Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 NSW State Band Championships

Yesterday I participated in the NSW State Band Championships with the concert band I perform with: NWWE (North West Wind Ensemble).

I play mostly glockenspiel.
This is an excerpt of one of the pieces we played yesterday.
It is called "Armenian Dances".
The original recoding goes for about 19 minutes.
This video is 10 minutes long.

We won the Open A-Grade section playing Armenian Dances, Fantasy Variations, and Shenendoah. I hope you enjoy it :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010


If you are one of Tessa's current students, pay close attention.

Some of you participated in the last competition to find the fastest single paradiddle player.

Unfortunately, many of you forgot to comment back with your fastest speed and missed out on the preliminary prize (a chocolate bar) and a chance to win a pair of hot rod thunder or lightning sticks. The successful winners of that competition will be known by the end of Term 4 week 1.

Here is a second chance to win a prize!!!

How fast can you play your single-stroke roll?

All you need is a pair of drumsticks, a drum pad, and a metronome.
Don't have a metronome?
Easily fixed :)
Go to Metronome Online for free access to a metronome.

To find your fastest speed, choose a metronome marking.
For example, if you choose 100:
play one note with each click,
OR two notes per click
OR four notes per click
...choose the way that is easiest for you.

If 100 is too slow, set it to 104.
Keep moving the number higher until you have reached your top speed.
Try as many times over the next two weeks as you can, to get a higher number.

On or before Sunday October 10, 2010 comment on this post with the following information:

Your FIRST name
e.g. Chris D.
Your fastest speed
e.g. 108 b.p.m [beats per minute]

[make sure you choose "anonymous" for your ID,
and wait for the special curly letter field.
Go online with Mum or Dad to make sure you have commented properly.
Don't move away from the computer
until it states "Your comment is currently awaiting moderation"]

Make sure you can play your submitted speed for a whole minute - or you will be disqualified. Winners will be announced after times have been checked at lessons.

Enjoy your holidays and have fun playing!!!

Tessa :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Evelyn Glennie: How to listen to music with your whole body

Image from Drummerworld.

Learning to perform music is not just about playing the right notes at the right time.

Ensure that the ‘pulse’ can be felt throughout the whole piece. This is especially important when playing un-pitched percussion such as snare drums

It is important to ‘tell the story’ through expression and playing in the correct style.

In music, especially percussion, techniques that suit the instrument you are playing on are important for producing the correct sound.

You need to monitor your movements on each instrument so that timing, dynamics, and the sound you produce are suited to the music you are playing. Think of the difference between playing a bass drum for a marching band and playing soft rolls on a concert bass drum.

When you play on an instrument you need to lift your sound and play with feeling so that the audience can gain an understanding of the story you are telling.

Here are some notes I took from the video:

· As a musician, you need to do everything that is not on the music.

· Translation: things that make the music interesting

· Interpretation: getting the basic feeling from the written notation is not enough.

· If you allow your arm to simply support the stick instead of control it, you will feel more at one with the instrument.

· Performance is so “raw” and “basic” that it becomes an individual journey dependent on the size of the room, which instrument you are playing, the mallets you use, the speed with which you play etc

· Give yourself time to explore how a piece of music should be performed and with what sensitivity

· Music is much more than waves reacting with the membranes in your eardrums.

· Glennie is deaf and “hears” instruments with other parts of her body. She feels vibrations. Glennie tries to “connect” with the sounds she produces with more than just the ears a normal person employs. For example, she can “feel” different sound colours through vibrations in her arms or parts of her skull.

What steps can you go through to make your own performances more exciting?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trinity Guildhall Exams

Trinity Guildhall offers internationally accredited examinations
in a wide range of musical instruments.

What is the purpose of exams?
Examinations are a recognized method of ensuring that the information being studied can be demonstrated to meet a particular level of grading. The best way to ensure that what your teacher is showing you is actually correct, is to get an expert to give you some constructive criticism.

Entering an Eisteddfod or other competition is also valid. However, it is important to for students to know how their progress can be rated against a syllabus of requirements. External examinations from recognized educational institutions provide guidelines that need to be adhered to in order to pass. Of course, there are many examination variations from different educational providers - all of whom are valid for you, if they are accredited by the board of education in your particular state or country of residence.

Trinity Guildhall (UK) examinations are my preferred option in Sydney, Australia as they focus on performance while assuming and expecting that the student has devoted time in their lessons and home practice, to exercises and rudiments at various metronome markings. Other Australian examination systems expect students to perform from a range of up to 20 pages of exercises within their exam, depending upon grade level. My personal belief is that it should be fairly obvious to an examiner if the student has practiced rudiments and exercises, by the quality of their performance. While the demonstration of technical facility should be a basic requirement of study, musicality is often more apparent in an actual piece of music than in a series of exercises.

The Trinity Guildhall Percussion and Drum Kit Examinations incorporate contemporary works by renowned composers, set within a graded syllabus system. These musical pieces and studies feature techniques specific to the instruments studied, such as the 40 PAS International Drum Rudiments.

The NSW Trinity Guildhall Representative is Barry Walmsley.
Barry Walmsley is the contact for inquiries regarding examinations.
Examination entry forms can also be retrieved from the above link.

Here are some videos which feature Trinity Guildhall Examination pieces:

Toe Tapper Grade 1 Drum Kit
(old syllabus ending 2010)

Full 'O Fills Grade 2 Drum Kit
(old syllabus ending 2010)

Funk One Grade 3 Drum Kit
(old syllabus ending 2010)

Rudimental Study 1 Grade 4 Drum Kit
(old syllabus ending 2010)

Rudimental Study No. 1 Grade 5 Drum Kit
(old syllabus ending 2010)

Mbira Song Grade 6
Orchestral percussion

Raindance Grade 7
Orchestral percussion

Flight of the Bumble Bee Grade 8
Orchestral percussion

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is concert band percussion?

Percussion are musical instruments that need to be stuck, shaken or vibrated to produce a sound. To learn more about the different types of percussion instruments, click on the "Instruments" tab above.

Concert band percussion instruments are those that are commonly used in concert band music. These include the snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, drum kit, timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone, and auxiliary instruments such as the triangle, tambourine, wood block and cowbell.

To learn more about these instruments follow this link to be taken to "A Guide to Concert Band Percussion" - a website I designed last year. It has pictures, sound files and information about the most commonly used concert band percussion instruments.

Here is a YouTube video which shows a community concert band called NSYO (Northern Sydney Youth Orchestra - Wind Band) at a concert earlier this year. All the percussionists are my students and they will be performing this piece at the NSW State Championships at the end of September 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thomas Lang Stick Tricks

Thomas Lang was born in Austria on August 5, 1967 and was inspired to play drums at the age of 5 after watching a heavy metal band on TV.

Lang first studied with private tutors and later went to the Vienna Conservatory of Music, learning a variety of drumming styles. Lang's ability to play competently in styles such as jazz, classical, big band and funk, helped him to get gigs playing with some of Europe's finest recording and touring artists.

Although Lang has toured globally with the finest musicians, he is always striving to perfect his technique. His practice regime inspired the production of an impressive range of instructional books and videos. In addition to this, Lang is always searching to "play the unplayed".

To find out more about Thomas Lang, visit his official pages on Hudson Music, MySpace or the biography he wrote on Drummerworld.

This video is one of my favorites and shows Lang explaining how to twirl your sticks while playing the drum kit. Can you twirl your sticks? I used to practice twirling my pen at school by keeping my arm on a desktop and just moving my fingers. What techniques do you use to practice twirling sticks?

Enjoy :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gary Burton demonstrates the Burton Grip

Gary Burton is probably the world's foremost vibraphone player. He was born on January 23, 1943 and raised in Indiana, USA. He taught himself to play the vibraphone and at 17, made his recoding debut in Nashville Tennessee for guitarists Chet Atkins and Hank Garland.

When Burton started playing the vibraphone it was a new instrument manufactured in the USA by Leedy, Indianapolis in the 1920's.

Burton, who specializes in playing jazz and latin music, quickly found that the "grip" he was using to wield 4 mallets at once was not adequate. He devised a method of holding 2 mallets in each hand (known as "4 mallet technique") which allowed the inner mallets to move up and down under the direction on the thumb - while allowing the outer mallets to make small or wide gaps using finger movements.

This technique, named by other players, is now known as "The Burton Grip".

I hope you enjoy watching this video :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sesame Street: Evelyn Glennie Plays the Drums

Sesame Street is a Children's Television program that has had many fans since it started in the 1960's. In this short segment, Evelyn Glennie shows that you can play percussion on just about anything - including Oscar the Grouch's trash cans!

What non-instrument things have you played percussion on?
Were the sounds they made unusual or did the sounds remind you of something else?

I'll start - I like tapping on plastic surfaces such as chairs...when you play a multiple-bounce roll or fast double-stroke roll on most hard plastic surfaces, it can sound like rain falling into a bucket. I love the different sounds of rain :)

Evelyn Glennie: Short Promo

Dame Evelyn Glennie is possibly the most inspirational percussionist that has influenced my desire to play percussion and teach.

This is the first of many posts that I will dedicate to the life and career of Evelyn Glennie - the world's first successful solo percussionist. What makes Glennie's achievements more spectacular, is that she suffered a childhood illness that left her hearing impaired at the age of eight.

This is a short promotional video sourced from YouTube but also found on her official website, http://www.evelyn.co.uk/

Enjoy :)

Evelyn Glennie: Documentary Segment

This video is a great introduction to how Dame Evelyn Glennie has earned her title as the "world's first solo percussionist". She has and is still inspiring many percussionists, musicians, and people around the world through her dedication. Enjoy :)

Ruby aged 7

This video was taken at the 2009 Billy Hyde Drummer's Play Off and shows one of my students, 7-year old Ruby (one of only two girls), in her performance at the finals showcase.

Ruby's performance is even more amazing because it is her first solo piece and she only started it one month prior to the finals. Ruby has been 'playing' on drums since the age of about 2 but had only been learning formally for 8 months when this video was taken.

I hope to post more video's of Ruby's progress in the coming months.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How fast can you play a Single Paradiddle?

This week I have been encouraging my students to play a single paradiddle consecutively for three days then report back with their P.B. (personal best).

Each student was asked to start their paradiddle at 60 b.p.m. (beats per minute).

There will be a prize for the best verified (of course, I'll have to check out the speed at their next lesson) tempo (speed marking) for each school year level.

Already, most of my high school students can play a single paradiddle faster than 80 b.p.m. so I am expecting tempos higher than 80 if they are in high school.

How fast (and evenly) can you play your single paradiddle? There are small prizes for the winners in each school year level.

Post your score below. Choose "anonymous" for your ID but please say who you are. Example "It's Ruby - my P.B. is 90 b.p.m."

I look forward to reading your comments,
Tessa :)

"WIN" dice image retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://smallbusinessinternetmarketingsecrets.com.au/win-a-double-pass/

Dave Weckl!!!

Dave Weckl is one of my biggest drumming inspirations. He has also inspired many others around the world for more than 25 years, with his love of drumming, music, and educating.

Born on January 8, 1960 in St. Louis Missouri Dave Weckl began playing drums when he was about 8 years old. His mother loved music and his father played piano as a hobby. Weckl received many awards as a teenager, from the National Association of Jazz Educators which later went international and changed it's name to the International Association of Jazz Educators.

When he was 16, Weckl began playing professionally and has performed around the world with many famous musicians. In 1979 Weckl moved to the East coast of the USA to study percussion and drumming at the University of Bridgeport Connecticut.

Weckl has also recorded quite a few albums and has even recorded TV and radio jingles and movie sound tracks. Click here to read more about Dave Weckl's discography, or list of recorded albums.

Weckl's high profile also includes being inducted into the Modern Drummer "Hall of Fame" as one of the top 25 drummers of all time. Weckl is sponsored by a range of companies, which include "Yamaha Drums; Sabian Cymbals; Vic Firth Signature sticks; Remo heads and products; Shure microphones and In Ear Monitor system, May bass drum mounting system; DDrum electronic drums, XL Specialty Cases; Bagend Speakers, LP products." (AngelFire).

Today, Weckl lives in Los Angeles and is still recording, touring, and teaching. He loves to spend time with his family, dog, and also enjoys driving his Audi S4.

In the video below Weckl shows the exciting sounds he can produce on the drum kit. Enjoy :)


AngelFire (2010). Dave Weckl. Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.angelfire.com/mac/keepitlive/drummers/weckle.htm

Dave WecklMusic (2010). Dave Weckl Biography.
Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.daveweckl.com/bio.htm

Haid, M. (n.d.) Image of Dave Weckl playing Yamaha drums. Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Dave_Weckl.html
Mike Haid's website is http://www.myspace.com/mikehaid

Martin, Gene (n.d.). Image of Dave Weckl with drum sticks. Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Dave_Weckl.html

Modern Drummer (n.d.). Dave Weckl Update. Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.moderndrummer.com/updatefull/200001915/Dave%20Weckl

Strideer. (2006). Dave Weckl Drum Solo. Uploaded to YouTube on November 10, 2006 by Strideer. Retrieved September 15, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPiAWfprCzI

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Updated BIO

Tessa Gutierrez has been teaching orchestral percussion and a variety of drumming styles since 1989. She has played and performed since the age of 5 with a variety of orchestras, concert bands, samba bands, marching bands, and rock bands.

All Tessa’s 100 students are members of their school band program or a community ensemble. Through her inspirational teaching they have won numerous music scholarships, receiving accolades in external music examinations, Eisteddfods and Solo competitions at State, National and International levels. Tessa’s graduate students have completed Degrees and are now successful percussion educators and performers.

Currently, Tessa performs with North West Wind Ensemble. In this excerpt from Dance Movements, she is playing glockenspiel.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What Instrument is that?

Percussion instruments are defined as musical instruments that are struck, shaken or vibrated to produce a sound.

The main categories that percussion instruments are further classified into include membranophones, idiophones and aerophones.

MEMBRANOPHONES create sounds when the skin stretched across its body is struck.

of membranophones include the snare drum, bass drum, bongos, congas, drum kit, timpani, marching drums, and drums specific to different cultures such as the tabla and taiko.

IDIOPHONES create a sound by the vibration of its body when struck, shaken, rubbed, or plucked (Girsberger, 1998).
Examples of idiophones include cymbals, bar percussion instruments, castanets, scrapers, and mbiras.

AEROPHONES create a sound when air is blown through them or across their opening, causing air to vibrate and produce a sound (Girsberger, 1998; Beck, 1995).
Examples of percussion aerophone instruments include whistles and bull roarers.

To read more about percussion instruments, click on the Instruments Tab above.

Friday, September 10, 2010

WFD - World's Fastest Drummer!!!

So you want to be the world's fastest drummer? What do you need to do?
Playing a single-stroke roll fast with either sticks or foot pedals, is an actual sport called "extreme sport drumming".
Mike Mangini holds the record for being the world's fastest professional drummer but anyone can win the WFD competition. Rhythm Knowledge Online is Mangini's own line of publications to show how anyone can develop good technique and fast 'chops'.

There are competitions to find the "world's fastest drummer" that are held around the world and organized by "extreme sport drumming". In fact, there is even an arcade game that was invented as a result of this competition, where you can test your skills to see if you can beat the world champion.

The Mike Mangini Signature Series: Pearl Drums

If you are really keen, follow the steps which speed drummer Steve Dow has posted on his website. These exercises are very detailed and require only basic experience. Dow claims that these steps have helped him increase both his stamina and speed. In fact, Dow won a few regional competitions leading up to the main world's fastest drummer competitions - with no prior experience! He basically only entered the first competition for fun and didn't think he would win.

One of the most important things Steve Dow recommends is to stretch and warm-up before doing any strenuous drumming exercises so that your muscles don't get injured or fatigued.

Here is a great video which shows that age does not matter. Anyone can be the world's fastest drummer. Have fun doing the exercises - let me know if you get anywhere near 900 bpm :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The 40 International PAS (Percussive Arts Society) Drum Rudiments are the basis of all drum related rhythms commonly used today. Visit the PAS site to download a free copy of the rudiments.

These rudiments grew from the Standard 26 American rudiments that were part of my knowledge when I first began learning drums, to the 40 that are now in use.

They were compiled after an intensive 5 years of research. A selection of the finest percussion educators added other orchestral, European, and drum corps rudiments to reflect the range currently found in contemporary drum music.

Ideally, these rudiments should become part of your personal core of knowledge. They will assist you to develop good technique, flexible co-ordination, better note reading skills, and an even playing tempo.

The best way to practice each rudiment is to grab a pair of drum sticks and a drum pad, and play each one until you can play it repeatedly without stopping.

When you can play some of them without stopping, and at an even, comfortable speed, add a metronome and learn how to play along with the clicks.

Go to http://www.metronomeonline.com/ or buy a metronome at your local music store.

Once you have a metronome you can start becoming a professional by learning how to play each rudiment from:

  1. OPEN = start at a slow and even pace
  2. Gradually get faster
  3. CLOSED = Stay at your fastest, most even tempo for as long as you can
  4. Gradually get slower
  5. OPEN = end at a slow and even pace

A great book to show you how to play rudiments in drum fills and around the drum kit, is
"Exercises for natural Playing" by Dave Weckl.

I hope you have fun exploring your drum kit with rudiments.
Drop me a line to let me know how you are going :)


Thank you for stopping by to learn about
all things percussion.

Although I started playing music at the age of 5 and have been teaching percussion since 1989, I believe that the area of percussion is so vast that I am still learning today. In my travels across the Internet I have found many great sites for drummers and hand percussionists but realized that the area of concert band and orchestral percussion is not represented very well.

My students, who range in age from 4 years old (Christian, in the photo above) to 40+, learn a variety of styles and rudimental techniques that span a vast percussion instrument range.
The ensemble music my students bring to their lessons in addition to exam pieces and other works which I give them to extend their repertoire, combine together and represent a third of their knowledge base. Rudiments, timing, techniques, reading and aural skills represent another third. Creativity and improvisation are explored at the end of a lesson as long as they are on track with the essentials. At each age range, there are varying levels of ability so lessons need to be tailored with regard to individual skill level and attention span.

Orchestral percussion and drum kit are the main areas of focus in my students lessons. However I continually tell my students that if I don't show them how to play as many instruments as I can source, then they are not getting their money's worth!

Despite the classical training my students learn as a foundation, I believe that the most exciting learning comes from experimenting. When my students explore the different ways that rhythms can be produced to create a solo or be woven seamlessly through a piece of melodic music, they are taking the first steps toward forming their own unique style and learning how to improvise.

My hope is that the information on this site will inspire your love of playing percussion, enhance your musical knowledge, repertoire, and help you to find your own unique "Percussive Sweet Spot".

Monday, September 6, 2010


Tessa Gutierrez has been teaching orchestral percussion and a variety of drumming styles since 1989. She has played and performed since the age of 5 with a variety of orchestras, concert bands, samba bands, marching bands, and local rock bands.

Through her inspirational teaching Tessa’s students have won many School and Tertiary music scholarships, accolades in their HSC, AMEB, Trinity College London and Trinity Guildhall examinations, in addition to various successes in their solo and ensemble performances at local Sydney Eisteddfods, the Billy Hyde Drummers play-offs, and the Australian Percussion Eisteddfod.

Quite a few of Tessa's students have also achieved places at the Australian National Band Championship solo events, and the NSW State Band Championship solo events with at least one of her students each year being awarded "Champion of Champions" in the percussion events. Many of her graduate students have finished their Degrees and are now successful percussion educators and performers.

It is compulsory for Tessa’s students to be a member of their school band program or a community ensemble so they can utilize the skills they learn. She currently teaches 100 students at three NSW primary schools and at her home studio. Tessa is also in demand as a tutor at other school music camps and workshops.

Above all, Tessa believes that music should be fun and enjoyable first, and that attention to technique, rhythm, reading and aural skills will enable a firm foundation for each student to learn appropriate skills and develop their own style. Currently, Tessa performs with the North West Wind Ensemble. In this excerpt from Dance Movements, she is playing the glockenspiel.