Concert Audition Etudes Updates

It’s almost that time again: time to hold auditions to sort percussionists into their concert ensemble for next year!

For the last several years I’ve been using Concert Percussion etudes I’ve composed as the audition material (I’ve posted about that before here). This year I’ve given them and overhaul to make them an even better assessment tool.

Here’s what they look like after the update:

First, there are four separate etudes: Snare, Mallets, Timpani, and Auxiliary Percussion.

The following skillsets are evaluated by each etude:

Snare: repeating and alternating full strokes, dynamic contrast, repeating and alternating accent-tap differentiation, buzz rolls, flams, flam taps, flam accents, paradiddles, sixteenth timing patterns, and triplet interpretation.

Mallet: double stops, full stroke technique, arpeggios, major scales, chromatic scales, rolls, double stop rolls, sixteenth timing patterns, triplet interpretation, dynamic contrast, and has an optional four-mallet section. The mallet etude may be played on standard size marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and (most) glockenspiels.

Timpani: full stroke technique, sixteenth timing, dynamic contrast, roll technique, dampening, accent tap differentiation, movement around the drums, forte-piano crescendo rolls, and tuning. The timpani etude does require four standard size timpani (but I have plans to create a version that requires only two drums).

Percussion: This etude is written so that one player can play all of the following instruments in one pass. It also gives the the chance to practice – and you the chance to evaluate – how they change from one instrument to another in performance.

The following instruments are used:

  • Hand Cymbals: crashes, dampening
  • Suspended Cymbal: rolls
  • Tambourine: general playing and rolls
  • Triangle: general playing, muted playing, rolls, dampening
  • Bass Drum: general playing and dampening

Some of the BEST features of the etudes include:

  • They are SHORT. Just 45 seconds per etude to evaluate ALL of the techniques listed above. Realistically, you can complete each student’s audition in just 5 minutes.
  • All the etudes fit together to create a percussion ENSEMBLE etude. Meaning you can conceivably rehearse them in class with kids playing snare, mallets, timpani, and auxiliary percussion AT THE SAME TIME! Then after a rep or two have the kids swap which part they are playing. Repeat as necessary.
  • They are FREE! Download them and use them in your program. Enjoy!

BYHERNDON – CONCERT AUDITION ETUDE NO .1

 

 

2019 Recap

Great and Small, my solo keyboard work with optional audio accompaniment, was named an Editor’s Choice by Music Distributor J.W. Pepper.

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Several schools included my works on their programs for the Lassiter Percussion Symposium: Alpharetta High School performed Begin Transmission and Cambridge High School and Jackson High School both programmed Song Without Words.

I had the opportunity and pleasure to arrange percussion and/or electronics for: West Forsyth High School, Wilmington High School, Greater Atlanta Christian Academy, and East Jackson High School.

Two of my new percussion ensembles were published through Tapspace: Sic Semper DraconisWater Music.

MacCallum High School included my arrangement of Gustav Holst’s Song Without Words on their Midwest program marking the third time in four years that I’ve had the honor of having my music performed there.

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Snare Start-Up: What To Do Before You Start

Snare Start-Up: What To Do Before You Start

The following is part of a series of posts relating to starting students on snare and mallets.

The first day with instruments is a very exciting day for young students! They have all this stuff, they’re about to play music with their friends…THEY HAVE ALL THIS STUFF! But, that excitement can easily turn into chaos if there is not a clear plan that follows a logical path outlined by the teacher.

After helping with many Start-Up clinics over the last 12 years, here are some of my (and my wife’s) thoughts on the process to help as you start your student’s off right on snare drum.

Before the Start-Up Day

Before the start up day the students need an understanding of pulse, meter, and musical notation.

Pulse: They should understand that music happens in time with a steady beat known as the pulse. They should tap their foot in time with the steady beat (played by a metronome). Then they should clap their hands while tapping their foot in time with the steady beat. Then they should say the number “1” while they clap their hands and tap their foot in time with the steady beat. (This is laying the groundwork for the process of tapping, counting, and clapping rhythms which is a great practice to get in the habit of doing.) After they have done that for a while ask them, “How many beats do you think we have clapped and counted?” Of course no one will know. But it makes a nice transition to introducing meter.

Meter and Measures: Meter is when you group collections of pulses together so that you may more easily keep track of them. Have the student’s tap, clap, and count “1 – 2, 1 -2”. Have them do this for four groups. Ask the students if anyone knows how many beats went by. Someone may know the answer! If not, do it again but prompt them to keep track of how many times they count to two. Tell them that we’re going to refer to these groups of beats as measures. Repeat this process for three letting them know that now there are three beats in our measures. Then do the same thing for four.

Musical Notation: Illustrate how the music you’ve been performing may be written down with notation. Draw a staff and explain this is where we write music. Draw four quarter notes and explain that these symbols represent the rhythm that we have been clapping. Since they have already heard the term measures, draw bar lines and explain to them that these section the music off into measures.

Armed with that information the students should be ready to take on the Snare Start-Up!

 

 

 

‘Great and Small’ in Percussive Notes

GREATANDSMALLGreat and Small is a programmatic work comprised of two delightful movements for solo keyboard percussion with optional audio accompaniment. These vignettes depict the powerful beasts Leviathan and Behemoth when they were still young, whimsical, and childlike. Deemed ‘’medium-easy” by the publisher, it is appropriate for older middle school or younger high school students and works well as their first solo piece.

As an educator, I found several benefits to studying this work with students. The length is ideal for younger percussionists, as each movement in the set is approximately two minutes. Neither movement requires four-mallet technique or similar advanced concepts, and the programmatic nature encourages conversation about character interpretation and expression. The entire piece is written using sixteenth notes as the smallest subdivision, exploring syncopated rhythms and interplay between the hands. This is especially noticeable in the second movement, “Budding Behemoth,” with many of these figures beginning on the left hand with a large leap. The first movement, “Little Leviathan,” includes phrase markings in the right hand to highlight the melody, something difficult to find in compositions for this ability level. Perhaps my favorite musical concept is the detailed use of dynamic contrast. Developing this at a young age is vital, and I am pleased to see an appropriate amount throughout both movements.
From a logistical point of view, the flexibility of Great and Small is wonderful for many public school situations. Herndon has composed the work so that any movement can be performed on a vibraphone, xylophone, or 4-octave marimba. While he recommends vibraphone for the first movement and marimba for the second movement, the option encourages students to take their own liberties bands on the equipment they have available. Furthermore, even through the audio accompaniment greatly enhances the piece, it is not necessary for performance. This allows for students to still gain from the work even if they are unable to meet the technological requirements, Very well priced, this composition is worth adding to your repertoire for younger students.

–Danielle Moreau
Percussive Notes
Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2019

‘Guac Is Extra’ in Percussive Notes

Guac Is Extra“Guac is Extra” serves as a fun way to introduce students to the instruments and style of salsa music. John Herndon does a fantastic job of making the style accessible to younger players, as each uses two drums and an accessory instrument. The performance notes indicate the drums to be played with swizzle sticks; however, more advanced players are encouraged to use their hands for the congas and bongos.

The piece begins with a brief introduction and then layers the different instrument entrances as the groove is built. Once all the players have entered, the bongo, conga, and timbale players take solos. Although solos are written out for each player, there is room for players to embellish the solos or even create their own. Although not indicated in the score, it would not be difficult to extend the solos for the players, if needed. The middle section is made up of straight eighth notes with the players accenting certain notes to create a fun melody around the ensemble. The piece ends with a return to the original grooveand a brief coda. 

This piece will help students to not only learn the style, but also work on ensemble sensitivity, listening, and groove. The piece will make an excellent addition to the repertoire for younger groups. With all the guac and salsa they will be playing, the only thing missing would be a side of chips!

—Josh Armstrong
Percussive Notes
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2019

Audition Etudes

An important part of helping your students grow as musicians is knowing where they currently stand. Holding Class Placement Auditions can help you get a handle on exactly that. By evaluating student’s performance of the same etudes you should be able to group them into those displaying basic, intermediate, and advanced skills.

These Audition Etudes focus on three primary areas of percussion: Concert Percussion, Marimba, and Timpani.

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The Concert Percussion Audition Etude provides an opportunity to evaluate students performing on a variety of commonly used percussion instruments: Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Tambourine, Hand Cymbals, Concert Bass Drum, and Snare Drum.

This Marimba Audition Etude  samples a variety of skill sets: basic four mallet technique, performing arpeggios, diatonic and chromatic scales.

The students should be evaluated on how they tune the instruments before they perform the Timpani Audition Etude .

Feel free to download and use to help audition your percussionists!