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  • Five Question Friday: Avis Veikley (Minot State University)

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jan 24, 2020

    Avis VeikleyAvis Veikley is a native North Dakotan and earned her undergraduate degree in Music Education and Art from Minot State University, where she now teaches. She holds a Master of Music degree from Northern Illinois University. After completing her undergraduate degree, Avis taught public school music and art for a couple of years, then worked for 23.7 years as a graphic artist. In 2002, she came back to MSU to teach percussion part time and thoroughly enjoyed working with university students. That’s when she decided to complete her master’s degree. From 2006 to 2018, she was employed full time at MSU as director of the Northwest Art Center and Adjunct Percussion Instructor in the Music Division. Now semi-retired, she continues to teach in the Music Division.

    Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what other career could you see yourself having pursued?

    Avis Veikley:Well, I wasn’t, for a lot of years, but I did continue to play percussion, and that is what ultimately led me back to teaching. I have worked as a newspaper reporter, public school music teacher, graphic artist, art gallery director, and church musician.

    R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?

    AV: One thing I am proud of in the community of Minot, North Dakota is its support of, and participation in, the arts. The city is home to a symphony orchestra, community wind band, brass band, opera company, male chorus, women’s chorus, mixed vocal chorale, ballet studio, community theater troupe, and at least three art galleries — and I’m sure I’ve missed some things. Even when I was not directly employed in music, there were many, many community ensembles in my city in which I could continue to make music.

    R!S: What's one thing most people don’t know about you?

    AV: In my secret life I am a painter. I am very visible and noticeable when playing timpani in the Minot Symphony Orchestra, or manning a bass drum in the pep band at a football game. My paintings reflect a quieter palette. I paint landscapes and people, in oils.

    R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?

    AV: Asking someone to pick their favorite percussion instrument is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. Unfair question. There are a bazillion percussion instruments, and every single one of them is fun to play.

    R!S: Where did you grow up and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?

    AV: I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. We raised wheat, barley, cows, cats, and chickens, in that order of importance. Growing up on a farm puts you in touch with tools and makes you good with your hands. I think I eventually got into music because when my sister and I were little kids, we would sing Sunday School songs for our grandpa, and he would pay us a quarter. I am also a recovering trumpet player. My best friend from high school started me playing percussion, and since I couldn’t quite cut it in college on trumpet, I switched to percussion and never looked back.

  • What I Wish Had Known Earlier, Part 8: Suspended Cymbal by Alex Fragiskatos

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jan 24, 2020

    As discussed in my previous article, in early music education, “weaker” percussionists often get placed on cymbal parts. This breeds the idea that cymbals are easy to play and may perpetuate the notion that these parts are less important. To the contrary, cymbals are a beautiful color instrument in percussion, a highly exposed instrument in the section, and serve to enhance any ensemble if played properly. To truly get the best sound possible, careful thought must be given to a variety of elements. In this article we will take a look at the suspended cymbal.

    Our first consideration needs to be equipment. There are as many opinions on cymbal selection as there are styles (German, Viennese, French, etc.) and sizes. While the art of cymbal selection is beyond the scope of this article, it does merit a brief discussion. Important cymbals to avoid using, unless otherwise asked for by the composer, are hi-hat cymbals, ride cymbals, and splash cymbals. Hi-hat cymbals are on the small side and, along with ride cymbals, are too thick to get a characteristic suspended cymbal sound. Splash cymbals are too small and too thin. Cymbals are quite expensive, and sometimes schools do not own specific cymbals marketed as “suspended cymbals.” Drum set crash cymbals can be suitable alternatives. Generally, these should be on the larger side (16–20 inches) for the best sound. 

    Cymbals should be mounted on either a straight cymbal stand or gooseneck stand. The latter is used to hang a cymbal that has a strap (like a handheld crash cymbal). It is also the preferred way to suspend a cymbal, as it is least restrictive; the cymbal can freely vibrate when not tightened to a stand. If mounted on a cymbal stand, make sure there is a plastic sleeve and felts above and below the cymbal to avoid metal-on-metal contact and buzzing. Do not tighten the wingnut too much, as this can choke the cymbal and cut off its natural resonance.

    Cymbal Stands

    Many types of implements can be used to strike the cymbal, the most common of which is a soft mallet. Sometimes composers may ask for a timpani mallet when they are thinking of a softer mallet; however, a timpani mallet is generally too light; when rolling or crashing, too much of the core will be heard. Ideally, a heavy yarn mallet should be used, as this will disguise the individual strokes when rolling and avoid an abrasive attack when crashing. If a composer asks specifically for a drumstick to achieve a more percussive attack, generally, a thicker drumstick is best for this.

    There are two main types of sounds on the suspended cymbal: crash and roll. Especially for a crash, “warm up” the cymbal by lightly tapping on the cymbal either with the mallet or your finger to activate its natural vibration. Strike near the edge of the cymbal, not too close to the center. Let the weight of the heavy yarn mallet do most of the work. A slow, even, and relaxed stroke will bring out the best sound. If a drumstick is called for, turn the stick around or use the shoulder of the stick. The stick tip should only be used if instructed since it is more characteristic of a drum set ride cymbal sound. Strike the cymbal on the top, but near the edge. Unlike in drum set playing in which the stick comes at an angle, the concert crash should be struck with a stick that is more parallel with the cymbal.


    For suspended cymbal rolls, mallets should be spread out, but across from each other, to activate the most resonant sound. Strokes should be relaxed and even to get the best sounding sustain. Softer dynamics require a slower roll speed, while louder dynamics require a faster roll speed. This is especially important for crescendos as the roll speed should gradually increase. In general, suspended cymbal roll crescendos sound best when the crescendo is delayed and grows more quickly at the end. It is important to use your ears, as you do not want the cymbal to wash out the ensemble by rolling too loudly too early.


    A final consideration is dampening. Pay attention to the marked duration of the note, and if there is a let ring/vibrate marking (a small tie to nothing or l.v.). To dampen, simply clasp the cymbal with one or both hands. When the cymbal must be dampened quickly, keep the shaft of the stick from hitting the cymbal and making extraneous noise. Sometimes composers and/or arrangers do not accurately notate note duration or how long the cymbal should ring. Always use your ears to listen to the ensemble to see what makes most sense. Context will provide all the clues you need to make an educated decision.

    Dr. Alexandros FragiskatosDr. Alexandros Fragiskatos is Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music at Missouri Valley College. A proponent of contemporary music, he has commissioned, premiered, and performed new works across the U.S. and Europe. Alex also plays percussion and drum set for musical theatre, as well as steel pan, having directed the Arizona State University Pan Devils Steel Band while earning his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in percussion. For more information about Alex, visit

  • RBI MUSIC: Toca Wins Award at Summer NAMM for the Second Year in a Row

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jan 22, 2020

    At the 2019 Summer NAMM Show Toca won the coveted Editor’s Choice award for its new stands and mounts. Toca further expanded the brand’s hardware options in 2019 with the launch of two new stands and three new mounts that address longstanding setup challenges. They include:

    • Cajon Stand. Its heavy-duty, black powder-coated mounting system securely grips nearly any sized cajon with dense closed-foam cushioned arms that protect the tone wood and enhance its resonance. A gear-tooth tilter offers a wide sweep of angles and works in tandem with the height-adjustable stand to position.
    • Stand-Mountable Percussion Tray – Small. Easily attached to the vertical tubes of most percussion stands, this all-purpose tray keeps handheld instruments within close reach. Drum set players will also find it equally useful as a handy drumstick and drink holder when mounted from a hi-hat or crash cymbal stand.
    • Accessory Mounts. Ideal for adding just about any mountable percussion accessory to a rig, these mounts feature a sturdy frame with adjustable knurled chrome rods to suspend a wide range of instruments and can be unfolded to increase the number of available attachments.
    • Chime and Guiro Mounts. Contoured and black powder-coated, these two heavy-duty mounts clamp their respective instruments firmly while visually disappearing into a busy setup. Attached to percussion stands with tube diameters ranging from 3/8 to 1 1/8-inch, their robust design will withstand spirited performances while requiring only a minimal amount of setup space.
    • Universal Tambourine/Frame Drum Mount. This ultra-compact mount makes it easier than ever to place a frame drum or tambourine within easy reach of a drumstick, mallet, or hand slap. Featuring rubberized retaining pegs that prevent scratches or damage to the instrument, its high-strength right-angle clamp enables precise positioning, and makes minimal contact with the shell to ensure unrestricted resonance.

    For more about these products visit

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