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

Feb 10, 2020, 12:33 PM by Hillary Henry

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.

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