Beautifying Mallet Percussion

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cGilmore
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Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by cGilmore » 01 Mar 2016, 07:29

Marimba follows a lot of the same conventions as piano, namely RH stems up, LH stems down. However, this leads to the following results to maintain that convention:
marimba_1.JPG
marimba_1.JPG (534.26 KiB) Viewed 3702 times
marimba_2.JPG
marimba_2.JPG (855.21 KiB) Viewed 3702 times
I've been trying to think of a way to phrase a question that gets my point across, but I feel like I'd be stating what you already feel about this without me having to state it outright. The music is disjointed looking and gives no indication of meter (to say the least). It's more like seeing each individual note existing on it's own and not a part of a whole. It feels like, in an attempt to make the sticking clear, it's sacrificing everything else printed music needs to communicate.

Since I've stared at music like this for years,* it's difficult for me to easily think of a graceful solution, and looking at examples in other instruments hasn't revealed a solution that I think would work.

Anyone have any suggestions?

_________________

*I know it's difficult, but try to ignore all of the other problems with these two excerpts—welcome to the world of percussion literature. I will let you appreciate that brace tho. It's… special to say the least.
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Knut
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by Knut » 01 Mar 2016, 08:56

I'm no expert in writing for percussion, but one question comes to mind: Are rests outlawed in this kind of writing? The rhythm is very hard to make out without them.

Further solutions to explore are clef changes and cross staff beaming. Another solution is the kind of double stemming frequently used in keyboard and harp music, where one voice/hand gets all the notes, while the notes for the other hand is doubled with the stems in opposite directions.

BTW, the brace looks like the old Finale default.

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OCTO
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by OCTO » 01 Mar 2016, 10:30

I find these examples a bit unpleasant. There are numerous things I would change.
About LH RH direction, I don't have a particular opinion.
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Finale 25 • Sibelius 8 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 9 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 7)

Knut
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by Knut » 01 Mar 2016, 12:05

The beaming is in no way clear in these examples, so with that reservation, here is a couple of versions of the first measure that illustrates what I'm talking about:
Skjermbilde 2016-03-01 kl. 12.59.32.png
Skjermbilde 2016-03-01 kl. 12.59.32.png (105.82 KiB) Viewed 3679 times

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Alexander Ploetz
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by Alexander Ploetz » 01 Mar 2016, 12:37

Where are those examples from?

Not only is there, in most cases, no reason to distinguish between left and right hand use by stem direction, it actually can turn out to be a hindrance quickly. Any percussionist will tell you that choice over which hands to use should ultimately be left to the performer (which does not rule out offering suggestions with "L" / "R" annotations). However, once you prescribe a certain hand allocation by beaming you make it annoyingly difficult for a player to choose a different approach. Using such beaming means to impose one and only one reading onto a player, regardless of whether another reading might actually work out much better for a particular performer's skill set.

And that does not even consider how a notation as above distorts the musical content.

MJCube
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by MJCube » 01 Mar 2016, 19:05

The main difference I notice between the original and Knut’s recopy is that the original preserves the pitch relationship of the grand staff to the instrument, so you can see where the notes lie irrespective of which hand plays them. Knut’s clef change clarifies the rhythm, the sequence of pitches, and hand distribution, but at the expense of the spatial sense.

The beaming is not sensible to me in either version. In the first image, realizing that it’s all straight 16th notes in 4/4 meter helps, but what would be the harm in at least attempting to beam to the beats? At first it looks as if the compositional idea is a stream of equal notes without accentuation, but the patterns in the notes themselves show that’s not the case. I would have to think about such passages a long time and consult with the composer to find better editorial choices. (I have edited many scores for Joel Harrison including complex passages for Marimba.) This notation leaves too much to the editor and performer about the composer’s intentions.

I note, in that one repeat bar, the rhythmic notation is simplified for the alternation of 16th notes. That could be useful in more places.

P.S. The brace on the left is one of those Finale default earmarks I was talking about in the other thread.

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OCTO
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Re: RE: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by OCTO » 01 Mar 2016, 20:03

cGilmore wrote:
Anyone have any suggestions?
I have numerous suggestions that cover composition, notation and engraving. But I am unsure if you are looking for that also.
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Finale 25 • Sibelius 8 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 9 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 7)

cGilmore
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by cGilmore » 02 Mar 2016, 07:28

Alexander Ploetz wrote:Where are those examples from?

Not only is there, in most cases, no reason to distinguish between left and right hand use by stem direction, it actually can turn out to be a hindrance quickly. Any percussionist will tell you that choice over which hands to use should ultimately be left to the performer (which does not rule out offering suggestions with "L" / "R" annotations). However, once you prescribe a certain hand allocation by beaming you make it annoyingly difficult for a player to choose a different approach. Using such beaming means to impose one and only one reading onto a player, regardless of whether another reading might actually work out much better for a particular performer's skill set.
There from a piece called "Four Rotations for Marimba". They're pretty popular, especially in high schools and colleges. But unfortunately, there is a lot of literature for marimba looks like this. So it's not just this one piece I'm picking on but rather what is almost a standard.

I wonder if the education market has made the idea of needing to make decisions such as sticking seem necessary. I'm definitely a convert to music not making such decisions as I looked at how that topic is handled by better publishers. It seems almost contradictory to feel it was necessary to separate the hands via stem direction AND specify which mallet to play certain notes. I guess they were just being thorough? :)
MJCube wrote:In the first image, realizing that it’s all straight 16th notes in 4/4 meter helps, but what would be the harm in at least attempting to beam to the beats?
I laughed at this because it seems like if there's a time signature that shouldn't take "realizing" it's 4/4 (I too counted out each note and was like, "seriously? It's just 4/4?! ;) ), but that's one of the things that sticks out to me. It isn't obvious. Maybe you could get away with it if the music was some odd rhythmic phrasing but it's not, really.
Knut wrote:The beaming is in no way clear in these examples, so with that reservation, here is a couple of versions of the first measure that illustrates what I'm talking about:
I'd wonder if something like this would be fitting since this piece is a near non-stop playing of 16th notes. I think the first measure in your example could work for no other reason than the right hand is usually brought out like a melody.

But I also think of something as simple as the infamous G-major Prelude from the Bach cello suite. It's also near non-stop 16th notes and yet is notated so simply. Perhaps that really is the way to go.
Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 1.18.17 AM.png
Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 1.18.17 AM.png (29.25 KiB) Viewed 3624 times
And then leave any sticking decisions to the performer. I feel like there's not an elegant way to do so otherwise.
Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 1.27.11 AM.png
Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 1.27.11 AM.png (32.07 KiB) Viewed 3624 times
Last edited by cGilmore on 02 Mar 2016, 07:32, edited 3 times in total.
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cGilmore
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by cGilmore » 02 Mar 2016, 07:30

OT—LP usually handles optical spacing well, but that second example of mine is not doing too well in that category…
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OCTO
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Re: Beautifying Mallet Percussion

Post by OCTO » 02 Mar 2016, 09:42

cGilmore wrote:Marimba follows a lot of the same conventions as piano, namely RH stems up, LH stems down. However, this leads to the following results to maintain that convention:
marimba_1.JPG
marimba_1.JPG (534.26 KiB) Viewed 3612 times
marimba_2.JPG
marimba_2.JPG (855.21 KiB) Viewed 3612 times
Anyone have any suggestions?
I have numerous questions. For me it seems that this was done by someone (percussionist?) who is neither a professional composer (I mean, truly dedicated composer as well), nor engraver (I mean, truly dedicated engraver as well). I guess that this is probably a kid of "etude", so to practise various use of mallets. But it is to much anaemic for me, and this piece has, IMHO, numerous faults that educates wrongly young players.

1. Lack of correct beaming makes me crazy. Why are in EX1 m.1&2 beamed in RH but not in m.3? There is truly nothing I can see as a phrase that beamings can reveal. It is very strange and odd in my opinion. If a composer wanted to keep those kind of beamings, than another approach should be done with the notation. This is notation of Messian's Fourth Style; but I can barely see any musical direction, and this is very basic problem.
2. cresc.______ it should not be written so. if you have p cresc:______ f it can be only cresc. The line is not needed. Only cres - cen - do or some kind of very long crescendo - - - - - over several measures.
3. in EX2 m.3 are syncopes. Why not in m.5?
4. mp cresc.___ mf in EX2 m.4 :eek: !! I am not sure how to make it in such a short time between these mezzo nuances. How can audience perceive this and how will a pupil learn what to do?
5. From engraving point, why are stave distances the same? In EX2, second row can be pulled much closer. It will make music more readable.
6. EX1 m.1: why is tone B-E in LH in :t ? But the next B-E in m.3 in is split in :b ? What is the sense of it?
...
Please excuse me if I sound to harsh, it is definitely not my intention. ;)
Freelance Composer. Self-Publisher.
Finale 25 • Sibelius 8 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 9 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 7)

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