How to Play the Perfect Triangle Roll
Updated: Aug 4
The most characteristic sound of the triangle can be the most difficult to perform. 🔺
1) Meet Your Instructor
2) Set Up
3) Posture & Beater Angle
4) Dynamics and the "Dinner Bell"
Meet Your Instructor
Dr. Andrea Venet is a Black Swamp Percussion Artist, soloist, educator, and composer specializing in contemporary and classical genres. She is currently Assistant Professor of Percussion and head of the department at the University of North Florida, where she directs the UNF percussion ensemble, teaches applied lessons, pedagogy, methods and percussion literature. Her creative activity includes performance, composition, and commissioning new works. Andrea is also the co-founder of the percussion duo, Escape Ten. The duo also features BSP Educator, Dr. Annie Stevens.
Triangle Instrument Set Up
This triangle instructional is intended to help you create consistent and musical triangle rolls for any scenario. While Black Swamp triangles are always recommended, they are not necessary to create a great sound on your instrument.
Here is the gear used in this video:
Posture & Beater Angle
This lesson gives step by step instructions for a one-handed triangle roll. In order to do this technique we'll be using the closed corner of the triangle which should be facing the hand that is holding the beater.
"When we're playing triangle rolls we should strive for a sustained, consistent sound with as many overtones as possible." - Andrea Venet
With triangle playing in general, we want to achieve as many overtones in any context whether we're playing roles or we're playing single notes. That's because the triangle's purpose is to function as a non-pitched metallic instrument and if the notes that we are rendering from the instrument are very strong and clear in pitch then we run the risk of competing with other instruments that are playing in a high register in your ensemble.
We want to set up our posture and stance in our arms in order to allow our wrist to play the correct type of motion for the stroke to come in contact with the triangle at that 45 degree angle. The hand holding the triangle is going to sit higher up where you'll see the conductor. This is a similar height to where we'd hold a tambourine.
The hand with the beater will be lower and held parallel to the floor, similar to a position like playing the snare drum. Once you've found this position, try a few practice stokes to make sure you're hinging at the wrists and not using a full arm or shoulder movement. Once you've become comfortable with this position and stroke, turn your hand over so that the palm of your hand and thumb are at a 45 degree angle to the floor.
Now when you engage your wrist with the exact same stroke motion as before, you will now be striking the corners of the triangle at a 45 degree angle. This stroke allows your wrist to move naturally and to have as much contact on the triangle bars as possible. Andrea recounts that "This motion is very similar to beating eggs so if you really like omelets you're really good at making scrambled eggs this will probably be very natural to you."
Dynamics & the "Dinner Bell"
One benefit of playing one-handed rolls in the corner of the triangle is that it is very easy to play soft rolls in addition to loud rolls and then to crescendo and decrescendo between the two. When wanting to play quietly, move to the very tip of the beater and play very close in the corner of the triangle. This reduces the distance and intensity between strokes. When you want to play at louder dynamics, move the beater in towards the center of the triangle. This gives you more velocity to play louder.
The #4 Spectrum Beater that Andrea is using for this lesson is a teardrop shaped beater. This shape allows the player to easily change dynamics by adjusting where the beater strikes the triangle. The tip of the triangle beater being slimmer will work best for lower dynamics, whereas the end or butt of the triangle beater will be best suited for louder dynamics.
"Now I implore you to avoid playing the dinner bell triangle roll, which i'm sure we've all seen."
This is not ideal for a few reasons: First, it's clunky, it's inefficient and it's very easy for the mallet to get tongue tied inside the triangle because you're trying to cover a lot of ground. Second, it is almost impossible to play quietly. Because you have to move at a rate fast enough to create a sustain, it's hard to control that and keep dynamically quiet. Lastly, because of the angle you have to hold your beater in order to strike all the inside corners, you are not playing at a 45 degree angle. This creates more defined pitches to the sound of the triangle as opposed to a wide color palette. Which as we will recall is very important when striving for an ideal triangle sound.
Happy Practicing! 🔺