Stunning Castanet Concerto

I often wish I could play castanets without mounting them on handles or in a castanet machine? If anyone else thought the same, be sure to check out today’s video featuring Lucero Tena (Castanets) on the Voices for Peace Concert (2007) in Madrid.

After watching this video, I think I will stick to my Epstein mounted castanets.

What other concertos have been written for accessory instruments? What is your favorite castanet piece or excerpt? Let us know. Leave a comment below.

Originally posted on on February 15, 2011.

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…)

Rob Slack’s Introduction to Cymbals

Yesterday, we interviewed Rob Slack, principal percussionist of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. In today’s post, I wanted to spotlight his “Introduction to Cymbals” video from YouTube. This is from a DVD entitled “Introduction to Concert Percussion.” For more information on Rob or to purchase his DVD, please visit his website.

How do you get a good sound on cymbals? What techniques can you share with the DrumChattr community? Leave your feedback in the comments.

Originally posted on on December 14, 2010.

Why I Hate Mickey Mouse

By Adam Groh

If there is one percussion-related thing that I could rid the world of it would definitely be the confused individuals who think holding crash cymbals up like Mickey Mouse ears actually does anything. Honestly, who is out there passing off this lunacy as a real technique? Look, I’m all for holding the small instruments up so that they can be seen by the audience. I will even agree that when you show someone a triangle or finger cymbal they are more likely to hear it (not because it’s louder, just because they see it). However, I have yet to encounter a reputable percussionist advocating any crash cymbal technique that even vaguely resembles a Disney cartoon character. (more…)

The Responsibilities of a Professional Principal Percussionist

By Bill Cahn

Bill Cahn has been a member of the NEXUS percussion group since 1971, and was principal percussionist in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 1968 to 1995. Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Bill has performed with conductors, composers, ensembles, and artists representing diverse musical styles – Chet Atkins, John Cage, Aaron Copland, Chuck Mangione, Mitch Miller, Seiji Ozawa, Steve Reich, Doc Severensen, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, and Paul Winter. He has conducted programs with symphony orchestras, and his compositions for solo percussion, percussion ensemble and percussion with orchestra/band are widely performed. His fourth book, “Creative Music Making,” on freeform improvisation was published by Routledge Books in 2005.

The Responsibilities of a Professional Principal Percussionist

A symphony orchestra, or for that matter any large organization comprised of many different people, is a complex and frequently difficult-to-understand entity. Seventy to one-hundred highly educated professionals – all having unique backgrounds in the study of their particular musical instruments; many having different nationalities of origin; all having differing amounts of experiences as well as differing views on what constitutes “beautiful music” – are brought together for one common purpose, the performance of music. The fact that great music-making can occur at all in this environment of so many differences is truly amazing, and yet it happens regularly in orchestras all over the world. In this respect – the bringing together of many people having wide differences for the purpose of cooperating to make great music – the symphony orchestra is perhaps one of the highest achievements of human civilization and at its best, it is worthy of imitation in every other field of human endeavor. (more…)

Bringing Orchestral Excerpts out of the Practice Room

This evening I will be performing Debussy’s “La Mer” with the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra. Over the course of preparing this work, I have learned a great deal about performing an orchestral standard versus just learning the excerpt in the practice room. I have known and prepared the “La Mer” excerpts many times, but over the last two weeks have had the great fortune to prepare and play it with a live ensemble. To a seasoned professional, these points may seem like common sense, but to a student it was a very interesting and educational experience. (more…)

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