On January 15, 2008, Pro-Mark announced a partnership with the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps that would provide the Corps with a series of new and exciting products known as Promark System Blue. As of July 30th, those products are now available and ready for consumers to purchase. This series has started with the meat-n-potatoes products that will provide a good foundation to what hopefully will be an expanding lineup of products as time goes on.
Starting with a good overall feeling Marching Snare Drum Stick…albeit a beefy thick stick but with pretty good overall weight balance…and the signature Sean Vega TS8 Tenor Sticks, Pro-Mark has a solid start to equipping the marching percussion battery. The bulk of the offerings at this time are in the keyboard mallet lineup with the Diversity Series, eight different models featuring four Marimba mallet pairs on birch handles and four Vibraphone mallet pairs on rattan handles. This line is designed for outdoor as well as indoor playing and has a very nice feel and balance throughout the full lineup. The second keyboard mallet lineup is the Jim Wunderlich Signature Series that features five Marimba models on birch handles and four Vibraphone models on rattan handles. This series is also geared for the outdoor ensemble but can have a nice crossover use when played indoors for a drum line or concert venue. With a total of seventeen models of keyboard mallets, the Pro-Mark System Blue series now has a wider product offering than any other company for this style of mallet.
With the Blue Devils being at the top of this year’s DCI results so far, this is certainly a good time for this series to finally make its debut.
Mapex Quantum has taken many of the best features of other marching drum manufacturers and added their own touches that not only make logical sense but also sonic sense to an venue that is sometimes forgotten as a “musical ensemble”. Features such as combining woods within the Tenors and increased air vents and widths in the Bass Drum sizes are just a few examples of how Mapex Quantum is making an instant impact in an area that has been stagnate for many years.
Here is what Jim Hudson, Director of Athletic Bands at Arizona State has to say about Mapex Quantum… “We are very excited to be performing on Mapex Percussion. I absolutely love the sound and projection of the instruments, especially the tenors. Our first time in Sun Devil Stadium with those drums, I heard a clarity of tone that we did not have before. Even the top toms projected with tone. Not only are all of the instruments great, Chris Hankes and all the Jupiter/Mapex Staff are tremendous to work with. Their service is absolutely first class.”
Implement selection can separate your marching percussion ensemble from the rest of the pack. The right tenor mallet can completely change the blend and balance an ensemble. The list below give a quick rundown of some of the more popular mallets available. It is divided into the three broad categories of implements. The Tenor Sticks will provide your tenor line with an articulate sound that blends well with the snare line. The Tenor Mallets will give you a full sound that is great for multi-purpose playing scenarios. The last section of Tenor Felts will give your tenor players a warm sound that will blend well with low voices and lower volume scenarios. It is by no means a comprehensive break down or list; there are many mallets that are not featured here that provide fantastic results. The key to the right ensemble sound is experimentation and variety. Enjoy!
Maybe not the wheel, but they have gone wild on a familiar geometric shape. The newly released Meinl Liquid Triangle is a space aged adaptation on the trusty triangle. It combines a fairly stock solid steel triangle with a resonating dome filled with water. The sonic possibilities that this contraption creates are vast and limited only by your imagination.
When you play the triangle in a classical fashion it produces a familiar triangle sound with a slight downward pitch bend. The effects that i enjoy most out of the triangle happen when you alter the angle of the liquid chamber after you strike it. This creates a more drastic pitch bend that is reminiscent of a waterphone-like device. As i played with the liquid triangle I found it best to mount the triangle on a cymbal stand with a double triangle mount such as the Grover double triangle mount. This would also work with a Pearl Trio Holder or a Cannon Wind Gong adapter with fishing line added to the hooks. When you suspend the Liquid Triangle you can alter the pitch of the triangle at any rate you choose. The only down side of this is that you have to keep on striking the triangle if you want the pitch bend to happen over a long period. The constant ting of the triangle may get in the way of the full potential of the pitch bend. I imagine that bowing the triangle would allow the triangle to fully resonate over a long period of time while you manipulate the water chamber over a passage. This is a technique that I have not explored yet but I feel will be a winner.
As with any triangle, the playing zone drastically changes the timbres that are produced. If you play on the end of the triangle farthest from the water chamber you get a drier timber that is closest to a stock triangle. If you play the triangle at the end near the chamber you get a more distorted timbre that is uncharacteristic of a triangle. I experimented with a full set of Steve Weiss Triangle Beaters and was able to draw out a myriad of sounds and timbres that were unique unto themselves.
My ultimate question is……”what do you use this thing for?”. Brahms Symphony No. 4……Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1…. probably not. But I think the Liquid Triangle might be a solid stand in for a waterphone at a fraction of the waterphone’s $800 price tag. It may also be a good textural substitute for a flex-a-tone. Bottom line…I think the Liquid Triangle is a unique, stand out, un-paralleled sound in a percussion world that is saturated with special effects. This thing is flat out cool!
I recently had a chance to test run the BodyBeat Metronome as I taught the front ensemble of the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps. I was excited for the change of pace in time keeping gadgets. There were a couple of interesting things that I found out as I explored this new device.
The BodyBeat is equipped with an external vibe clip that transmits a mild pulse to any convenient area of the body. Before i got started using the BodyBeat I thought that the slight vibration would get lost in the sea of sensory response that is inherit with any musical activity. Surprisingly, the opposite proved to be true, I always felt the clear pulse while the rest of the ensemble was playing.
This observation started me on journey to find out why time would be so clear. I found research that proves that tactile information such as the Vibe Clip and Aural information supplied from a standard metronome are processed to the brain through separate neural pathways. This dual method of transmission allows you to focus your aural energy on the music being played and not the metronome. When i was using the beat I really felt a clear pulse that was not drowned out by the sound of the ensemble. This allowed me to supply better time for the ensemble to reference. In addition to clarity I found one hidden benefit of the BodyBeat; the lack of a steady, nagging metronome yipe that could be easily likened to an aural form of a torture tactic was a golden benefit.
As I was trying the BodyBeat out I came across a couple of features that I really think would put this product over the top. I would have loved to see some type of click wheel to make setting a tempo go much quicker. In addition to the wheel it would also be great to have a bank of preset programs to facilitate quicker direct tempo changes. I realize that these featured would put the BodyBeat into a different price range. However, i have grown attached to these features with other devices that I own..
Overall, I think that the BodyBeat Metronome has the potential to change the way individual musicians practice and think of metronomes. It was certainly a great change in pace for my teaching routine.
Over a month ahead of schedule, Pearl Percussion has delivered most of their New For 2008 products. Included are the Ultra Grip Tambourines with adjustable jingles, Brass Jingle and Steel Jingle versions which have adjustable “volume” controls for all sets of jingles. This allows the player to decide how much “jingle” they need for the tune being played.
In addition to all of the new Percussion items from Pearl, the Rock-N-Roll side of Pearl has also delivered the much anticipated Signature Snare Drum by Mike Mangini – a powerhouse of a drum with a Birch Shell and a popping 10×6.2 size! Round all this out with the already delivered new Forum Drumsets, Vision Series Drumsets and the full lineup of Taiko Drums, sticks and bags, and Pearl seems to be delivering ahead of schedule on their promises.
Pearl Drums has introduced a new line of drum sets that replace their long time drum set staple, the Export Series. The new Pearl Vision Series Drum Sets from Pearl kicks up the features and benefits that has made Pearl the best selling drum set in the beginner to intermediate price point for the past decade. Pearl has four levels of Vision Series drum sets, all of which feature something new and improved over the Export Series which started it’s life in 1982 and like the McDonalds hamburger, sold in the millions.
The Vision VX Series has six colors, three of which even have black hardware, and come complete with 5 drums and a full set of hardware (including 2 cymbal stands) all for under $750.00. The Vision VSX Series has six Ultra Exotic covering finishes…talk about some cool looks! The shells are the same in these two lines but the cool coverings may be worth the few extra bucks for the VSX. The third level is the Vision VBX Series which features a 100% all Birch shell and five awesome colors (of which the Concord Fade has Black hardware for a look that screams “I spent a ton of money on this kit” when you really didn’t). The highest level of Vision Series is the VMX 100% all Maple Shell kit. These kits are sold as shell packs and include no cymbal stands, snare stands, etc, so the player can add whatever hardware they want to turn the VMX line into the level drum set that is perfect for any style player. Five Lacquered finishes make this line a great value for the dollar spent.
It must have been a very tough decision for Pearl to discontinue the Export line, something that put them on the drum set map. But with Vision taking the place of the Export, Pearl seems to have managed to continue their tradition of giving drumming customers excellent quality products at a tremendous price.
Founded in 1883 by Friedrich Gretsch, an immigrant from Mannheim Germany, the Gretsch Drum Company is celebrating it’s 125th Anniversary in 2008 in a similar way they have celebrated their milestone anniversaries in the past – with specially designed and very limited edition products. Gretsch Guitars is featuring a special 125th Anniversary Chet Atkins Guitar which will have only 25 total pieces made worldwide!
Likewise, on the Gretsch Drum Set side, there are three very special and limited edition Drums Sets being manufactured in celebration of 125 years in business. Each of these drum sets is limited to 125 kits made and each is patterned after great Gretsch setups of the past. The Gretsch Rock Legend Drum Set has many of the same features found in the drum kits played by such greats as Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and is finished in the beautiful Nitrocellulose Millennium Maple Gloss Lacquer. Each of the five drums included in this Anniversary kit has all the details of times gone by, but with all the up-to-date features of a current spec drum set. The Gretsch Progressive Bop and Gretsch Progressive Jazz Drum Sets are each four piece configurations and are in the ultra sought after Cadillac Green Lacquer finish (the jazz kit including Gold Hardware). These kits were played by great drumming legends such as Max Roach and were a staple in most classic Jazz Clubs (such as Birdland) in the 50’s and 60’s.
A little time with a pad and sticks is time well spent. It’s relaxing and fun all at the same time. Recently, I was looking for a change of pace in the practice routine and decided to take a trip back to the basics by brushing up on my rudimental technique. Previous knowledge flowed back to me with ease as I played through the pages of “The All American Drummer” by Wilcoxon and “14 Modern Contest Solos” by Pratt. Solos from Charlie Wilcoxon, John Pratt and Mitch Markovich all felt great on my hands as I played for hours. Reviewing this material lead me to search out less-familiar titles and came across many old and new sources of material for all rudimental percussionists.
The “N.A.R.D Drum Solos” is a collection of solos contributed by members of the former National Association of Rudimental Drummers. The N.A.R.D is responsible for establishing the 26 essential rudiments for drumming in 1933. Many of the contributers of this collection went on to become familiar names within the drumming world.
The I.A.R.P collection of drum solos presents many new technical challenges to the rudimental vocabulary. The International Association of Rudimental Percussionists was formed in 1990 by David R. Vose. This collection of solos was submitted by the members of the I.A.R.P. Some of the members submitted stylistically traditional pieces while others composed with a more contemporary approach. There is something for everyone in the collection!
Two collections of modern solos became favorites around the pad in short time. “Violent Ice” and “Ziggadabuzz” provide a wealth of new material for the rudimental percussionist. Some of the biggest names in the drum corps and rudimental percussion world have contributed material to these collections. These contributors include: Neil Sylvia, Edward Freytag, J.J. Pipitone, Jeff Moore, Charlie Poole, Mike McIntosh, Jeff Queen, Nick Angelis and countless others.
The most interesting thing I found on my search for new material was a book by Joe Tompkins. “Nine French-American Rudimental Solos” combines the French and American styles of rudimental percussion. The new style came about after exploration of Guy Lefevre’s “Le Tambour- Technique Superieure”. The French use of syncopated accents within groupings and reliance on combinations of ternary rhythms creates and interesting juxtaposition when combined with the balance and solidity of American rudimental percussion.
Rudimental drumming is what you make of it. You can look at it as an unmusical form of percussion with limited purpose or you could look at it as a valuable tool in you’re bank of knowledge. It is a form of drumming that can be taken and molded into what you want it to be. The applications and benefits from this aspect of percussion are never ending and ultimately rewarding.
We’ve been receiving a lot of requests for drum sticks from fans of the new video game, Rock Band. There has also been a demand for the Gum Rubber Drum Pad Mod, using HQ Soundoff Pads or Vic Firth Drum Mutes. As a result, we’ve put together a package that offers silent playing with better rebound, and professional quality drum sticks to enhance game play.
One of our staff members who is a professional drummer and avid gamer selected the Zildjian Rock Black Drum Sticks for playing Rock or Heavy Metal songs in the game and the Zildjian Travis Barker White Drum Sticks for Pop or Alternative songs in the game. The difference in color allows for quick stick changes. The difference in weight, length and diameter offer an enhanced feel, optimized for the different genres of music.
As vtjustinb points out on the Rock Band Forum, the stock drum setup lacks realistic rebound and is incredible loud. The Innovative Percussion Practice Tips slip over the tip of your drum stick to make the stick hit quieter, and to enhance the stick rebound. Each package tips contains one pair each of the three sizes (thin, medium, and thick) so the player can choose the thickness that best suits their feel and sound needs. We’ve tested these tips with the game and feel that they greatly improve the feel of the pads to make them feel more realistic. No need to mod your system as previously described on the Rock Band forums.
When I started to put together a list of holiday music for the banner on the front page of our website, I thought it would be a fairly simple task. Looking back on it now, all I can say is “WOW”, was I completely wrong in that assumption. The list of holiday music is as diverse as the percussive world itself. Arrangements of classics holiday tunes are available for all types of instrumentations and grade levels. Arrangements by Chris Brooks, Lloyd Brooks and Murray Houllif will keep your beginning percussion ensembles content for the whole season. The great thing about many of these arrangements is the integration of non-pitched and pitched percussion sounds. Most of the arrangements take the classic melodies and intertwine them with great grooves and feels that most students will find fun and challenging. The thing that surprised me most was that the arrangements weren’t only for scholastic ensembles. There are many collections in the library that would be great for the working percussionist. Playing holiday solo gigs may be a way to generate extra work during the holiday season. Arrangements from Ludwig Albert, Zskowski, and Bruce Henczel would be great for this application. Most of the collections contain more than 10 holiday classics arranged for solo performance. To my surprise, I even found recordings of holiday music. The range of styles was truly impressive. You can listen to traditional xylophone recordings by Val Eddy, spicy Latin from Lalo Davila, and marimba choir arrangements from Ed Hartman. With the wide variety of music available, holiday percussion music can now fill your home when the family gathers for the season.