Here at Off Beat we pride ourselves on supporting our female drummers. From interviewing Marisa Testa and Sara Cardile to remembering the legendary career of Viola Smith we love showcasing women who have, or who are, blazing the trail for their peers. Tammy Woods is such a drummer. As the founder of Drummergirls United Tammy has organized one of the largest, if not the largest, group of women drummers who inspire and support each other personally and professionally. Tammy was kind enough to answer some questions about her organization:
MA: Tell us about the vision behind Drummergirls United.
TW: The vision I had starting Drummergirls United on FB (almost four years ago) was a simple one: to have a place where I could meet with my other female drumming buddies in one place. There was only about eight of us in the beginning. Now we have over 6,300 members and the vision has changed. It’s not just a convenient meeting place. It’s a very positive, inspiring, educational, and encouraging community for female (or female identifying) drummers of any age and skill level where they can feel safe and accepted. We keep all posts free from politics and drama or any controversy. We focus on our love of playing drums, our love of our gear, and our love of learning great technique. We learn how to have better concentrated practice times and the ins and outs of the music industry and making drumming a career if that is the direction that they are going. We post lots of educational videos, live teaching videos, we have zoom hang out sessions, and now twice a week I am interviewing drum “celebrities “ via zoom and our members can log in and ask questions live. Our group very much feels like a big loving family.
MA: What are the unique challenges that female drummers face today?
TW: The unique challenges we face are many faceted. Just today I read several times where a truly gifted drummer (who happens to be female) posts an incredible drumming video and I read comments like, “Wow, she’s great for a girl”, or “She’s a great drummer but she needs to get out in the sun”, or this one to me, “You look really different than you sound”. These are so ridiculous. A truly talented male drummer would never be told he’s good for a guy or he’s a great drummer, but he needs a tan. What does that have to do with anything? Two years ago, I was asked to show up and play at an open-mic night. When my name was called I walked up to the stage and passed two guys sitting together and I heard one say to the other “Oh great, a girl drummer” in a snarky, sarcastic way as I walked past them. I played the three-song set and they both stood up and gave me a standing ovation. This is just another example of the scrutiny that male drummers are never under that we female drummers, unfortunately, face constantly. It shouldn’t matter if we are male or female, young or pretty or thin or sun-tanned. We are drummers.
MA: What does the future hold for female drummers?
TW: The future is VERY BRIGHT for female drummers!!! There are so much education out there now and on-line lessons, YouTube, masterclasses, clinics, etc…and slowly we are becoming much more accepted as equals in the industry. I am thrilled that I get to do my part to shine a light on these incredibly talented girls and women in this industry.
I went through a Doors phase in Middle School and High School. You could even call it an obsession. I read every book I could get my hands on about the band and Jim Morrison. I bought everything I could that they had put out. I still have a pile of Doors albums, cassettes, and CDs. Most of all I was captivated with the drumming of John Densmore. I think this was because he was more than a drummer. He was an intricate part of the song, often playing against or accenting the vocals and antics of Jim Morrison. Much more than a timekeeper, Densmore was an auditory performer. He often self-identified himself as a percussionist.
Doors’ producer Paul Rothchild summed up Densmore in a March 1967 interview. “John—a brilliant drummer, “The End” proved that, in my book; that’s some of the greatest drumming I’ve ever heard in my life; irrespective of the fact that I’m involved in this album, it’s incredibly creative drumming— has an instinct for when. During a very quiet part he’ll just come in with three drum shots that are about as loud as you can hit a drum, and they’re right, they’re right! Now, you can’t plan those things.”
The Door’s music is unique. You could even say one-of-a-kind and that required Densmore to be a one-of-a-kind drummer. His use of different styles of beats from jazz-to-bossa nova-to swing-to-rock showed his incredible level of diversity. He simply played for the song. Whatever it needed Densmore delivered. Live shows also required Densmore to be constantly playing off of Jim Morrison who slithered about the stage. His constant awareness of Morrison’s body language and improvisation enhanced the “Lizard King’s” performance.
Clearly Jim Morrison was the face of The Doors, so John and the others took a backseat to the rock star. This did not seem to bother them in the least as they were more concerned with focusing on the music. Densmore’s contribution is evident as his beats are so original and appropriate for each song. “Light My Fire” for instance, features a perfectly suited bossa nova beat. Sometimes the simpler beats (ala Ringo Starr) propelled the song such a “Riders on the Storm.” The Door’s drummer’s diversity clearly contributed to the diversity of the band and gave us songs that still resonate today.
Following the end of The Doors in 1973 Densmore continued, and continues, to play in a variety of musical and theater projects, all of them calling on his unique ability for improvisation and creativity. In 1990, Densmore wrote a best-selling book titled Riders on the Storm about his life and the time he spent with Morrison and The Doors. It is available on Amazon here.
One of the most common issues plaguing drummers is how to properly control the tone of their bass drum. Muffling the bass drum is the best way for managing the sustain and there have been plenty of ways to do this. Usually a pillow or towel is stuck inside the bass drum to absorb the soundwaves. This is a quick and easy fix but what happens when you must move the bass drum from home to the studio or the stage? There is no way to keep the elements inside the drum in the exact same setting where they were placed. This causes an inconsistency between the tone that you had precisely adjusted for and the tone that you end up with.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to guarantee that you would be able to preserve that sound no matter where you went? The folks at SledgePad Innovations have come up with such a solution. SledgePad has developed a unique dampening system created from two-inch wedge acoustic foam. This foam is like the foam panels commonly installed on the walls of studios for sound absorption. These foam wedges support any bass drum depth and stay in place. They also look clean.
The folks at SledgePad were kind enough to send a dampener for us to demo. I used an 18” Ludwig bass drum. The first thing that you notice after taking the pad out of the bag is how clean the profile is. It just looks good. This matters if you are using a clear head on the front of your bass drum. Second is the value of construction. The foam is strong and doesn’t bend or come apart. You can tell you are getting a quality made product. After installing the SledgePad inside of the bass drum I was able to use the small adhesive strips to secure the pad to the drumhead and ensure its position.
When I played the drum with no padding it rang out and had no focus whatsoever. This would be fine for a jazz setting but for rock the drum required a “punchier” feel. After installing the SledgePad the drum had a noticeable kick to it. It came on strong and then went away before too many overtones interrupted the sound. Even on a smaller bass drum like this 18” you got a distinctive Boom! According to their website: “…the added pressure on the batter head allowed me to bring up the tension without sacrificing low end potency…” My review, the SledgePad does exactly what it claims to.
The SledgePad also has several well-known artists endorsing the product. This includes: Mark Schulman, Johnny Rabb, and drum prodigy Cole Marcus. The artist gallery on their website has page after page of endorsements. Don’t just take our word for it, visit https://www.sledgepad.com/ for more information.
Those of you who frequent this blog are probably aware that I split my writing interests between drumming and the American Civil War. This has resulted in me publishing multiple books, articles, and posts on both subjects. My online book The Long Roll (available for free download above) distinctly combines the two. Recently I was given a unique and very special gift. I received a pair of drumsticks made from wood legally harvested from “witness” trees that were standing on the field during the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. These are made from White Oak taken from the Longstreet Tree and were played at the 74th PA Monument. They are number 003 of 100. These cherished instruments were presented to me by Jim Smith, an accomplished Civil War-era drummer and period-collector. Jim runs a website called “The Yankee Drummer” where he provides professional conservation, restoration, and repair services.
In 1913, 74th PA drummer Peter Guibert marched from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg for the battle’s 50th Anniversary Reunion. In 2013, Jim Smith, then 70 years old, followed in Peter’s footsteps using Peter’s 74th PA drum. Throughout his adventure, Jim beat period cadences upon Peter’s relic drum using sticks that had been turned from trees that witnessed the historic battle in July of 1863. Jim now makes similar sticks available on his site. He also makes drums from his extensive collection available for purchase. Its amazing the condition that these drums are in and many are still playable. Jim still uses several for his own reenactment events.
After close to seven decades of assembling an incredible collection of rope-drums Jim has pledged to find new homes for these relics where they can be appreciated. His treasures cover the 1300’s through the mid 1900’s with a concentration on Civil War instruments. 2021 promises to be a big year for The Yankee Drummer as they still must inventory another 110+/ drums, plus swords, fifes, as well as original images of tintypes and CDVs of drummers.
After viewing a presentation Jim gave at the U.S.A.R.D. Convention it is evident he has a tremendous knowledge on the history of the drum and a tremendous skill playing it. Here is a video of Jim performing in the field:
As reenactment numbers continue to fall Civil War drumming may become a lost art. One can only hope that the tradition is passed down from generation to generation so that we can keep the spirit alive. Jim Smith is doing just that. Through his hobby and his business, he is preserving the history of the boys who courageously marched off to war with nothing more to protect them than a pair of sticks. Now you can own apiece of that courage simply by getting online and visiting The Yankee Drummer.
NOW IN ITS FOURTH PRINTING!
“FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids” uses a variety of fun, unique teaching techniques that mimic the curriculum used in the elementary school classroom. Each step in the program is designed to build upon itself to provide young children with practical and applicable skills for playing the drums. Published by Modern Drummer and distributed by Hal Leonard the book and DVD combo won ‘Best In Show’ at Summer NAMM 2014 and is an Amazon Best-Seller in four countries. It is available on Amazon.com, Modern Drummer.com and MusicDispatch.com.