Reviews of Sequential Studies

December 2011, Black Swamp Website

by Dan Smithiger


Sequential Studies for Four-Mallet Marimba (Level 1) by Julia Gaines is an outstanding addition to the field of marimba pedagogy. As the first book of many, Julia Gaines’ approach combined with her experiences, are synthesized into a methodical, accessible and practical guide for the beginning and intermediate student. Each lesson contains objectives that develop the four-mallet technique at a solid pace. Preparatory steps and progress checks accompany a reference with pictures and appropriate etudes. This sequence offers a thorough mastery of technique (stroke types such as double vertical, single independent, etc.), combined with a gradual understanding of musical ideas. Julia should be commended for her work, as this is just the beginning of a wonderful series for educators. I look forward to seeing the rest of the series.

May 2012, Percussive Notes

by T. Adam Blackstock


Keyboard Percussion Method
Sequential Studies for Four-Mallet
Marimba I–II
Julia Gaines
Gaines Publications

Once beginning students have a firm foundation in two-mallet performance, I believe it is imperative to allow them to initiate four-mallet practice at an early age. Julia Gaines provides beginning students with an accessible, and not overwhelming, comprehensive source that promotes a strong foundation in rudimentary four-mallet marimba study.  Subtitled Level 1: In the Very Beginning, this is the first book in a forthcoming series.


It begins with warm-up stretches and includes photo and verbal explanations to aid in the execution of each. As one who has dealt with performance related injuries in the past, I think this is a wonderful place to begin rather than starting with grip explanation or performance warm-ups. The remainder of the method is divided into two large sections focusing on 20 lessons and eight short solos that are easily accessible for beginning students.


The first section begins with a description of the three grips associated with four-mallet marimba performance, piston stroke, sticking notation, playing positions, and body positioning. This section contains lessons 1–10, solos 1–3, and deals with the lower manual exclusively. Only single independent and double vertical strokes are used. The second section begins with photo and verbal descriptions of double vertical strokes; these descriptions deal with parallel motion, mirrored motion, and split motion. Lessons 11–20 and solos 4–8 use both the lower and upper manuals; the lessons closely resemble those of the first section, and the solos progressively increase in difficulty, always providing students with a challenge appropriate for their level.


All lessons include a progress chart and have very clear objectives. Each solo contains a description that provides performance-related information, including types of strokes, intervals, motion, and independence that are found within the piece.


The method is punctuated with three appendices that include characteristics of Level 1 literature, examples of published Level 1 literature, and a glossary. These provide the educator with useful information that will aid in “prescribing” appropriate, supplemental materials.  This is a fantastic addition to the few methods associated with the targeted, beginning audience. Gaines’ use of photos (from various angles) is very helpful in the understanding of the topic at hand, and her written explanations are easily understood. The lessons and solos within this method will prove invaluable in the initial stages of four-mallet marimba study.
—T. Adam Blackstock