Recommended Percussion Solos and Etudes

Complimentary Percussion Solo Pieces

This is a new commission project that I’m working on – complimentary percussion solos, not etudes – REAL solos for these instruments!   The first volume is going to be for one player using mostly cymbals.  The confirmed composers participating in this volume are:    James Campbell, Casey Cangelosi, Brian Nozny, Ben Wahlund, Emmanuel Séjourné, John Murphree, Baljinder Sekhon and Anders Astrand

Click on the Guidelines for composers Cymbals  to learn about the history and motivation on this commission.  The first piece is already finished – James Campbell’s Montagues Foundry – click here to get the PDF SET UP.   You can get an idea of the piece from this.  Photo below is of me premiering the piece at the U of Miami in September.   I’ll also be premiering Casey’s piece, The Big Audition on April 4th at the University of Connecticut – check this link to see the recital.

Anahit by Keith Aleo

Anahit is the goddess of fertility and healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology and is dedicated to Craigie and Debbie Zildjian.   Anahit is for 2 Percussionists playing all Zildjian Instruments.


Anahit’s set up – minimum requirements for each player:  3 dry ride cymbals, 4 effects/splash/crash cymbals, 1 hi-hat, 1 Zil Bell.  If you are interested in playing Anahit, feel free to contact me via email to get the music.


Anahit set up and photos from the first performance

Percussion Accessory Etude

1st Percussionist with the Opera National de Paris (Paris Opera Orchestra)

Jean-Baptiste LECLÈRE

wrote an etude for triangle, cymbals and tambourine that was using in their latest audition –

Check out the downloadable PDF below – it’s a major challenge for any percussionist!

A special thanks to JB for allowing me to post it on this website

Jean-Baptiste LECLÈRE

Opération Accessoires

Download a GREAT list of Multi Percussion Solos

Arnold Marinissen gave this list out at a class at Boston Conservatory and I thought I’d share it here

It’s an excellent list of multi-percussion solos – simply click to download – Updated Fall 2013

Arnold Marinissen List

Michael Burritt’s Streaming

As mentioned in the News Section, Michael Burritt’s Steaming is for percussion soloist and 4 player percussion ensemble.   The soloist plays an array of cymbals as well as some other percussion instruments.   The piece was kindly commissioned by the Zildjian Company and is dedicated to the company.   I asked Mike to write a piece that I could play with the student percussion ensembles when I visited schools.   Streaming was born!

Mike was intentionally vague about what sizes, types and sounds of cymbals to use for the piece – he calls the cymbals sounds “Cymbal Scape.”   Although I do not advocate using my suggestions for cymbal sounds or set up, I do think this can be a starting point for anyone playing the piece.   The set up is as follows:

Steaming set up

Starting from the LH side of the set up and moving right:

– The Spiral Trash is a wonderful sound – I used an 18” that I mounted on a stand and let it hang.

– The 4 Low Drums – I used tom toms with double heads if possible.   I used the largest size I could find.

-The 3 “Gen 16” cymbals are something new – they are used primarily in electronic set ups – but, I found them to be a wonderfully mysterious sound.   I used them in the opening and in the cadenza.  I used the sizzle cymbal in conjunction with the “Gen 16” cymbals.   A link about these cymbals is:

  1. Hi Hat – I gravitated toward something heavier and more chunky.

  2. The earth plates are a discontinued Zildjian instrument – however, I was able to locate two of them and had them mounted.  Gwen Burgett Thrasher gave the idea of the mounting system with springs.   They totally resonate with this system!   I used a tom tom mount on the underside of the plywood, this simply slips into a tom tom mount.   The only issue is that it’s a little heavy to travel with!   I just carry less clothes!   Photos of the mounting system:



  1. Mike originally wrote for Zil Bells, however, after further discussion, I really wanted something more dry.   So  I stack (tightly) two splash cymbals on top of each other.  They have a super dry sound and provide the articulation needed.

  2. For the “Cymbal Scape” (as Mike calls it in the score), I thought long a hard about this.   What to use and why.   Basically, I came up with 3 levels of sounds.   The lowest level are 3 dry ride cymbals and a Zildjian “Crash of Doom.”    I use these cymbals for any types of articulate passages – the end in particular.  The next level are cymbals that are more open in sound – I used several drumset crash cymbals and some Zildjian EFX cymbals.   This is a nice combination of sound when you want something in the piece that rings more with a variety of color.   The top level are cymbals that have the more unusual sounds and a little smaller – mini chinas, splashes (not stacked) and “trashy” sounding cymbals.   I use these cymbals and an expanse of sound from level 2.

Cadenza – To play the written cadenza or to play something you create…or a little of both?   This is an important and highly personal decision on the part of the performer.   My decision was to play a little of the written cadenza and to do a significant amount of creative playing on my part.   Mike said this is the performers choice.   I like the idea of bringing the themes of the piece into the cadenza.    I used the drums and cymbals to accomplish this.

If you’d like to play the piece – please contact Mike Burritt directly as it is not published yet.

Mike Burritt contact info:
Office Phone:  (585) 274-1482
The piece will be published soon!  

Complementary Percussion

A Handbook for Tambourine, Triangle, Cymbals and Bass Drum

I have always been an advocate for students learning their instrument before addressing a variety of orchestral excerpts.  Many of my students, especially first year students, enter their first lessons wanting to jump right into a significant amount of orchestral repertoire.   I give students only a few orchestral parts to work on, the goal being that each student must be comfortable on each percussion instrument, both technically and musically, before they address a significant amount of orchestral excerpts.

This belief was put to the test several years ago while working with a graduate student at the University of Miami.  We were beginning a lesson on tambourine, something the student had requested the week before.   As we talked about several techniques, I brought out the sheet music for a couple of orchestral excerpts to demonstrate and apply these techniques.   My student quickly asked me why we would be talking about excerpts before we learned to master the instrument – just like we did on snare drum, xylophone, etc.  Realizing that he had a good point and that I was contradicting myself, I rapidly produced a snare drum book that I planned to apply toward his tambourine playing.   As we played through several of the etudes, I quickly realized that the etudes weren’t idiomatic to the tambourine and were clearly written for a different instrument.   At that moment, an idea was born – an etude book that was specifically written for the tambourine…and maybe it would include etudes for triangle, cymbals, and bass drum!   Not an instruction book that teaches students these instruments with diagrams and playing techniques, but a “real” etude book with progressive etudes and studies.   While similar to my Advanced Etudes for Snare Drum, this book would be written with these specific instruments in mind, providing etudes that are both musically and technically challenging.  With this book, I hope to provide a deeper, educational understanding of these instruments.

Click the below and to download a part of one of the etudes.

Etude 9 Tamb

Odd Groupings Snare Drum Exercises

We so often we warm up and practice exercises in groupings of 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.   This is good, however, I like to also see students work in odd groupings of 5‘s and 7‘s.   The exercises in this PDF are designed to supplement daily warm up and to help with executing odd groupings of notes.  These were influenced by the French Rudimental Etudes of LeFevre and Tompkins.

Click the below to download

Odd Groupings

Advanced Etudes for Snare Drum


Published by HoneyRock Publishing Co.

available at your local supplier or from HoneyRock

Four Stroke Ruff Exercises

Four Stroke Ruff Exs Soft.pdf

Four Stroke Ruff Exs Loud.pdf

These exercises are derived from exercises that I got from Charlie Owen and Doug Howard – I added some minor changes.   I’ve used these successfully for many years.

Thanks Doug & Charlie!

Method and Etude Book Recommendations

A complete list of the method and etude books I use for my personal practice as well as my teaching.

Snare Drum, Timpani and Keyboard.

Recommended Method Etude books.pdf

Basic Snare Drum Studies and Warm Ups

I use these exercises to compliment my daily warm up – these are also great for developing the Moeller stroke, something I’ve incorporated in my playing.

If you want more info on the Moeller stroke, I’d highly suggest

Jim Chapin’s DVD  “Speed Power Control Endurance.”

I studied with Jim for a short time and remember my lessons with him with great fondness and admiration.  I learned a tremendous amount from him.

Snare Drum Studies.pdf

Joe Tompkins

Nine French-American Rudimental Solos

I am a huge fan of this book and when Joe presented a class at the Boston Conservatory in the Fall of 2010, I took the opportunity to get some information about the etudes and his interpretations.   I also included a video of him playing one of the etudes,

a Lefevre solo and his March (below).

Joe’s comments about the etudes and what sounds he’s looking for:

Etude #1 – a bright sounding drum
Etude #2 – a dark sound, 6.5” drum
Etude #3 – a bright drum
Etude #5 – is a very “orchestral” etude
Etude #7 – you can “swing” this one a little bit

Some things he said in his clinic that might effect the way you interpret and/or play these etudes:
“You can use a bass drum with any of these etudes if it helps the groove – it especially works well with etude #7”
“The French style of drumming ‘lifts you up’, the American style is more ‘grounded’”

He used 2 snare drums in his clinic – a 5”x14” Pearl Philharmonic
and a 6.5”x14” fiber shell drum.   Basically a “bright” drum and a “dark” drum.
Relatively to most orchestral drums, he uses less muffling – just a small felt muffler.
The Bass Drum he used in the class was larger and had a relatively soft beater
– the drum was not muffled and should NOT be a drumset bass drum – photo below

Some of the books Joe had with him and he used/played out of in his clinic

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