"My Concept of playing Cymbals"

Bjørn Løken, University Lecturer of percussion at the Norwegian Academy of Music, has developed an online teaching programme for cymbal playing intended to serve as a resource in principal instrument teaching.

The teaching programme is called ‘My Concept of Playing Cymbals’ and comprises a series of instruction videos allowing the percussion student or percussionist to explore various cymbal techniques on their own. "I have spent several years developing a concept for how to give a pedagogical presentation of the techniques I use when playing A2 cymbals. Instruction videos have proved to be a good format," Løken explains. 

The aim of the instruction videos is to present the material in a simple and schematic way so that the recipient can use it to develop their technique and fundamental understanding of cymbal playing. 

Different striking techniques for different timbres

Løken says that he has developed his repertoire of cymbal techniques as a response to the need to create different timbres during his long career as a musician with Norway’s professional orchestras. "The concept, or rather the conceptual strikes I have created, emerged as a result of trying to convey a foundation for developing the technical repertoire with regard to cymbal playing," Løken says. 

The project was spawned back in 2010 following a request from Manuel Hofstätter, who was a master student at the Grieg Academy in Bergen at the time while also performing with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (BFO). Hofstätter wanted to use Løken's cymbal playing as a starting point for his master thesis, so together with BFO solo percussionist Peter Kates they created a series of videos of Løken presenting his cymbal techniques. The thesis was entitled Orchestral Cymbal Playing (2011) and provides in-depth documentation of Løken’s cymbal techniques.

"We also made some high-speed videos showing how cymbals change their frequency range when using different striking techniques. Three of those videos have been included in ‘My Concept of Playing Cymbals’," Løken says.     

(the article continues under the videos)

Find all 12 videos here.

Testing by the students

By the autumn of 2016 all of the 12 instruction videos for ‘My Concept of Playing Cymbals’ were ready. Løken had prepared his students by introducing them to his cymbal techniques. They were to use the videos for practice and additional guidance.   

The students who used the videos were generally very enthusiastic, particularly about the variety of modern cymbal playing demonstrated in the videos. As one of them put it: "It’s good to have a video that depicts movement to make it easier to see how the different concept strikes should be performed."  

Many of the students have pointed out the benefits of always having access to the videos. “Having an explanatory video recording as a point of reference when learning new techniques is a definite advantage. It allows me to return to the video at any time to practise things I’m unsure about," one student says. Another points to the value of being able to fast-forward and rewind, to watch exactly what you want a "hundred times over", and even watch it in slow motion.  

One student found it particularly reassuring to combine video learning with ordinary tuition, as it makes it easy to ask questions. Another student adds that the drawback of the videos is that you do not get instant feedback from your teacher on the different strikes, which turns you into "your own teacher", which can in fact be an advantage. Many of the students say they have made their own recordings and compared them with Løken’s videos. 

Løken has continued to develop the project, and the videos continue to attract interest.

Last updated: 8. May 2018