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Tuesday Tips: Rhythm Changes by Oliver Molina

Mar 8, 2022, 09:03 AM by Rhythm Scene Staff

During my warm-up sessions, I go through a series of different techniques to make sure my muscles are ready to play and to avoid injury. Depending on the instrument, these techniques cover a wide range of exercises that take a good amount of time to play. I am constantly searching to streamline these activities for increased efficiency in the practice room. 

This month’s Tuesday Tip covers an easy warm-up exercise concept that I use regularly. Whether I am playing snare drum, marimba, or drum set, this exercise is a great tool that can be applied to many different percussion instruments and techniques.

I call this simple warm-up concept “rhythm changes” (not to be confused with the chord progression by George Gershwin). I am not exactly sure where I learned this from, but it is a great way to build technique from slow, methodical repetition to faster speeds without having to change your metronome setting every time. It focuses on hand motions and speed variations while working on accuracy through a pyramid of rhythms. To accomplish this, I set my metronome to a slow tempo, then go through a series of rhythms that gradually get faster through rhythmic density. 

Here is an example that I use to work on my snare drum rolls. This version of “chicken and a roll” goes from eighth notes to triplet eighth notes to sixteenth notes utilizing different motions and fulcrum pressure in a short amount of time. This is similar to the slow-fast-slow (open-close-open) way of playing the rudiments but in a more metered way at a set tempo.

Molina Example 1

Another way this concept can be applied is on the marimba. Below is an example of a single independent roll builder. You can also apply this same exercise to heel-toe (or palm-finger) technique on congas or in developing your tambourine shake rolls.

Molina Example 2

Finally, here is an example to work on drum set control when playing linear patterns or fills.

Molina Example 3

There are many other possibilities and variations for this concept. Once applied there is no need to start and stop the metronome to change the tempo. It probably only saves seconds each day, but over the course of time these seconds add up to increased efficiency in the practice room. There are, of course, metronomes or apps you can program to do tempo changes. However, those may prove to be cumbersome to program and are set to perform a certain number of repetitions before changing tempo. Incorporate these “rhythm changes” today to add a little variation to your warm-up routine. 

Oliver MolinaDr. Oliver Molina is an Associate Professor of Music and Assistant Director of Bands at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. As an active percussion performer, educator, arranger, adjudicator, and clinician, Dr. Molina has presented and performed at various state Day of Percussion events, PASIC, NCPP, Midwest, and other music conferences and festivals. He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Percussion Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Iowa under Dr. Dan Moore. Additionally, he is a founding member of the Omojo Percussion Duo and the Ninkasi Percussion Group. Dr. Molina serves as Chair for the PAS Education Committee and as Vice President of the Louisiana PAS Chapter. 

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