Introduction: Four Mallet Steven's Grip: Holding Mallets, Piston Stroke, and Rotation Stroke

Picture of Four Mallet Steven's Grip: Holding Mallets, Piston Stroke, and Rotation Stroke

This Instructable is to teach you how to use a four mallet Steven's grip including how to hold four mallets, play a mallet instrument using the piston stroke, and play a mallet instrument using the rotation stroke.

I got my experience with this technique from playing in my high schools percussion ensemble for three years. The group competed successfully in the New England Scholastic Band Association as well as Winter Guard International. Both these organizations have competitions held for concert ensembles (no marching percussion section), marching ensembles (ensembles with a marching section, and color-guard groups. It was a pleasure to be a part of a great musical community and I want to pass what I learned along. Happy playing!

Step 1: Equipment

Picture of Equipment

You are going to need an instrument to play on. Some mallet instrument options you have are a vibraphone as shown above, a marimba, a xylophone, or a glockenspiel. You are also going to need four mallets, two mallets for each hand.

Step 2: Parts

Picture of Parts

Each mallet will be referred to with a number. The numbers ascend from one to four from left to right as if you were look at your own hands holding the mallets.

There are three components to a mallet. They are the mallet head, mallet shaft, and end of the mallet. Each has been labelled for you in the picture above.

Step 3: Alerts

If you are a beginner your hands aren't used to holding mallets. Your hands will blister due to the constant rubbing of mallets on your skin when you play. Not to worry though, with enough practice your blisters turn into calluses to protect your fingers and palms.

Building "chops" builds muscle. Chops is a term used meaning to building endurance at a certain tempo. Your wrists are going to get stronger the more you practice causing fatigue and pain. It's okay to have your muscles hurt a little bit but don't over do it, you will learn your limits.

The order that the mallets will be placed in your hands is going to be this:

Mallet One, Mallet Two, Mallet Four, and Mallet Three

Step 4: Mallet One

-Hold your left hand out in front of you with your palm facing up.

-Place Mallet One in-between your ring and middle finger with an inch of the mallet shaft sticking out below the pinky finger.

-Close your ring and pinky fingers around the mallet shaft.

Step 5: Mallet Two

-Place the mallet end in the center of your left hand’s palm.

-Rotate your left hand so that your thumb is on top.

-Bend your pointer finger inwards and place the mallet shaft into first knuckle.

-Press middle finger into end of the mallet shaft to secure it to your palm.

-Place your thumb on top of mallet shaft with the finger nail facing upward.

Step 6: Leveling the Mallet Heads

It’s normal for beginners to have uneven mallet heads (one will sit higher than the other). To fix this we level the mallet heads.

-Rest the mallet heads on instrument or level surface.

-Loosen your grip on the mallets a little bit.

-Re-tighten your grip on mallets.

!!This will not feel comfortable for beginners, with time and practice it will feel normal and no adjusting will be necessary!!

-Raise the mallets off of the instrument or flat surface.

Step 7: Picking Up Things With Mallets in Hand and Mallet Four

Luckily you can still pick things up while holding two mallets in your hand. Since your middle finger is securing Mallet Two and your ring and pinky are securing the Mallet One you can pick objects up with your thumb and pointer finger. There are two videos provided to show you the mobility of the pointer finger and thumb and a demonstration of picking up a mallet whilst holding mallets in the same hand.

-Pick up a mallet with your left hand using your pointer finger
and thumb.

-Place the mallet in-between your ring and middle finger of your right hand with an inch of the mallet shaft sticking out below the pinky finger.

- Close your ring and pinky fingers around the mallet shaft.

Step 8: Mallet Three

-Place the mallet end in the center of your right hand’s palm.

-Rotate your right hand so that your thumb is on top.

-Bend your pointer finger inwards and place the mallet shaft into first knuckle.

-Press middle finger into end of the mallet shaft to secure it to your palm.

-Place your thumb on top of mallet shaft with the finger nail facing upward.

-If needed repeat Step three to level the mallet heads of Mallets Three and Four.

Step 9: Piston Stroke

Now that you are holding the mallets, we can learn the techniques for playing using the four mallets. We are going to start with the Piston stroke which utilizes both mallets of a hand at the same time.

-Raise your hand by only using your wrist to make an upstroke.

-Lower your hand by only using your wrist to make a down stroke and hit the keys.

If you want to play two keys closer to each other. You can retract your pointer fingers inward towards your palm and widen the gap between the mallets by extending your pointer fingers outward. This is demonstrated in a video above for you.

Step 10: Rotation Stroke

Rotation stroke use a single mallet from each hand.

-Start with Mallet One and rotate the outside mallet Clockwise around Mallet Two to make an upstroke and rotate it counter clockwise to make a down stroke and to strike a key.

-Rotate Mallet Two counterclockwise around Mallet One and then clockwise to strike a key.

-Rotate Mallet Three clockwise around Mallet Four and counterclockwise to strike a key.

-Rotate Mallet Four counterclockwise around Mallet Three and clockwise to strike a key.

Step 11: Conclusion

Hopefully you found this Instructable helpful and enjoyable! It is a basic tutorial on how to use the mallets. Some practice exercises you could do is to play eighth notes using the piston stroke to a metronome to gain piston stroke chops. My favorite exercise to practice rotation stroke is to play the mallets in this order:

4-3-2-1

3-2-1-4

2-1-4-3

1-4-3-2

Thanks for viewing and enjoy playing a mallet instrument!

Comments

Debosco613 (author)2015-03-02

Beautiful Instructable, love.