Lessons Pages

©2000 James Walker

A basic skill of four-mallet technique is the ability to change the interval (distance) between the two mallets in either hand. These motions may be divided into two basic categories (one of which has two sub-categories):

1. One mallet moves, one remains stationary

a) inside mallet moves, outside mallet stationary

b) outside mallet moves, inside mallet stationary

2. Both mallets move

The following are some exercises which address the basic motions of interval expansion. They are presented not only as exercises in their own right, but also as examples meant to demonstrate how one can create many different exercises from these basic movements (exercises which may be expanded into etudes or compositions.) The exercises below, and the issues discussed here, apply to any four-mallet technique, and are not specific to any particular grip.

Note that for all of the examples. even when the interval expansion focuses on one of the hands, the other hand is incorporated into the exercise. Rarely does one play a piece of music which requires the use of only one hand to the exclusion of the other, so to maintain a good basic stance at the instrument, a part has been added to keep the "unused" mallets occupied. And each of the indicated repeats may be taken as many times as is needed in a given practice session.

The first example here involves the movement of the right-hand mallets, making relatively small shifts (first in the right-inside mallet, then in the right-outside). Either of these measures may be isolated and repeated, to focus on one mallet in particular.

ex. 1

...and here is an exercise similar to the previous one, but modified to place the movement in the left-hand mallets:

ex. 2

The interval changes to this point have been gradual, moving one step at a time. These next exercises incorporate shifts ranging from a single step to a seventh.

ex. 3

ex. 4

ex. 5

ex. 6

Next is an exercise which incorporates movement in both mallets of a given hand. Notice that for this exercise, each mallet moves the same distance of a fourth. Such symmetry is not required, but in this case both mallets are exercised equally.

ex. 7

And here, both mallets move, but now in stepwise motion:

ex. 8

To this point, all of the exercises have involved double stops in either hand (both mallets striking the bars simultaneously). Any of these exercises may be varied through the use of sequential stickings. (Click here to see the "Practice Room Timesavers" lesson on this site, for an exploration of sequential stickings.) The following examples utilize a sequential sticking of 1-2-3-4:

ex. 9

ex. 10

ex. 11

Some further suggestions for creating one's own exercises:

1. All of the examples presented on this page are limited to the lower manual (the "white keys") of the keyboard. This focuses one's attention on the lateral movement of the mallets. Transpose any of these exercises up or down by half steps to incorporate another dimension by including the upper manual ("black keys"). Also, this focus on the lower manual means that all of the exercises above are based on modes of the diatonic scale (C major, specifically). Interval expansion exercises may incorporate different scales (chromatic scale, pentatonics, diminished scale) or arpeggios.

2. Ideally, each practice session should address the basic motions outlined at the top of this page (inside mallet moves; outside mallet moves; both mallets move).

3. Notice that the last notated example above involves specific harmony (V7 - I in C major). Adding melodic or harmonic content to an exercise not only places the exercise in more of a musical context, it can be a first step in creating an etude or composition based on the exercise.

4. While it will help the novice to focus on one sort of interval expansion technique at a time, once a player has become adept at these basic motions, exercises may be created which incorporate different motions. In the last example, only one mallet moves in the left hand, while both of the right hand's mallets change position.

(This page and all the materials within copyright ©2000 James Walker, All Rights Reserved.  No portion of this page may be duplicated or distributed without the author's written consent.)

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