Around mid-July, in a good year, the monsoons begin here in the high desert. Monsoon season is highly anticipated, becoming the most popular conversation topic in the state. “The monsoons are coming! The monsoons are coming!” we tell one another, in much the same breathless tone as Chicken Little screaming, The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

After a much too dry winter and spring, this was a particularly welcomed monsoon season. I can even—almost—appreciate the weeds the frequent showers have produced.

Here in the studio, the monsoons have created their own seasonal tradition: Raindrop Five-Finger Positions.

These variations are ones I almost forget about the rest of the year, until the summer rains begin. But they are good patterns and reveal all sorts of gaps technically (I could make a list of the problems: uneven notes, one hand “sliding” into the other rather than playing a good jaunty staccato, fingers falling out of position…You’ll soon see what I mean.). In particular, you should expect a bump (and a whine) when assigning the reverse variation after the student has mastered one version.

 

Raindrop Variations work like this:

  1. LH leads; all notes staccato:

Do (Do) Re (Re) Mi (Mi) Fa (Fa) Sol (Sol) Fa (Fa) Mi (Mi) Re (Re) Do (Do)

  1. Reverse: RH leads.
  1. “Double Raindrops.” LH leads: 

Do Do (Do Do) Re Re (Re Re)….

  1. Reverse “Double Raindrops.” RH leads.

 

For many students, this set could provide up to four weeks of exercises. Since rain is such a novelty around here, my students are happy to play with musical raindrops, especially if I give them permission to bang out a few improvisatory low-register thunders with their fists whenever frustrated. It goes without saying that these patterns work equally well in major or minor keys (which now that I think about it, could provide up to eight weeks of variations, or roughly the length of an actual New Mexican monsoon season…).