• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theatre and More

Galen Work - Into The Woods

Galen’s setup from a production of Sondheim's Into the Woods produced by the Seashore Theater Camp in Lincroft, New Jersey.

“Sondheim's Into the Woods was composed during the 1980s, in the same period as Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George, his other works with particularly notable percussion parts. Like the latter, and one orchestration of Sweeney, it offers a single player a great time using a variety of instruments.

The part for Into the Woods has a large variety of instruments, and it isn't always possible to get all the space necessary to use the complete setup of acoustic instruments. Fortunately, I was afforded the space for this production at Seashore Summer Theater Camp during the summer of 2014.

The xylophone, bells, chimes, crotales, and bass drum have passages that are typically cued from the stage or the music director, so I put them at the front of the setup. The concert bass drum should be as large as feasible as its part represents the footsteps of the Giant. It is fairly isolated so it can be placed away from the front of the setup, as long as the conductor can be seen for cues. I use a drum set bass drum with a pedal under the xylophone to cover isolated staccato notes on a few of the tunes. The crotales are very important color to the Witch's instructions to the Baker and the Baker’s Wife. Unfortunately, the part calls for a high D and a low B, outside of the normal two-octave sets, so those notes typically get bounced an octave. The three digital drums are used for the Witch's rap. Remember, this was the 80s!

I tune the conventional toms with very clear tones and play them with soft timpani mallets as part of the Wolf's introduction to Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood has her own thematic element with a small triangle that recurs throughout the show for which the Miller Machine is a tremendous help at alleviating unnecessary juggling of sticks and mallets. I use a second, larger triangle for other isolated notes. The timpani are not prominent in this show except in concluding phrases of a few larger production numbers where it is important to be able to reach both the snare drum and timpani at the same time. The hi-hat doesn't have to be functional, as the cymbals are always in the closed position, so I created a rig that holds them closed and can be mounted just about anywhere within reach of the snare that is played at the same time.

Perhaps the most significant element of the part is written for piccolo snare drum. The snare part has two major themes throughout the show; one providing supporting rolls under brass fanfares, the second a recurring gentle march sprinkled with numerous four-stroke ruffs. A drum that speaks clearly at soft volumes and is as full as possible at loud volumes is critical. I use a variety of sticks on the snare part to help cover those contrasts.

As with other Sondheim shows from the same period, the percussion book is a vital element to the orchestration for Into the Woods and requires some careful planning to pull it off well.”

  • Yamaha 3.5 octave Acoustalon Xylophone
  • Mapex 4"x14" Hammered Black Panther Piccolo Snare Drum
  • Lyon & Healy Orchestra Bells
  • Deagan Chimes
  • Ludwig 26" and 29" Copper Standard Timpani
  • Yamaha DTX II with 3 pads
  • Sabian Crotales (two octaves)
  • Bell Tree
  • Ludwig 28" x 16" Bass Drum
  • Yamaha 22" x 18" Bass Drum
  • Yamaha 10", 12", 14" and 16" Toms
  • Zildjian 17" K Dark Thin Crash
  • Zildjian 16" A Thin Crash
  • Zildjian 14" A Hi-Hats
  • Anvil
  • Ratchet
  • Lowes Sandpaper Blocks
  • LP Granite Blocks
  • LP Red Jam Block
  • Miller Machine with Small Triangle
  • 6" Triangle