NAME: "A Fresh Approach to the Snare Drum" by Mark Wessels
STAR RATING: #####
WORDED RATING: A unique, well thought out, well executed, and comprehensive course on snare drum playing. Highly recommended for any beginner looking to learn snare drum playing. Also perfect for an instructor who needs a syllabus.
TARGET AUDIENCE: Beginners, Teachers.
PUBLISHED BY: Mark Wessels Publications. Available only from the publisher's website
DESCRIPTION: This book is unique in that it is a complete course, organized as 20 lessons, covering all aspects of snare drum playing. It covers, technique, rhythms, rudiments, and reading all in a natural progression. For example, on the topic of reading, it starts by introducing the staff, measures, and quarter notes in lesson 1. By lesson 6, it's up to odd time signatures and 16th notes. By lesson 13, it's up to dynamic markings, and by the end (lesson 20), it's covered alternate endings and Dal Segno. New rhythms and rudiments are likewise introduced in a logical sequence through the lessons. There's also a nice sequence of exercises that isolate specific movements and help develop, for example, accents and flams. Each lesson concludes with an Etude that incorporates elements from previous lessons. There's even a guide with recommended speeds progressing through the lessons. For example, the single paradiddle is introduced in lesson 5, at which point it recommends that it be played as quarter notes, starting at 90 bpm. By lesson 10, it recommends 8th notes at 140 bpm (quarter-note beat). By the end, it recommends getting to 16th notes at 100 bpm (quarter-note beat). Finally, on the Vic Firth web site and on iTunes, there are videos by Mark that accompany lessons 1-13.
Personally, I think that this is a great book, and Mark has done a great job being comprehensive and organizing the topics into lessons with a natural progression. I've been using this book to self-teach, and I expect that that would make Mark cringe, since I'm pretty sure that he intended this book to be used with an instructor, not to replace an instructor. (I don't disagree, and I do plan to get an instructor.) With an instructor, this book is a great way to learn. Moreover, as a framework, it can be nicely supplemented with technique DVDs and additional exercises from other great books such as Stick Control and Syncopation.