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Nigel's Secrets

Nigel's Seven Secrets - The Triangle


  • If you suspend your triangle from a clip or stand be sure to adjust the cord length so that the triangle doesn’t swing or turn when it is struck.
  • If you own a set of graduated triangle beaters you can extend the possibilities by obtaining knitting and crochet needles in order to obtain other musical effects.
  • When playing the triangle either hold it or mount it on a stand, as high as is practical. This will help the sound to travel and will enable you to see the written part, the instrument and the conductor.
  • As the triangle is a resonating instrument it is wise to pay as much attention as possible to damping and observing rests as to actually playing the notes.
  • Never be afraid to experiment with the instrument and try to find new techniques and sounds.
  • If using a triangle stand be sure that the stand is sturdy and doesn’t wobble.  This will enable your playing to achieve consistency and evenness.
  • For very soft effects, experiment with a triangle beater wrapped in gaffer tape


Nigel's Seven Secrets Series - The Tambourine

Nigel's Seven Secrets on The Tambourine

  1. When buying tambourines remember that quality costs money though all tambourines are useable to some extent.
  2. When tambourines are new, the heads will be at their tightest. A thin coat of polyurethane varnish applied on a warm dry day will help to preserve this.
  3. Keep your tambourines in a cloth bag and keep their heads free from dirt and grease.
  4. An application of beeswax or powdered rosin (lightly applied) around the rim, or a 1” wide strip of flour grade wet and dry paper glued on will guarantee thumb rolls.
  5. If your tambourine head sags on a wet or humid day, use a solid fuel handwarmer place inside it on the trap tray to dry it out.
  6. If you need to replace a tambourine, head use smooth goatskin as it is more pliable when wet than calf. Use quick drying epoxy on the rim of the tambourine and get a wooden embroidery hoop of the right size to hold it whilst setting.
  7. Be careful to protect tambourine jingles and their mounting pins from damage. The are very easily damaged.

Playing for Shows

Nigel's Seven Secrets on Playing for Shows

  1. Congratulations, you’ve got your first show! Now make sure that you avoid using the word ‘no’ with producers, directors, musical supervisors, conductors, artists, choreographers, etc. It’s very easy to alienate people so try to be accommodating where you can.
  2. When playing both drums and percussion in shows a high degree of independence is required so that for instance you may need to be both playing time and adding spot effects out of tempo on cue, or you may need to play two different rhythmic feels between hands or hands and feet. You can’t guess ahead of time but prepare as best you can.
  3. It is often a good idea to find ways of mounting instruments so that they don’t need to be picked up and held. This can make multi percussion writing much more slick.
  4. When working in orchestra pits do all that you can to ensure that you can hear your colleagues clearly. It will enable you to play more precisely and confidently.
  5. Never be blasé about the music you play especially if you are being paid for it. Always open the part and read it, even if you think you know it from memory. Playing from memory really ruins your ability to sight read.
  6. If you need a special widget or a pair of weird mallets made don’t be afraid to get it done. It will keep your attitude positive if you can always give of your best.
  7. Long runs in theatres can be a blessing or a curse – it’s up to you! Where possible keep your attitude up and positive. Bring as much professionalism to your work as you can.

Seven Secrets on the Snare Drum

Nigel's Seven Secrets on the Snare Drum

  1. If your snare cord should break, a shoelace could provide a temporary replacement.

  2. To keep your playing, especially of rolls, even, ensure that your drum stand doesn’t wobble.

  3. If playing wire brushes, don’t handle the wires as this may cause the wires to rust, due to the salt in perspiration.

  4. In order to guarantee even-ness ensure that the stick point of grip is the same distance from the butt of the stick (irrespective of grip).

  5. When tuning drums for concert use, the snare head should be tighter than the batter head.

  6. When setting up your drum always tune the batter head for maximum rebound.

  7. What you consider is a good snare drum sound may be subjective but can be helped by listening to recordings of reputable players

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