Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Keyboard Percussion 5: Odds and Ends

There are a couple more keyboard* instruments that percussionists are occasionally called on to play. These aren't standard, but they're common enough that you need to be familiar with them.

First, crotales. (Cro-tall-ehs) Simply put, they're super-compact, small, pitched cymbals. Again, they're set up like a keyboard, and you usually play them with a hard plastic or phenolic mallet.

Seriously, though, you won't play these very often. But even as I type that I have to tell you that all of the orchestral sections I've played with in the last year have used crotales.

If you're a band director, and you're thinking about buying a set - borrow first! If you need them more than once per year, you might think about getting some. But until them, find a band director friend and do the borrow/trade thing.

Next up: celeste. Another instrument you won't play frequently, but you do need to be familiar. One classic example of a place you'll use them is in "The Nutcracker: Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy." We played this in college (seemingly) every year, and we had to drag the ol' celeste up from the percussion dungeon to get it done.

Here's a WikiPedia article about celeste that is very clear about the origins, mechanics and uses of celeste.

Again, before you buy this thing, make sure you really need one - or get a great deal!

There are many more pitched and/or keyboard percussion instruments, but they're either really similar to what we've already covered, or they're so rarely used that it's not really worth mentioning them here.

Happy percussion-ing!
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*It's worth mentioning that traditional keyboard instruments can fall into the realm of percussion, too. Like piano and harpsichord, although usually percussionists aren't asked to cover those parts. You should, however, do what you can to shore up your piano playing skills. Not only will it prepare you to cover some of these odd instruments, but there is also no better way to work on your sight reading skills than to play piano and learn some new music on a regular basis.

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