Monthly Archives: November 2018


Over the years I’ve run the marathon between coated and clear drumheads. I’ve gone from Pinstripes – to Fiberskins – Emperors to Ambassadors. This of course has been in response to the type of music I was playing at the time.

Lately I’m using a coated REMO Emperor on my snare drum and clear REMO Ambassadors on my toms. I don’t use any kind of muffling other than a small Drumtac on the snare and my drums have a “big band’” booming sound to them.

According the REMO website: The Ambassador® Clear drumhead features an open, bright and resonant sounds with plenty of attack. Constructed with 1-ply 10-mil Clear film, Ambassador® Clear drumheads are used as batter heads and are the industry standard Tom resonant drumheads. (Available in sizes 6″ – 40″.)

The Emperor® Coated drumheads features warm, open tones with increased durability and projection. Constructed with 2-plies of 7-mil coated film, Emperor® Coated drumheads provide a soft feel and subtle attack for studio and live applications. (Available in sizes 6″- 40″.)

I also like the durability of these heads. I’m not what you would consider to be a heavy-handed player but I do have my moments and these heads stand up to any abuse that I dish out. I have yet to break a head. They don’t pit either.

I’ve used other brands such as Evans and the REMO heads seem easier to tune. I was able to change out my entire set in a short amount of time and tune it fairly quickly. (I haven’t used any muffling with these particular heads so I can’t comment on that.)

If you are interested in getting a big sound with durability I highly recommend the clear REMO Ambassador (top left) and the coated REMO Emperor (top right).

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Lately I’ve been obsessed with Toto’s “Rosanna.” In addition to being one of my favorite songs it’s also one of my favorite drum performances. The groove that Jeff Porcaro came up with is a hybrid between Bernard Purdie’s “Half-time Shuffle” and John Bonham’s “Fool in the Rain.” It’s a perfect example of the effectiveness of ghost notes and it’s maddening to most drummers. I’ve spent hours and hours trying to nail down this arrangement and I still lose it after a few bars. Here’s Jeff breaking down the beat. (You can download an entire PDF of the song over at Nick’s Drum Lessons.)

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Happy Thanksgiving

(I posted this last year but it’s still appropriate for the holiday.) As Thanksgiving approaches I wanted to share a drum-related post on the subject. We’ve discussed many different kinds of historical and cultural drums in the past. Today, in keeping with the holiday, I want to talk about Native American drums. Those of you that have ever watched a sacred ceremony or attended a pow-wow know that drums are the driving beat behind the dancing.

Different tribes have different traditions about the drum although the construction remains the same. In most of the tribes drums are constructed out of hollowed out logs that have finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched across one of the openings. Different sized logs make different kinds of sounds.

Traditionally Native American drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle. In addition to large log drums Native Americans also play hand-held drums called tom-toms that are beat with sticks or the hand. Native American drummers often decorate these drums with bright paint and feathers. Surprisingly the term “tom-tom” did not come from the Native American language. It came from an old British word for a child’s drum toy.

There are many different kinds of Native American drums. There are the Skin Drum, Frame Drum, Log Drum, Water Drum and Square Drum. These drums are used for ceremonial purposes and to communicate. Some tribes worship their drums, naming them and treating them like they were alive. This is similar to the ways that musicians around the world bond with their musical instruments, often attributing them with names and personalities.

I’m going to take time away from my instrument and spend some sacred time with my family. I recommend that you do the same. This will be my last post before Thanksgiving. I’ll be back later that week stuffed and ready to go. Until then, I hope that you have a blessed holiday.

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The 80’s

The 1980’s were an amazing time for pop music. Some of the most memorable bands came out of that era and some of the best drumming did too. It was a time when drummers were first incorporating electronics with their acoustic drums and experimenting with what was possible. Many of the technologies that are used today came out of the 80’s. I have Serious FM and my favorite channel is 80’s on 8. It’s like taking a trip back in time. The music is still great and I even love getting behind the kit and playing along on my iPhone to my favorite 80’s classics.

My Top 10 best pop drumming performances on 80’s hits (in no order):

  1. Missing Persons “Do You Hear Me”
  2. Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me”
  3. The Outfield “Your Love”
  4. INXS “What You Need”
  5. Level 42 “Something About You”
  6. Michael Jackson “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”
  7. Madonna “Material Girl”
  8. Prince “Purple Rain”
  9. Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
  10. Mister Mister “Kyrie”

(Honorable mentions: Duran Duran, Midnight Oil, DEVO and Depeche Mode)

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Welcome new visitors

I would like to welcome those of you that found my blog following my second appearance on Around the Kit. It is always a thrill to appear on what I consider to be THE best drum talk show on the Internet. To share billing with Aaron Kennedy and Kenny Aronoff this time around was extraordinary and I thank Joe Gansas for inviting me. While you are here you will find Off Beat to feature a variety of content from exclusive interviews, to gear reviews, to music theory and historical studies. Over the last few years Off Beat has become one of the most popular drum blogs on the Internet thanks to visitors like you. I invite you to stick around, pull up a drum stool and browse. I highly recommend our exclusive interviews (linked above) that are the most popular feature on the site. There are more to come. Enjoy!

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Drums in the Bible Revisited

Like me, I’m sure that you are still reeling from the tragedy that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in which 11 innocent people were gunned down by an anti-Semite mass murderer. Being born and raised in Pittsburgh, this tragedy hit close to home. “Shocking” is not strong enough of a word to describe the emotions that were felt across the country. These devastating events seem to be far too frequent. Off Beat is not a political blog. I will keep it that way but I pray that something can be done to help prevent more shootings from happening in the future. I have no idea what that is. That said, I can post about what I know. The Jewish faith has a long history of music and drumming. A couple years ago I posted a piece about the Israelites drums in the Bible and cited where they appeared.


18th-century painting, “The Song of Miriam,” by Paulo Malteis, Italy.
Celebration after crossing the Red Sea from Egypt

Today’s post looks at mentions of drums in the Bible. I’m very comfortable sharing my faith here as a practicing Presbyterian and as a drummer, I am very interested in the use of drums for celebration and worship. Drums (or tambourines) are mentioned throughout the Old Testament. According to the website PsalmDrummers: percussion instruments such as the tambourine, timbrel or tabret are mentioned. These words are translated from the Hebrew word ‘Toph’. Tambourines and timbrels are mentioned on many occasions throughout the Old Testament and, other than cymbals, seem to be the only percussion instruments referred to. The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments’, says that “tambourine” in Scripture comes from the Hebrew word “Tof or “Toph (Hebrew; pl.tuppin), the other English translations being “timbrel” or occasionally “tabret”. It says that these are indeed frame drums and adds that, because frame drums were commonly used in the surrounding areas it is likely the ancient Israelites used them as well. Here are references of the instrument in scripture:

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister took a tambourine (drum) in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.” Exodus 15:20

“After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines (drums), flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.” 1 Samuel 10:5,6

“When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines (drums) and lutes.” 1 Samuel 18:6

“Every stroke the LORD lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of the tambourines (drums) and harps, as he fights the battle with the blow of his arm.” Isaiah 30:32

“In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the maidens playing tambourines (drums).” Psalm 68:25

“Begin the music, strike the tambourine (drum)…” Psalm 81:2.

“Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine (drum) and harp.” Psalm 149:3.

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with the tambourine (drum) and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” Psalm 150:3-6.

The “tabret” was a smaller version of the “Toph”. It was very similar to the medieval tabor drum (or tabour), which consists of a circular frame of two hoops fitting within one another in which a cloth or animal skin is stretched across to create a small, one-headed or two-sided drum. Since no records, pictures or drawings of tabrets have ever been found, some have come to believe that the tabret is an instrument that is between a tambourine and a modern-day drum. Here are some references of the instrument in scripture:

“After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret (drum), and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.” 1 Samuel 10:5

“And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets (drums), with joy, and with instruments of music.” 1 Samuel 18:6

“Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets (drums), and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.” Jeremiah 31:4

(Note: Cymbals are mentioned extensively in 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Psalms.)

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