How to Write for Percussion

A Comprehensive Guide to Percussion Composition

While composers and percussionists are working more closely than ever with one another, there are few resources that address this collaborative relationship in depth. However, Samuel Z. Solomon, himself a percussionist and teacher, offers a comprehensive examination of the issues that percussionists and composers encounter in How to Write for Percussion. Les mer
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While composers and percussionists are working more closely than ever with one another, there are few resources that address this collaborative relationship in depth. However, Samuel Z. Solomon, himself a percussionist and teacher, offers a comprehensive examination of the issues that percussionists and composers encounter in How to Write for Percussion. The first edition, self-published in 2004, provided musicians and music programs the world over with
practical and indispensible information about issues of notation, concert production, and much more. This new edition goes even further as Solomon offers more insights derived from his personal experience as a percussionist and teacher and from his collaborations with other musicians.
The second edition of How to Write for Percussion expands the survey of behind-the-scenes processes-from instrument choice and notation to logistics, execution, and concert production-to uncover all the tools a composer needs to comfortably create innovative and skilled percussion composition. Solomon also includes more excerpts and performances as well as interviews with famous percussionists and composers that capture the intricacies of percussion composition. Moreover, the second
edition features an expanded text with more instruments and more analysis, plus an extensive Online Video Companion containing over nine hours of videos with demonstrations, performances, interviews, and analysis to flesh out and clarify the material in the book. This updated edition of How to Write for
Percussion will appeal to a wide swath of musicians including composers, arrangers, and percussionists. Those who have already utilized the first edition will welcome the upgrade, and those who have yet to benefit from Solomon's perspective will likewise find his insights illuminating.



Table of Contents

How This Book is Organized
Instruments Covered
Working with Percussionists
Location Specifics
The Value of Not Reading This Book

1. General Framework
A Dysfunctional Family
Comparison of Family Relationships

The Problem of Pitch
The Pitches of Percussion
The Validations and Limitations of Novelty
Three Methods for Indeterminately Pitch Instruments

The Written/Improv Divide
Expanding the Color Palette (to Shrink the Setup)
The Value of Improvised and Non-Notated Music

Social Composition
Write for People, Not Sounds
Write What is Wanted, Not What To Do
Working with Percussionists

2. General Logistics
Instrument Choice and Management
Six Stories, Three Sad and Three Happy
Why Use Fewer Instruments?
How to Consolidate
Inexpensive Instruments
Exotic Instruments
Electronic Percussion
Multiple Options for a Specified Instrument
Instruments Percussionists May Not Play
Multiple Percussionists
Section Setup
Wind Ensemble
Broadway Pit
Drum Corps and Marching Bands
Non-Percussionists Playing Percussion
Chairs and Stands
Issues of Playability
Excessive Polyphony
How Fast Percussionists Can Play
Unidiomatic Writing-Music that Often Requires Memorization
Reaching Instruments
Instruments with Pedals
Physical Exertion and Shaking
Working with Headphones or Headset Microphones

3. General Notation
Basics of Percussion Parts and Scores
Instrument List
Instrument Key
Setup Diagram
Percussion in the Conductor's Score
Designing a Notational System
Mixing Determinately and Indeterminately Pitched Instruments
Key Signatures
What Goes Where on the Staff
The Chicken or the Egg?
Unspecified Instruments (Indeterminate Instrumentation)
How Much to Notate
Systems of Notation for Which There is No Standard
Return to a "Normal" Method of Playing
Note Length, Articulation, and Phrasing
Note Length Chart
Exact or Inexact Note-Length Indications
Muting (Muffling, Dampening)
Dead Stroke
Damper Pedals
Notations that are Not Recommended
Symbol Notation
Altered Keyboard Notation (Timbre-Staff)

4. Beaters
To Indicate or Not to Indicate?
Beater Lingo
Logistical Beater Issues
Triangle Beaters, Knitting Needles
Chime Hammers
Superball Mallet
Beaters as Instruments

5. Keyboard Percussion
Ranges and Construction
Writing for Keyboard Percussion
Stacked Instruments
Multiple Players
Extended Techniques

6. Drums
Sticks on Drums
Mallets on Drums
Hands on Drums
Playing on the Rim or Shell
Beating Spot
Pitch Bending
Drum Size
Two-Headed Drums
Multiple Drums in Setups
Idiomatic Writing for Drums
Snare Drum, Field Drum, Tenor Drum
Concert Bass Drum, Pedal Bass Drum
Bongos, Congas
Frame Drums
Djembe, Doumbek

7. Metal
Finger Cymbals
Cowbells, Almglocken
Temple Bowls, Mixing Bowls
Brake Drums, Metal Pipes, Anvils, Bell Plates
Junk Metal, Tin Cans, Pots and Pans
Ribbon Crasher
Spring Coil
Church Bells
Hand Bells
Steel Drums
Metal Wind Chimes, Mark Tree, Bell Tree
Extended Techniques

8. Wood
Woodblocks, Templeblocks, Log Drum
Wooden Planks
Wood Drums, Wooden Boxes, Cajon, Mahler Hammer
Bamboo Wind Chimes

9. Miscellaneous Instruments
Conch Shell
Crystal Glasses
Maracas, Shakers
Rice Bowls, Flower Pots
Sandpaper Blocks
String Drum, Cuica
Stones, Prayer Stones
Thumb Piano
Wind Chimes
Wind Machine

Appendix A. Repertoire Analysis
Percussion Ensemble
Edgard Varese, Ionisation (1929-31)
John Cage, Constructions (1939-1942)
Iannis Xenakis, Persephassa (1969)
Steve Reich, Drumming (1970-71)
Steve Mackey, It is Time (2010)
John Luther Adams, Inuksuit (2009)
Ryan Streber, Cold Pastoral (2004)
Nico Muhly, Ta & Clap (2004)
Adam Silverman, Naked and On Fire (2011)
Paul Lansky, Travel Diary (2007)
Bela Bartok
Sergei Prokofiev
Maurice Ravel
Gustav Mahler
Dmitri Shostakovich
Leonard Bernstein
Carl Nielsen
Jean Sibelius
Wind Ensemble
Smaller Mixed Ensemble
John Adams, Chamber Symphony (1992)
Stephan Hartke, Meanwhile (2007)
Jacob Druckman, Come Round (1992)
Charles Wuorinen, New York Notes (1982)
Pierre Boulez, Sur Incises (1996/1998)
Percussion Solo-Drums
Michio Kitazume, Side by Side (1991)
Elliott Carter, Eight Pieces for Four Timpani (1950/1966)
Casey Cangelosi, Meditation No. 1 (2011)
Percussion Solo-Keyboards
Jacob Druckman, Reflections on the Nature of Water (1986)
Paul Simon, Amulet (2008)
Steve Mackey, See Ya Thursday (1992)
Steve Swallow/Gary Burton, I'm Your Pal/Hullo Bolinas
Donald Martino, Soliloquy (2003)
Percussion Solo-Multi-Percussion
Iannis Xenakis, Psappha (1975)
David Lang, Anvil Chorus (1991)
Roger Reynolds, Watershed (1995)
Four Pieces for "Setup #1"
Nico Muhly, It's About Time (2004)
Michael Early, Raingutter (2007)
Marcos Balter, Descarga (2006)
Judd Greenstein, We Shall Be Turned (2006)
Percussion Concerto
James MacMillan, Veni Veni Emmanuel (1992)
Einojuhani Rautavaara, Incantations (2008)
Steven Mackey, Micro-Concerto (1999)
Orchestrating Native Sounds

Appendix B. Sample Setups

Appendix C. Extended Techniques
Return to a "Normal" Method of Playing
Manipulations of Timbre
Striking Unusual Parts of an Instrument
Unusual Usage of Beaters
Dead Stroke
Beating Spot
Friction Roll
Prepared Instruments
Pitch Bending
Adding Mass
Sympathetic Resonance

Appendix D. Pitch Specification

Appendix E. Dynamics

Appendix F. Register

Appendix G. Beaters

Appendix H. Percussion Family Tree
Pitch Clarity Chart
Note Length Chart
Register Chart
Sound Production Chart
The Percussion Family Tree

Om forfatteren

Samuel Z. Solomon teaches percussion at The Boston Conservatory, Boston University, and The BU Tanglewood Institute. He is author of the acclaimed book, How To Write For Percussion, as well as three books on percussion playing and was curator of two collections of percussion etudes and solos. Solomon is founding member of the Yesaroun' Duo and the Line C3 percussion group, and is principal timpanist of the Amici New York chamber orchestra. Please visit for more.