A Zill Q & A

A student asked me this recently…

Q. Do I have to play my zills for the whole song? And if I don’t, can I just stop and start wherever I want?

A. No, you don’t have to play your zills for any whole song – in fact, you may be overpowering the softer parts of your music if you do. The music calls the shots in this dance style, so when the music goes down in intensity, so should your playing.  You can ring them more softly by barely tapping the edges together, play a less ornamented version of the rhythm pattern with less hits or even stop playing all together. Silence creates contrast – contrast is interesting and good! Experiment and see what compliments the music and your movement best.

Now that we know it’s OK to stop playing, how do you decide when? No, you can’t just stop and start willy-nilly. Well, you could, but it doesn’t look or sound professional. What I see most often in these “random start and stop” situations is that the dancer can’t keep playing while doing more complex movements, so the body goes and the hands stop.  That’s not the best solution – practice is.

Music has structural patterns that give us opportunities to start and stop playing that are comfortable and make sense to your audience. We already mentioned a change in the intensity, but there are also chorus /verse transitions and the phrasing of the melody.  Think of it like a driving on a freeway – you can’t turn off just anywhere – you have to wait for the next exit.

I cover more concepts for adding musicality to your zill playing in my “Thrills with Zills: From Rhythm to Musicality” workshop.  If you’d like to book one in your area, email me  for info and my 2012 workshop selections.


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