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  • R!Solo: Almost a Chaconne for snare drum by Brian Graiser

    by Hillary Henry | Feb 10, 2020

    A “chaconne” is a musical form originating in the dance suites of the Baroque Period. It is typically in triple meter and revolves around a short musical idea that is repeated over and over, each time undergoing some sort of variation. This snare drum etude breaks too many rules to really be a chaconne (if you would like to hear an actual chaconne, I highly recommend listening to the fifth movement of J.S. Bach’s “Partita for Violin No. 2,” considered by many to be one of the greatest pieces of music ever written), but the idea is essentially the same: to present a musical idea (the first eight measures) over and over, each time using different compositional and performance techniques to add some new twist.

    When writing “Almost a Chaconne,” I wanted to stay away from the world of drumline and rudimental drumming and focus instead on the techniques that are found in orchestral and contemporary music. Therefore, all of the “rudiments” in this etude should be performed orchestrally: all rolls and drags should be closed and (to an appropriate degree) buzzy, not open or “diddled.” Players should take care that any of the nontraditional sounds are consistent and distinct, providing the most thoughtfully-curated collection of sounds possible. 

    As with any orchestral snare drum excerpt, the stickings are completely up to the performer. In some instances, I have added my own suggestions, but they are in no way required. The best sticking option is the one that will give you the best chance to play the music with good tone, accuracy, and consistency. 

    I had a lot of fun writing this piece, and I hope you enjoy taking on the challenge! Here are a few other things to keep in mind as you approach this solo:

    • The material in mm. 9–16 is a recurring fragment that is not directly a part of the primary repeating musical idea; it should be played with as much contrast to the surrounding material as possible.

    • The single-handed buzzes in mm. 18–25 should not be crushed, but rather last as long as possible (preferably until the following note) while maintaining a consistency of sound. 

    • The rolls in mm. 26–33 are marked staccato because they need to have separation between them (which must not affect tempo maintenance), not because they should be crushed. By contrast, the rolls in mm. 34–41 doconnect into their release notes.

    • The left hand’s “Latin clicks” starting in m. 51 should be full but not accented; these are not rimshots.

    • The stick hits starting in m. 68 should be as distinct as possible from the “Latin clicks.” Explore where you should hit the left stick and which part of the right stick is making contact.

    • The section from mm. 85–92 is particularly tricky and will require a good deal of thought as to what sticking will allow you to play the three-stroke ruffs in time and with a good sound (this passage owes more than a little of its existence to the notoriously difficult snare drum solo at the very beginning of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé”suite for orchestra).

    Almosta Chaconne Page 1

    Almost a Chaconne Page 2

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    Brian GraiserDr. Brian Graiseris Adjunct Instructor of Percussion at Sam Houston State University. As an active performer, composer, and researcher, his musical exploits are highly diverse, although he is best known for his work pertaining to the vibraphone, such as his “Concerto No. 1 [‘Lulu’] for Four-Octave Vibraphone” (the world’s first concerto for the extended-range instrument), his service as Executive Director of Vibraphone Project Inc., and numerous commissioning and research projects. He regularly performs as a soloist and with his wife Alaina as the REFLECT harp+percussion duo. Dr. Graiser earned his Bachelor of Music degrees in Music Composition and Music Performance at the University of Georgia, his Master of Music degree in Music Performance at the University of Toronto, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Performance with a Composition Cognate at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He currently serves on the PAS Composition Committee and his compositions are available through Keyboard Percussion Publications, Alfonce Production, Strikeclef Publishing, and self-publication.

  • R!Solo: Office Job for Solo Multi-Percussion by Matthew Richmond

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Dec 01, 2019

    “Office Job” was inspired by fidgeting at my desk, wondering what instrumentation I should choose for the new multi-percussion piece I needed to write for PAS. The usual types of setups weren’t interesting me, and I was searching for something unusual. As so many of us percussionists do, I started tapping absentmindedly with my pen; before long I was excitedly trying out everything within arm’s reach to see what sounds I could combine. The stapler was good, but when I remembered the childhood buzzing-ruler sound I knew I had a piece.

    Here are a few pointers for playing “Office Job”:

    • Right-handed players should hold the ruler on the desk with their left hand and have a pen or pencil in their right hand. The left hand moves the ruler to change pitch and the right hand does everything else.

    • These are obviously non-standard instruments, so every person who plays this piece will have a slightly different sonic palette. Experiment! Take the importance of tone as seriously as you would on any other instrument. You may be surprised at how much variety is available. For example, I found that small changes in pressure with my left hand would change the tone of the ruler dramatically.

    • While there are no definite pitches in this piece, the ruler is pseudo-melodic, and the pitches of the coffee cup and water bottle interact with the ruler and each other. Find pitches that sound good to you (adding liquid to the cup and bottle can help), and try to be as consistent as possible with the placement of the ruler.

    • Dynamics are a challenge! Do the best you can but remember that you can only get so much expressive range with a stapler. You can make up for some of the shortfall by having lots of contrast on the instruments that are more capable of change. But this is by nature an intimate, close-up piece, so subtlety of dynamics is just fine.

    Office Job

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    Matthew RichmondMatthew Richmond is a percussionist, composer, recording artist, and educator in Asheville, North Carolina. He teaches percussion, composition, and other subjects at the UNC Asheville and is the principal percussionist of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. He contributed vibraphone and percussion to Infinity Plus One by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, which won the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album. He has also performed and/or recorded with Jonathan Scales, Lizz Wright, Jeff Sipe, Free Planet Radio, Billy Jonas, Kevin Spears, Kat Williams, and many others. Matthew loves musical theater, and he has played or music directed more than 70 productions from Amélie to Zombie Prom. He has also composed and directed music for dance and drama performances by Asheville Ballet, Norte Marr, TheaterUNCA, Black Swan Theatre, and The Road Company, and created the score for the feature film Flight of the Cardinal (Gaston Pictures).
  • R!Solo: Right or Left? for Solo Timpani by Nicholaus Meyers

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Oct 01, 2019

    “Right or Left” is an intermediate-level timpani solo written as an exploration of figures leading with both the right and left hands. When performing this solo, be sure to follow the sticking patterns given. Where a specific sticking is not indicated, simply maintain the idea of the patterns presented up to that point. All sticking indications are based on a French timpani setup (lowest drum to the player’s left); if using a German setup (lowest drum to the player’s right), simply reverse the stickings indicated. When performing other solo works or timpani parts in ensembles, the sticking concepts presented in this solo will hopefully be something you can apply to that music. 

    Right or Left

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    Nick MeyersDr. Nicholaus Meyers
    is Director of Bands and Percussion at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He is an active composer, conductor, and performer, giving clinics and masterclasses throughout the United States. Additionally, he is the Chair of the PAS Composition Committee and past President of the North Dakota PAS Chapter. 

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