In 2007, C. Alan Publication released my collection of seven original solos for developing 4-mallet marimba technique in a book entitled forFOUR. Since that time, many individuals, percussion studios, and school percussion programs have used these solos for study and performance. I occasionally receive e-mails inquiring about my mallet choice for each of the pieces in this collection, so as follows is a brief description of each piece, along with the mallets I typically recommend to my students or use when I perform these selections.
“Double Dip” – This piece is specifically intended to work double vertical strokes in fairly static intervals. Other than in the last few measures, only one hand is moving at any time and the intervals within each hand remain consistent within each phrase. For those playing with a cross grip, I recommend 41R. For those using Stevens grip, I suggest 213B.
“Triple Vision” – This solo is designed to work single alternating strokes in the left hand (in a static perfect fifth interval) and single independent strokes in the right hand. Either the 324 (Titanium series) or 84 (Contemporary series) work particularly well for this movement and help the performer maintain a warm resonant sound while still providing enough articulation for the flowing eighth-note figures in 12/8 time.
“A Little Mixer” – This selection is also composed to help students working on single alternating and single independent strokes, in this case, particularly in smaller intervals. As opposed to the first two selections which exclusively use the natural notes on the keyboard, this solo features only the pentatonic notes on the upper manual of the marimba. For this piece, I recommend the 323 mallets from the Titanium series.
“Feeling One” – This is the first solo to utilize three different stroke types: single independent (primarily in inner-mallet, alternating-hand scale figures), single alternating strokes (in a 1, 2, 3, 4 arpeggiated figure), and double vertical strokes (in small intervals, primarily seconds and thirds). This piece spends a lot of time in the mid-to-lower range of the marimba, so the 324s in the Titanium series are a great choice to provide fullness and a nice, round articulation.
“Chorale Without Time” – This solo is a marimba chorale utilizing exclusively sustained 4-mallet chords. Looking for a mallet that provided enough weight for a full sound in the lower register, while still being light enough to manage larger intervals and soft dynamics, I found the 84s (Contemporary series) to be the ideal choice for this work.
“Groove” – As you can guess from the title, this is a groove based solo with syncopated rhythmic figures and engaging ostinatos. It is also the first piece to use all four stroke types, including the double lateral stroke. The range of this piece spans almost the entirety of a 4.3-octave marimba and the mallets must be articulate in the upper register, but full and round in the lower range. I’ve found the best choice to be the 123s from the Super Vibe series, a slightly heavier mallet that provides consistent articulation in all registers. If you prefer a lighter mallet, the 83s (Contemporary series) are also an excellent choice.
“Bac-a-tu Ba” – This solo was originally composed in the early 2000s to be used as an Arizona all-state percussion ensemble audition piece. The work makes use of all four stroke types, and includes passages where both hands work together as well as one phrase where the left hand serves as accompaniment to the melody in the right hand. This solo utilizes primarily the middle range of the marimba and includes grace notes and interesting rhythmic figures that sound great when performed with the 323s from the Titanium series.