Marimba: Technique Through Music

Marimba: Technique Through Music by Mark Ford is a collection of 16 etudes that are designed to help the intermediate four-mallet marimbist focus on specific stroke techniques. Students have the best chance for building technique and musicality by working on short selections in a variety of different musical styles. This text guides the student through several etudes that focus on different musical applications of one specific technique. Each section of the book begins with a brief introduction to a specific stroke followed by graduated etudes that utilize that stroke. In this manner, the student will become confident with these basic strokes and their application to musical expression. The guidance of an experienced teacher will be invaluable to the student during the study of these etudes.

Double Vertical Strokes (description of the stroke)

Kain - Performance of the Etude


Marimba: Technique Through Music is published by Innovative Percussion, Inc. (©2005). All of the etudes are original compositions written by Mark Ford, especially for this book. The etude titles, in case you were wondering, come from names of streets that Mark has lived on throughout his life. (Mark ... with sixteen etudes ... you move around a lot ... like me!) The performer will need a Low A marimba to perform the etudes in this book; one etude requires a 5-octave marimba.

The book begins with stroke concepts based on the Musser/Stevens four-mallet grip and gives some good suggestions and opening exercises for building technique. There's a short section on chordal applications and exercises, similar to what you'll find in Leigh Howard Stevens' book, Method of Movement.

The sixteen etudes are divided into five different categories based on the techniques they employ; Single Independent Strokes, Single Alternating Strokes, Double Lateral Strokes, Double Vertical Strokes, and Chorales. A sixth category includes the final three etudes which makes use of "combined strokes".

The book closes with some brief comments regarding listening and educational resources.

Mark Ford has done an excellent job with Marimba: Technique Through Music. The music and the techniques required to perform it are the focus, which is exactly what the book says it is; technique through music.

What has impressed me the most is that these etudes standalone, on their own, as beautiful pieces of music. They're not some boring, mind-numbing piece of technical dribble ... this is music! Many of J.S. Bach's compositions were written for the purpose of teaching, not performance. Although his works have been performed before a public audience in concert halls around the world, Bach never intended the etudes to leave the practice room. Such are these sixteen etudes; great pieces of music which develop technique while meeting the musical prerequisites needed for a music-major's jury or mini-recital.

The supplemental DVD flows with the book quite nicely. Mark explains each section, demonstrating the technique that will be covered (as shown in the book), followed by a wonderful performance of each etude. There are 2-3 etudes for each of the five technique categories, plus 3 etudes in the sixth category, Combined Strokes.

I highly recommend Marimba: Technique Through Music for the intermediate mallet player, educator's library, and anyone desiring to expand their technical prowess with 4-mallet marimba ... through music.