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  • R! Solo: Good ol’ Tension & Release. Performance by Ash Soan. Transcription by David Stanoch

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Mar 06, 2023

    Ash Soan is a prolific and in-demand studio and touring drummer who has a well-respected presence on social media. I originally came across this performance clip by Ash on his Twitter account in the Autumn of 2019, as I was interested in getting more familiar with his work ahead of his PASIC appearance in November of that year.

    This particular track really caught my ear because it seemed to me, stylistically, to be a good example of how to approach the Neo-Soul style of drumming that features what some call a “drunken” or “strung” (straight + swung combined) feel, where the eighth-note subdivision is sometimes neither perfectly straight nor a perfect shuffle rhythm, but rather is more elastic and flexible on the offbeat, “in the cracks,” between straight and swung.

    The main reason I think this performance is a good example for getting into that style of playing is that, while there is a slight bit of overlapping straight and swung feel (see bars 4 and 6), the bulk of the solo creates the illusion of that feel by more directly mixing between straight and swung eighth notes, which sets up a strong foundation for being able to then “bend” them stylistically.

    In Afro-Cuban rhythmic vocabulary, in particular, you’ll hear the same approach used regularly. To advance towards playing more “in the cracks,” think of how horn players in jazz play legato eighth notes, particularly at faster tempos, that nest between “straight eighth” and “shuffle” subdivisions and take that approach at a slower tempo. 

    This is a fun solo to play because the beats are more challenging than they might look to lay in the pocket as you hear Ash play them, and the piece is peppered with a variety of Ash’s interesting, unique fills and phrasing, which combine great feel, taste, and space with more chops than perhaps meets the eye. Take them apart slowly at first and work them up until they feel good!

    I worked with Ash directly to update the original video clip to include the notation of the transcription as well so you can see it as you watch and listen, all at once. Thank you, Ash!

    A couple of notation notes:

    The two-line staff is based on the same as my teachers, Elliot Fine and Marvin Dahlgren, introduced in their book, 4-Way Coordination. It was, at that time. an updated version of the innovative Swiss Basel one-line staff style of snare drum notation, in which the sticking is illustrated with the right-hand above the line and the left-hand below the line. Fine and Dahlgren added a second staff line below the hands for the feet on the drumset, with the right foot (typically playing bass drum) above the bottom line and the left foot (typically playing hi-hat) below it.

    The advantage is you can see the stickings, instead of having to write them out, as well as the foot patterns right inside the rhythm.

    The Key for the notation is found at the bottom of the transcription. Everything you’ll find there should be pretty standard except for the tom-tom notes, which are labeled 1 and 2. This is done simply to help you know which drum to play, as “1” refers to the rack tom and “2” refers to the floor tom.

    Work towards ultimately playing along with the clip to match up with the synth programming and complete the musical application aspect of the experience. You'll come away with some sweet new licks for your own vocabulary as well.

    For more Ash Soan, check out the PAS Playlist on Spotify, curated by Drum Set Committee member Christian Dorn:

    Watch the Video.

    Ash Soan Transcript Page 1

    Ash Soan Transription Page 2
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  • R!Solo: Deliver: ​for Speaking Percussion by John Lane

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Dec 17, 2022

    Repertoire for speaking percussion is an emerging artform in Western music, dating back only about 50 years. Vinko Globokar’s “Toucher” (1973) is among the earliest pieces in the genre. However, the art of storytelling is an ancient artform that spans many cultures. Speaking percussion repertoire allows us to explore the human connection of telling stories — of using texts to literally say something. Text combined with music then makes it possible to engage with subjects/issues and explore a wide range of emotions.

    “Deliver” is a speaking percussion satire about online shopping, internet culture, and social media. The texts were made by using Google’s autocomplete function. The piece is ironic and silly, but should be performed earnestly. The performer is free to determine the “delivery” of the lines (pun intended), but should adhere to the expressive directions in the score.

    Percussion is a natural complement to text setting, as it is capable of a range of expressive and illustrative possibilities. In this case, the selection of instruments is meant to elicit a connection to the subject. The instruments/sticks used include: one cardboard box with a bass drum pedal mounted inside (an apple box works best, as its bottom is solid; you simply set the bass pedal inside the open box, which is opened toward you); one pizza box (taped to the top of the cardboard box); two tuned desk bells (I used an A-sharp and an F-sharp, but any two pitches will work); one suspended cymbal; and one pair of wire brushes (the type that has a metal ring at the end, used to scrape the cymbal at a key moment in the piece).


    Deliver Notation Guide

    I recommend practicing speaking the text first, getting your expression and inflections solidified, then putting it together with the music. It is not acting, per se, but it should sound less like you are reading and more like you are telling us a story, as we all do normally in our everyday life. Simply tapping into your natural ability to tell stories will be enough to be effective.

    The brush playing at the beginning is standard jazz brush playing. The indications to “swirl brushes” are simply to make large circular motions with the brushes. To crescendo, simply speed up the motion. Bells should be played with the hands (and should sound like a doorbell).

    Deliver Score 1
    Deliver Score 2

    Deliver: for speaking percussion by John Lane from Percussive Arts Society on Vimeo.

    If you like performing this piece, I encourage you to explore more works featuring spoken texts! Bonnie Whiting has put together a list of speaking percussion works on her website (, which is a good starting place for research. 

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    John LaneJohn Lane is an artist whose creative work and collaborations extend through percussion to poetry, spoken word, and theater, often bridging music performance with socio-political advocacy. As a performer, he has appeared on stages throughout the Americas, Australia, and Japan. John, along with percussionist Allen Otte, created an ongoing social justice advocacy project, The Innocents, which has toured throughout the U.S. including performances and workshops at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, the Innocence Network Conference, numerous universities and public schools, and is now the subject of a feature-length documentary of the same name by Wojciech Lorenc. John has released two albums: The Landscape Scrolls (Starkland Records) and Trigger: Artists Respond to Gun Violence (Albany Records). John is Director of Percussion Studies and Professor of Percussion at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.

  • R!Solo: Heraldic Moments for Timpani by Jeff Calissi

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Oct 15, 2022

    Beginning in the 15th century timpani were employed to capture an audience’s attention. Whether for an announcement, event, or concert, paired with brass instruments in a fanfare or in an orchestral setting as a solo, the combination of rhythm and pitch at the heart of the instruments have been a useful tool for composers throughout music history. Incorporated in this solo are excerpted portions of the following pieces that are well known for using the timpani as a vehicle for heraldic moments in the music:

    • “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss
    • Symphony No. 9 (mvmt. II) by Ludwig van Beethoven
    • “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland
    • “Bugler’s Dream” by Leo Arnaud
    • “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” by John Williams
    • “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah by George Frideric Handel

    The performer is encouraged to study recordings of the above works, observe the approach in which the timpani parts are orchestrated and performed, and apply as much of that traditional heraldic characteristic as possible into the performance of this solo.

    Heraldic Moments

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    Jeff CalissiDr. Jeff Calissi
    is an associate professor of music at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he directs the Eastern Percussion Studio, teaches courses in music theory, ear-training, and sight-singing, and performs in the faculty percussion duo Confluence. He has performed and presented at the conferences of the College Music Society, the Percussive Arts Society, the Eastern Trombone Workshop, the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference, the National Conference on Percussion Pedagogy, and at the Center for Mallet Percussion Research. His compositions and arrangements are available from C. Alan Publications and Garden State Publications, and his writings and research can be found in Percussive Notes and Rhythm! Scene. Jeff received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree from Radford University and both Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda national music honor society. For more information, visit

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