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A popular audition piece for xylophone, in both orchestral and concert band settings, is "Polka" from The Golden Age ballet by Dmitri Shostakovich. If you are not familiar with the excerpt, please see the notation below which starts at the beginning of the piece and continues through measure 23.

When performing the xylophone part to Shostakovich's "Polka", one might think it best to simply use a single-stroke sticking throughout the excerpt. While this certainly isn't a wrong approach, it's often advantageous on the xylophone to make use of double-strokes (ie. two strokes per hand) — sometimes even triple-stroke stickings (ie. three strokes per hand). Why? The way the percussion keyboard is laid-out, employing double-stroke and triple-stroke stickings can actually make performing the piece easily as well as eliminating mistakes.

One way to quickly realize the benefits of double-strokes is to play scales and/or chord arpeggios up and down the keyboard — shifting chromatically from one to the next scale/chord.

The benefits of multiple stroke types doesn't stop with the xylophone or other mallet percussion instruments such as the bells, marimba and vibraphone. Depending on your drum or percussion set-up, you may find it quite profitable to make use of double-strokes or triple-strokes when moving instrument to instrument, surface to surface, or drum to drum.

Shostakovich - Polka from The Golden Age (xylophone excerpt)

Sam Ruttenberg

Sam Ruttenberg is an active performer, educator, clinician and author. He received a Bachelors degree from the University of Miami, a Masters degree from the Juilliard School, and endorses Sabian, Vic Firth, Remo, and Taye drums. Sam has published articles in various drumming magazines, transcribed Joe Morello’s book, Master Studies II, and has published his own book entitled Drum Tips, which is designed to help drummers develop better technique and coordination through increased musicianship.

Sam has designed and patented the HingeStix®.

Bart Elliott

Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician with a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance, and Master of Music post-graduate work. His 40+ years in the music and entertainment industry, over 100 album recordings to his credit, as well as an exhaustive understanding of contemporary and classical music makes him a complete and skilled master musician.

Bart continues to work as an active drummer, percussionist, composer, producer, music arranger, director, comedian, MC, educator, writer and visual artist. He is the owner and creator of DrummerCafe.com, which he founded in December of 1996.

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