Sticking Choices in Timpani Sight-Reading Performance



John Sullivan

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Benjamin Bacon, Stuart Jackson, Ian Marci, Fabrice Marandola, Marcelo M. Wanderley

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Front. Psychol. Sec. Performance Science


When sight-reading a score, a timpanist needs to decide in real-time which stick to use to play a specific note while interpreting the musical material. Our main point of inquiry seeks to understand which sticking patterns performers employ and how they are affected by rhythmic stability. This paper analyzes the bi-manual sequencing (i.e., sticking) patterns of 31 timpanists in a sight-reading task. We analyze their results compared to model sticking patterns common in percussion pedagogical literature. Results show that while hand dominance plays an essential role in an individual’s sticking pattern, the stability of a rhythmic pattern may also dramatically influence the observed particular sticking strategies. In areas of rhythmic stability, performers largely adhered to one of two conventional sticking patterns in the literature (dominant hand lead & alternating). Where rhythmic patterns became more unstable, the performers separated into diverse sticking groups. Moreover, several performers demonstrated sticking patterns which were hybrids or an inverse of the model sticking patterns, without any impact on the success of their sight-reading abilities. Overall, no two individual performers demonstrated the same sticking pattern. In terms of percussion pedagogy, our findings suggest that performers may benefit from an awareness of the adaptability of model sticking strategies. Lastly, we make the case for further study of rhythmic stability and bi-manual sequencing by locating the difference between notational and aural complexity.

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Journal Paper

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