[l56] Perc. Analysis (pt. 2)

Posted by leemcd56 on March 15, 2012, 1:56 a.m.

Analyzing On-field Percussion Arrangement

Part 2

Warning: This is a really long blog, and there is no TL;DR. A lot of time was put into writing this blog.


In the last blog, we went over the importance of the percussion section, and we analyzed setting up the percussion section on the field. In this blog, we will go over blending percussion and wind together, and other important things.

Any comments not pertaining to this blog will be removed. This is meant to be both informal and educational, and took quite a bit of time to write and revise – even if it's not the best it could be. So, please be respectful, guys.

The Percussion Ensemble:

Looking at pokemon_perc_ensemble.pdf, even if you can read music but can't read for percussion, you'll notice that in some ways the auxiliary percussion (Rack Combo A/B; RackA/C.B.) often echoes or supports what the drumline plays. From measures 28-30, you'll see arrhythmic placement of splash cymbal crashes to match rim shots on snares – this adds support to the snare's shots and makes it more exciting. Notice the cymbal line (Cymbals/Cym.L) is playing on the shots too?

Starting at letter B (measure 21), the snare line enters playing alternating paradiddles for one measure and switches to classic (1&a 2e&) singles, which later brings in the bassline to echo and tenors playing double stops on drums 3 and 4. The writing is not musical, and does not reflect the score, but take a look at measure 21: low brass plays 2 eighths, mellophones play a whole note, and swap between these two for a measure; the drumline plays paradiddles with an accent on the first partial, mimicking the staggered entrance. This repeats for about three measures, with the drumline sticking with this concept. Finally, both mellophones and low brass play half notes, and snares play triplet rolls, with an accent played on the start of each half note. To transition to a solo, we play RLr lRL RLr lRL and pass to the tenors, because the brass is playing at a loud dynamic with great articulation and the drumline needs to "hide in the shadows" for a moment. To keep the tension and transition into the next segment after brass releases, basses roll from first to fifth and play a complex polyrhythm; snares and tenors play an old school, commonly played lick. Now, here's where I got lazy: High brass is playing longtones and low brass is holding the melody. Instead of writing musically, I wrote long triplet rolls for the snare and quad line to play at 180. We reach letter D (measure 35) and encounter longtones at a louder dynamic (fortississimo). Screw that, we're going to use a decelerando. When brass and percussion release, we need to transition again to the next segment, so we play a little phat lick and end with singles on the rallentando, and a crush on count 1.

Without explaining every little detail of music, rhythms, and percussion terminology, there is no easier way to explain this. B-C, we used singles and triplets and placed accents to mimic brass music. C-D, we transitioned from silence to longtones by a short drumline fill, then lazily played through the first set of longtones. Then from D-E we played a decelerando with only the drumline, and then transitioned from silence and a new tempo with a drumbreak and rallentando.

Difference Between Lyrical and Rudimental-Favored Arrangements:

Below I have two videos with MP3s layered on top of the live performance recordings. The first is of the short drum break (written by Thom Hannum) towards the beginning of the 1993 Star of Indiana show. Note it's very unorthodox and structurally complex approach.

Next we have the opener to the 2004 Santa Clara Vanguard's show, which is lyrical, so to speak. Tons of polyrhythms, and plenty of dynamic changes which swap features between brass and percussion, and then mellos have a standing-out segment which tenors echo. This book was written by Jim Casella.

A Helpful Hint:

Percussion likes to play both a ton of rudimental music of their own, while backing what the brassline plays above it. When the music calls for rest, there's two options: Let the front ensemble play to fill in the silence, or let the whole percussion ensemble play. Music doesn't have to be complex or complicated, and doesn't have to be full of stick tricks, "beefed up" licks, or sick bass splits, to be great.

To be continued…