In essence, I wanted a taxonomy—a method of identifying species and categories of exercises based on shared characteristics—and not a practice routine. Ideally, this text would allow an astute percussionist to observe difficulties in repertoire and easily juxtapose species of similar exercises to buttress their learning.
I made my first version in 2015, and am just completing a new edition for 2018.
The organizational threads are the basic motions we undertake as percussionists.
Lamb's chapters correspond to techniques. I took these headings (genera) and reclassified them as types of motions. I broadened the scope of included species of exercises, drew upon more sources, and retooled the organization to be a little more weaponized, with the goal of addressing what I see as some of the most impactful developments to make to our percussion playing:
I. Mind, Torso, Shoulder, Arm, Wrist, Finger et. al.
Harnessing natural rebound by cooperating with a drumhead or playing surface. Our fingers, wrists, and arms can each independently strike percussion instruments. How does it sound when each group works alone? Developing sonic awareness while coordinating overlapping musculature.
II. Rebounds, Forwards and Backwards (Groups of Two)
To me, rebounds occur two ways. In the wild, their performance emphasizes the natural tendency of the 2nd stroke in a pair to be less strong. The hands are relaxed but the rhythm and dynamic of the two notes are uneven. The second, “domesticated,” format artificially enhances the 2nd stroke of a double to generate evenness in volume and rhythm when necessary. By balancing exertion against the drumhead’s powerful natural rebound, percussionists can harness their relaxation and play with directed laziness.
III. Rolls of all Shapes and Sizes (Three or More)
Sustained sound. Building on the symbiosis between our hands and the natural rebound of the drum, we search for a roll with the same sound color and malleability as our normal strokes, without substantial pressure into the head. Single, double, triple, and multiple bounce strokes are juxtaposed and density of roll varies independently of dynamic.
IV. Agréments, Accoutrements
The bountiful grace notes we use on the snare drum remind me of Baroque keyboard or string playing. Here, we develop rhythmic and dynamic control of grace notes through relaxation and constant motion.
V. Beginning to Begin: Etudes, Exercises Recapitulatifs
Playing with inflection and character: short etudes. Suave, timbrally diverse playing is essential.