Something a Bit Different for Percussionists
Sometimes, just 'playing the beat' is not enough.
Try to think of a song as a 'musical picture'. An artist paints a picture with many colours, and with many shades of the same colour. So it is with music. Your 'musical palette of colours' is the different sounds that you create. However, just as an artist knows when to stop, and what to leave out to make the picture complete, so we must do the same in our playing.
Try experimenting with the following ideas, which will enable you to increase the 'colours' in your 'musical palette'.
HINT: If you are in doubt of what to do or play,
be risky and leave space; play nothing. It will probably be the
best thing to do and sound the best for that part of the
Try experimenting with the following ideas, which will enable
you to increase the 'colours' in your 'musical palette'.
Use the following heading to access the information you need:
Try hitting the edge of the drum skin, near to the rim, for a
more 'open' (ringy) and higher-pitched sound, rich in harmonics
Hit the skin with a stick/your hand whilst pressing the skin with your other hand to vary the tension (and hence the pitch) of the drum. You can use this to produce a variety of 'pitch-change' or 'pitch-bending' effects.
When playing drums with natural skin heads e.g., congas, look for variations in the thickness of the head and see how many different tones you can produce from these areas.
Try playing the heads with different parts of your hand, or with your fingers, or different numbers of fingers to produce a variety of tones.
Vary your sticks and strokes. Use brushes, multi-rods or beaters. Use slaps, open, closed and bass notes. Mix the combination of sticks that you use, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand.
Move beats from the drums to the rims, to the head just inside the rim, or rim shots to produce a range of tonal colours. Try using these strokes in place of accents.
Add further interest by playing the drum shell, as well as the head.
Try varying your
sticks. Use brushes, multi-rods or
beaters. Risk using the pads and backs of your fingers for
'soft' and 'hard' sounds. Mix the combination of these in your
different hands, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand
or vice versa. BEWARE: Cymbals
(especially the smaller sizes) have SHARP edges ... to which the
scars on my hands bear testimony! So, BE CAREFUL especially when
playing multiple hits using your hands on the same
Use different types of stroke. Drag the stick tip, whilst holding the stick vertically, across the bow of the cymbal from the bell outwards to produce an eerie 'wailing' sound. HINT: Wooden tip sticks work best- try licking the tip before playing to increase the friction, and hence the sound.
Drag a brush across the bow of the cymbal for a 'swish' or 'sssinggg' sound.
Play the edge of the cymbal using a vertical drum stick, striking the actual edge (i.e., straight against the edge) rather than hitting the cymbal from above/below near the edge). This will produce a sustained bell like sound.
Try the 'old favourite' of beaters on the cymbals to produce a mellow crescendo sound. Experiment with changing volumes and 'choking' the cymbal to produce an instant silence.
Get really adventurous and try a violin bow across the edge of your cymbals.
One of the real joys of playing percussion is the
number of 'toys' you can use. These may vary from professionally
made instruments to things you've found in the garden or waste
Apply the rule 'Why should I play it like it was meant to be played?'.
The list is as endless as your creativity.
REMEMBER: If in doubt, leave space; play nothing.
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