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Advice and Guidance

Nigel Shipway's School of Percussion

Total Percussion Technique

The Nigel Shipway School of Total Percussion offers a complete course for percussion students who have the intention to study all aspects and styles of music and specialist percussion technique.

Content of the lesson plan will include

*      essential techniques for all instruments and accessories
*      harmony and theoretical studies
*      sight reading
*      tricks of the trade, or survival techniques
*      basic equipment maintenance and repair

This is a course of lessons for serious and ambitious students who really want to excel in the art of percussion playing at the very highest level.

The syllabus consists of two course modules of ten lessons each, which will include original printed lesson plan material, such as etudes, together with other stimulating educational information.

Following on from the first two modular lesson plans, you will be able to continue studying to an advanced level, tailor made for you.

If you want to become a well rounded, knowledgeable, technically skilled and motivated player, in a position to progress towards the option of becoming a professional player, then this course is for you.

With hard work you will become accomplished in all facets of musical style and well informed in respect of general musical studies.

If you have already started on the road towards your dream, then this course really is for you.

You will discover that the knowledge you gain will enhance your playing and increase the speed at which you learn.

It will help you unlock your potential so that you receive on-going benefit from the course.

To assist you even further, you can buy a recording of your lessons at the end of each section.

Learn how to drum from scratch

Are you Retired? Out-of Work? Or would you just like to try something new?
 
Would you like to gain a creative and stimulating activity, increase your job prospects or just develop a fascinating hobby?!

Then learn to play Hand Drums with me, Anne Collis - no experience or expensive instruments required. The six lesson course is now available from our online shop for £7.95, but try our Beginner's Lesson 1 first (see below), to see how you get on.

There is a lot of respected research around these days that proves that having music in your life enhances the performance of your brain in many ways - see below an extract from ScienceDaily, but you can find lots more up to date information to support this statement on line.

Why not have a go at learning to drum and see if you have talents you didn't know ou possessed! You can try it in the privacy of your own home and you can start without spending any money on instruments (use a cake or biscuit tin!). If you practise regularly, you should find that your memory, attention span, speed of reaction and spatial skills improve.

If you have recently found yourself without a job, or you are retired, you will find that taking up hand drum lessons will stop your brain going rusty (you could actually find that your memory improves!). You will also have developed a new skill which will not only give you much pleasure and help you to keep fit, but could be used to create new job opportunities and have fun with new friends. Read on.....

HOME HAND DRUMMING FOR THE TOTAL BEGINNER – LESSON 1

1.    To make your instrument, dig out that large round cake tin, or a tin that you had chocolates in last Christmas. That’s it – make sure it's empty, put the lid back on and you have your first drum.

2. Put a piece of music you really like on your sound system. It can be classical, (Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, for example) or pop music is just as useful. I recommend something like ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

3. Find yourself a dining or kitchen chair (something upright, as armchairs are too low) as you need to be sitting forward and fairly straight, holding the tin between your knees at an angle.

4. First, hit the drum lightly on one side with your strongest hand – it usually depends on whether you are righted-handed or left-handed. Hit the top of the drum so that the end of your fingers are near the centre. Just practise hitting regular beats to a count of “one, two, three four”. Don’t leave your hand ‘dead’ on the drum, pretend that it bounces off after the hit.

5. When you are sure that, as much as you can, the beats are regular, try to hit the four beats harder and softer using both hands, as follows: Strong (R or L), Weak (L or R), Medium (R or L), Weak (L or R). Now turn on your chosen track of music.

6. First, listen carefully to the music. Try to count the main beats. You should be able to count “one, two, three four” in time to the music. When you have found this beat, do your “strong, weak, medium, weak” to the music and do your best to keep in time. If you find it difficult at first, persevere and believe in yourself - it will come! We all have rhythm in us even if we don’t realise it. Everyone’s heart beats at a good steady rhythm and you just need to relax and practise, staying in time with your music.

7. Once you are confident that you have control over these main beats, try something a bit harder. In 4. you learnt to bounce your hand off the drum. Now try leaving it ‘dead’ on the drum after each beat. You may find it harder to keep the rhythm steady, but again persevere. The benefits you will gain come, as with learning any new skill, from constant repetition until the brain has created the new neural pathways you need. Hopefully, the fact that you are doing this repetitive practise will not be boring as you are doing it to your favourite music. You can change the music whenever you want, just make sure that it has a strong 4 beats that you can pick up.

8. Finally in this first lesson, practise alternating the ‘dead’ and ‘bounce’ beats. I will assume I am talking to a right-handed person for now. Apologies to left-handed people, who should just do the same thing, but the other way round. The next step is practicing how to do it both ways: Strong (bounce) Weak (dead) Medium (bounce) Weak (dead) and, once you have got really good at this, go on to: Strong (dead) Weak (bounce) Medium (dead) Weak (bounce).

Once you have mastered all this, you are well on the way to gaining the basic skills needed to play hand drums creatively, as well as exercising your brain in the most enjoyable way possible! You can then choose a 'real' drum such as the djembe (see www.percussionzone.co.uk ).

Science Daily (June 22, 2006) — From a volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

'Another study in the volume looks at whether music training can make individuals smarter. Scientists found more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to non-musicians. They feel these differences are probably not genetic, but instead due to use and practice.Listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, has recently been thought to enhance performance on cognitive tests. Contributors to this volume take a closer look at this assertion and their findings indicate that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable has positive effects on cognition. In addition, the use of music to enhance memory is explored and research suggests that musical recitation enhances the coding of information by activating neural networks in a more united and thus more optimal fashion.'

 

How To

How to perform thumb and finger rolls on the tambourine.

Various possibilities exist with regard to ensuring the performance and thumb and finger rolls on the tambourine. The age old standard is to lick the tip of the finger or the thumb which is actually going to be playing the friction roll round the edge of the tambourine in order to create the roll.

How to make your own Superball Mallets

The superball mallet is something that evolved predominantly in the Hollywood studios and was also taken up very much by the contemporary music main stream during the 1960’ and 1970’s.

The superball mallet isn’t as such a sound effect in its own right, but it is a mallet which can be used in the creation of many ethereal and ‘other worldly’ sounds and effects.

The head of the mallet is made of a child’s superball, the sort which can be bought in any reputable toy shop. The shaft can be made of many different materials, but it is quite important that it is a very flexible shaft and most people use a thin bamboo kebab or sate skewer and way that you make a superball mallet is as follows:

Firstly, you have to drill through the centre of the ball. Don’t make the mistake of actually trying to push the sharpened end of the kebab skewer in to the ball in order to make the hole which it will ultimately sit in. This will crack the ball and once you have cracked the superball, it will continue to split until it falls in half.

So, the superball mallet is commenced by drilling through the centre and this is something that can be done without a huge amount of engineering skill by eye.

Take your drill and put a bit of an appropriate size and drill as closely as possible through the centre of the ball. Then, using an epoxy based adhesive, such as Araldite, you coat the end of the kebab skewer in the Araldite and place it in the hole which you have made in the superball. This should give you a superball mallet which will enable you to play all sorts of different ethereal groaning and moaning noises on things like log drums and drums of varying kinds, but also to get all sorts of singing harmonics out of tamtams, cymbals and bell plates. A particularly fascinating noise can be obtained by rubbing the superball round the inside playing surface of a steel drum.

There are lots of different applications for the mallet. If you find that the kebab skewer is not durable enough for your purposes, then, a very thin knitting needle, or a very slender piece of stainless steel rod will give you something of a more durable character.

Superball mallets are available commercially and of course, these are made to very much more exacting engineering standards and can be bought from Mike Balter the mallet maker, and also Vuprawell the French mallet maker.

It is a good idea to have many different sizes of superballs because when you play any of the harmonica effects, particularly on tamtam, the size of the ball actually affects the pitch range which you can achieve from the instrument.

It is also quite useful, when you get very large superballs, to actually cut the superball in half and to just use one half, mounted appropriately – sort of like a mushroom added vibraphone mallet. The sharp edge of the cut will give you some very interesting rebound effects on drums.

So that is essentially how you go about making your own superball mallets. When you do so, just remember that the superball mallet is not a particularly durable mallet – the rubber will, over a period of time, harden to the point where it just cracks and splits and falls to piece and so you need to check before you use them that you have got superball mallets that are not too old and too decrepit to be used.

I don’t know why this works, but when I am storing superballs, I find that wrapping them in brown paper actually preserves them for a much longer time. Whether this has anything to do with the oils in the mallet head escaping, or what, I don’t know.

It is also looking out for superballs which are made in peculiar shapes because some are available in the shape of eggs. Others are made in a shape like a cut gemstone and these will all illicit different effects from various instruments that you would normally use it on.

So that’s it. That’s basically the way that you make your own superball mallets.

How to play a very quiet triangle roll.

Now, under normal circumstances the triangle roll can be played a number of different ways. Firstly, it can be played by oscillating the beater to and fro within one of the angles of the triangle. This, if done rapidly and evenly, will produce a very acceptable roll.

Alternatively, the triangle can be set up on a stand and played alternately by a beater held in each hand. This again will produce, with a very smooth controlled approach, a very acceptable triangle roll. However, as dynamics in percussion playing are one of the most important factors in their usage, it stands to reason that a wide variety of dynamic possibilities need to be explored.

Some years ago I became involved in a series of recordings that were to be conducted by the late Leopold Stokowski who at that time was probably in his nineties, but even at that great age, his ear was such that he maintained a very critical attitude towards musicians in general and percussionist players in particular and I found, somewhat to my surprise, that on being asked to play a quiet triangle roll for him, he started to complain about various aspects of my performance. Initially, he said that I was actually playing too loud, so I naturally lessened the dynamic to the point where I felt that we were at a dynamic level where the sound would be acceptable to him. But he then started to complain about the fact that he could hear, within the roll, the clack of the triangle beater. Consequently, this was destroying the effect of the low dynamic, so what he asked me to do was to create more of a shimmering sound than to actually create an exact single stroke roll of the type we would normally associate with the triangle.

This caused me a considerable amount of trouble because, once one has gone to one’s thinnest pair of triangle beaters, there really isn’t anywhere else to go beyond that within normal technique. So, my idea to counter this was, after the first day of rehearsals, I went home and found in the garage a six inch coach screw. Now, the coach screw is quite a large screw used in building fences and if you take the screw and carefully lay it across the horizontal bar of the triangle, at right angles to the triangle, by oscillating it backwards and forwards, you can create a wonderful shimmering triangle roll which has no discernable ictus in it from a moving beater which would be striking between two of the inner surfaces of the triangle itself.

Anyway, when I had practiced this a little bit, I took it back and showed Stokowski what I was doing the next day and this actually alleviated the criticisms which he had been making of me on the previous day. So I would highly recommend this technique to you as a way of playing very very quiet shimmering low dynamic rolls on the triangle.

How To Series How to make your own Nappa Drum Head

The Nappa Drumhead is a unique style of drumhead common on instruments of Brazilian origin. It is used particularly in certain sorts of Brazilian outdoor parade music but, also, it is commonly encountered in a particular style of music called Pagode and Pagode music is the kind of music where people just sit around in somebody’s living room. It is usually quite quiet and therefore requires an instrument which probably isn’t as large as would commonly be encountered if you were playing outdoors in a samba procession. The Napa head is in fact, very simply a plastic head which has a skin of vinyl upholstery fabric stuck to it and these heads are very easy to make, though if you buy an instrument with one of these heads on and it becomes damaged, they are extremely difficult to obtain replacements for. Therefore, it is probably more sensible to figure out a way of making your own, which is what I have done.

In order to make a Napa head, first of all, you need; a smooth plastic head. Usually, the ones which are supplied with Brazilian drums are ideal for this purpose, but any normal clear plastic, un-coated head, will do the job. You will also need a piece of black rexine or vinyl cloth backed upholstery fabric of a size larger than the diameter of the head that you are wishing to apply it to. Then, you simply dis-assemble the drum on which you are going to mount the head and then you draw around the flesh hoop of the drumhead that you are going to cover on to the back of the rexine cloth. Then you cut round this cloth so that you have a slightly over-sized circle of rexine material. You then place the original plastic drumhead back on the drum and then coat this with a glue such as Copidex. Then, very carefully having coated this plastic head with the Copidex, you place the disc of rexine on top of the glued surface of the head. Now, this will actually project over the edge of the head very slightly, so what you then do, is you smooth this into position and carefully replace the counter hoop of the drum and then re-assemble the instrument, carefully tuning the head in such a way that the playing tension is restored to its normal pitch, but also making sure that the rexine covering does not lift out from underneath the counter hoop of the drum. The point is that you need to trap it there and if possible during the smoothing process, to actually work a little bit of the glue into place so that it will actually glue the head right down to the flesh hoop. This should then be left to dry for a couple of days, because, obviously rexine and plastic are not porous materials and the glue will take some little time to set because there is no natural air passage that will actually dry the adhesive out. However, a couple of days should be sufficient. The head can then be played on and the sound produced is a particularly pleasing low throbbing sound, which makes an ideal substitute for any kind of ethnic drum such as a native American Indian Tomtom, or an African drum. Indeed, it has always been my belief that one can make these heads up and after they have actually been prepared and allowed to set, they can be removed from the drum on which they are being used and stored in the case as an alternative on drums such as Concert Toms and this, I think, is a particularly useful piece of equipment to carry around with you. It offers you a substitute sound, particularly where ethnic sounding instruments are required but supplies of ethnic instruments are not to be had.

How to set gut snares on to a snare drum.

It necessarily follows that these instructions are intended to be used only for those drums which have the old-fashioned lever action snare such as the Ludwig Supraphonic and models of a similar type of snare action. Parallel action snares may need considerably more subtle management in setting than those given here, so firstly, you have to source your gut. Now these days, most drum companies don’t carry gut snare in their catalogues any more. In days of old, it was a current occurrence to find that product. Very often in several different thicknesses, or gauges, but these days, most companies produce drums that use wire snares. Indeed, in most types of pop, jazz, rock and contemporary styles, wire snares are more than adequate for the purposes of playing that kind of music, but, the old fashioned style of gut snare is a very attractive sound when employed in the performance of classical music and concert band music. It gives a very harsh, throaty sound, which is much to be admired with great clarity and, indeed, it does have a tendency to show up a player’s weak spots from a technical point of view.

Sources of gut these days are comparatively rare and some of the most successful sources of finding gut would include harp manufacturers, certain string manufacturers, though cello strings work very well, although they are in fact, very expensive when you start putting them on snare drums.

Medical supply houses will sometimes be able to sell gut, but the most success I have had in finding gut in recent years, is from tennis racquet repairers. They use gut very often in one direction on a racquet as a mixture with modern materials like Kevlar, which gives a certain sort of feel that many of the younger male players of today find attractive.

It’s also true to note that, cost-wise, buying gut from a tennis racquet manufacturer is probably the most affordable way of making this change to your snare drum set-up.

Having acquired sufficient gut for your needs, it’s useful to have a snare lever which has what we used to call bullet hole buck plate at the bottom of the snare lever lift. This is a row of holes drilled to take gut or silk and wire snares in the bottom of the plate in the snare action. This makes actually spacing the snares on the drum very much easier. However, it is not essential and most modern lever snare actions will take gut even without this.

Firstly, you have to remove the snares that are extant on the drum. That having been done, you must unravel the gut and there are two ways of doing this next stage. One is to soak the snare for a few minutes, so that they become more pliable. The other is to fit the snares on to the drum, absolutely dry and then place a piece of wet paper towel under the area where they turn upwards in to the snare buck plate and the snare action in order to just help the snares actually adapt to their new shape. Either way works, although from the point of view of practicality, my favourite would be to use the paper towel method. This is actually gone into in some detail in Anthony Cirone’s excellent book ‘The Logic of It All’ which has recently been re-published by Meredith Music.

Initially, when fitting gut snares or, indeed silk and wire snares to a drum, it is a good idea to actually lower the snare action several turns on the tension screw. This will give you a certain amount more adjustment when applying tension to the snares after they have dried out. You don’t need to go very far with this, but give yourself, if possible, an extra quarter of an inch on the setting screw in the snare action.

Having got the snares, firstly into the buck plate of the snare lever, you must then run them across the snare head of the drum and space them correctly. That is to say, in parallel lines, and thread them through the buck plate on the opposite side of the drum which will, of course, need to be loosened slightly first. Having threaded them through, it is then necessary to screw this adjustment up, but not to its fullest extent, but just so that the snares are firmly gripped. Then, taking a pair of mole grips or a pair of crocodile nosed pliers, pull each snare up to its fullest tension and then tighten the buck plate adjustment so that the snares are firmly gripped and so that that adjusting plate on the butt of the drum bites into the gut itself so that it cannot slip. Now it is at this point that you would put the wet towel in place, under the snares where they turn up if you were going to adopt that particular method of placing the snares on the drum. It should be possible, having left that wet piece of towel to dry out for twenty-four hours, to play the drum and adjust it accordingly to your tastes. Just remember, as I said earlier, that you have flaws in your technique, particularly in the roll, the adjustment of the snares is crucial and will have a tendency to show up any weaknesses within that technique.

Anyway, I hope that you have some success with this approach to playing the snare drum. Personally, I love the sound of gut snares.

One word of warning though, on a damp day, gut snares, like calf skin heads, can be badly affected by moisture and extreme damp. The late Billy Gladstone, the doyenne of snare drum manufacturers and players during the 1930’s, 1940’s and early 1950’s used to actually proof his snares before mounting them on the drum with shellac and I think this is probably still the best way of proofing snares against the weather. The only problem is, that they will still be (slightly less so) but they will still be, affected by damp and the problem will then be that, having got the snares damp, they will take a little bit longer to dry out because of the coating that now have on them.

Other players, of course, will recommend that you use linseed oil to proof the snares. This works equally well but is a very messy process. Also it is possible, before placing the gut snares on the drum, to varnish them and, again, this is an equally good way of doing it but it does have the same drawbacks as using shellac.

These are the principle ways of approaching the idea of placing gut snares on your drum.

'How to get work' by Anne Collis

In a world where the opportunities for professional musicians seem to be shrinking, it is important to know how to maximize your advantages and put yourself in pole position in the race to get the jobs!

  1. First Rule, be the best! There is absolutely no point in doing anything to push yourself forward unless you really are good! There are lots of people around who ‘talk the talk’, but that is not enough. Practise, practise, practise, then practise some more!
  2. Second Rule. Be the best!
  3. Know everybody. Find ways to meet people, go to concerts, apply for auditions. Even if you don’t get the job at an audition, you will have met some of the movers and shakers and if you were good enough, they will remember you.
  4. Send your CV in to all the orchestra and fixers. Be sure to put everything you have done in your CV. If you are a string player, it is important to say if you were a Principal in the music college orchestra and whether you were a 1st or 2nd Violin.
  5. Be versatile. Especially for Percussionists, study all the styles. Only a handful of people can make a career as a solo Marimba player. Make sure you can play all the basic instruments. Don’t neglect the Triangle and Tambourine, but also study Latin American styles and maybe study something unusual, like Tablas or Cimbalom.
  6. Always look good. Be clean and tidy at least. If possible look memorable. I know an American who has a small beard, which is going prematurely grey, so he dyes the sides brown and leaves the middle grey, giving the impression of a friendly badger.. Perhaps that is going too far for you, but check your style. Do you look cool or old-fashioned? It matters.
  7. Stay sober and don’t touch drugs! There is no such thing as a cool drunk and no fixer will book you if you are not reliable.
  8. Stay fit and healthy. You will enjoy your work more and be able to stay alert on long days in the studios.
  9. Be polite to your elders! They have the knowledge and the experience and you can learn from them. There are too many youngsters around who behave as if they know it all, in spite of the fact that they only left college last year.
  10. Be punctual – always! 
  11. If you are a young Percussionist, try to own as many basic instruments as you can. It is getting harder and harder to find players with their own gear. Sure it is a struggle, but we did it when we were your age, so you can too!

Learning how to Drum

Are you Retired? Out-of Work? Or would you just like to try something new?

Would like to gain a creative and stimulating activity, increase your job prospects or just develop a fascinating hobby?!

Learn to play Hand Drums with me, Anne Collis - no experience or expensive instruments required. The six lesson course is now available from our online shop for £7.95, but try our Beginner's Lesson 1 first (see below), to see how you get on.

There is a lot of respected research around these days that proves that having music in your life enhances the performance of your brain in many ways - see below an extract from ScienceDaily, but you can find lots more up to date information to support this statement on line.

Why not have a go at learning to drum and see if you have talents you didn't know ou possessed! You can try it in the privacy of your own home and you can start without spending any money on instruments (use a cake or biscuit tin!). If you practise regularly, you should find that your memory, attention span, speed of reaction and spatial skills improve.

If you have recently found yourself without a job, or you are retired, you will find that taking up hand drum lessons will stop your brain going rusty (you could actually find that your memory improves!). You will also have developed a new skill which will not only give you much pleasure and help you to keep fit, but could be used to create new job opportunities and have fun with new friends. Read on.....

HOME HAND DRUMMING FOR THE TOTAL BEGINNER – LESSON 1

    1. To make your instrument, dig out that large round cake tin, or a tin that you had chocolates in last Christmas. That’s it – make sure it's empty, put the lid back on and you have your first drum.

              2.  Put a piece of music you really like on your sound system. It can be classical, (Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, for example) or pop music is just as useful. I 
                   recommend something like ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

              3.  Find yourself a dining or kitchen chair (something upright, as armchairs are too low) as you need to be sitting forward and fairly straight, holding the tin between your
                   knees at an angle.

              4.  First, hit the drum lightly on one side with your strongest hand – it usually depends on whether you are righted-handed or left-handed. Hit the top of the drum so that the
                   end of your fingers are near the centre. Just practise hitting regular beats to a count of “one, two, three four”. Don’t leave your hand ‘dead’ on the drum, pretend that it
                   bounces off after the hit.

              5.  When you are sure that, as much as you can, the beats are regular, try to hit the four beats harder and softer using both hands, as follows:
                   Strong (R or L), Weak (L or R), Medium (R or L), Weak (L or R).

                   Now turn on your chosen track of music.

              6.  First, listen carefully to the music. Try to count the main beats. You should be able to count “one, two, three four” in time to the music. When you have found this beat,
                   do your “strong, weak, medium, weak” to the music and do your best to keep in time. If you find it difficult at first, persevere and believe in yourself - it will come!
                   We all  have rhythm in us even if we don’t realise it. Everyone’s heart beats at a good steady rhythm and you just need to relax and practise, staying in time with your
                   music.

              7.  Once you are confident that you have control over these main beats, try something a bit harder. In 4. you learnt to bounce your hand off the drum. Now try leaving it
                   ‘dead’ on the drum after each beat. You may find it harder to keep the rhythm steady, but again persevere. The benefits you will gain come, as with learning any new
                   skill,  from constant repetition until the brain has created the new neural pathways you need. Hopefully, the fact that you are doing this repetitive practise will not be
                   boring as you are doing it to your favourite music. You can change the music whenever you want, just make sure that it has a strong 4 beats that you can pick up.

              8.  Finally in this first lesson, practise alternating the ‘dead’ and ‘bounce’ beats. I will assume I am talking to a right-handed person for now. Apologies to left-handed people,
                   who should just do the same thing, but the other way round. The next step is practicing how to do it both ways: Strong (bounce) Weak (dead) Medium (bounce) Weak
                   (dead) and, once you have got really good at this, go on to: Strong (dead) Weak (bounce) Medium (dead) Weak (bounce).

Once you have mastered all this, you are well on the way to gaining the basic skills needed to play hand drums creatively, as well as exercising your brain in the most enjoyable way possible! You can then choose a 'real' drum such as the djembe (see www.percussionzone.co.uk ).

Science Daily (June 22, 2006) —
From a volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

'Another study in the volume looks at whether music training can make individuals smarter. Scientists found more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to non-musicians. They feel these differences are probably not genetic, but instead due to use and practice.Listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, has recently been thought to enhance performance on cognitive tests. Contributors to this volume take a closer look at this assertion and their findings indicate that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable has positive effects on cognition. In addition, the use of music to enhance memory is explored and research suggests that musical recitation enhances the coding of information by activating neural networks in a more united and thus more optimal fashion.'

FAQ's

I have listed a number of questions that I am frequently asked by both students and teachers and hope that you will find them useful. If your question is not listed, please email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will put up an answer on the site.

Yours, Nigel.



What is total percussion?

It is the approach to playing which encapsulates all, or as many of the percussive instruments as possible in the learning process, in as many styles as possible, in combination with the highest levels of musicianship and musical expertise as possible.

Do you teach Drum Set?

Yes, but preferably as part of the total percussion picture, as this offers the best prospects for playing/career longevity.

Do you teach Moeller Technique?

Yes, but as one technique amongst many. There are several schools of thought about the best technical approach to playing. Moeller on its own is in some respects too narrow. A discipline for the well rounded player. It is far more effective to have a broader view of all the various schools of thought, such as Bower, Straight, Rudimental, free hand techniques, etc. They all have their place and usages for the informed and expert player.

Do you teach general musicianship?

Yes: you can't teach any musiclal instrument without giving meaningful instruction about harmony, aural training and other matters relating to music. To avoid this is like giving someone a job as a mechanic without teaching them how an engine works.

Is it necessary to read music?

Yes, absolutely: if Shakespeare had been illiterate, then his plays couldn't have survived to the present day. In order that students know what they are doing, it is essential that they read.

How do I get started?

As I see it, the important factor is that you get started, wherever and whenever you can. Don't worry about whether you are travelling up a blind alley, sooner or later you will realise this and correct things. As the old saying goes, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single foot-step". What is important is that you do what you can, or indeed, what you must and keep a sense of proportion in what you do.

Is it difficult to become a percussionist?

Well, yes and no: it is a truism that success is more driven by perspiration than inspiration and as one of my students recently observed... "the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get!". The truth about succeeding at anything in life is that, firstly, you have to commit yourself to the task in hand; secondly, you have to take responsibility for yourself and your actions and thirdly; never give up the struggle.x

Simple, really!

Learn More About PESG

Throughout the course of my life and career I have had the great good fortune to be befriended and taught by some of the greatest percussion players that ever lived - amongst whom are the late James Blade, Reg Barker and of course, my great friend and mentor the late Bobby Christian, believed by many, including his erstwhile employer, Paul Whiteman, to be the World's greatest percussionist

Each of these performers, in their own right, was the inventor of a great many survival techniques that you can use in a tight corner, when things are not going as you would wish them to. So, during the course of my study with these particular individuals and throughout my own career, I have always made sure that I make a note of these little techniques for survival that you can use in a moment of crisis to get yourself out of trouble.

Over the coming months I will be giving you a glimpse into various chapters of my e-book, The Percussionist's Essential Survival Guide (PESG), together with a link to take you straight to the right place in our online shop - when you decide it is just what you need to know! Each chapter can be purchased (from as little as £1 each) as a download, or by post.

I hope this will give you a helping hand towards becoming the percussionist you would like to be. It has taken me many years to gather the information in my book, so I hope that PESG will equip you with a fast track route to survival!

Nigel

Nigel Shipway

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

© Nigel Shipway

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

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