Author: Nancy Zeltsman

Title: Four Mallet Marimba Playing — A Musical Approach for All Levels

Description: Four Mallet Marimba Playing is an instructional book that aims to cover every aspect of studying the marimba. One of Ms. Zeltsman’s goals in writing this book was to create a resource which was suitable for players of any ability. The book contains instructions, advice, exercises, solos, and commentary on some well known advanced marimba repertoire. The book is broken up into five sections, with the reader able to go through the sections in order or skip around based on their abilities and needs.

The five sections are:

  • I.      Basics
  • II.    50 Short Four-Mallet Studies
  • III.  Refinements
  • IV. 18 Intermediate-to-Advanced Adapted Solos
  • V.   Advanced Solos and Chamber Music Excerpts and Commentary

Section I provides instruction on the most elementary elements of marimba playing, beginning with how to choose and hold mallets. The instruction for holding mallets is exclusively for “traditional” four mallet grip. This section also discusses such basics as beating spots, stroke, scales, rolls, and other parts of marimba playing. Though it is nearly impossible to learn an instrument entirely from a book, this section equips the reader with all the knowledge needed to begin playing the marimba.

Section II, containing 50 exercises written by Ms. Zeltsman, is partly a collection of short etudes which focus on teaching beginning and intermediate students and partly a cache of music to be used for sight-reading by more advanced students. One intent of this section is to provide technical exercises which still contain musical material. Each exercise focuses on one technical or one musical point, and all are melodic. The exercises get progressively longer and harder, and cover a wide range of topics.

Section III contains more specialized and advanced instruction than Section I. Though mostly consisting of Ms. Zeltsman’s writing, Section III does contain some short musical examples. Covered within this section are such important skills as one handed rolls and useful tools, including Ms. Zeltsman’s personal rules for sticking hard passages. This section also gives instruction on less discussed aspects of playing the marimba, such as the correct way to practice and how to build up one’s personal repertoire.

Section IV contains 18 solos, mostly written for other instruments and adapted to the marimba by Ms. Zeltsman. The solos in this section range from simple to quite hard. The composers whose pieces Ms. Zeltsman has adapted include Ludwig van Beethoven, Duke Ellington, and many others pillars of musical composition. All of the pieces are suitable for performance in recitals or auditions.

Section V contains Ms. Zeltsman’s personal interpretations, stickings, and tricks for three standards of marimba repertoire and three chamber pieces for violin and marimba written for Ms. Zeltsman’s former duo, Marimolin. This section is organized by including short excerpts of the sheet music for each piece followed by Ms. Zeltsman’s notes on the preceding excerpt. The pieces covered in this section are:

  • 1. Paul Lanskey – Three Moves for Marimba
  • 2. Steven Mackey – See Ya Thursday
  • 3. Andrew Thomas – Merlin
  • 4. Robert Aldridge – threedance
  • 5. Gunther Schuller – Phantasmata
  • 6. Alejandro Vinao – Tumblers

Annotated by Ethan Pani