appropriate times is critical in a successful interpretation. There are no rests in this piece! This is where many interpreters of this music fail, because they simply don’t know or are unable to create fluid, non percussive sounds when appropriate. 9 minutes of the same rhythm and articulation does not capture what is important in this music.

Schwantner’s general musical style, along with clear indications in the score, demand the performer come up with a plan on how to create less percussive and more resonant sounds. While this is a deep subject the performer can, as mentioned above, choose a multi-tonal mallet that can offer both “brighter” and “darker” sounds. In addition, in more lyrical sections, phrasing efforts must focus on shifting the attention away from single notes to groupings of notes. Achieving this successfully cannot be described in ANY blog post. Sorry! However, it begins with selecting a mallet that has a variety of tones to it (in this case as non articulate as possible) and concludes with a successful phrasing approach that connects larger groupings of notes together.

When considering this information it is easy to conclude that the marimba is a perfect solo instrument for Schwantner’s compositional style. The marimba, by nature, is highly articulate but also naturally resonant. In conclusion, an appropriate interpretation of Velocities should exaggerate and highlight the differences of these two spectres. Check back later for Part III which will deal with our next Macro Instruction: Formal Analysis.

Communicating and executing clear differences in articulation is actually quite difficult for percussionists. In your own playing and teaching, how do you deal with the issues brought up in this post? The development of our pedagogy may depend on your reply!

Want more information? Many of these ideas were a main focus in my DMA final document.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 9, 2011 by Thomas Burritt.


The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – No Derivs 2.0 by William Murphy on

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