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The Percussionist's Essential Survival Guide (PESG)

When I was playing the musical “Cats”, I was very aware that it would be easy to fall into a complacent frame of mind. As a method of avoiding the onset of boredom and disinterest, due to the repetitious nature of the work, I decided to write down everything I knew about percussion instruments and playing. I ended up playing “Cats”, for well nigh twenty-one years and consequently filled over two hundred notebooks with odd facts, observations, techniques and designs for different pieces of percussion equipment.

Having reached the end of the run of the show, I was then confronted by the problem of what to do with the contents of these books. I discussed the matter with various friends and colleagues and it was decided that the best thing to do with this information was to turn it into a book, or books. It soon became apparent that this would be a huge and very expensive volume and quite out of reach of most of the people who could gain the most from it. There the matter rested until someone suggested that I turn it into a work published on the internet, available chapter by chapter. This would alleviate the problem of the extraordinary amount of time needed to work the original papers up to scratch for publication, as one could then work on one subject at a time and ensure that it was presented to best effect. Further, it would then be possible to allow anyone interested to purchase as much or as little of the book as they felt they needed, whenever they needed it. So, this is the approach which I have adopted.

It may seem somewhat haphazard when you look down the contents page, as there is no particular ordering of the subject matter, but I feel that this is not necessary since the title of each chapter will tell you something of the content of the chapter in question, it is also true that each chapter is as comprehensive as I can make it and may justifiably be criticised for being too exhaustive, but I feel that it is a better approach to give everything I know in one hit, since the reader can then cherry pick from the available information and simply take what is needed.

I sincerely hope that you, the reader, will enjoy the disparate and occasionally obscure nature of what is included in these pages, this is for me truly a labour of love for my subject albeit one which I originally started to save my sanity in a highly repetitive job.

Did it save my sanity? Perhaps you are a better judge of that than I, but even as I write these words I am struck by a genuine sense of being unburdened from having to remember it all. So, perhaps that in itself is a cathartic act and therefore all to the good; I’m not sure anymore.

If you find any mistakes or errors, or if you feel that you must take issue with anything I have said, please feel free to email and tell me, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it though you may get the same answer as the late Dr. Johnson gave when he was challenged about an entry in his famous dictionary when he said… “ ignorance, sheer ignorance on my part”.


© Nigel Shipway

Chapter 1 is free to download, The Gritty Realities of Touring.

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