Following my tutor’s feedback following the submission of Assignment 6, this has formed part of recent work that I have grouped under ‘presentation’; to be honest, I’ve deliberately saved this for last before progressing onto compositional elements because this part daunts me!
My tutor made the following comment about the percussion in her feedback:
‘You also need to specify how many percussion players you need in total; the list makes it look like you need 7, which is disproportionate to the rest of the orchestra. Can you combine several of the instruments into a single part?’
Of course, she’s completely right. To list 7 percussionists for a chamber orchestral piece is a little overkill. But equally, how do I know how many players I need???
Percussion is most definitely NOT my bag. I put so much effort into it for my last assignment that this aspect of the feedback has thrown me because I wasn’t exactly within my comfort zone before, and THIS has totally thrown me. However, not one to be put off, I decided to contact a friend of mine who is a percussionist, albeit amateur, and she was kind enough to lend her thoughts to my score in its current ‘state’:
p.17 The glockenspiel overlaps with the side drum so definitely two players needed!
p.23 If you want a large orchestra bass drum and a pair of crash cymbals, you will need two players here. However, you could consider using the kit player to play the kit bass drum and a suspended cymbal instead. We often use a suspended cymbal instead of crash cymbals when there aren’t enough players. But if you want a very loud sound for both then stick with the crash cymbals
p. 26 bar 186 I would add dynamics for the cymbals – do you want them to get louder with the rest of the instruments?
p. 27 bar 198 You need to put the bass drum in the bottom space of the stave as before. Again, you could have a kit player doing this. It depends how loud you need it to be (you need to add dynamics here).
p.28 bars 201-202 if you want crash cymbals you need three players here for the Percussion line; however you could use a suspended / ride cymbal and have the snare drum player on both snared drum and cymbal.
p.46 bar 349 and p.55 bar 421 add dynamics for tambourine
p.47 bar 359 add dynamics for bass drum
p.57 bar 436 make it clear what kind of cymbal you want – presumably a suspended one for the trill
p.58 in bars 444-445 that run of notes for the timpani is slightly unusual – I’m not sure that you will be able to tune four timpani drums to those notes (well, you may be able to if your orchestra has more than one drum the same size, which I have seen before, but I don’t know whether it’s usual). It might be worth asking your tutor whether a typical orchestral set of timpani
p.63 – similarly to above, you usually only have four or five timpani and retuning them can be done quite quickly, but watch out in fast passages e.g. moving from the five notes in bars 476-478 to a quick series of lower notes in bar 479 looks a bit tricky to me. I would check with your tutor how doable they think it is for a professional player.
p.65 when the kit comes in at bar 484 you need some dynamics. I think if you were to split the instruments up here you would need three players for that part, because only one person could play the cymbal part standing up – they would need to hold the cymbal with their hand and then release it for the open sound, so you couldn’t play both cymbals and side drum together here. An orchestral bass drum may be a bit boomy but a professional should be able to make it sound like a kit bass drum if that’s what you want.
HOW good is this feedback? I’m all for helping myself. I realise this course has been and is totally all about self-directed learning, but I totally see the value in reaching out to friends and colleagues who know about instruments that I don’t play for guidance and advice. And hey – I may choose not to follow her advice…(I more than likely will, though).
I’ve also found a good website which gives an example of a typical grouping of players:
I will feature a more in-depth post about how I eventually tackle this task. I’m going in!