Marimba Music

     Gordon Stout once told me that the best way to overcome a specific technical problem was to write an etude for it. By focusing on a particular pattern, I could make it my own and turn a weakness into a strength. So over the years I’ve written a number of short studies addressing the various challenges I faced when dealing with advanced marimba music. Each one focuses on a technical issue or musical concept, either lifted from someone else’s piece or from my own explorations.
     I’ve taught them to many students and incorporated them into my teaching approach, presenting each first as a duet then letting the student fly solo. They’ll probably end up in a book someday, but for now I’d like to share them on the web as a resource for others and to generate feedback. Did you like them? If not, why? Let me know. I’ll release a new one about once a month, so check back to scope out the new stuff. If you don’t have it already, you’ll need Acrobat Reader 5 to download these files.


Invention
Etude #1


     Also, I was sorting out my file cabinets recently (finally) and was amazed at how many transcriptions I’ve cranked out over the years. It seems silly to try selling Bach over the internet, so I thought I’d just post some of them up here in case someone else might find them of interest. I’ll continue to add new ones if there seems to be an interest. Let me know if you would like to see more transcriptions.


Prelude XX by J.S. Bach
La Guacamaya Trad. Mexican

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The following works are available for purchase:

The Chautauqua Etudes: Series One
For Marimba, Bass, and Drums. By Don Skoog. Difficult.

     The Chautauqua Etudes combine various marimba techniques (one-hand octaves, lateral stickings, melody and accompaniment, among others) with both chordal and freeform improvisation. Each work is written in a different musical style and form, creating a range of technical challenges for the performers. While the bass and drumset parts provide a musical framework for the marimba, the rhythm section is challenged and has solo opportunities, as well. Not exactly classical ––– not exactly jazz, these unusual tunes are as original, and as free of cliche as possible. I've posted up Quicktime samples so you can hear these works, as well as view the scores. Get Quicktime.


 
Art Song. $20
see score
listen to a sample

     Art Song combines hand-to-hand and lateral-sticking melodies with odd-time Jazz. There are chord changes to solo over and an open cadenza where the marimbist can make an original contribution to the music.


Attendance to Ritual. $20
see score
listen to a sample

     This elegant, melodic work is unique in the marimba repertoire. Attendance to Ritual blends one-hand octaves and lateral stickings with improvisation, resulting in music with both a classical esthetic and creative opportunities.


Fantasy for L 5. $20
see score
listen to a sample

     Fantasy for L 5 is an odd-time funk tune, more or less. It's sort of a manic Freedom Jazz Dance, only in 7/4. There are lots of tricky stickings for the marimbist and plenty of solo options for each player to make their mark on the music.


Mozambique. $10
see score
listen to a sample

     Mozambique evolved from my explorations of the North American version of this rhythm (not the Cuban, which is entirely different). It is more accessible harmonically and easier technically than some of the other etudes, but is still an excellent recital piece and a good choice for marimbists interested in improving their improvisational skills


Soca. $10
see score

listen to a sample

     Soca is a stylization of the Trinidadian rhythm. The melody can be played with two or four mallets and is suitable for vibraphone, as well. Its flexible roadmap and modal harmonies allow for a variety of improvisation schemes and possibilities for all the performers.

click here to order

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Two Slaves
By Don Skoog. $15. Very difficult


      Two Slaves is my newest work, and the hardest to play. A large-scale concert piece in two movements, it is structured around an idea I call the Notes-to-Music Ratio, that has haunted me since I first began composing. The N-t-MR is my scale for judging musical quality. Why are some pieces very busy yet leave little impression on the listener while others have a simple melody of heart-wrenching beauty? Two reasons: the quality of that melody and the way it moves through time. The other components, harmony and tone color, should be dominated by the melody and meter.
     The first movement, Slave to the Melodic Imperative, evolves around an atonal melody, supporting and moving it through a sequence of ideas that lead it from tension to rest. Slave to the Metric Imperative evokes the rhythmic and tonal world of the Arabs. To this slave, the meter is fundamental and all the other aspects of the music revolve around it.

see sample 1
see sample 2

click here to order

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Graven Image
By Don Skoog. $10. Medium Difficult

     Graven Image combines chorale technique with lateral-sticking patterns in an additive meter work similar to a crazed Musser etude. This showy recital piece challenges the performer both technically and musically while taking advantage of the inherent strengths that make the marimba such a beautiful instrument.

see sample

click here to order

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A Little Jazz
By Don Skoog $5. Intermediate


       A Little Jazz was written to combine the compositional possibilities of the marimba with the freedom of jazz improvisation. It can be performed as a solo, a vibe/marimba duet, or for two marimbas. A great piece for recitals and for marimbists who want to get into improvisation. I've retyped this new edition and added performance notes.

see sample

click here to order

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