If you approach drumming seriously, theneverything you put together to make yoursound brings you to your own, unique world.— Robyn Schulkowsky
Texture. This is where percussionists can shine.
texture /teksCHər/ noun
noun: texture; plural noun: textures1.
1. the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface or a substance.
"skin texture and tone"
Musically, texture is the quality of the sound you make. Think of sound as a surface (as in the definition above), is the sound you are making smooth, rough, rippled, watery, gaseous, solid, etc.? The fact that percussion can be just about anything, means that we not only have unlimited sound, we have unlimited textures.
Texture as Instrument
We have a lot of instrument choices out there. Percussion is made from:
These instruments can be:
The playing surface can be:
Now take all the above and throw them in a blender and you get an idea of all the sort of available percussion variations. Now add to that been a seemingly endless array of striking implements that can be made from:
Within these materials we can have such a wide variety of strikers:
Sticks (thick/thin/different size & type tips)
Brushes (heavy/light, metal/plastic/nylon)
And various metal rods & tubes, plastic rods & tubes, bows,
and whatever you can think of, including using one instrument on another (striking/rubbing/scraping).
So you have all these possibilities. Now what? The first thing is to know your sounds. How does that cowbell sound when played with a felt mallet? Or that dumbek? You need to experiment in your practice studio to find and understand the different sounds that you have at your disposal.
When you play live, or in the recording studio, you draw upon all of this homework that you've done. I know that for me, it becomes a very instinctive activity. I hear something being played by the other musicians and react to it, grabbing a striking implement and setting it upon an instrument. Or perhaps just using my hands. But it's never a conscious decision, with me thinking, “I should grab this small Gong and hit it with this yarn mallet.” That would take too much time while the live music was advancing forward. So again, it all comes down to knowing your sounds, know what you are doing.
In the studio, there is the luxury of being able to work things out, perhaps discuss it with the other musicians. Then you can do different takes with different textures. Again, for me, it becomes an instant decision of not only what pitch/note (high, low, somewhere in-between), but what the texture of that note will be. And then there's the factor of what is the pitch & texture of the notes being played before and after that particular note: do I move from a scrape to a hit and then rub 2 instruments together?
And finally, how does all of this sit and fit within the music being played by the other musicians? Do I scrape this corrugated metal over this double bass part? Or would these gourd shakers be better? Or maybe both? Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Concept, gesture, and texture. 3 important ideas to build your percussion performance upon.
How do you build your performance?