LSO Master Class - Percussion

Uploaded by symphony on 18.10.2010

Percy: Hi, YouTube.
Welcome to the London Symphony Orchestra Master Classes
for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
My name's Neil Percy
and I'm the Principal Percussion player
with the London Symphony Orchestra.
And what we're here to do today
is talk about the repertoire that has been set
that you have to learn,
which is hopefully going to get you
in to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
How exciting is that?
So we're gonna get straight to it.
And we're gonna go to the snare drum repertoire
of Scheherezade.
And we're gonna go in with letter Q.
[rapid drumbeat]
So that was letter Q.
And the problem is with taking things
out of context is that we might think
of these things as drum solos,
which they're certainly not.
Pretty much everything in Scheherezade
apart from a couple of bars in the third movement
is accompanimental.
And here at Q,
we're certainly accompanying the trumpet second
and at this particular stage the horn section,
who have that very rhythm.
[mimicking rapid drumbeat]
So it's really, really important
that we don't play too loudly so that we can hear
the--the--we can hear what they're going to do.
So what I might do in the first rehearsal
just so I can check balances,
check to see how things lie,
is I might just play a little bit down on that.
And we might get something like this.
So this would be where I might play
for the first rehearsal.
Now at that dynamic,
there's absolutely no problem with me being able
to hear the horns.
Because, remember, their bells are facing me anyway.
And the amount of air that the trumpets
are gonna be putting through their instruments
at that particular time will mean that I can hear them
absolutely no problem.
From there, then I can build it a little bit,
build a crescendo into it,
and make something of it.
Now, in terms of maybe some exercises
that might help you to prepare this--
because obviously it's-- it's quite fast
and can indeed go faster than that.
So there's a couple of things that I think about
when I'm playing the snare drum.
First of all, to practice hands separately.
So simple exercises like this may be eight repeats
with each hand.
Maybe going to 16 with each hand.
And also turning the rhythm on its head.
So put the eighth note at the end of the phrase
instead of the beginning so you get something like this.
[emphasizing final beats]
I find those help a lot when we come to it.
Also sticking.
I see a lot of people who might favor
a particular hand.
They might be right-handed and want to lead
all of the time with the right hand.
In my experience, uh, that can lead to problems.
Particularly, again, if the tempo is up there.
So as you'll see, my sticking is--
I'm actually sharing the responsibility
between the right and the left hands.
So my sticking slowly would be right, left,
right, left, left, right, left, right,
right, left, right, left, and so on and so on.
If you stick with a particular lead
and the tempo really gets up there--
and remember, the tempo to this piece
can change between the rehearsal and the show--
Conductors are human too,
and sometimes they get the bit between their teeth.
And the tempo can be significantly faster.
So we need to make sure that we're building in
a safety margin to our playing so that if the tempo
is significantly increased,
we're able to cope with it.
So let's try it at a few different speeds.
Let's try it a little bit slower.
[slower, emphasizing final beats]
Et cetera. Et cetera. And then maybe pretty quick.
[faster, emphasizing final beats]
Now, of course, we could always go to doubles
if the tempo is, you know,
quite frankly, ridiculous.
[accelerated drumming]
I think it's fair to say
that our horn and trumpet colleagues
are gonna have a problem before we do.
But the thing to do is to always think
about more than one way of preparing an excerpt
because certainly when you come to play it for the first time
with, uh, with an orchestra,
the conductor might get you to do something
completely different--
something that you haven't actually thought about.
And if you've only thought about one way
of how to play this,
it can be difficult to implement on the gig
with 75 colleagues watching you at that particular time.
So the best thing to do is to think
about a number of ways to play a particular excerpt
so that if the conductor wants you to change
in some ways,
you can implement these changes straight away.
So now we're gonna look at letter N for Neil.
And I'll play this
and then we'll, uh, we'll talk about it a little bit.
[soft beat]
So at this particular point, at N,
it's really, really important
to know what you're playing with.
Now you have the full bass section there
playing pizzicato E's.
[mimicking bass line]
And I can tell you certainly from my colleagues in the LSO
that when you get eight bass players
on full chat playing a pizzicato E,
man, that's a sound.
Put that together with the timpani,
who's got a beautiful, resonant instrument
playing with great sticks.
He has those notes as well.
If we play a proper pianissimo...
[very soft beat]
The--the sound of the snare drum
will be completely and utterly lost.
So this is a case in point of actually only using dynamics
as a guide.
As soon as I go in to those semiquavers,
I'm listening...
[very soft beat]
to see exactly where I want this to fit
in the scheme of things.
If there was one thing that Rimsky-Korsakov was,
it was an unbelievable Orchestrator.
And he showed for the first time what was possible
on this instrument
and opened the door for many other composers
that followed.
So it's really, really important
to use dynamics as a guide.
They're not there to be-- to be adhered to religiously.
So always use them as a guide.
And as I said, when I get to that point,
I'm really listening out
to make sure that the sound that I've got
is going to be perfect to help the basses
and the timpani
and to just to rhythmically reinforce what they have.
[very soft beat]
Yes, that's a little bit hotter than pianissimo.
But I promise you,
it won't be lost in the orchestration now
by playing there.
So that's something to think about.
Don't always be too literal about the, uh, dynamics
that are marked.
[flowing tune]
So there you have it.
I think it's really, really important to remember
that Tchaikovsky's given us a beautiful palette here
with which to try and get the best sound
that we possibly can.
As I said, you're in dialog with flute and horn.
And they'll be making such a beautiful, gorgeous sound
that I think it's important for us to think
about making really sweet sounds on the glockenspiel.
This isn't about nasty attack.
This is all about real sweet as honey notes
because that's what it should--
that's what it should sound like.
And again, very, very basic things.
Just, uh, I'm playing on a pedal glock here.
So I've obviously got the advantage
of playing with a pedal.
Which many of you who will be uploading your video
will probably be playing on a glock in a box.
And I understand that.
But I've got the advantage of having a pedal
simply because I've played on an instrument like this
for the last 20 years.
So it's something that I've got used to.
But we'll talk about later on the pedaling technique
that I'm using.
But if you're playing on a glock in a box,
you're gonna need to be really cute
with your hand damping technique
because we don't want too many of these notes to ring
into each other.
So the very last phrase we play,
we have something like this.
Now, you can see
that even though I have a pedal glock,
I'm still using my hand to get rid of that D.
If we don't, uh, damp those notes at all,
we're gonna get something like this...
[discordant ringing]
where you can hear all of those tones...
[discordant ringing]
ringing on at the same time.
That's at a point where we just want to hear
the dominant seventh leading back to the big tune.
So really, really important that we're clean
with these notes.
As I said, uh, a lot of the time on the glockenspiel,
I use a sort-- a feathering technique
with the, uh, with the pedal
where I'm just sort of feathering, ghosting,
what--however you want to call it.
I'm just sort of half-dampening those notes as I play them...
[slight dampening]
which just makes it a little bit cleaner.
And then the one tone that you want to be there...
[tone rings]
the dominant seventh from the dominant seventh chord,
is there.
It's not gonna be clashed with all these notes...
[discordant ringing]
which is not such a good thing.
So once again,
it's going to be really, really important
that those of you who are playing
on a glock in a box are very, very canny
about your hand damping technique.
And as I said, enjoy it.
This is such gorgeous music at this point.
And as I said, we're trying to make really,
really sweet sounds on the glockenspiel.
So it's easy for me on a resonated instrument
to see where I should be striking the instrument
because I obviously want the best sound
that I can possibly get.
So I'm going to play over the resonators.
Possibly on a glock in a box,
sometimes you might be a little bit too, uh,
too near the node.
It really is important
that you're right in the playing zone at all times
so that you can get the best possible sound.
Now we come to Stravinsky's Firebird.
And this is the excerpt from the complete ballet.
I think it's fair to say that what I'm thinking about
all the way through this is the 16th note subdivision
because this carries the whole momentum
of this particular passage.
And some of the writing is incredibly intricate.
And the 16th note will be passed around the sections--
clarinets, bassoons, et cetera, et cetera.
And it becomes incredibly frenetic.
So it's really important right from the word go
that we think about the 16th note subdivision.
So right from where the cor anglais
comes in with that tune,
I'll be thinking for those eight bars...
[mimicking beat]
So when I play my first entry, it should be absolutely in time.
So you'll hear me sort of counting
the 16th through this.
Uh, I would certainly advocate that when you practice it,
to get your metronome and have a 16th note subdivision.
It helps. Believe me.
[light playing]
[rapid playing]
Again, really, really basic things
like we spoke about in the glock.
Do practice slowly, making sure
that you're always striking in the correct part of the note
so that when you come to play it faster,
you'll have developed a degree of muscle memory
that will lead you into the correct striking point.
So when I say slowly, I mean even as slowly as this.
[upbeat playing]
Again, what's really, really important
is the quality of the sound that we're trying to make.
Even though this is a particularly frenetic passage,
it's very easy to, uh, to--to compromise the sound
a little bit by getting a little too near the node.
And you can hear that straight away.
So do take care of business on that front.
Also don't become too eye dependant.
Uh, I see a lot of players play it like this.
[rapid playing]
Two things about that are not particularly great.
First of all, you're putting a big target
on the top of your head that the conductor
is gonna aim at when he can't see your eyes.
It's absolutely important
that whatever instrument you're playing,
you're giving the conductor your eyes at all times.
So not particularly good if your eyes
are on the instrument all of the time
because you can't see any changes of tempo.
And bare that in mind even when you're playing
for an audition.
Also, when your head's in this position...
[rapid playing]
your ears are just full of xylophone-ness.
You're just getting the sound from your own instruments
whereas with all the other excerpts
that we've look at so far,
it's absolutely crucial
that your ears are absorbing the information that is coming
from your colleagues.
Eight bars before The Infernal Dance,
we're likely to get something like this where we need
to give the conductor our eyes so we can see
what he's indicating in terms of the accelerando.
[rapid playing]
So thanks so much for watching.
I hope you got something out of it.
And I'm really excited and really looking forward
to seeing all of your videos.
So upload as many as you can.
I'll see you next time. Take care.