About Dots and Beams:

Have you ever created a musical exercise, for yourself or for a student, that would have been much more effective if you could just find a few pages of a certain type of reading material? Perhaps you’re a drummer looking for pages of rhythms for developing your timing or coordination. Or maybe you’re a pianist looking for melodic reading material to play in your right hand to help develop coordination with a difficult ostinato or bass line. Perhaps you’re an experienced musician learning a second instrument; you may feel you would benefit from pages of random notes on a staff to help you become familiar with your new instrument. Or maybe you’d like to mix up your scale practice by playing your scales in unpredictable rhythms rather than the patterns you have been using for years. Maybe you’ve always played guitar by ear and have lately been wanting to learn to read music; you might want something graduated and systematic to read to help you learn the elements of musical notation but you don’t want to play nursery rhymes.


Dots and Beams was created to provide a wide variety of reading materials for musicians at all skill levels and for all instruments.


My approach to creating reading material is slightly different from other approaches I’ve seen. Many other sight-reading books provide a series of musical compositions for use in practising sight-reading. Rather than provide books of compositions, my approach is to break down the language of musical notation into its rhythmic and melodic components and introduce these components to the user in a systematic way.


These pages of notes and rhythms are not intended to be seen as compositions: they do not follow any particular harmonic or melodic structure and the melodies they contain are not repetitive or memorable. They are exercises in which the complexity of the written language of music gradually increases in order to strengthen the user’s ability to process the raw data of musical notation. While the Dots and Beams books are an excellent resource to help improve your sight-reading, their unique construction ensures that the additional uses for these books are as varied and individual as the musicians using them.


Each book in the Dots and Beams collection focuses on a specific element of musical notation. This ensures that you always have the perfect reading material for any exercise so that you can isolate the specific areas in your playing that you feel you need to work on. These books offer very little in the way of explanation and descriptions in an effort to provide as much note-reading material as possible. This is not so much a method book as it is a tool to help make practice more focused and effective.


My hope is that this collection will be one that you will revisit year after year as you find newer, more creative, and more challenging ways to use the materials to push your playing, and your students’ playing, to new levels.

Happy practicing!


About the Author:

Nathan Petitpas is a percussionist, drummer, and music educator based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

He has been an active member of Toronto's contemporary music community since his arrival in the city in 2012. He joined the Thin Edge New Music Collective in 2012 and also works regularly with Fawn Chamber Creative and the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan Ensemble. Additionally, he and violinist Suhashini Arulanandam perform as a duo under the name Duologue. Through all of this, Nathan has had the great pleasure to premiere dozens of compositions by living composers.

As a freelancer, Nathan has performed with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Cirque du Soleil, Against the Grain Theatre, the Ontario Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Peterborough Symphony to name a few. He has also performed in various festivals and concert series including Nuit Blanche Toronto, the International Gamelan Music Festival (Munich, Germany), Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, New Works Edmonton, New Music Calgary, Music on Main (Vancouver), Open Spaces in Victoria, the Toronto International Film Festival, The Music Gallery's X Avant Series, NUMUS, and twice in the Cape Breton International Drum Festival.

Outside of a classical context, Nathan can be heard playing drum set with the Terry Cade Quartet in Toronto.

As an educator, Nathan teaches a variety of music programs through the Regent Park School of Music, he co-teaches the Evergreen Community Gamelan, and teaches private drum set, percussion, and music theory lessons from his studio in Toronto. As a freelance educator he has also coached the University of Toronto Percussion Ensemble, the Toronto All City Band, the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra, Calgary Youth Orchestra, the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, and has worked a guest coach for high-school music programs in Toronto and Nova Scotia.

Nathan holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music degree from Acadia University, both with a concentration in percussion performance. Nathan is an artist endorser of Dream Cymbals and Gongs and Mannion Mallets.


© 2020 by Nathan Petitpas, Dots and Beams

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