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Band Teacher's Corner: Resources

Band Teacher's Corner: Resources


Mallets from Beginner to Advanced

For beginners at mallets, all the way up to those getting ready for University Auditions,  Morris Goldenburg sets out a very logical way to learn in his "Modern School for Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone" book.  This is a MUST HAVE for teachers as the studies begin in C Major, which de-mystifies learning the way the instrument functions.

The Standard of Excellence books are fantastic for Snare Drum method, but lack in the mallets method side of things. Often beginning in Bb or similar "band" keys, it misses the mark of helping new mallet students understand their instrument and beginning theory.


Beginner Snare Drum

For Snare Drum "Standard of Excellence" Red book has everything a teacher could want.  It has step by step instructions on how to play the instruments, and on the last two pages outlines the 40 Essential Rudiments. It's only drawback: It is very slowly structured and gets boring when students follow along with the band.  They will need to read ahead to learn new skills and apply them to the songs that the rest of the band is learning.

The advantage of the "Standard of Excellence" books is that they combine snare drum and mallets in one book, and also have a tympani/auxiliary book at each level, helping to create a well-rounded percussionist. Another advantage is that the Snare Drum/Mallet books have the 40 Essential Rudiments (Snare Drum) as well as a map of the xylophone and where the notes appear on the staff.

The disadvantage: Like most band method books out there, the majority of the mallet exercizes are in Bb, Eb, Ab and beyone. There is little in the key of C to help new mallet players understand their instrument and "buy in" to how easy it can be.



Alfred's Drum Method -  Book 1-  is a way of incorporating solo snare drum playing to all levels of knowledge and rudimental learning. Earlier studies have some easier rhythms and rudimental solos, while later solos explore dotted rhythms mixed with rudiments.

The Podemsky book is another standard book with progressive solos from beginner to advanced.

Intermediate Snare Drum

One of the biggest errors is assuming that intermediate percussionists actually understand how to read and interpret the music that is in front of them. Ensuring they have a good base through rudiment study, sight reading, band repetoire and solo pieces is an important step to their success. Testing them on rudiments based on the Royal Conservatory of Music guidelines is also a great way to check in!  The rudiments are found on the last few pages of the Standard of Excellence books (drums and mallets). I prefer the PAS

An excellent intermediate and advanced book to use for snare drum solos is the NARD (National Association of Rudimental Drummers) Solo for Snare drum. It's tricky, though, as you must choose carefully. They are not organized by difficulty. Some easier intermediate solos would be "Tom 'Persons'" and "V.C.A.", but there are 150 solos of varying lengths in this book to choose from.



How Band Method Books Can Stunt Mallet Players

Imagine picking up anything brand new, and without understanding how it works, trying to make sense of it.  Band method books are incredible for getting basics into the hands of many and keeping the sanity of teachers, but some method books are better than others for percussion.  

The key to keeping them on mallets is to make sure they really understand the relationship of each bar to the next (semi-tones and tones), helping them see the physical similarities of seconds, thirds, fourths etc. on the staff and how they look and feel on the keyboard.  My most successful clinics are learning to master reading for mallets, because often the relationship of the staff to the instrument is lost completely with the addition of accidentals too early in their understanding of the keyboard. 

What a good method book needs for well rounded percussionists is beginning in the key of C for mallets, and introducing rudiments for snare drum.  From my experience, the Standard of Excellence red book has a good balance of what is necessary in early development for snare drum.  The illustrations explaining technique, a full listing of the 40 essential rudiments, and a guide to staff to keyboard placement are fantastic. The snare drum side introduces rudiments one by one and tries to implement them into the exercizes.  The keyboard side has too much going on with accidentals too soon, but the pace of earlier books is quite good compared with other band method books.

The only downfall for this method book is how slowly the snare drum pieces progress, especially once there is an understanding of how to properly play those rudiments.  Because the book's small pieces tend to be 8 to 16 measures in length, later exercizes can be used as a suitable substitute (music allowing) to keep the hands moving forward and the interest alive.

The Essential Elements 2000 has a good range of techniques for snare drum, and also has a listing of the 40 rudiments. The mallet section does not provide an opportunity to learn in the key of C. The snare pieces are more interesting, but the mallet pieces are too advanced too soon, which will turn many new mallet players off.

The solution?  Trying to find something they can learn in their key. Using a book like Goldenberg's Modern School for Xylophone to supplement their band music will exponentially increase their understanding of the instrument right off the hop. They may not be able to play along with the band right away, but they will be miles ahead when they CAN read and understand the material and instrument in front of them!


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