Today I am seriously considering removing the resonant heads from my drums. Back in the 1970’s drummers like Peter Criss used no bottom heads to create a signature sound. In the 1980’s Phil Collins perfected that sound. For years studio legend Hal Blain recorded some of the biggest hits of all time on a single-headed kit. Even today Taylor Hawkins and Adrian Young employ drum sets made entirely out of concert toms.
The idea of single-headed toms is nothing new. Slingerland was selling them back in the early 1960’s. The long concert toms called octobans were introduced in the 1980’s. Still, a minority of drummers seemed to use them. There’s just something about that open-endedness that you get from a drum with only a batter side. It takes the thump out and raises the overall pitch. Single-headed toms also tend to be louder and have more of an attack. Some believe it also makes the drums easier to tune as you are only concerned with the top head. Actual concert toms offer a more direct sound and are able to create a defined pitch. This is why they work well for concert band and orchestral settings where they are grouped in sets of 4-8.
Back when I was a teenager I removed all of the resonant heads (including the bass drum) for school performances as the drums were never mic’d. I also played snare in the drum line but had to switch to quads for a national marching band competition in Nashville. I remember loving the projection. I got the same feeling playing concert toms in our percussion ensemble. Over the last few years I’ve played on an acrylic Ludwig Blue Vistalite (pictured above) with The Drowning and the booming sound of those drums are unlike any other.
I do have some concern about leaving the remaining bottom lugs on. Roger Taylor liked the look of double headed toms, but the sound of single heads, so he cut away most of the resonant head, and left just enough to hold the counter hoop, so the bottom rim would stay in place . Some manufactures mount a thin metal collar that runs along the bottom edge to give it more of a finished look. I play a PDP kit and would likely leave the bottom lugs on as they reinforce my custom wrap.
Over the course of writing this post I have decided to go ahead and try it. Perhaps I will make a short “Before and After” video to compare. What do you think? Stay tuned…
I’m copping my friend Steve Goold’s recent post on the gear he used for the Ben Rector shows. (https://stevegoold.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/tour-de-compadres-gear-post/) It looks very similar to the setup he used for the Sara Bareliis tour and I wanted to share my set-up as it looks very similar. Steve is one of my favorite drummers and I’m always inspired by him. I’m very much into simplicity and electronic sampling so my kit always revolves around a few acoustic pieces and a couple sample pads. PDP, Meinl, and Alesis consistently represent the best gear I’ve ever used. I currently use a stripped down PDP four piece as the foundation (18” kick, 14” brass snare, 12” rack, 14” floor tom) and compliment it with an Alesis PercPad and Sample Pad. This gives me endless auxiliary percussion options and sound effect sampling capabilities. Cymbal wise, I use two hi-hats (14” and 16”), an 18” crash and a 20” ride. I also use a GonBops tambourine. My setup is usually configured in a unique way and I’m all about the “use it or lose it” philosophy. I prefer to set my toms perfectly flat and level with my snare drum. My electronic pads sit where a second rack tom would usually hang and my cymbals are set fairly low too. Much like a jazz, musician I often set my ride on the left side just above the main hi-hats with my crash to the right (I copped that off the Dweeb’s Mike Blue). I also use a variety of heads from different manufactures as I believe every drum has its own unique sound. Here is a kit diagram.
As you can see my cymbal placement is based on accessibility and ease of movement. By placing my ride on the right just above the hi-hat I can swing traditionally with my right hand or play an open style using my left. With an auxiliary hi-hat mounted left (almost center) on the bass drum I can go back and forth between two hi-hats with an even reach. Likewise with my toms. By setting them all low and level I can strike them without reaching. It may look odd, but in reality it is quite ergonomic.
Like many bloggers I am a voracious reader. I recently finished the brilliant book “Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones.” I’ve posted several times on a variety of topics featuring Papa Jo and he is obviously one of my favorite drummers. The more I study the man the more I become impressed with him as both a drummer and a person. His talents and insights on jazz music are second to none and his contributions to the craft are extraordinary. Here is the trailer for “Rifftide” which presents the book far better than I could:
[Artwork by Jackson Aubrecht]
Today I want to briefly talk about frustration. Everybody, especially musicians, has moments in their life when they feel like they are “spinning their wheels” and “stuck in a rut.” Stagnating is also a term used often to describe this dilemma. I have recently fallen into that trap myself. I am one of those drummers who has to practice frequently in order to maintain proficiency with the instrument. Other drummers, specifically my professional friends, can go long periods of time without playing or practicing and never miss a beat (pun intended). I’m not that naturally gifted and have to work at it. Sometimes I struggle with meter, or musicianship, or creativity. Often this is followed by moments of doubt and self-deprecation. One of the things I do to help guide me through these instances is to keep a practice diary next to my drum set. I use it to record what I did that session, what worked, what didn’t work, and what I need to improve on. By writing it down I force myself to be accountable. The next time I sit down on the drum stool I grab that diary and read over my notes. Only then do I pick up the drum sticks and proceed to play. I also video myself playing and watch it back like a football player watches game film. Just like an athlete I critique my playing and get a different perspective. I also listen to myself and often find new ideas that spawn from the not-so-good ones. By accepting the fact that nobody’s perfect, and reminding yourself that good things are worth working for, you can help to curb your frustration and look at it as a positive experience that ultimately makes us better.
[Bealeton, VA, drum corps of the 93rd New York Infantry, ca. August of 1863]
Here is part 2 to my focus on Civil War drummer boys (see https://maubrecht.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/battle-beats/) While part 1 presented a history of the drummer boys this post deals more with the technical aspects of their contributions. According to the National Civil War Field Music School (www.nationalcivilwarfieldmusicschool.com) drummer boys during the Civil War were required to play all 26 rudiments (see below). The rudiment that meant attack was a long roll. The rudiment for assembly was (777 flam flam 777 flam flam 777 flam flam 77 flam flam 7) and the rudiments for the drummers call was (7 flam flam 7 flam flam 7 flam flam 2x fast, 1x slow 7 flam 7 flam). The rudiment for simple cadence was (open beating) (55 flam flam repeat). Here are some examples of variations played by Civil War drummer boys courtesy of W. Brent Price:
Call to Battle
Here is when FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids won ‘Best In Show’ at Summer NAMM 2014 (see 11:30 mark for ‘Got to Stock It’). View at:
https://www.namm.org/nammu/industry/best-show (Yes they forgot my name)
While I’m on a Phil Rudd kick and since today is his 61st birthday I give you the drum notation for the AC/DC classic Back In Black… (click image for full size)
The first concert I ever attended was Quiet Riot on their Condition Critical Tour (1984). Although I was only in the seventh grade, I vividly recall the experience like it was yesterday. Despite my affection for the four musicians in the band what I recall most was Frankie Banali’s massive black and white striped drum kit. At the time it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. As a budding drummer I was hypnotized by the sheer magnitude of the 360 degree kit that surrounded Banali. I was especially drawn to the double bass setup with the layered drums (octabans and rack toms) up front. Banali was a great showman who laid down a solid groove that was not eclipsed by his kit. That said his set-up personified the hair metal band excess that 80’s drummers routinely used (Banali was one of the first to implement it.) My first kit was a white Pearl Export and I seriously thought about grabbing some electrical tape and striping it myself. Today I pride myself on the custom pink oyster wrap that I use and the originality I sought was inspired by Banali’s example. Like most drummers from that era Banali has stripped down to a standard four piece in place of his signature monstrosity. The memory of the black and white kit lives on and Banali has repeated the pattern in recent years. What’s your favorite kit and why?
A few months ago I posted a video on YouTube (see below) in which I praised Phil Rudd. It’s no secret that Phil is among my favorite drummers for his incredible simplicity, feel and groove. He is also the most tasteful rock drummer I can think of and his signature sound has propelled the music of AC/DC for close to four decades. Titled “Phil Rudd: Master of Minimalism” the video was shot quickly during a practice session. It is as raw as it gets. I highlight “Let There Be Rock” as one of the quintessential Phil Rudd performances. Since then the video has received close to 69,000 views and dozens of comments both good and bad. (In retrospect if I could have foreseen the number of hits this video generated I would have spent a lot more time crafting something professional.) Some comments praised my insights and examples while others ripped me to pieces. The one series of negative comments that I don’t quite understand are the ones chastising my enthusiasm for Rudd when compared to virtuoso drummers like Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy. One stated “I can’t believe this guy is going crazy over Phil Rudd. Maybe he should listen to a RUSH song.”
Obviously these folks didn’t get it. The comparison of Rudd to Peart and Portnoy is ridiculous. Each drummer has their ‘thing’ and just because you favor a pocket player versus some progressive player doesn’t make that pocket player any less of a virtuoso. Sometimes it’s what you don’t play that matters most. I would rather groove on 4/4 than listen to a million beats played at record tempos. Despite his current legal troubles Phil Rudd fits AC/DC’s style perfectly and I hope he returns to the band soon. Nobody brought in to replace him has been able to lock in like he has. Simply put, AC/DC sounds better with their original drummer in the line-up. And praising him does not detract from the Pearts and Portnoys of the world. Phil Rudd is not them and vice versa.
Here’s the link to a quick 4 min. Facebook video I shot showing my variation of a warm-up routine that we used to do in drum line: https://www.facebook.com/michael.aubrecht/videos/4869549107528/?l=2379506530920794758
The concept was to go through a progressive pattern that supported all sections of the line from the basses and snares to the quads. I now use it as my warm-up for drum set. It’s very simple but requires some counting and precision to do it right. It is likely you are familiar with all of these simple rudiments, but you may not have put them together in this manner. Here’s a quick break down…
Quarter Note Flams: 1-2-3-4
Eighth Notes: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
Sixteenth Notes: 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a
Triplets: 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let
Double Stroke: RR LL RR LL RR LL RR LL
Paradiddle: R L RR L R LL R L RR L R LL
Hertas: RLRL RLRL RLRL RLRL
[Repeat in Reverse]
Like all rudimental patterns, start out slow, maintain even strokes and build up speed as you become more comfortable. Remember that the end goal is a smooth transition from forward to reverse.