Practice: Garrett Arney
As a percussionist, Garrett Arney has many instruments to practice.
He thinks percussionists are all a little ADD.
“Practice, practice, practice,” might as well be a moniker for Carnegie Hall. Yet, we spend very little time talking about the physical and emotional undertaking during practice. We’re accustomed to musicians presenting us with their seemingly effortless performances instead of the struggles and reality of practicing. Here, we dive into the world of practice: Musicians of Ensemble ACJW talking honestly, and realistically, about their relationship to practicing.
Can you describe how practicing for percussionists is different than for other players?
Practicing is a weird thing for us I feel like because we have so many things to practice. I also think because of all the instruments we have, we’re all a little bit ADD.
See, if we were to practice two hours on three of our main instruments—say snare drum, marimba, timpani—you practice two hours on each, which isn’t enough time. Like no musician would only practice two hours in a day. But that’s like six hours total on three instruments, so it’s tough.
For percussionists, too, set up is a big part of practicing. Every piece has a different set up, so one of the kinds of practicing that we have to do are these things called multi set ups, or chamber music pieces that involve a lot of different instruments, like bongos and tom toms and a kick drum. So I’d have to spend, you know, 10 to 15 minutes at least putting it together or moving the instruments around so I have space to actually play. And then you have to get used to where the instruments are.
Sounds like there are a lot of different components to percussion practice.
There can be a lot of drudgery to it. It can have a real mechanical aspect to it. I don’t mean mechanical like you’re not paying attention, but it’s just stuff you have to learn and that can be work.
Right. And every instrument is different, of course, so for timpani, snare drum, and marimba, even though physically the concept of how you make the sound is the same, the sounds are all completely different and what you actually have to do technically is different. So timpani has a very large head, which has a lot of space. A snare drum is very tight and is very dry. And a marimba is made of wood. So they all have very, very different techniques, which is also hard to practice.