Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

Percussionists: Object lesson for today

Today we’re having an installation of “What to do, What not to do” for percussionists.

What to do

Back in college I had the privilege of seeing a percussion group called Nexus perform. It was one of two moments in those years that I just had this goofy grin stuck on my face because the awesomeness just blew me away (the other was when the drummer from the Navy Jazz Band did his drum solo… holy cow that was amazing). I imagine that there were those there who were expecting a different kind of concert, but I was completely enthralled. At the end of the night they did a medley of ‘novelty ragtimes’ on the xylophones. The set up was pretty similar to what is seen in the video below.

For those who don’t know, Ragtimes are very structured and generally at a pretty slow tempo. Novelty Rags are much faster, as evidenced by this Nexus performance. Notice how the lead, Bob Becker, seems to exert almost no effort, yet he’s all over the xylophone (or is it a marimba?) with extreme precision and speed (especially at around the 3:25 mark). Just awesome.

For an even better example, check out the 6:30 mark in this video from the same performance.

I wish I could find some video of some of the other things they did in the show. Really inventive, high quality stuff.

What NOT to do

Then there’s this guy. As someone on Facebook commented, “It’s like Chris Farley had a baby with Animal from the Muppet Show.”

And if you must do it that way, don’t wear that jacket. No doubt the guy has some talent, but come on… while I’m impressed, I’m also a little scared.

Bonus Rag

Since we started out with a ragtime, let’s end on one. One of my favorite rags breaks a few rag rules, I’m sure… but you gotta love it. This is a great concert version of Billy Joel’s “Root Beer Rag” from the Streetlife Seranader album.

I prefer the album version, but he always does interesting stuff in the concert versions of his songs. Here’s the original, plus an interesting a capella cover by a German group called Wise Guys.