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This may sound like a silly question, but how many percussion instruments can I use for three players (other than the timpani and celesta players)? I like variety in percussion, but I don't want to get disqualified for having too many instruments. Does three players mean three instruments, or can I (safely, for a normal professional orchestra) score for more than three in the work if I allow the three players reasonable time to put one instrument down and pick up another (and rest)?
 

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Usually, there are different parts for each percussion instrument. Although, sometimes parts are combined onto the same sheet. Many percussionists learn to become really good multi-taskers fairly quickly! At times it becomes tricky and you begin to drop things...I was the percussionists during the performance of a play once and learned just how important of a skill multi-tasking is if you're the only person responsible for 6 different instruments! Needless to say, there were some dropped instruments, and a few missed notes, but since the band had the privacy of playing in a pit, no one else really notices,... unless they realize that the thump! sound wasn't actually in the part. :) That was also the time I vowed to never again volunteer as a pit musician for a play, and I reserve other reasons for that.
 

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One of my concert bands competition pieces last year was written for 14 percussionists and had 8 parts. We played it with 6 people!!! I was reading off of 3 different parts and had pencil markings etc for all the added bits on my main part. It was very difficult and I had to have all my instruments in the right spot. I did a lot of moving around seeing as I had to play Marimba, Vibraphone, Glockenspiel and Tubular bells as well as other drums and auxilary percussion. A lot of moving around and running into the girl who was on Xylophone and had all her instruments near mine. It was very hectic but I guess what I'm trying to say is. Anything can be possible if you're good enough.

Look up Marimba Spiritual on Youtube or something. Originally written for 4 percussionists I went to a masterclass that was done by 2 guys that teach at LA university. One of them was aussie and that's why they flew over and did it. But anyways they Marimba Spiritual with only 2 people. Marimba and Auxilary. He used 4 timbale sticks to play the assortment of cowbells bongos and all kinds of drums. Very well done and I was extremly impressed.

I find if you write something there will be someone that will learn it and be able to play it no matter how hard it is.

And thats my story :D
 

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usually if you have kettle drums you want to have one person playing the kettle drums (Timpani).
in fact the Timpanist is a whole different section. but if you are writting auxillary parts it does not matter as long as the instrumentalis has time to switch.
( you can have agogo bells, tambourine, wood block, triangle, crash cymbals, .... all by the same instrumentalist).
 

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Best way to write for more percussion instruments is to have one part per player, with each instrument they use on a different line.

So for example say you have 2 players. Player 1 plays timpani, player 2 plays cymbal, snare drum, triangle and tambourine (at different times in the piece). The timp player has his own music. Player 2 has his own part with say, cymbal on one line, snare on another, etc. There is no usual convention so you'd have to label this at the beginning of the piece
 
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