Drum Forum - Drummers Forum

Drum Forums => Drum Forum - Drum Talk - Drum Techniques => Topic started by: KenSanders on March 19, 2008, 12:24:43 AM

Title: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on March 19, 2008, 12:24:43 AM
Now I’ve heard the blasticks and the tiny wooden dowel rod type things used in some performance settings recently.  They were used either to be a bit lower in volume than drumsticks, or to play a "boom-chicka-boom-chicka-bookm" pattern for a novelty tune.

But I rarely hear wire brushes used anymore.  Wire brushes were designed to "swish" against the coated drum head surface, and I just don’t hear that wire brush swish technique much on new material at all. 

So I pose the question to you.....Have wire brushes become passé for modern music?  

I believe the movement towards louder musical styles in the sixties and afterward just made wire brushes impractical in live performing.  As venues got larger and volume levels had to increase to reach the entire audience, wire brushes basically disappeared from the equipment carried by many drummers.  I have no doubt that today there are many, many drummers who will tell you that they never use them.

But sound reinforcement gear has improved and micing techniques have changed drastically.  So….could the sound of the wire brushes be heard now if they WERE used?  Well…..yes.....nowadays the microphones could certainly capture the sound of wire brushes used on a drum kit…..even in a large venue.

But are wire brushes the “right choice” for some of today’s the musical compositions?  Well, at this point in time I’d just say “they are not being used that much are they?”   Are they considered to be a nostalgia sound nowadays?

Will drummers discover a modern music use for wire brushes?  We have seen previously "retired" things like the wood block and the splash cymbal find their way back to the drum kit.  So do wire brushes have a chance to become "hip" again?

I really don’t know, but as drummers and producers search for alternate sounds…..or retro sounds….or more esoteric sounds….or to just have something swishing in the "spaces".......I think it’s possible.   

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Willis on September 22, 2008, 12:57:36 PM
No doubt the subtle rasp of wires on a textured head is a nostalgic sound.

I'll hold up 'Lady Madonna' as the last incidence of brushes being POP maybe we can just about let Grohl's unplugged Nirvana set stand there also.
The question you pose is like saying when does the Lute get a come back.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on September 22, 2008, 05:15:32 PM
Yeah I agree about the unplugged versions, where drummers use brushes or something else other than sticks.   :-[  Yeah those situations don't really fit into the actual topic here, because they were just trying to bring the drums down so the other instruments weren't outgunned.   ::)  As a sidenote, there have here have only been a few "unplugged" performances that I thought were worth listening to more than once......but that's just my opinion.   ;D

Back to the real topic.  The Beatles' recording of  "Lady Madonna" is a good example of brushes were used on a pop hit.  Some others that come to mind for me are Liberty Devitto's brushwork on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are"; Russ Kunckel's on James Taylor's "Fire and Rain"; and Jamie Oldaker's on Eric Clapton's "Lay down Sally".  I often hear Country music "train beat" patterns played with brushes such as "Mercury Blues" by Alan Jackson too.  However, none of those are the brushwork artistry like "Salted Peanuts" did.

So, unlike the lute, we still hear brushes used now and again today, but not in a way that makes us scream "man the brushwork on that tune is so cool!".   

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on November 11, 2008, 08:04:29 PM
Brushes definitely have their place in percussion productions of sorts.  Jazz will always have room for brushes.  The use of retracted brushes while miking the kit produces sounds that just cannot be duplicated, on the skins or cymbals.  One example is Carter Beauford's work on the Dave Matthew's Crash album on the tune Say Goodbye

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on November 11, 2008, 08:49:21 PM
Very good comments Tomm.  Carter Beauford is certainly a great example of a drummer who does all sorts of tasty patterns with a variety of instruments and "stroke implements".

In a related topic about being able to play with a lighter touch, you may want to review this topic and let me hear your comments.


Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on November 12, 2008, 09:10:20 PM
Thanks for bringing that post to my attention Ken.  I agree that brushes can't be used to replace sticks for volume purposes, only strike control and stick size should work there in most cases.

I have been experimenting with a couple of different sets of rods.  I've found that if I concentrate on working with single stroke rudiments, I like and enjoy the licks that I come up with better that trying to make double stroke rudiments, such as rolls, etc.  The doubles seem to loose a bit volume-wise than what I'm looking for.  I'm still working with it...who knows maybe those will develop more in time.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Carthage on December 31, 2008, 04:36:57 AM

      Brushes provide a nice smooth sound that in certain songs will always fit.  I believe that brushes will always be around as long as there are drummers that still have taste, creativity, chops, and the ability to know when to use them.

      A couple of old songs that brushes can be heard on and that sound cool are "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith and "Up From the Skies" by Jimi Hendrix.  So, they can be incorporated into rock music if the volume is soft.

      In jazz they will always be around.  I couldn't imagine playing some of MJQ's songs without them, or many Ocar Peterson Trio songs just for example.

      I personally never use them because I really don't like to use them although in the past when I played jazz and cocktail music and whatnot I used them.  There are exceptions to my dislike of them though, and that is in some "cool" jazz where the only thing that would fit would be brushes.  Sticks or anything else could never replace that sound.  For example:

1.   "Subconcious-Lee" by Lee Konitz with Shelly Manne (also most of Shelly Mann's work with Andre       
      Previne and all the "Poll Winners Three" albums have mostly brush work.
2.   "Yesterdays" from the Lee Konitz Sextet with Max Roach.
3.   "It's All Right With Me" by the "Sonny Rollins Quartet" with Max Roach.
4.   "I Feel Pretty" by Dave Brubeck Quartet" with Joe Morello.
5.   "Easy Does It" by the Oscar Peterson Trio from the "Night Train" cd with Ed Thigpen.

      I could go on ad infinitum, but those few songs are just samples of songs that need brush work to make them sound tasteful and musical.  These concepts seem to have been forgotten by the vast majority of drummers hell bent for leather to see how fast they can play and how tricky they can play.  In between all the stick flipping and fancy beats it seems playing good music disappeared.

     Anyway, somehow I digressed a little, but I suddenly felt like throwing that last part in.  Maybe because that is why brushes may have seemed to have disappeared. 


Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Beatpsychic on February 28, 2009, 10:50:28 PM
I agree that brushes will always be used in jazz... I use them on probably half of the gigs I play. But they are actually being used by a few newer funk and Drum and Bass producers for a very cool sound...check this out...


Song #7, fast foward to about 2 mins...

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 01, 2009, 03:41:19 PM
That was some very good brush work.  I am looking for more video of good brushing because some of the new techniques I've seen are just too cool.  Example, taking advantage of the spring action of the brush off the rims.  Doubles and triples with less than half the effort.  An elder drummer's dream come true.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: cosmodrum on March 12, 2009, 03:10:10 PM
You can't duplicate the sound of wire brushes. When my band plays acoustically, I use an old Slingerland Cocktail kit. The challenge is to get as much variety of sounds and textures from this set-up as I can. So I use brushes, multi-rods in different thicknesses and sticks. When we play electric venues, I still use wire brushes for certain songs because they are just the right sound for those songs. There is nothing else that sounds like them and if you use them correctly, the are very cool sounding.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on March 13, 2009, 02:06:02 AM
Good post......and I certainly agree with you.  Thanks for sharing.   

Looks like this thread stirred some good comments and thoughts.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 13, 2009, 07:07:16 PM
I agree Ken.  It, by the way, has sparked some curiosities on my part and I am working on some licks with brushes and rods that I hope to share here by way of video, or however way I can work out best.  I did set up the eight track but I haven't honed quality recording yet...lack of time...you know.  But it is turning out to be some fun.

I think we should entice a few more of our percussion oriented brothers to do the same.  I don't mind sharing the fun, and I knpw you don't either.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on March 15, 2009, 01:49:47 AM
I performed a big band show with "The Jazz Alliance" at a Gala (Fund Raiser for Performing Arts) here in Nashville tonight.  The first number for the show was the Count Basie tune "Cute", which is a tune that features the drummer........PLAYING WITH BRUSHES!  The audience loved it.   (By the way, we ended the show with Basie's version of "April in Paris" which is a burning..... in- your- face arrangement.  In other words .....like the polar opposite of the opening tune.) 

In my trio (Knight, Nelson, and Sanders) I've also been "re-exploring" the textures you can create with wire brushes.  In my opinion, the coolest thing about playing with wire brushes some of those those moody, breathy tunes is that the SWISH of the wire brushes plays in the spaces.  On certain tunes, it's that swish of the wire brush in the spaces, that makes the tune flow when a stick on a ride cymbal would put too much edge in the tune's vibe.

I also tried brushes on the up tempo tunes such as "FOUR" (Miles Davis) and on several of the tunes it tunes..... it does add a seriously cool feel to the tune.  Like I said, I've been exploring using wire brushes to accomplish an alternate musical texture........but I still refuse to use them to replace sticks for the sole purpose of less volume.  Basically, I remain firm on the concept of playing brushes like brushes...not playing brushes like sticks.  That's just my latest spin on this continuing topic.   ::)

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 15, 2009, 06:39:07 PM
The thread is really getting some diverse comments and information. 

I agree Ken, Brushes are brushes.  I  like closing them up a bit to get a "fump" type of sound, from the toms especially.  Multi-rods are also a cool different sound, and you can sort of use them as a volume control source, but they loose something in the action that you can only get from your favorite stick.  Strike control and stick size are really the best means of volume control.  I.M.O.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: patafla on March 18, 2009, 07:30:21 AM
I think it would be beneficial if more videos where made on the subject. There´s one by Clayton Cameron which is good. Then there´s a book by Ed Thighpen on brushes but studyeng brushwork from drawings in a book is mabey not the best way to go.

I dont think that the brushes will become passe but it definetly does seem like it sometimes. Not to many guys can play brushes anymore and a lot of bands would not be able to deal with that type of timekeeping.

I can play brushes but I must admit that I have done litle of it in the recent years. That may change though. I was teaching some brushes yesterday and it was like yeah I should be doing more of that.

Check this out, Vinnie does some wicked brushwork here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gO7FI_ogvA

Good topic Ken!

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: cosmodrum on March 18, 2009, 08:08:50 PM
More and more people are using brushes and experimenting with different sounds. Expanding the tonality of the instrument. My band opened for Booker T and the drummer used multi-rods the whole show.

Title: My band opened for Booker T and the drummer used multi-rods the whole show.
Post by: KenSanders on March 19, 2009, 09:59:47 AM
Now that's a real surprise to me.  Was this a small venue where he was keeping the volume lower?  Or did he just seem to prefer the sound and response of the multi-rods?

So many of the signature Booker T's recorded tunes have that signature fat, deep, back beat snare sound.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 22, 2009, 04:53:00 PM
Actually, you can sweep with rods.  It isn't the same sound, it's just something else that you can develop and keep in your little bag of sounds.  Mike them...effects them...you'd be surprised.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: patafla on March 22, 2009, 09:00:42 PM
Well I did try that many years ago and it didnt work, atleast not to my satisfaction. I guess Im old school in that for me it has to sound good acoustically and effects would not work for me there. Less of a problem to simply use wire-brushes on a nice head if one is interested in brushwork.

A lot can be done with brushes, I love using old LP album covers or simply white printing office paper and stick a condenser on to that. Tweak the EQ some and you have some amasingly crispy brushsound. A calfhead also sounds and feels great. Sometimes I use brushes on congas as well since they have actual skin on them which is very crisp.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: cosmodrum on March 23, 2009, 04:19:57 PM
It was a fairly small venue, but everything was miked. He got a fat snare sound with the mulit-rods and the cymbals had a complex spread that sounded cool. It seemed that he just liked the sound. Also they were doing a fair amount of new stuff that Booker had written recently along with the many, many great tunes that you associate with Booker.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 23, 2009, 06:32:51 PM
That's a big part of being a modern drummer.  different sound, styles, motivations, innovations...etc.  Sounds like it  may have been a pretty cool gig.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on March 25, 2009, 11:06:32 PM
I practice with my rods a lot because I like the sounds they can produce, usually solo workouts.

I am sitting here a bit embarrassed because in the Jazz group, here at D.S.A., someone has posted Carter Beauford playing "Say Goodbye" with what I previously posted as to what I thought was retracted brushes, are actually multi-rods.

I'm not trying to change any opinions about how they feel about rods, but the whole tune is one excellent piece of work.  But of course...so is Carter.

Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: patafla on March 27, 2009, 07:43:46 AM
Brushes are very interesting and there are lots of players to study in that area. I think its very important to study that stuff. Inventing new stuff is fine but if people are interested in brushes (Which this thread is about) I think simply working with brushes is the way to go. The sound and feel is the most important and a white coated head against the wire is very important. None of that stuff would sound very convincing on clear heads.

Heres a clip with Clayton Cameron. He is playing an uptempo brush pattern which corresponds to an 8th note flat ride.


And heres a great one with Max Roach


Chuck McPherson


Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: KenSanders on June 11, 2010, 09:40:11 PM
Adding to the excellent clips that Patafla posted, here is a cool one with Jeff Hamilton and Steve Smith.  There are some seriously cool brush techniques in this clip. Enjoy.  8)


Title: Re: Are wire brushes passe?
Post by: Tomm on June 12, 2010, 06:53:28 PM
Very cool, a real tribute to excellent wrist work.