Leoson, Markus: The Yin & Yang Method for Snare Drum

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The Yin & Yang Method for Snare Drum - 60 pages, Rudimental Snare technique exercises: Paradiddles, Grace Notes, Soft-Loud Strokes, Single Strokes, Double Strokes, Three Strokes, Buzz Strokes, Double and Buzz Strokes, Tremolo/Rolls; Text engl.

Preface

I have been writing this book because I realized that I lacked a full concept book of just exercises for all the aspects of the snare drum technique, both for myself as well as for my students. I believe that it is very important for the technical development to study in detail what every hand does for itself. The idea was also to enable a great flexibility in each hand in order to smoothly be able to execute every problematic bar or notes that the player could possibly encounter.

The book is in first hand written for the classical/orchestral/soloist snare drummer but I am sure that many rudimental or drum set players as well could enjoy and get helped from most of the exercises in this book. It is supposed, with all due respect, to follow in the footsteps of the great G. L. Stone and somehow be a Stick Control 2.0 book. The Snare Drum is really the percussionist´s first instrument to master and therefore is this technique so important to achieve properly in order to also be able to play for instance timpani and mallet instruments well.

Why call the book ”The Yin & Yang Method for Snare Drum”?
The reason is because the exercises always go from hand to hand and there are really an equal amount of ”lefts” and ”rights” in the book. The exercises also deliberately start with the left hand (which is for most of all players the “weaker“ hand) and we need to support this hand extra to strengthen and trust it so that it will almost become as secure as our “stronger“ hand  (usually the right hand for most of all players). Another reason is that almost all other snare drum literature always begin exercises with right hand and people tend to forget to also start the exercises with left hand. After having “mastered“ this book you will notice that when you go back to other snare drum schools they are probably now much easier to execute. However I find many of them too long with often too long exercises, this is why the exercises in this book are shorter so that you could immediately play them by memory and feel and listen to what you are doing instead of being occupied of merely just reading the exercises.

I have also tried to get to the core of the technical problems that comes with learning this great instrument. Therefore I have tried to “condense down“ different kinds of exercises (and written them truly difficult and tough to master) into some really useful ones that strengthen the working muscles, help to better control the hands and I´ve also strived for more quality than quantity. Exercises in 4/4 have I deliberately tried to avoid because I´ve noticed that many players and students tend to stop listening to what they are doing when playing too “square” exercises as well as I have avoided to write 4 or 8 hand movements per quaver in rolls – many times they start to sound uneven because normally the leading with the stronger hand tends to be heard. Therefore I recommend, when possible according to tempo and dynamic, to play for instance 5, 7 or 9 hand movements per quaver in the rolls.

Finally I wanted to give the eager snare drum player usable “keys and tools” how to solve different technical problems and challenges that everyone sooner or later will meet in their musicianship.

How to practice  “The Yin & Yang Method for Snare Drum” 

This is for sure one of the ”nerdiest” snare drum books ever written but I believe that it´s very important to go deep into the details of the players technique, almost checking things at the ”atom level”. That´s why I also encourage the student to also be their own teacher, especially together with the tool more or less everybody possess today – the Smartphone. Develop the habit to record yourself several times weekly with the video function and to critical analyse what you see and what you hear. Also don´t hesitate to record smaller exercises, parts of pieces, single phrases and not always wait until you can play a whole piece through. Be curious how your playing really sounds and work.

                                                                                                                                                                        The mistake many players and students do is that they play their material too fast too soon – faster than what they could really control, don´t do so and fall into that old trap just because you overestimate your level and ability!  Rather start the exercises too slow than medium fast because when you play faster than you can control, you program your hands to always play with a less reliable technique and this takes a long time to repair. Play rather all exercises starting very slow and with a sound so even as possible so that one really couldn´t be able to hear any hand changes. It is also very important to play and practise with relaxed low hand and shoulder positions and always control all strokes without any tendency to shiver.  Therefore close your eyes a lot while playing the exercises by memory and really feel and listen to your sound and what you are doing - practising with closed eyes also helps you to easier detect unwanted tensions in your body as well as feel the natural and wanted movement.  Or sometimes just look up when you are playing and avoid staring in the notes. Besides that try to learn to just enjoy playing exercises real slowly with full control, here you could sometimes also play half of some exercises with repetitions. 

Practice also exercises, etudes and solo pieces using your voice counting the meters out loud or simply just say ”tick” for every quarter. Or put your metronome in half notes tempo and on 2 and 4, off beats or syncopations. This will help you to hear more intensely all quarters and eight notes ticking in your head which will lead to more rhythmical stability. Be also sure that notes with a marcato accent stand in a truly clear contrast to the notes without. 

A well achieved double stroke roll (open roll) technique comes very handy on more or less all other percussion instruments occasionally – just playing two notes in a row with one hand, which quite often is necessary on for instance timpani and mallet instruments you need to be able to play the second note truly equal strong  as the first one. I cannot stress enough the importance of practicing these double stroke roll exercises a lot and also loud and as even as possible! Be sure that you don´t change your grip when you go from single strokes (rhythms) to rolls (open or buzz) and back. Especially check your pinkies at that moment because they have a tendency to straighten out and usually it´s also the weaker hand that does that more often. Pointing pinkies are not helping (even if you would think so) but just taking control and efficiency from your playing. Always occasionally look at your hands, fingers and wrists while practising in order to see that they “behave” as they should and regularly video record yourself!                  

Check that your sticks do not come more than around 2 cm apart from each other in general playing and mainly just use your wrists to lift and lower the sticks (stiff wrists with arm movements could eventually join in first when playing really loud rolls).  

These Y&Y exercises are also written in this way for at the end get a smoother, cleaner and more even roll that works in every speed and every dynamic and this is really the biggest challenge playing the Snare Drum, apart from also being able to control all kinds of grace notes in different tempi and with different dynamics.  

Besides all this I strongly recommend to practise mostly on a real snare drum and not on a practice pad when it´s not necessary. This is in order to get the real feeling of how the skin and sticks respond to each other and to get the real skin touch and the real feeling of how it is to for example play controlled pianissimo figures, which requires truly a lot of practice. Rather use ear plugs when practising than a practise pad for saving your ears.  

For the daily warm-up routines I recommend the Pre-tremolo and the Muscle building exercises and play them with not too light sticks and thin tips, starting slow...

The “weaker” hand 

Overall practice a lot more with your “weaker” (usually the left) hand in order to be able to rely and trust it, although it will never be as good as your “stronger” (usually the right) hand. Challenge your weaker hand daily – let it play triangle or tambourine for instance or let it play the more important single notes that you have to play on other instruments and why not in the everyday life try to brush the teeth, make sandwiches, iron clothes etc. with the weaker hand.  

The Stickings 

Several stickings that I have written, are hard and somewhat unlogical but they do very good in the long run for your technique but still try them out at first very slow so that you totally can control every part of the figures.  See them as these exercises they are and of course feel free to use other stickings as well. Sometimes the exercises also start with the harder sticking version and ends with the easier one – it´s because you should focus on mastering the more difficult ones in order to get the easier stickings later feel even easier than before.  

Finally I am truly grateful to Johan Svitzer for all his efforts and his great cooperation in the making of this book. 

Markus Leoson
Weimar, August 2020  

Dedicated to all my students and my teacher Björn Liljequist

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