Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beyond the Kit: Percussion Ensemble

The percussion ensemble, also known as percussion orchestra, is rapidly becoming a major player in the modern chamber music arena. The ensemble can be made up of anything you can hit, er....strike. Any struck instrument is technically considered percussion, so it's fair game. From traditional instruments to trash cans, boat propellors, car doors, flower pots, whatever.

A standard ensemble line up would include marimbas (4), vibraphones (2), xylophone, bells or glockenspiel, battery percussion (bass drum, snare drum and cymbals), timpani, chimes and a variety of auxiliary percussion such as triangles, shakers, tambourines and more.

The first percussion ensemble experience most of us get is in junior high or middle school, and - I'm not gonna lie - it's usually pretty bad. It's probably one of what we call "drummy drummy" ensembles where a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds bang on snare drums, bass drum, wood block and cymbals. Most of those pieces aren't very musical, and they aren't very fun.

Fortunately, percussion ensemble literature has exploded in recent years. Probably the greatest advancement in percussion's public perception (also known ppp, or piannississimo) is the realization that percussion isn't just banging and crashing. It's also capable of breathtakingly beautiful melody and harmony, sensitive dynamic expression and exquisite mystery, just to name a few.

Check out some of my favorite places to pick up percussion music. (Did I miss some? Let me know!)

Drop 6 Percussion

Tapspace

Bachovich Music Publications

Row-Loff

KT Percussion

And, just for fun:

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Drummer's Weight Room: Tap Timing Exercise

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