Students at all levels know the challenge of finding enough time to practice; the challenge becomes even greater when one leaves school and has to deal with  the demands of "real life."  The two lessons here are designed to help streamline the time spent practicing basic four-mallet techniques.

I.  Sequential stickings

In four-mallet playing, there are 24 permutations of single strokes involving all four mallets.

 1234 1243 1342 1432 1324 1423 2341 2431 2134 2143 2413 2314 3412 3124 3421 3214 3241 3142 4123 4312 4213 4321 4132 4231

It is important that one be able to execute all 24; however, fitting all of them into a daily practice routine is time-prohibitive. Here is a way to approach the practice of these permutations in a more time-efficient manner.

Take these four as an example:

 1234 2341 3412 4123

...they're actually all the same pattern (2 follows 1, 3 follows 2, 4 follows 3, 1 follows 4), simply starting on a different mallet in each case. So, it would be redundant to practice all four in the same practice session (especially if one uses these simply as a warmup exercise or a review of basic technique). Once you get started and continue repeating them, they both become the same pattern:

123412341234123412341234...

is basically equivalent to:

234123412341234123412341...

The way these four permutations can be grouped together, the remaining 20 may also be grouped into sets of "equivalent" patterns:

 Group 1: (1234)=(2341)=(3412)=(4123) Group 2: (1243)=(2431)=(4312)=(3124) Group 3: (2134)=(1342)=(3421)=(4213) Group 4: (2143)=(1432)=(4321)=(3214) Group 5: (1324)=(3241)=(2413)=(4132) Group 6: (1423)=(4231)=(2314)=(3142)

If you practice one permutation from each group each day, you will cover each of the basic 1-2-3-4 sequences on a daily basis. Over the course of four days, one will then have practiced all 24 permutations (4X6=24).  A practical way to organize these permutations is by starting mallet:

 Starting with: Mallet 1: (1234) (1243) (1342) (1432) (1324) (1423) Mallet 2: (2341) (2431) (2134) (2143) (2413) (2314) Mallet 3: (3412) (3124) (3421) (3214) (3241) (3142) Mallet 4: (4123) (4312) (4213) (4321) (4132) (4231)

Simply play all of the permutations which start with the first mallet on one day; the next day, play all which start on the second mallet, and so on for the third and fourth days. On the fifth day, you're back to starting with the first mallet. It is a nice balance between long-term goals (i.e., practicing all 24 permutations) and an efficient use of one's time.

II.  Four-mallet double-stop (or, "double-vertical") practice

One of the subtleties separating a good performance on a percussion instrument from a mediocre one, is getting all simultaneous attacks to occur precisely together, avoiding any unwanted "flam" effect.  Here is a warmup routine which allows one to quickly review multiple "stops" involving all mallets in a four-mallet grip.

Select one of the mallets (we'll start with mallet #1, the "outside" mallet in the left hand; any of the mallets can be selected), and select a four-note shape to play:

1. Play the selected mallet (#1 in this example) as a single independent stroke; combine the remaining mallets into a three-mallet grouping:

2. Pair the selected mallet with each of the other three mallets; each time, group the remaining two mallets:

3. Play each three-mallet grouping including the selected mallet; each time, play the remaining mallet as a single-independent stroke:

4. Play all four mallets as a block chord:

Whichever mallet you select, this sequence will incorporate all of the double-, triple-, and quadruple-vertical combinations of the four mallets. Remember that the point of this exercise is to play each combination precisely together, avoiding any sort of "flam" effect. Don't forget to transpose the voicing up or down the keyboard for each mallet combination, to practice these techniques using different shapes on the keyboard. Consistent practice, even for only a few minutes each day, will focus one's ability to play two-, three-, and four- note combinations cleanly in the context of a performance.