FRONT ENSEMBLE Handbook Thank you for your interest in STRYKE Percussion’s front ensemble! Our objective is to educate youth about music and to pursue a high level of musical performance. In the following pages you will find information that will prepare you for audition camps as well as throughout the winter season.
Audition Information Auditions can be busy and slow at first; please be patient. We will do our best to help you learn as much as possible. Likewise, in order for rehearsals to run smoothly, you’ll need to prepare all of the exercises with their variations and be able to play them in various tempos. Also, be open to change. Our approach is not the only one, just the one that works well for us. We are not attempting to change the way you play in your band or ensemble, but if you want to be part of this ensemble, you have to adapt to our technique and style of playing. Prepare a solo or an excerpt: We ask that you prepare a short section of a solo on your choice of instrument (marimba, vibraphone, percussion). Pick a solo that will demonstrate what you are capable of and hopefully not something that is beneath your abilities and yet obviously not something you can’t handle. It is in your best interest to play a solo that you have been working on or have worked on before. Know that we look for more than your ability in your solo, but also your performance as a mature musician. At the end of Auditions, each player will receive individual feedback from one of the techs and we will discuss how to better prepare you for upcoming/continuing Auditions. Practice sight-reading: Be prepared to sight-read. Throughout the season the front ensemble will be getting several exercises, etudes, and of course, show music including possible rewrites and edits to the show. In order for things to run smoothly and quickly you must have a good understanding of sight-reading. A good tip is to practice reading new music every day. Begin with easy music that you can read while playing at a slow to moderate tempo. Then change the level of music difficulty. Sightreading music is the same as reading a book out loud; the more you read the easier it becomes. Learn your key signatures: Know all 12 major and minor key signatures. This is a must for all musicians! This will make it easier to sight-read and more comfortable for you to play on your instrument. The best way to learn your key signature is to understand the circle of fourths and/or fifths. During the season we will further educate you with key signatures and scale modes. Practice with a metronome: A key element to successful rehearsing in the ensemble is the use of a metronome. In order for the ensemble to develop a consistent sense of time and rhythmic interpretation, every member of the ensemble must be familiar with this device. You should spend some time practicing without a metronome, but most of your time should be spent using one. Don’t teach yourself to play something the wrong way by not using a metronome. Also, use the metronome as a tool; do not use it as a crutch. An obvious sign of a good player is someone who can keep good timing with or without the metronome. Confidence is important: Other people may be better at reading or memorizing. Everyone has our strengths and weaknesses. Show us your strength and we will help with your weakness; this is part of the educational process we believe in. Try to stay relaxed, learn and more importantly, have fun. Please feel free to ask any questions.
Ensemble and Rehearsal Expectations Attendance and punctuality is crucial! Our ensembles rehearse nearly every weekend throughout the winter and spring. Any conflicts need to be worked out with the staff immediately. As a general rule, members are expected to arrive to rehearsals and performances thirty minutes prior to rehearsal call time. This will allow comfortable time to setup and stretch. Every effort must be made to maximize the amount of quality rehearsal time we have. As a result, the rehearsal environment must be completely free of inappropriate noise, talking or disruptive behavior including cell phones. Always come prepared and ready to learn every weekend. Furthermore, always have a three ring binder with plastic sleeves to hold this packet, exercises, etudes and show music. Our work ethic is absolutely vital to our success. Conduct: The front ensemble will be treated as a professional percussion ensemble. In turn, you will act as a professional would. In order to do so, every effort must be taken to ensure that all aspects (including maintenance of our instruments) present the highest level of musicianship and maturity. Any public performance, regardless of length or scope, will be approached with complete and total professionalism. As a front ensemble member you will be expected to be alert, focused and on task at all times; this includes but is not limited to - truck duty, warming up or show performance. Remember, someone is always watching. Assume that every impression is the first and most lasting. Equipment maintenance: The instruments are to be treated with the utmost excellent care at all times. Nothing is ever to be placed on top of the keyboards or instruments for any reason with the exception of mallets, sticks and of course the instrument covers. Instruments are to be covered at all times when they are not being played. Sticks, mallets and covers are never to be placed on the ground/floor. No one outside of the front ensemble membership is to play any front ensemble instrument at any time without the permission from the Director, an instructor or the front ensemble section leader. Every time an instrument is moved all screws and moving parts must be checked/tightened before and after it is moved. Parts and pieces can easily be lost if this isnâ€™t done. Truck duty: Loading and unloading the equipment truck is something that develops into a routine over the course of the season. Depending on the number of veterans in the group, this may or may not take a lot of time. Jobs will be assigned; speed and care will be crucially important in the care of the front ensemble instruments. Instruments must be loaded onto the truck attentively and carefully with consideration to the endurance of many hours of highway speeds on rough roads. The truck must be unloaded with efficiency and organization. All instruments are to be lined up neatly such that we look good even when nothing has been put together yet. This goes all the way down to folding instrument covers and stacking them neatly. Care for your health: At no time should anyone play while hurt without us knowing about it. If you suspect a physical problem due to your playing, you must inform us immediately. We will do whatever we can to assist you in your care. If not, please understand that we need to avoid creating any lasting injuries such as tendonitis. If you are in rehearsal, you are 100% - PERIOD! If you need to be out, thatâ€™s fine, just never rehearse if you arenâ€™t going to do so with 100% of your commitment in mind. Take care of the problem, and then get back in. Care for the group: There are many parts of this activity that go way beyond playing and marching. Far more important is how well you work with the group, how well you interact with others from different backgrounds, different ability levels, different ages and of course, different experience levels. We are all in this together and we all have to take care of each other no matter what. Part of your audition will include your capability to become part of the group and bring others into the group. Even though you are in competition with each other for spots in the ensemble, you should still help each other become great!
Stretching In order to play to our full potential with out hurting our muscles and/or joints, we must set time to stretch properly. In our profession, our wrists and hands are going to be overworked on a daily to weekly basis. To avoid symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis and/or Repetitive Stress Injury proper stretching for the hands, arms and shoulders can and will help. The following stretches were designed by Michelle Hill, OTR/L, a certified occupational therapist in Nashville, TN. Do these moves before and after your practice sessions but more importantly, before you pick up a stick or mallet and begin playing. You should never feel pain when doing these exercises, just a gentle stretch. 1. Shoulder and hand stretch: Lace your fingers together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward at chest level, keeping your shoulders back and down. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower your arms to your sides and repeat 5 times. Stretches the shoulders, forearms and fingers. 2. Overhead stretch: Lace your fingers together and turn your palms away from your body, then extend your arms overhead, allowing your elbows to bend slightly. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower your arms and repeat 5 times. Stretches the upper torso, shoulders and fingers. 3. Arm stretch: Hold your right arm straight out in front of you and bring it across your chest toward your left shoulder. With your left hand, grab behind your right elbow and stretch your arm across your chest. Hold for 10 seconds, lower your arms, and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 5 times. Stretches the back of the arms and shoulders. 4. Wrist warm-up: Sit with your arms at your sides and your elbows bent to 90 degrees. Without moving your upper arms, turn your hands so your palms face upward toward the ceiling, then downward, toward the floor. Repeat 5 times. Gently warms up the wrists and forearms. 5. Advanced wrist warm-up: Extend your arms in front of you, turn your hands so your palms face the ceiling, turning your elbows as far as they can go, then in the opposite direction, so that your palms are facing opposing walls. Stretches the wrists, elbows, forearms and shoulders. 6. Wrist stretch: Extend your right arm in front of you and bend your wrist back. With your left hand, reach across and grab the tips of your fingers on your right hand. Gently pull the fingers back toward your body. Hold for 10 seconds, lower your arms and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 5 times. Stretches the wrists, forearms and fingers. 7. Hand warm-up: Raise your arms to chest level, elbows slightly bent. Make a fist with both hands, and then extend your fingers, spreading them out and apart without strain. Gently warms up the hands and fingers.
Keyboards Posture: The way we stand is extremely important. Not only does it set us up for success as players, but it also shows a sense of maturity to the viewer or listener. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your torso should be upright; not hunching over the instrument. While you want a “big look” to your posture, make sure not to tense up your legs or shoulders. The space between your body and the instrument changes with any given phrase and/or exercise. You should generally try to stand where both manuals are easily reachable. You will have to shift your body weight forward, backward and sometimes even sideways. Usually you should stand with one foot slightly more forward than the other giving you better balance as you shift or lean while playing. Vibraphones: your right toe will be on the pedal. Your right foot heel will provide balance while your left foot moves behind the keyboard. Mallet placement: Whenever possible we try to play every note directly over the resonators and in the center of the bar. This again is something that has worked for us. We believe it creates the best tone and projects the most sound making it ideal for us in the indoor activity. However, we also know that playing in the center isn’t always possible. When situations come up when you can’t play in the center (this should only be for accidentals) then we can play on the edge. When striking a note on the edge, go all the way to the edge. The mallet should literally be half on and half off the bar. Use your ears and try to match the sound of the edge as close as you can to the sound of the center.
Two-Mallet Technique (NOTE: we will be using is the “rear fulcrum” grip) Grip: Mainly the back two fingers hold the mallet. With about 1 ½ - 2 inches sticking out from the back of the hand, warp your two rear fingers around the shaft of the mallet. Then lightly place the other three fingers on the shaft keeping the index finger slightly extended. The two rear fingers are there to hold onto the mallet, as the index and thumb are there to guide the mallet. There should never be any tension on the grip. To create the correct angle, stand with your arms relaxed to your sides. Then, lift them to the instrument. Your palms should never be flat palms down, but rather turned inward at a slight angle. The wrist and arms should always form a natural angle that puts no stress on the wrist joint. Stroke: The motion is initiated with the head of the mallet. Start at about ½ inch above the bar; lift the mallet head by using the wrist and then the forearm in one seamless motion. At the top of the stroke the mallet is brought down by the weight of the rear fingers in the back of the hand. As the mallet head comes down, the wrist turns to accelerate the mallet head into the bar. After contact with the bar, the looseness in the front of the hand allows the mallet to rebound. Even here, the mallet head lead is followed by the wrist and arm. At a normal moderate tempo, the stroke is 90% wrist motion and 10% arm motion. As the tempo increases, the stroke becomes more wrist oriented and the mallet height becomes lower to the bar. At a slower tempo, the stroke becomes more arms oriented and the mallet height becomes higher off the bar. Always rebound, even through the last note of an exercise. Rebound: Never do anything to inhibit the free rebounding of the mallet. Remember to allow the mallet to come back up after striking the bar. Adjust the speed of the rebound to the speed of the playing. Furthermore, never finish an exercise with your mallets down near the bar. Piston Stroke: This stroke will mainly be used for practice proposes to build wrist and muscle strength. The general idea is that you perform each stroke in a quick motion and end back where you started. This is all from the wrist. There is no preparation and lift; perform a stroke by performing a fast stroke straight down into the bar and bring the mallet right back to the same position. Be careful not to tighten the wrist with a quick, sharp motion, but still remain relaxed in nature.
Four Mallet Technique (NOTE: we will be using the standard Musser/Stevens grip) Grip: Open your palm and find your lifeline that curves around the base of the thumb. Place the tip of the mallet on the lifeline close to the center of your palm. Now make a hand shaking position with your hand and curve your fingers so they point to the left. Keep the mallet in contact with the lifeline and rotate the mallet so it rests on the 1st crease of your index finger. Let go of the mallet. It should balance itself on the index finger with the tip resting under the base of the thumb. Now take your thumb and simply rest it on top of your index finger, over the 1st crease where the mallet is. This creates the fulcrum. Now take your middle finger and bend it into the palm so it makes contact with the mallet tip. This keeps the mallet in constant contact with the palm. Keeping the inside mallet in place, bring another mallet over the top of your hand and place it in between your middle and ring fingers keeping about 3 inches of the mallet sticking out. Wrap your ring and pinky fingers around the shaft and take control of the outside mallet. Finally, slide the mallet up so that there is only about an inch sticking out of the pinky. Be sure at this point to make sure you have the correct wrist position. Your thumb should face the ceiling or sky at all times and you should be holding a comfortable interval like a 4th or 5th. At this point make sure to go back through the steps and make sure you are doing everything correctly. Stroke: Each stroke should be relaxed in nature. The wrist is the primary force for creating each stroke using the weight of the mallets yet allowing the mallets to rebound off the keyboard. The piston stroke, as discussed before in two mallet technique, is used with the four-mallet technique. The mallets start at an even height about 9" above the keys. The wrist is low to the keyboard and you bend from the wrist to create the height; do not rise from the elbows or shoulders. We will wait to discuss about a more legato stroke until after we have solidify a good execution and understanding of the piston stroke. In time we will add more arm into the stroke, but for now letâ€™s understand the stroke is completed with all wrist. Double Vertical Strokes: This is where both mallets in one hand play at the same time using a â€œwristâ€? motion. In order to check to see that you are turning your wrist correctly, you should see your wrist "pop" up as the mallets strike the bars. This wrist pop should not be exaggerated; it is a natural result of performing the stroke correctly with the wrist. The mallets should travel straight up and down without any side to side motion. Make sure to keep your fingers relaxed! Single Independent Strokes: We will primarily be using this stroke type for mallets 2 and 3 (the inside mallets). The set position will be the same as in the Double Vertical Strokes. The playing position will be achieved by rotating the "active" around the unused mallet (i.e. - mallet 3 will rotate around mallet 4). In order to develop independence, in this case with the inside mallets, it is important to keep the outer mallets as still as possible. The outer will be defined as being half the height of the playing position. In order to achieve this, do not use any tension! Relaxed fingers act as shock absorbers. Tension will cause the outer mallets to twitch vertically and/or horizontally. Make sure that you keep your index finger and thumb firm, but relaxed. This will help to keep control of the inside mallets. Single Alternating Strokes: This stroke type is related with the Single Independent Stroke but without concern for motion in the other mallet. The set position and playing position are the same as in the Double Vertical Stroke. As one mallet strikes the bar, the other mallet will raise slightly. Be sure to not simply rotate the wrist; instead, think of the pivot point as bouncing from one mallet to the next. This will allow us to control the articulation, rhythm and dynamic of each mallet. It is important to note that tempo is a major determining factor for when a Single Alternating Stroke turns into a one handed roll motion. As the tempo increases the ability to control each mallet will decrease until the motion is solely a rotation of the wrist.
Double Lateral Strokes: This particular stroke should not operate like the other 3 stroke types. The goal here is to produce two strokes in one hand motion. Again, the set position and playing position are the same as a Double Vertical Stroke. In the case of the outside Double Lateral Stroke, play as if you were going to perform a Single Independent Stroke (the outside mallet will strike the bar first) and then rotate your wrist counter clockwise to strike the bar with your inside mallet. The motion of your wrist should be similar to turning a doorknob. In order to achieve a consistent sound from mallet to mallet, you will need to use a lot of "torque" in your wrist. Also, be sure to keep your index finger and thumb firm, but relaxed! Always remember… Keep all fingers relaxed at all times, especially the index finger Do not curl in your index finger or bend your thumb Keep the hands low to the instrument Mallets stay above the instrument by turning the wrist back, not by raising the arms Don’t “teeter-totter”; when one mallet goes down, the other pops up Relaxed in grip and smooth in motion
Rhythm Section Drum Set: Be able to demonstrate the following grooves: rock, swing, funk, and latin (samba, bossa nova, mambo, etc.). Ensemble “AWARENESS” is the most important thing when auditioning for drum set in this ensemble. You must be able to follow the keyboards, hold steady time and show dynamic sensitivity. Be familiar with all of the keyboard exercises as most of them have drum set parts. The parts are a guideline but they should not draw too much attention. For those exercises that do not have parts, be able to apply any style or groove to the chart. Synthesizer (or Guitar): Be able to play all 12 major and natural minor scales. Prepare synthesizer part in the audition materials and do your best to learn the keyboard part on the others. Tempo control and timing is very important! Please prepare a short 1 - 2 minute etude that can showcase your range abilities. Bass Guitar: Be able to play all 12 major and natural minor scales. Prepare the bass parts in the audition materials and be prepared to outline a bass part in varying styles to the exercises without a written out bass part. Tempo control and timing is very important! Please prepare a short 1 - 2 minute etude that showcases your range abilities. Auxiliary Percussion: Also known as the “rack” position, this percussionist position is one that requires musicality as well as technique and playing ability. Percussionists should be familiar with symphonic techniques as well as marching techniques. It is suggested to look over the essential PAS 40 rudiments. We prefer that you audition on all that you feel comfortable with so that we may get an idea of what you can play. Further audition material will be handed out at later camps, if necessary.
Tips Spend time playing the exercises on vibraphone and xylophone: Less than half of our keyboard players will be on a marimba. Be able to play comfortably on all the keyboard instruments. Use the right kind of mallets: We use outdoor mallets, which are much heavier than most keyboard mallets. In order for your hands to be strong enough for audition and the season, you will need to practice with right kind of mallets. STRYKE mainly uses the Multi Application series by Vic Firth. Floor exercises: The main focus behind this is to develop your technique by eliminating the mentality of playing the right notes. This also helps developing more solid timing by eliminating the resonance of the keyboard instruments. This idea follows the current trend of making front ensembles “clean.” Not only rhythmically, but visually as well. Floor exercise is something that can be done often because it does not require an instrument. You can take any exercise (especially the 4 mallet exercises) and play them on the floor. It is suggested that you use a mirror. Tips on using the metronome to develop good timing: When practicing use more than one tempo, at first try changing the tempo by 10 - 15 clicks, then 6 - 7 clicks and 2 - 3 clicks thus increasing your sensitivity to time. By doing this you are teaching yourself to feel the difference between 100 and 102 instead of 100 and 110.....be creative! Set the metronome to a comfortable tempo and play your favorite exercise, then use the pulse/click not as the downbeat, but the upbeat. Maybe even using it representing a subdivision like the “a” or the “e” of a 16th note based exercise. Playing an 8th note based exercise with the triplet subdivision on is another possibility. Be sure to rehearse odd meters as well such as 7/8 or 5/8. You will find that the quarter note falls at the beginning of the measure every 2 bars. Teach yourself not to shy away from the metronome when facing odd meters. Recommended Resources: Four mallets Method of Movement by Leigh Stevens Simply Four by Gif Howarth Two mallets Modern School for Xylophone Marimba Vibraphone by Morris Goldenberg Drum set Groove Essentials by Tommy Igoe Other great books Up Front by Jim Casella and Jim Ancona The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey The Inner Game of Music by Tim Gallwey Website/ Links Vicfirth.com Steveweissmusic.com Gofishmusic.com Tapspace.com Sight reading game http://www.vicfirth.com/education/keyboard/speednotegame.html