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How to Become a Professional Triangle Player

By Eric Hopkins, paid to play the triangle Wow, you've got the est !o in the world" # mean, how hard it can e to play the triangle$% &h no you didn't'

# would try to convince you that the triangle is an e(tremely challenging and comple( percussion instrument, the intricacies of which can only e mastered after years of diligent practice' But #'m not' Because that is not exactly the truth' The truth is that anyone can play the triangle' #t is one of the most asic musical instruments' # mean, its name is the shape' )ou hit a triangle*shaped piece of metal with another piece of metal, and +ing"% ,o worries a out hitting a wrong note or playing out of tune' )ou don't even have to other with note length- you !ust hit it and you're done' But that's not e(actly true either' The truth is that the triangle is part of a collection of percussion instruments, that together, warrant a profession in which one strives to master the art of performance' Through manipulation of tim re .sound color/ and articulation .length/, one can start to convey the common musical elements of phrasing, clarity, te(ture, alance, and finesse, to name a few' This holds true from snare drum and (ylophone to tam ourine and triangle' 0o what makes tasteful triangle playing, if there is such a thing$

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#magine yourself as the professional triangle player you've dreamt of eing' To get you started, #'ll lend you my triangle collection' This gives you si( triangles to choose from, clips to suspend them from, five pairs of graduated steel eaters, and three pairs of graduated rass eaters' ,ow we'll put you in the orchestra' 0ince # play with the 3tah 0ymphony, and # happen to e playing triangle on 4ahler's 5ifth 0ymphony this week, that's what you get to play' )our To*+o list''' 1' )outu e, 0potify, or tape*deck some recordings of the music and start to get an idea of the tempos, rhythmic challenges, style, and volume of the piece' 6' Translate the 7erman musical indications that you do not understand' 8' 9isten again, specifically for when to let the triangle ring and when to muffle' :uick muffle, taper muffle, or let vi rate$ 4ake up a short*hand notation for this and mark it in your part'

;' +ecide what triangle.s/ to use' +o you want a clear*toned, pristine sounding triangle, or a more shimmery triangle with a igger overtone spectrum$ &r somewhere in etween$ <rticulation or smoothness$ =' +ecide what eaters to use' 0tainless steel or the more mallea le rass$ Heavy or light, and to what degree$ >' +ecide where on the triangle you want to hit, depending on the desired tim re' +ark sound or light sound$ ?' +ecide if you want to play that tricky passage in the fifth movement with one hand as normal, or to mount the triangle on a special stand, freeing oth hands' @' Ai rato or no vi rato$ B' ,ow practice along with your favorite recording, then with five others' +o your sounds lend with the orchestra in conte(t, or do you need to make ad!ustments$ 12' 7et to know the part well enough so that nothing can throw you off .nerves, curve alls from the conductor, etc/' 11' Practice counting the rests' )ou don't play all the time, ut you need to know when to play if the music says Tacet until you play,% which it does in this piece' 16' Practice your triangle roll' #t's unlike any other percussion instrument techniCue, and it will e really o vious to the audience if there are hiccups and gaps in that clangy metal noise' 18' Practice your soft playing' Thierry 5ischer, our music director, really likes to e(ploit soft playing, so make sure you can make that metal*on*metal steel alloy triangle sound really soft and delicate, even under pressure' DEemem er, don't whiff it, or the conductor may stop the orchestra and make you feel really dum for messing up something as easy as the triangle' 1;' Practice hitting the triangle three times in a row and getting the same sound' 7ood luck" 1=' +on't forget to start practicing for ne(t week's triangle repertoire' 1>' +on't mess up" # think there is a reason why the late 7eorge Plimpton, known for his participatory !ournalism, said that playing triangle with the ,ew )ork Philharmonic was the scariest thing he ever did** more unnerving than playing foot all with the pros or playing a role in a film' He writes, &ne reason it was terrifying was that in music you cannot make a mistake' #f you make a mistake, a ig one, you destroy a work of art' The thought of doing this nags, of course, at the consciousness of all musicians, even the very good ones'% That is, possi ly, one of the reasons why orchestral music as a career path is such a niche community' &f the 1=,222 music graduates in 6228, for e(ample, there were appro(imately 1>2 !o openings for all orchestral instruments com ined, as reported y the #nternational Fonference of

0ymphony and &pera 4usicians' That means only 1G of graduating musicians got a !o in an orchestra' The odds are no different for percussion' Fonsider that if ?= cellists audition for an orchestra, the odds of any one person winning are 1 in ?=' #n percussion auditions, which actually do usually include triangle playing, the odds are not etter' 0o in summary, the triangle is an e(tremely simple device, ut # do not elieve that this changes the difficulty of mastery of this instrument, especially when coupled with the percussion collection as a whole' Fompare )o*)o 4a playing Hot Fross Buns with a young cellist playing the same' )o*)o 4a's playing will surely stand out, ut still oth players present a recogniHa le and fine rendition' The young player can still hit the notes, play mostly in tune, and pro a ly phrase a little too, ut )o*)o 4a would have e(tra verve and an overall richer sound' #t's a career spent devoted to mastery of an instrument that, in this case, shows its fruit in such a su tle display'

Eric Hopkins is the associate principal timpanist and section percussionist of the 3tah 0ymphony I 3tah &pera' He actually plays much more than !ust the triangle'

Eegarding the 0an 5rancisco 0ymphony's 6218 musicians' strike, <nthony <lfidi, a 0an 5rancisco investor, writes, #f the 0ymphony needs a sca player for the triangle or tam ourine to help reak the strike, then # volunteer to perform for free' #'ve had no musical education at all ut those instruments don't look that difficult'%