Introducing a new Post-Concert Series! Since writing abut the Adam Rapa project and performance, I thought I should start writing about these performances more, and what goes on during rehearsals and maybe how I go about practicing my parts. I may not do it for all projects or concerts, but hopefully PCS gives a brief glimpse of what goes on from my perspective!
Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy, isn't something unfamiliar. We've grown up with the game and the music and it was once part of my life, maybe 15-20 years ago! I remember playing Final Fantasy VII during my primary school days and I absolutely loved it! Although I've dabbled on VIII, played a bit of X (and X-II) and also XII and XIII (I believe...), VII still hits the spot! And when I was asked to play in a concert with the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra that featured Final Fantasy music last year, I couldn't turn it down!
This year, being the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy and the 10th year of the Distant Worlds tour, I was on drumset (featuring the Pantheon Percussion Bubinga stave snare) and percussion! It was mostly snare drum for the percussion parts, so I knew I had to bring my 14" x 6.5" curly maple (as well as the stave) for two reasons: firstly, the performance hall was a huge space, and secondly, the audience was going to be 5,000 people strong! It was really exciting to play the music and because it's so familiar too, getting acquainted with the music wasn't tough at all. What made this year's experience truly special was actually seeing and meeting the man himself, Mr. Nobuo Uematsu! What an incredibly humble person!
Learning the snare drums parts weren't terribly difficult - it was all mostly very playable stuff with just some technically challenging passages (including 4-stroke ruffs and rim shots - the difficulty about them is to get them to sound exactly the same, all the time). Of course, practicing it on my own felt perfectly comfortable, but the fine-tuning of nuances had to be adjusted during the rehearsal and is achieved through active listening to the orchestra. Personally, this is the most crucial part to music-making! One can be the most technical and musical player alone, but if he/she does not actively engage with the group or ensemble, the music will suffer. It's just like having a conversation - if both parties listen, it's only natural to have a good dialogue. But if one does not listen and harps on his/her own opinions, there can never be a decent conversation.
It was just 2 pieces for drumset: Torn From The Heavens (again, relatively simple and straight-forward) and a chocobo arrangement called Cinco de Chocobo - essentially Dave Brubeck's Take 5 merged with the chocobo theme. This one was pretty cool (with a few measures of 6 here and there) and it took me back to my odd-meter practice sessions for Adam Rapa. It was a bit more challenging, but also because I wanted to add more layering to the playing (which sometimes isn't the best thing to do).
Before elaborating, last week's post was on perspectives, and speaking with friends can help generate ideas and tips for practicing or performing! My great friend Ben Thia (the man doing all the hard work at Percussion Works) helped me along this journey. He's an excellent jazz drummer and the tips I got from him were a tremendous help for my preparation!
Drumming is a coordination game after all.. for most of the initial part at least. The coordination between hands and feet (or even hand-to-hand or foot-to-foot) need to be executed well in order to sound good. If you clicked on my links above, you can tell that my playing wasn't very smooth and since I've only really just started to get back into drumming (after putting it on hold for a number of years due to school), I had to re-learn and re-programme my mind and limbs to work well. It was a lot of groove-practicing and maintaining the pulse, and I worked a lot on the hands first before slowly incorporating hihat "chicks" with my left foot, just as a challenge for myself. So the measures in 5 were KHHKH and those in 6 were KHHKHH *Note: I'm just using my own legend of K for kick drum and H for hihat "chicks". I didn't want to continuously add the hihat chicks for every beat as I thought it might be too "busy" for the listener and also, I thought it'll be good to instill some discipline in my playing by making sure I stick to the pattern.
It took a while to get the sound right (because coordination is one, and feel/groove after getting it is another), but I managed to get my feet going for the concert and eventually played it that way as well! The concert probably was the best I could have played and personally, I was happy with it - supported the orchestra where I was supposed to and played out only during solo spots. Of course, given more time, I could take it to the next level and play more intricately, but I think it is important to be happy (or at least satisfied) with your playing for performances. There have been concerts where I performed way below my expectations/standard of playing (one of it was my solo concert), but that is also how we can reflect and assess how to improve, to better future performances.
I wish I had videos of the concert to share, but words are all I can offer and this has been my concert preparation and execution. Once again, thanks for reading and if you have a great story to share about your own experience, preparing and playing for any particular concert, I'd love to hear from you! Meanwhile, stay safe and be well!