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When Is It Time to Hang Up the Sticks?
Posted On 08/21/2010 01:21:33


Sometimes I hear discussions about the appropriate age to stop playing drums.   The opinions about this topic vary, but I do not think it is an age-related decision.  It is, on the contrary; an attitude, health, and ability matter.  Specific situations actually evolve and morph into an endless number of possible paths.   Physical change isn’t an overnight surprise…..unless you have a serious accident or sudden change in your physical/mental ability.


I believe that the style(s) of music you are performing could be a factor in making changes in your drumming activities.  Perhaps cosmetically….physically…..and maybe stamina-wise; certain performance situations become less possible for you to handle.  Those are factors that require you to honestly access your ability to fit the requirements of that musical/stage role.  Then there are performance situations where your age and a youthful appearance are not as significant as your ability to perform the music well.


In my personal situation, I will continue to perform live as long as I can handle the musical requirements.  When and if, physical/health problems become an impediment to performing well; then I will face whatever reality comes along with that.  Until then, my white hair doesn’t affect my drumming abilities, my musical experience, and my ability to interpret musical settings with taste and control.


To older drummers, I offer this point-of-view.  If you still enjoy your drumming endeavors, and you still can perform to your own honest satisfaction; then continue to pursue your aspirations.   If you’re 70 years old, 50 pounds overweight, and look stupid in spandex…..then I’d consider a wardrobe change too.


Playing softly but still laying down the groove
Posted On 08/08/2010 22:52:42


I perform frequently in venues where patrons come to enjoy acoustic jazz.  A drummer and friend recently wrote to say: 




Let his observations sink in just a moment.   



Well, there are several aspects to being able to do that.  However, be warned now.  If you are only willing to play those gigs where you get to beat the hell out of your drums…..then stop reading this right now.  This article is not going to help you with that style of playing. 


I perform several styles in venues of various size and at whatever volume level is required.  However, this particular blog is about playing soft and moderate volume levels with style and control.  Here are some tips from my experiences in jazz clubs.


1.      Select the drums and the heads you will use with the purpose of low volume playing in mind.


You can’t play as softly and yet produce full musical tones with gear that is designed to be played much, much louder.  Smaller drums with coated single ply heads and having them tuned up a bit higher are two very key factors.  Slightly tighter tension for your toms and bass drum (now...not table top hard, just not rock “thud” loose) will allow them to respond instantly and not require a heavier stroke to set the head in vibration.  Lighter sticks with tips that extract lighter cymbal sounds; and felt bass drum beaters help accomplish a full, yet low volume tone, also.


Your snare drum needs to be tuned to produce a musical sound without a hard stroke.  You may find that means tuning the bottom head tighter than the top head…..and yet tuning both heads in a kind of medium range.  The snare wire tension needs to produce a pleasing tone without rattling and yet not be so tight that you have to whack the batter head to hear the wires sound off.  This may be the most difficult challenge to accomplish because the snare drum shell material and the actual drum size is such a matter of personal choice.  I’ve seen drummers accomplish a pleasing sound with just about every possible kind of snare drum.


My personal choice for acoustic jazz playing is a 4” x 13” light weight steel shell snare drum with triple flanged hoops and Fat Cat adjustable tension snare wires.  It is a VERY sensitive snare drum.  The thinner depth makes the drum more immediately responsive to every stick or brush stroke.  I use an Aquarian Focus X batter head and an Aquarian clear snare side head.  Heads are, of course, another personal choice, but thick, clear, 2 ply heads, are not designed to be as sensitive.


If you analyze the sound of your toms and bass drum, you can find a snare sound that fits into the sound palate of your drum kit.  I'd say however, that the sound that you might like when playing rock covers in a bar-band gig  just likely ain’t going to work very well for light volume  playing, because those tunings require more physical impact to produce the tone.  What you need to be going for for light volume playing is full tone with a  light stroke.  


2.      The cymbals you select must be able to blend with the music rather than cut through the music.  A piercing cymbal sound will likely be too edgy to fit within a jazz vibe.  Thinner hi hat cymbals and smaller (and perhaps also thinner) mounted cymbals will more likely render usable sounds than cymbals designed for high volume styles.


 My personal choices include a splash and crash cymbals that are thin or paper thin weight, and a ride cymbal that sounds nice with only a light touch.  Here again, you have to experiment with combinations to find what fits the music for your playing needs.  I do know that the heavier weight ride and crash cymbals that I use for contemporary work and for arena-sized shows are great cymbals, however……they just don’t fit into the softer vibe of a jazz club gig.


3.      I discovered that sticks made out of maple have a reduced weight (compared to hickory or oak sticks of the same size) and they allow me to play with a softer feel.   Using smaller sticks in general, is the easier way to bring down the volume. In playing acoustic jazz, the tip of the stick you choose, will impact the sound and feel of your ride cymbal.  A stick with a nylon tip will produce a brighter and livelier ride sound.  A wooden tip will be darker and more organic sounding. Which do you choose.  I use both according to the charactertics of the tune being played.  Who said it has to be one or the other, but not both?


4.      Your touch is yet as important as setting up your gear to play softer. 


I have found that playing with a lighter and more relaxed touch results in greater dynamic control, the ability to perform with increased confidence and endurance, and improved ability to play very fast tempos without tiring.   You simply have so much more control when you're not slamming your drums. Instead of pounding you need to let the strokes flow.





In much of our Rock music and other contemporary styles, the bass drum is laying down a deep and powerful foundation; the hi hats are playing the cymbal pulse/pattern; and the snare drum is playing a solid back beat   In acoustic jazz, the pulse is usually carried by the ride cymbal and the back beat pattern is mostly played with your foot on the hi hats.  The snare drum, bass drum, and toms? Well they add in the accents, the colors, the additonal tones and the more obvious patterns and fills. You have approach your playing techniques from a slightly different position of creativity.  For example:


Think....driving the band with a burning groove instead of kicking their ass with a heavy backbeat.


Consider sweeping your wire brushes across the snare head to play something musical but not rhythmic in the otherwise OPEN SPACES.  Create an emotion to go with a soft melody.


In jazz playing you might also consider being more judicious and hold the cymbal crashes for an accent was needed to frame a figure or a soft to medium swelling roll to gently build up a transition figure.


Like I said, acoustic jazz playing approaches the drummers role from a different perspective.  It’s not so much the rock solid beat as it is the pulse.  It’s not so much the powerful fill as it is the color palette and texture choices.  It’s not so much in-your-face as it is about feeling something that's not so immediately obvious.


If you are still reading this, I hope that sharing some of these thoughts was interesting and maybe even of benefit.


IBJAMN in Nashville

Ken Sanders

Tags: Jazz

Posted On 08/03/2010 14:33:05

Had a great time yesterday meeting DW's Vice President, the renowned John Good.  I learned quite a bit about what John calls woodology from  him.  John Good lives and breathes the art of drum making and seeking ways to enhance the tone and tuning ease of his products. He thoroughly explained....and demostrated...... the way a drum tone is affected by the type of wood used; the direction and construction of the inner plies that form a drum shell; and the ways to customize a drum set’s tonal capabilities by carefully selecting the various drum for their voices in the set.  I was shown all of the various shells and techniques currently used at Drum workshop, as well as, some future products that will go on the market soon.  We also discussed what kit he could build for me as my ulimate drum kit....custom designed for my playing style and tone characteristics.  What a totally cool guy with a seriously cool line of products.


Hanging out with JR Robinson, Billy Ward, Billy West and Gary Forkum over at S.I.R. was pretty cool too. 



Tags: Drums

Developing YOUR drum solos
Posted On 04/29/2010 16:32:21

I am often asked by aspiring young drummers to give them advice about crafting their drum solos.  Okay, here's a few thoughts for anyone interested.


Drum solos, of course, can be cool part of your band’s performance where you are featured.   


A drum solo can be played within the structure of a certain tune; where the drummer is allowed to solo over melodic parts and/or chords being played by other musicians.  Or it can be without any other accompaniment.  There are really no rules, but there might be some suggestions that will keep things from going awry.


As you practice alone, you can devote some time to developing some neat things to do in a solo situation.  This is an opportunity to merge your creativity and your ability into a musical expression.


Take the time to work your solo patterns and be able to play them with confidence.  If you have something not yet ready to debut…..then I think it is wise to wait until you master it, before actually “going live’ with it.  Why?  Well, you don’t want your audience saying “he was playing a cool solo until he messed up on a part he couldn’t  pull off .


Also remember that your solo should make a statement.   There is nothing wrong with that statement including a display of technique if you want to do that.  However, it needs to flow effortlessly within a musical context too.  Besides, everything you play in your solo doesn’t have to be complex or difficult. You want to do some things that make musical sense more than physical exercise.



Imagine for example, your solo is a reflection of your mood, or perhaps that you are expressing two contrasting emotions.  Use your imagination and think of ways to express a musical texture or feel using your drum set.  It’s your time to have everyone’s attention, so make it your moment to share your improvisations and do something you feel good about doing.



I’ve seen solos where the drummer used various mallets, brushes, hand-playing, and other things that he would not necessarily be able to do when playing with the other band members.  That's cool if you want to do something like that.


I’ve heard drummers use different dynamics to paint their “images”, and then I’ve seen drummers play on the rims, walls, drum shells, and even on the floor within an entertaining display of rhythms.


I've also seen the well-planned use of hydralic lifts, pyrotechnics, twirling and laser lights......it was cool scenery, but the solo didn't sound any different.


Two keys that I believe important to being successful with your solo are to be relaxed and confident.  Do what you know you can do and don’t think you have to go out on a limb so far that it makes you nervous. Believe me...you can't be cool when you are nervous or worried.


Finally, you can work on more than just one solo.  You may want to have a short one for certain situations and an extended version for other situations.  If you play rock, big band, jazz, etc….. basically several styles…..then you may work on solos that fit those different style situations.


Be adventurous and experimental when you practice, but be in full control when you do a solo for the audience.  That way you will always sound great to your audience.


Remember, even the most accomplished drummers you admire......never stop practicing new things.


I hope this helps some of you.


Tags: Solos

Mounted Toms on Your Bass Drum
Posted On 02/10/2010 16:39:39

Let’s talk about the bass drum mounted tom holder.  It was quite a while, in the evolution of the drum set, until two mounted toms become somewhat a “standard.”  For many, many years the standard four piece drum set was a bass drum, a snare drum, rack tom mounted onto the bass drum, and a floor tom with legs.  That set-up is still very popular today, although the five piece set with two mounted rack toms on the bass drum seems more typical. 


Now there are all sorts of add-ons for even larger drum kits, but careful examination will reveal (as Neil Peart has often said) most of them have as their basis….the five piece drum set with two mounted toms and a floor tom.


I’m seen some drummers struggle with the positioning for the two rack toms mounted on the bass drum, although it doesn’t seem to bother everyone…..especially drummers that use a ride cymbal rather sparingly.  Hardware designs have certainly improved over the years, and one result is tom holders with all sorts of position variables for a “double tom holder” that is mounted onto the bass drum.


Still, some drummers still do not feel comfortable with the second rack tom being in the exact place where the ride cymbal would be on a four piece drum set.  I am one of those drummers.


I tried lots of different placement for my ride cymbal.


I tried placing the ride cymbal higher and about half way over the second rack tom.  I tried placing it lower and about half way over the floor tom.  I tried simply placing it on my left side, between the hi hat and the first rack tom.  I didn’t really like any of these placements for my ride cymbal and none of these was as comfortable as I wanted it to be. 


In a recent feature article in one of the better drum magazines, David Garibaldi mentioned that even though he liked playing a five piece drum set, that he did not like the way it forced him to put his ride cymbal into (for him) a less than perfect position.  If you have seen his set-up, he has two mounted toms (10” and 13”) on his bass drum and his ride cymbal is on a boom cymbal stand extended partially over the 13” tom.  He went on to say that even though he had played that way for years, that it wasn’t ideal for him.


He feels exactly the way I felt. 


However, I have now resolved this dilemma to my personal satisfaction by placing my two rack toms on a floor stand.  I have them positioned so that they both hang in front of my snare drum.  Now I can place my ride cymbal in a much more comfortable (for me, at least) lower position to my right…about where it would be if I were using a four piece drum set. 


I must note that I use Yamaha drums and hardware, so the placement experimentation I did  was easy because all of the hardware tube diameters are interchangeable.


Having your rack toms mounted on the bass drum may not present a problem for you either “reach-wise” or “comfort-wise”.  However, the simple change of shifting my rack toms to the left, solved my “reach’ and “comfort” concerns.  I can now play the ride cymbal with my right arm in a very relaxed position which improves confidence and stamina for me.




If this article helped anyone, then I’m glad that I’ve shared it with you.


Tags: Tom Placements

Tact in dealing with people who don't have tact
Posted On 01/07/2010 17:15:07

A young drummer asked me yesterday about a particular confrontational situation he had experienced at a venue recently.  I’ll share the jest of it with you.


Just suppose….you’ve walked into a venue to get ready for a performance situation and while you’re setting up your gear, someone you’ve never met or had any previous conversation with says:


“Oh Jeez man, I hope you’re not one of those drummers who…” 


Now pick from the list


·      Uses one of those awful Chinese cymbals

·      Uses more than two toms

·      Has a solid head on the bass drum

·      Thinks he’s Neil Peart (or substitute another name)

·      Is going to be hard to get along with

·      Turns the beat around all the time

·      Thinks he has to tune his drums

·      Has “that drummer” attitude with real musicians 



I think this is a rude way to confront anyone.  It doesn’t ever happen to me anymore, but I do remember how I decided to handle those situations, back in the days when things like that did occasionally happen to me.


I might chose to say: “Sir, we haven’t met before have we?  My name is Ken Sanders and I was hired by (the name) to be here tonight.  Since I don't know you, you'll have to tell me who you are and what your connection with (the name) is tonight?”


From there I would have time to gather some options on just how to appropriately handle this person and their rudeness.  There is also a chance that I might even need to develop a working rapport them   (i.e sound tech, producer, venue owner). 


   I know...gag, puke.....but someone with a mature, cool head HAS to deflate the tension.  It's most likely going to have to be YOU!


The best answer was usually something like, “Well, I was hired by (the name) because they wanted me to help (him or her) sound really great tonight.  I’m here to do that and I’m planning on using the gear and techniques that will work best for them in this venue.  Now, since we've never met, exactly what is your actual concern about me in particular?”


All of this with a confident, firm, and very sincere, business demeanor.   Your voice should indicate nothing condescending  or tense.



I believe the basic game plan to calm the situation is to assure this initially rude person (if they are indeed in an official capacity with the event) that you are a professional and want to be treated as such.  Also, that you will in turn, show the same respect to him.


If the person is not in an official capacity that truly concerns you, and is just being a butt....then calmly just say…”I’ll think about what you said and deal with it later.  Right now, I am very busy trying to get set-up on the schedule I was given.... so please be courteous and excuse me.”


Above all, keep your cool and you won't regret it. Let the OTHER person look like the rude crude dude.

Tags: Confrontations

Wishing for a better year in 2010
Posted On 11/30/2009 02:04:08

Well, I’ve spent most of my Sunday afternoon and evening watching football and changing (and tuning) heads on three drum kits in preparation for the holiday season engagements that start this week and will take me through December 31st.   


Although my work is down this season from what it was during better economic times, I am fortunate to be do be playing music and performing it with interesting and talented players.


2009 has indeed, been a year of change in the United States. Politically. I am disappointed with our long standing leaders in Washington….afterall, they permitted much of this happen.  Economically, I, as well as, my family and friends are feeling the results of bad decisions in Washington and the ripple impact it has on the finances of the average citizen.  And the various wars……well, the only people who truly benefit from war are those who sell goods and services to the military entities involved.


So I believe there is much to improve if 2010 is going to be a better year.  


However, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my health and the ability to still work and earn a living.


I am also thankful to be able to have open dialog with the readers of the DSA website and to hear the thoughts of others on topics that we find mutually interesting.


As we enter the traditional holiday season, I send you all my warmest wishes for happiness, peace, and prosperity in 2010.






Learning the hard way
Posted On 10/26/2009 15:59:36

Over this past Labor Day week-end, my wife wanted us to shampoo our bedroom carpet.  That meant moving out all of the furniture from the bedroom.   It was the Sunday before Labor Day and there were no friends or neighbors around to help. 


So the lifting and moving was a one-man chore.  The next morning (Labor Day) I felt substantial aches and pains, especially in my right shoulder.  I thought that it was either sore or strained muscles.


However, when I didn’t get over it in a reasonable amount of time I went to the doctor for an examination.  An MRI revealed that I had torn three or the four tendons that connected to my right rotator cuff…..and  …only surgery could repair the damage.


I had the surgery on Thursday, October 8th.  Upon release from the hospital, I was placed in a sling/wedge device to immobilize my right arm and shoulder movement.  I was also scheduled for physical therapy to make sure my recovery was controlled, but successful. 


I let the physical therapist know that I was a drummer and that both my reach and a full range of motion was essential for that.  From the very start I have been playing with sticks on a practice pad, as well as, using the sticks for wrist and arm exercises.  I progressed quickly to snare drum, bass drum and hi hats playing…. constantly pushing my limits within the realm of progress without re-injury. 


It’s going to be several more weeks before I’ll be able to report on the final outcome of the surgery and the physical therapy.  However, I will share something I’ve learned.


If you want a professional drummer….hire me.

If you want a professional mover…..hire someone else.


I figure this clean carpet has cost me about $40,000 so far. 


Learn from my mistake!  Be careful with your arms, legs, back, and feet.  You need them to work as well as your drums and equipment!
















Tags: Injury

Finding the right drum stick
Posted On 07/17/2009 22:36:19

Drummers who play a lot spend a fair amount of money on sticks.  One question I have posed to me a lot is “how do I find the right stick for me?”.


I believe that choosing sticks is perhaps the most personal choice drummers make…..and today….more than ever before……. there is a plethora of  brands, sizes, materials, diameters, tapers, tips, and weights.  Choosing what your favorite drummer uses; or what is advertised as the current rage may not result in finding a stick that “does it” best for you.


Here are my basic recommendations for choosing some sticks that will work best for your playing situations.


1.    The stick must be comfortable for your grip.  This will be a combination of the diameter, length, and the resulting balance….and it will be unique to the physical characteristics of your hands.  If it just doesn’t feel right to YOU, then it probably isn’t.

2.    The stick must be controllable for the volume level ranges needed for your playing….and neither too light nor too heavy for your individual feel preferences.  This is one reason there are so many models out there.

3.    The taper and tip should produce the sound textures you want to get from your drums and cymbals.  Depending on the design it may be bright, dark, or somewhere in-between?

4.    Realize that is normal for professional drummers to use different model sticks for playing different styles of music.



Here is a nice short and easy-to-comprehend summary of the way different drum stick designs suit different aspects of a drummer’s performance needs.  Perhaps it will help you better understand how to find a stick with the right combination of design features for your performance needs.







Tags: Sticks

Want to be a professional drummer?
Posted On 06/30/2009 15:57:56


A young and aspiring drummer recently told me that he was going to be a professional Death Metal drummer.


I told him that was a fine goal, but I would not limit myself to ONE genre that could change or even decline in popularity, and thus....also decline in work opportunities.


Why not be a well-versed professional drummer who could always find work and a good paycheck for his skills.


For example:  Look at just a hand full of the opportunities in the drumming world.


Live performance drummer…..rock, alternative, pop, country, jazz, big band, R&B, reggae, Latin, Afro-Cuban?  Session drummer?


If you are serious about being a professional drummer, then why place any limits on your drumming capabilities?  That would be like a house painter saying, "Yes I am a great house painter, BUT I will only paint houses BLUE because that’s my favorite color.


Learn as many styles as you can.  Learn to read.  Practice regularly with a metronome and master the ability to play solid at various tempos. If you want to be a competitive professional in a world with ever changing demands, then expand your abilities as far as you possibly can.


Styles?  Be willing to play less, or to play more…..or whatever the engagement leader wants.  Steve Gadd may be the best role model for this professional philosophy.  Basically, he can play anything but he will always respond to the expectations of the people who hire him.


Changes are always happening in the music world.  Be prepared to be ahead of the trends.


Tags: Drumming Skills

Bass Drums...ported or nor-ported? How about both?
Posted On 06/26/2009 13:37:40

I have observed that many drummers playing in small to medium venues locally do not have a microphone on the bass drum.  In the small clubs and the low volume clubs, where customers want to be able to converse without shouting, drums are typically not miked.


Now, it is also typical for many drummers to cut a hole in the resonant side bass drum head.  The purpose is to facilitate easy placement of a microphone and to make is easy to adjust any muffling material placed inside the bass drum. 


Hence the question….. Should a bass drum played in an acoustic setting be ported or not?


In my personal experience, a ported bass drum head does, indeed, facilitate easy placement of a microphone.  If the drum is tensioned for use with a microphone the sound results can be outstanding.   I’ve also found that for me, without using a microphone on a bass drum tensioned the same way……the bass drum just doesn’t sound full and solid.  Sometimes, in certain rooms….it can even sound bad.  That’s because I set the head much looser for miked situations. 


That’s why I have both ported and non-ported front heads for my bass drums.  When I am miked I can set the bass drum up for that kind of tensioning and the desired miked sound.


When I am not miked, I use a non-ported front head to add musical tone, and depth to the sound of my bass drum. 


You may prefer the sound of a ported bass drum, whether it is miked or not.  Likewise, you may prefer the sound of a non-ported bass drum whether it is miked or not.  Some of you may…… like me……. find that to obtain the best of both worlds……you have to switch the resonant side bass drum head to fit the miked or not-miked situations.


It’s a personal choice, but the point of this piece is that you aren’t limited to any ONE way.   Do what rocks YOUR world.

Tags: Bass Drum

A Little Drum TLC Please
Posted On 05/27/2009 18:59:32

Another tip from an “Old Dog”.



Whenever you change a drum head, or have some other occasion to have one head off of the drum, it is also a good time to do some simple maintenance checks.


Are any of the lug screws or fasteners on the inside loose from playing?  Then tighten them up. 


Are bearing edges still smooth and free of dents and dings?  If not then get a professional to make the necessary repairs.


Are the counter hoops still flat and even?  Lay them down on a level surface and make sure they aren’t warped.  If so, you need to replace them or else you WILL have problems with tensioning and tuning.


If you have strainers, snare butts, mounts, spurs, or other hardware mounted onto your drum; make sure that the bushings, springs, etc. are working correctly.

Are the snare wires themselves worn out?  Then it is time for new ones. 


Any stripped tension rods or missing washers?  Then replace them.


It only takes a few minutes to check these things, and since our drums do take a bit of a beating they also deserve a little TLC on occasion.


Tags: Maintenance

Make your own choice, and leave it at that
Posted On 04/29/2009 15:14:50

There seems to be some controversy regarding drum machines, triggers, Pro-Tools, electronics, and many other sorts of drum-related gear that is available today.  Let’s be clear about the reality of all this.  It exists.  It sells.  People use it.  You may or may not like to use it, but that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t have a rationale that is different than yours.


It is very obvious that some folks find some of these items very useful for a variety of valid reasons.  However, there are other folks who truly and passionately believe it takes away from the artistry of their drumming.  That too, is just as valid  a reason for their choice NOT to use such devices .


It is not a right or wrong issue……it’s simply a matter of personal choice  It's one you make for yourself, and you should not deliberately seek to offend anyone else just because they have a different view.


My advice simple.  Just do whatever works for YOU and let other folks do what works for THEM.  It's not like someone out there has a “lock” on the ultimate decisions for what devices drummers can use  to create rhythms. 


If you want to use outboard gear, then by all means use it.  If you choose to stay with more traditional gear, then do that.

What's wrong with that logic?  Do whatever rocks YOUR world.


Folks, there may be strong personal opinions about this topic, but in my view there should be NO disrespect towards anyone regardless of their personal choices. 




Tags: Outboard Drum Gear

Mastering those tough parts
Posted On 03/09/2009 22:19:21

You know, a great many of us drummers spend hours doing lots of things to improve our drum sounds and our drumming abilities.


We spend hours figuring out how to make set-up adjustments to place the various components of our kits in the best position for our playing techniques. 



To get our toms positioned in the best heights and angles for our own reach. 



To get the cymbals placed in the best spots and at the best tilt angles. 


To get the heads tensioned for the best sounds, and to pick out the sticks that have the right feel. 



All of that is good and necessary……. to get your kit ready to perform the best it can for you.


But what are you doing to make sure your practice sessions produce progress and the desired results?


Well, one size doesn’t fit all, when it comes to practice routines.  Plus.....only YOU can identify your weaknesses and develop a realistic plan to work them out.


To maximize your results I suggest that you:


Record (or video) yourself playing the problem rhythm, beat, or section of a tune.


Listen to it with honest and critical ears.


Determine what the problem or problems are.


Break the problems down into sections, and work on them one at a time.  (bass drum, hats, snare, etc.)


Do that because you have to be able to play the individual pieces before you can put them all together with total confidence.


It may take time to master the problematic parts, so be determined and patient. Don’t give up or stop short of success.  Stay focused on your plan.


It's basically a walk before you try to run kind of approach. 

Maybe ithese thought s will help you get your playing to the next level.


Tags: Pratice

Above all else...KEEP THE GROOVE
Posted On 02/23/2009 17:34:49

 I went out to hear a band recently.  It was a ten piece band with horns, rhythm, and singers.  That’s a lot of sounds to fit together tightly and still have a groove.  The horns, keys, and guitar stayed out of each others way for fills and solos.  They really supported each other in an impressive polished way.


What killed the groove was their drummer.  He felt compelled to play something in every space or place his could.  This really killed their groove big time.      


Even on the ballads when the singer needed space for some subtle voice inflections, the drummer was playing cymbal flourishes and splashes, sometimes floor tom rolls.  It was quite out of context for the mood, and the soulfulness of the singer’s voice inflections were literally covered up with useless drum clutter. 


Now “what” the drummer played was technically good…..it was the time that he chose to play those things that was not good.   To be tasty and to add colors in just the right places, a drummer must be judicious with his playing.   This drummer was simply playing "way to too much" for the music.


Now, I’ve written previously about the drummers who play CRASH 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, CRASH 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. on upbeat tunes; which I find pretty monotonous.   However, overplaying all night long is a far greater “sin” for drummers…..at least in my opinion. 


Here are some recommendations for drummers, playing music WITH the band.


Rule One:   Groove……lay down a groove so deep you can fall into it.

Rule Two:   Keep the groove happening.

Rule Three:  Whenever you do play a fill, DO NO LOOSE the groove.

Rule Four:   Cymbal crashes should make a statement with the music.  Constant random cymbal crashes detract from the groove.


If you do get a drum solo, play an interesting and entertaining solo, which can include showing some of your technical ability. 


However, if you can't make a good band groove, then you need to work on your basic skills.  The GROOVE is the foundation.






Louie Bellson Passes Away
Posted On 02/16/2009 19:16:12

I have written about Louie Bellson on this website.  I’ve discussed meeting him via Larrie Londin, and about some of the tips he shared about using double bass drums, and also about just how “far ahead of his time” he was with his drum set-up.


 It is sad, that on February 14, 2009; at the age of 84, that he left us.  He was not only a great drummer and bandleader; he was also a great teacher and musical educator.   Here is the link to the official Louie Bellson website.     



Tags: Louie Bellson

Is the small venue club gig for you?
Posted On 01/09/2009 13:34:56


Working drummers, according to their home city music scene; often have opportunities to do work other than recording, tours, and large venue performances.  The supper club, night club, jazz club, hotel lounge, cocktail party, and generally “quieter” type engagements can be a very good paying market.  However, it requires an understanding of what the client wants, and actually “expects” for the musicians to do. 


For some clients…..say in an upscale dinner club…..it may be light music for listening and dancing.  Typically, this is providing an ambiance of elegance for the patrons who want to be able to talk at their table without having to shout over the music.  The “being able to talk at your table factor” is a very common requirement in venues, such as those described in the first paragraph of this blog.



I got a telephone call during the holidays.  Caller:  “Ken, I was hired to fill in at a supper club last night for a friend.  I accepted the gig, but the band leader complained all night long about me being too loud and too busy with tom fills.”


So I asked what drums and cymbals did you use?   His answer…”well, I took my new kit, which really sounds great!  It’s an 18” x 22” kick, 4 toms, deep snare, 14” Rock hi hats, 16” and 18” Rock Crashes, a really cool 20” China and a 22” Metal Ride…..but I played them with these little 5A sticks and sometimes brushes.  But no matter what the bandleader kept telling me to play softer.”



There are several aspects to the drummer’s dilemma here.  The supper club gig was not the appropriate venue to debut his truly cool kit, that was actually designed and set up for louder playing.  He should have talked to the band leader before the gig and got some “ground rules” for what the band leader needed for him to do.  Finally, if he was not really willing to make the adjustments needed to play the gig, he should have told his friend that he was not interested. 


It is hard to play soft volumes in a small venue, when your drums are set up to project a big full sound in a large venue environment.  It also takes a slightly different playing technique and some restraint from playing roundhouse tom fills.




These kinds of “quiet venue” engagements may not be the most enjoyable for a drummer to work, but for other professional musicians; they do provide an income stream to supplement income from other kinds of engagements. 


The best advice I can give any drummer getting into this market is to use smaller drums, smaller sticks, and lower volume cymbals.  That solves a lot of trouble from the “git-go”.  After all, small venues have small stages and small venues don’t require a lot of volume from the musicians.  It’s simply a different situation from the high energy dance gigs, or the large venue show gigs. 


Now on the revenue side of the situation, if you make the clients happy and if these happy clients produce profits that make the manager happy….. then you can perhaps land a regular week-night gig that you can count on for a long time. 


Now, I certainly realize know that some drummers are not interested in these kinds of gigs at all……some consider them lame…..or dull…..or whatever.  That’s cool.  I’ve been at that place too. 



However, there are some drummers who can benefit from another source of performance income.  For those drummers who can play the styles and volume levels desired by their clients, it is worth looking into. 


The rule of thumb to keep in mind for ALL performance situations is to be committed to playing what the person who hired you wants.  If you can’t or won’t do that, then stick with the performance situations where you can and will.


Until Next Time,



Ken Sanders

Tags: Small Venues

Beginning Drummers - Setting up your kit
Posted On 12/22/2008 16:17:50

This blog is intended to help beginning drummers with a logical and systematic method for finding their OWN IDEAL positioning for the components of their drum kit.  The emphasis is on comfort and easy playablity and NOT "cool" looks. 



Lots of beginning drummers know where the  various components are usually located when the drums are set up.  If you DO need a quick familiarization of drum terms, then here a really GOOD one that Rob (Little Drummer Boy) has created:




Therefore, I will talk about specifc adjustments and will not deal with definitions of various drum set components.


We can easily see that the drum set mounts and stands are adjustable for different heights and angles.  The bass drum pedal and hi hat pedal are also adjustable.   This allows the drummer to get every component adjusted to their own personal preference.

That's one of the unique situations about your drum set....... you have the ability to position the components so they are comfortable for your playing.  Everyone has different heights, arm lengths, and leg lengths…..so everyone has slightly different placements that feel better for them as individuals.


I’ve often seen beginnings drummers want to set their drums up to visually emulate the drum set-up of a favorite drummer.  That may or may not work best for them because of their physical characteristics.  So where do you start to get the best set-up for you?  I’m going to use an illustration with a five piece drum kit, two crash cymbals, a ride cymbal, and hi hats.  I realize that not every beginning drummer has THIS particular configuration, but it will work fine for the explanations I’m going to provide.


Where do you start first? 


Drum Throne (stool)


Although this is often the least considered piece of hardware, it is the very foundation of your balance…..your stability……your comfort……and it should be suitable for anchoring your body for long periods of time at the drum kit.  The seat should feel “good” to sit on.  Most of the really cheap thrones actually DON’T feel that good to sit on…..much less for long periods of time.  So, do yourself a favor at the very beginning and spend a few more bucks for a good, solid drum throne. 


It should be sturdy enough, so the upper tube won't slip from your body weight sitting on the seat.  A memory lock for the vertical tube is a really good feature, since it helps to lock the position in place.


You should adjust you throne so that the seat does not cramp or bind at the place where your underside thighs hang off of it.  For those who play “heel” down it is usually best that your legs make basically a ninety degree angle to the floor.  For those who play “heel up” or maybe even BOTH “heel up” and “heel down”;  I recommend elevating the height of the throne just a bit more…. so that even though you heel touches the pedal, it isn’t supporting the weight of your legs on the floor.


Bass Drum and Hi Hat


Place the bass drum and the hi hat at distances so that your feet are comfortably positioned above and on the pedals.  This is why the height of the throne IS SO IMPORTANT.  Unless your foundation is solid and comfortable, you will fatigue easily and never get the control you need to master the feel of these components.


Play some patterns with just these components.  You may find that you will need to alter the height of your throne, or the distance of the hi hats and bass drum to get these positioned for your own ideal feel.  




Snare Drum and Hi Hat Height


Next, set up your snare drum stand and snare drum.  Depending upon your seated height and arm reach, this positioning will also be unique according to your own body characteristics.  Some drummers play the snare drum where the drum head angle is tilted.  Some prefer the snare drum set perfectly flat.  The most typical angle today, seems to be with the head tilted slightly toward your crotch. HOWEVER, position it WHATEVER WAY is easier for you to play on it.  The trick is to adjust the height and angle so that you can play with you wrists and arms relaxed.  You should be able to comfortably play a stroke or a roll, as well as a rim shot, at the angle that best suits you. 


Next you want to raise or lower your hi hat height so that the top cymbal is comfortable to play on……and so you don’t accidently smack your snare drum hand while playing a hi hat cymbal pattern.   Most drummers seem to have the hi hat height a bit higher (to significantly higher) than the snare drum height.  Again, it is a matter of finding the most comfortable playing position.


Rack Toms


You may have one rack tom…..you may have three, but for the sake of this example I am assuming two.   Today’s modern tom mounts permit quite a bit of flexibility, so it is worth it for you to spend some time finding out exactly where your ideal playing positions will be.  Some drummers mount two rack toms on a floor stand with the snare drum almost against both of them.  This has become a popular way to position them over the years.  Other drummers mount the rack toms onto the bass drum with one tom almost touching the snare and the other tom to the right of it (in a right handed set-up).

The typical tilt is slightly toward you to facilitate a solid stick impact position.  Extreme angles, though sometimes used, do tend to make the stick impact position harder on the wrists for some players.


One again, the key element is to find a comfortable position where you can move from your snare drum to the rack toms in an easy flowing movement.  You don’t want to have to move your arms and wrists too far because you sacrifice comfort, speed, and control.


Floor Tom


At this point, you have found the most comfortable playing positions for your throne; your bass drum; your hi hat; your snare drum; and your rack toms. It is now time to position your floor tom.  If you have your rack toms on a floor stand, you need to simply find a comfortable position for your floor tom beside your right leg (in a right-handed set-up).


If you have your rack toms mounted on the bass drum, you can place your floor tom close to your right leg (in a right-handed set-up) and almost against the shell of your second rack tom.


The height and head angle of the floor tom (as with everything else) depends on what is most comfortable for you.   Some drummers prefer the floor tom slightly lower than their snare drum.  Some drummers like it tilting toward them while others prefer it flat.  It’s completely a matter of whatever position that allows you to move from your snare drum or rack toms in a smooth flowing motion. 




The ride cymbal is typically played with the right hand in a right-handed set-up.  Many drummers prefer it set fairly low to the side of the second rack tom and  the floor tom.  This allows you to comfortably play on different places on the surface and bell of the ride cymbal.  Drummers who prefer this position usually do so because they find it tiring to have to raise their arm to play the ride cymbal in a higher position.  If you do tire from having your arm raised when playing the ride cymbal you can loose control of both tempo and feel.


Now there are many drummers that DO play the ride cymbal in a higher position.  Some folks think that having the ride cymbal set up high looks very cool, but once again, you need to place it in a position and tilt angle that is most comfortable for you to play it.  If that preferred position IS HIGHER and you CAN COMFORTABLY play it that way, there is no rule that states that you can’t do it that way.


The crash cymbals to the left and to the right are the final components to place.  In this sequence of finding the IDEAL spot for each component, these cymbals should be placed where you can play them without having to overreach.  The left crash is often seen placed between the hi hat and the first rack tom; tilted so that you can easily crash the edge but also play the bell if you want to.  The right crash is typically placed to the right side of the ride cymbal at a height that is easy to play off of either the ride cymbal or the floor tom.


That’s it.  This systematic approaching to positioning all the components of your drum kit is based on finding the IDEAL placement for your physical characteristics.  There is no reason to pretend that a placement is comfortable when it really isn’t.  Your playing will suffer if you elect to go for “look” instead of playing comfort.


Now that you have found YOUR personal set-up preferences, here are another blog that may help mark them.





If you are a beginning drummer with trouble getting everything in a comfortable playing position, then maybe some of these pointers have helped.





IBJAMN in Nashville

Tags: Beginning Drummers

Impressions about Selecting Some New Jazz Cymbals
Posted On 11/07/2008 17:35:40

I have added some new cymbals to my stash and wanted to share my impressions with any of you who might find that of interest.


Let’s first talk about the “vintage jazz cymbal sound” for a moment.  For many acoustic jazz drummers the "ultimate find" is vintage K’s that have the sound characteristics that we’ve heard on recordings of many famous jazz drummers of the 40’s, 50’s era.


However, the reality is that those old K’s had a lot of variation from one cymbal to another.....in other words, each one was a rather unique instrument.  Therefore, an old 20” K with a sound that YOU like…… might not be anything like a 20” K that some other drummer might have. 


Listen to the sounds of a ride or crash on an Elvin Jones recording; then a Mel Lewis recording; then an Art Blakey recording, etc.  You will hear that just as these Jazz Greats had THEIR own snare drum sound; they also had THEIR own CYMBAL sounds.  Part of their "signature styles" were their strokes and touch.  And part (with cymbals being so important in traditional jazz) were the variations in their "K" sounds.


I went through the above explanation to talk about the Paiste Traditional Series cymbals that I recently picked out.  I am happy to say that there are several models that should allow jazz drummers to select something they really like. 


This Paiste series really does credibly recreate those vintage sounds that some of us really drool about.  Now, these cymbals are not focused on cut and high volume.  They are made to respond to your own tone extractions and expressions........ in a smokey, moody, slightly dirty sounding way.  They have that giving feel that responds instantly.  You can play on the various spots of the cymbal surface and find a lot of variations. 



I wanted to go after that darker, shimmering sound for my acoustic jazz work….but I did not want to really zero in on mimicking the sound of any particular drummer from the sacred jazz past.


It was hard to narrow it down, because I wanted them all!


Well, back to reality.....I chose a 20” Medium Ride, a 16” Extra Thin Crash, an 18” Thin Crash, 13” Medium-Thin Hi Hat Top/ Heavy Bottom, and finally an 20” Medium-Light Swish.

 In some of the other Paiste Cymbal series, consistency in models of the same size and weight is a characteristic that Paiste markets with great pride.  For some styles of music that is a great selling point.

 However, with the Paiste Traditionals series that is NOT the case at all.  Like the old K’s you have to go through several of the same model cymbals to find the special ones for your touch.  They do vary from cymbal to cymbal...... enough for each cymbal have a unique sound personality and feel.  That is what they are really all about....that special combination of sound and feel.

For me, that was part of the fun……actually picking out what I wanted to be my unique sound from these cymbals

 Well, like I said….this piece was to share my impressions of these cymbals.  I do use some of the other Paiste lines in my work (Signature, New Signature, 2002) and enjoy them for the sounds they produce.  However, the exploration into the Traditional Series was a fun and rewarding indulgence.

 I don't imagine that I'll use these cymbals for arena venue dates  , but on the traditional jazz dates they have been an absolute blast.





Until next time,




Ken Sanders

IBJAMN in Nashville

Tags: Paiste Traditionals

Buddy Harman another drum pioneer passes at age 79
Posted On 08/25/2008 07:38:58

On my own page of the Drum Solo Artist website, I list Buddy Harman as one of my mentors.  He was a true pioneer for prominently using drums in the Nashville recording industry and he was definitely part of the famed “Nashville Sound” that developed in the sixties.


He was a legend in the music world.  I can say that every studio I went into during the sixties and seventies had one of Buddy’s left-handed Gretsch sets already stored there, rather that using cartage companies.  He was that busy with his recording dates!  


Buddy Harman was a fine gentleman with a quick humor and an always positive outlook on the situation.  I feel honored to have known him and to have benefited from his advice, wisdom, and his thorough knowledge of recording drums.  Here are just a few of the links that honor his passing and attempt to describe his incredible career.














Tags: Buddy Harman

Craig Kampf....session master
Posted On 07/03/2008 04:53:21

I talked to Nashville session drummer, Craig Kampf at Fork’s a few days ago.  Although, like me, he is a “senior” now , he is still rocking…..still writing…..still producing….and still playing drums.  He had just played a show with the famous L. A. studio greats, the “Wrecking Crew” the week before.  He was excited because Hal Blaine had asked him to join in and play percussion with them at the show.  Craig considered it a very special honor!


Now some of you may not recognize the name Craig Kampf, but he has played on over 200 albums, including 60 "Top 40" hits, plus many movie and TV soundtracks, with over 60 Gold & Platinum awards.  He has drummed and played percussion on several Grammy winning and nominated songs and albums.  He also writes.  For example he co-wrote "Oh Sherrie" with Steve Perry.  That kind of song can keep those royalty checks coming in!


Here is a sampling of some of the artists he has worked with:


Leon Russell

Steve Perry (of Journey Fame)

Alice Cooper

Kim Carnes

Melissa Ethridge

Dolly Parton

Nick Glider

Flo and Eddie (the Turtles)

The Motels (Martha Davis)

Patty Loveless

Tanya Tucker



I asked about his drum stash from his long-standing relationship with Camco Drums and later with Rogers Drums.  He had only a few, and really regretted not keeping so many others.  Some of his very favorites had also been stolen over the years, including some that had been on some very historic recordings.  He commented "We all need to learn to watch our gear when we are storing it, don't we?"



As far as endorsements, he laughed and said yes, if you want to shut down a successful drum company just sign me on as an endorser.  He mentioned that, however, those days were like living a dream.  Craig did many ads for the products he endorsed and was even on the cover of a catalog for Rogers Drums. He is quoted as saying "I used to see Gene Krupa on the covers of those old Slingerland catalogs and dream---and now, here I was on the cover of the Rogers catalog. Dreams really can come true."


And speaking of dreams, Craig's pursuit of performing music is always characterized by drumming that is full of heart and passion. Robyn Flans perhaps said it best in her Modern Drummer article: "The energy Craig transmitted as an 18-year-old is no different from what you see now. More than 25 years have passed and with that has come a lot of experience, but the spirit remains the same."


“Craig is known for playing with abandon.  He is the perfect combination of raw and polished: perfect in his time and all the necessary recording techniques, but with the heart, guts and soul of an 18-year-old rock'n'roller." 


"This desire for making music that is full of passion and heart can be evidenced in all three areas of the music industry that Craig has established himself in---as a musician, a songwriter and as a producer.”


Craig is a great example of not only playing for the song, but also for coming up with original ideas.  He said that main goal was to make the song feel great.  Craig also mentioned that he had always tried to go that extra mile for the people he worked for.  You can feel the enthusiasm when to speak to Craig, and his career accomplishments certainly are proof of the impact of that enthusiasm.


I must also point out that Craig has performed pop, rock, jazz, country, and the “mixture of everything” required for TV and movie scores.  certainly He is certainly NOT a one-trick pony.


For young and aspiring drummers, these are certainly some good things to ponder.


Well, until next time………



Ken Sanders

IBJAMN in Nashville, TN

Tags: Session Drummers

No absolute rights...just some different ways to tune your drums
Posted On 06/28/2008 00:24:05


Okay….granted….this will be a “duh” statement…..but tuning drums is  a personal thing. Some other drummers can graciously share how they achieve the sounds made by their drum kits.   It may be exactly the tip you needed to create that very exact sound with your drums…..if that’s what you need for your performances.


I have heard many drum sets that sounded amazing with music being performed, and I was certainly impressed.  One drummer can have a great sounding kit that works great for his/her situation, but it may not necessarily work for  YOUR situation(s).  Maybe another way of expressing the concept is that: not everyone chooses the same “flavor of ice cream”….although they ALL may be really good!


I really like the fact that…with drums…. there are many, many variations that they all can sound very cool within their own unique musical contexts.  Plus some drummers have their very own “signature sound” and don’t want to sound like the other drummers.


Just think about it a moment.  A great many (if not all of us) will agree that snare drum tuning possibilities seem endless and that bass drum sounds go way beyond just whether you have a hole in your front head or not.



For my work, it is quite possible for a drum kit to have a killer sound in one performance situation and then be very out-of-context for another kind of performance situation.  For example, I know when I use that deep pitch-bend rock-style tom sound that it takes a heavier stroke than the acoustic jazz tunings for producing a rich full sound using a lighter stroke.  Those are the opposite ends of the drum sound continuum for me.


 It may not apply to your work, but I perform a lot of different styles, so one drum sound just doesn’t cover it all for me.  My sound combinations are affected by the musical genre I will be performing.  So, I use different sized drums; different kinds of heads; different pitches and relational tunings depending on the style of music I’m being paid to do.  My jazz set; my big band set, my pop/rock/country set and my funk/fusion sets…..all…. have distinctively different sounds. The jazz set has to sound full and rich in low and medium volumes.  The big band set has to go from soft  up to powerfully kicking an 18 piece band shout chorus (with anywhere from “no sound reinforcement” to “just bass drum and overhead” microphones).  The other sets are close mic’d and those weird harmonics and overtones have to be minimized.


 So basically for me, anyway…the different venues…..and different genres affect the way the kit is set up for sound and functionality.


Now there are, indeed, some really good tips on this site, and perhaps on the web;  for seating new heads, sequential tensioning, and even selecting the heads with the sound characteristics that best suit your needs…..but the drum sound you tune for always comes down your own preferences.


Obviously there are so many things affect the sound of drums other than the sizes and the drum shell material.  That can include the combination of batter and resonant heads (same thickness?…different thickness?…coated?….clear?…..muffling/overtone control  head  designs?, etc) the tension/pitch relationships of the top and bottom heads, as well as, the size sticks you use and the way you play your stokes.  


My point is there are many, many variables…..and although there are some “wrongs” (i.e. uneven tension that can warp the hoops and stress the drum shell….) ….there are multiple “rights”.




Well, until the next time….




IBJAMN in Nashville






Tags: Tuning

What is hip? How about Jim White?
Posted On 06/23/2008 00:59:43

The 2008 Summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) exhibition has been here in Nashville this past week.  That event made way for all sorts of parties and special musical performances every night. For me the very coolest was a surprise special performance by Hammond Organ endorser/artist, Tony Monaco.  The show was at a small intimate Nashville jazz venue last night (Saturday).  Tony played selections from his recordings, and was accompanied by guitarist, Jack Pearson and Nashville jazz drummer, Jim White.


I want to discuss Jim White and his performance last night because it bears real examples several comments I have made in some of my other blogs on this website about drummers and jazz playing.


First, a little background about Jim White.  He is already well on his way to being a major league jazz player.  Though Nashville is now home for Jim since 1995, he is originally from Atlanta, Georgia.  He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts degree in Jazz Studies/Composition from Middle Tennessee State University.   These are impressive credentials in my opinion.



Jim has performed with many top jazz artists including Maynard Ferguson, Rufus Reid, Joey Defrancesco, Bela Fleck, Jeff Coffin, Rich Perry, George Kirk Whalum, Annie Sellick, Charlie Peacock, Kevin Mahogany, Steve Wilson, Art Lande, Bob Sheppard, Benny Golson, Jim McNeely, the North German Radio (N.D.R.) Big Band, Eric Alexander and many others.  He is also an active educator, performing clinics at many universities and jazz festivals throughout the country. In 2005, he joined the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado, where he is currently Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies.  I think we can all be equally impressed with these career accomplishments he has already. 


Last night Jim performed on a very cool four-piece set of old 1980’s  era “Series 9000” Yamaha drums……14x18, 8x12, 14x14, 5x14 sizes and his selection of Bosphorus cymbals for the gig.  His technique was amazing.  His time was firm but with room for Tony's emotion and mood interpretation.  His solos were blazing with intensity, and his subtle brush work flowed so perfect. He used no microphones.  The room was very old with hardwood floors and a high ceiling that let the sound fill the room with a very natural…unprocessed feeling. 


When playing the funk/blues/jazz style drums in an organ trio, the drummer must keep pulse and feel moving without a bass player.  Since the organ player is  doing both chord structures and playing the bass lines…the drummer must hold the time firm, yet still allow some very slight wiggle room for the organist to express himself.  That’s a fine line skill that comes from experience and careful listening.   Jim handled all of that so well last night.


To tell you the truth, it is that slight time variance that gives the music some genuine human emotions that can be experienced by the listner.  Maybe, you haven't thought about it, but you have most likely seen symphonic conductors do this in a much more obvious way.  So, in an organ trio, the organist might be analogous to the conductor, as far a setting the musical moods.  That's something for you to think about as you listen to some of the famous artists in their small ensemble jazz recordings.


As I have written in another blog, jazz, and especially jazz organ trios, place the drummer in a unique “sound mix” situation too.  Drums that are not tuned (pitched) to handle this musical genre can get lost in the organ’s complex multi-layered wall of sound.  In an intimate jazz setting, you don't slam the drums into the mix with muscle.  No, you tune the drums to have tones that are distinct at all dynamc levels.  It's not only tempo and dynamics, it is also about tones...textures....and sound colors.


Jim was hip to all of this.  He had his drums tuned up higher than he would normally use for contemporary pop/rock pitches, aided by the fact that he used a smaller diameter bass drum.  That works to assure his “drum voices” are not lost in the overall mix.  He was therefore, able to play his drums at volumes that allowed their beautiful tones to layer into the music. 


On each tune, Jim displayed his amazing chops and his mastery of this style of drumming to everyone there last night.  You could hear the expected historic influences in Jim’s playing, yet his own definite bluesy funk groove was right there when the music needed it. To my ear, Jim’s powerful passages had the energetic passion of drummers like Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, although in a more bluesy context (in keeping with Tony Monaco's music).  But his ability to also play those delicate passages with such finesse stirred memories of Jo Jones and Max Roach.  Add to that Jim’s own very cool stylings, and maybe you can start to understand just what a remarkable drummer he is.  Seriously....very cool.


In other blogs, I've discussed the importance of having a well-rounded knowledge of all kinds of music.  Jim was well prepared to perform these styles needed last night from a combination of his objective study of music; his focused listening skills; and certainly his ability to practice and master the techniques.   Then the real acid test…..using his talent and taste; as well as, his confidence to bring out the ideas stored away in his mind’s drumming arsenal….to immediately and effortlessly translate them to his hands and feet to produce “just the right” drum/cymbal sounds in “just the right” places in the music.  That takes all of the skills to which you add your own impressions and reactions.


Jim's performance, in my opinion, was a great example of the real beauty of this American musical art form we call jazz.  The creation of improvisational music……interacting with the other musicians…….performing original variations of tunes…..and it is all created right before your eyes and ears.  That to me is very magical……and I thank all the wonderful musicians who spend a lifetime preparing to make those special moments happen……and make them feel so good.


Keep the name Jim White in mind.  You will certainly hear his name again and again in the future. 


Well, until the next time.....CHEERS!


Ken Sanders

IBJAMN in Nashville

Tags: Jazz Drummer Jim White

Posted On 05/14/2008 14:40:31




Many working drummers play several styles of music and work several kinds of venues to broaden, not only their performance experiences, but their income earning potential as well.  Some....like me..... enjoy the variety of a club gig one night; a big band gig on another night; a pop/rock date still another night; and maybe show band and/or pit work.  Drummers, who do work in several genres, know that sometimes you need a different drum and cymbal set-up.




Seasoned professionals realize that some engagements require them to modify their “regular” kit configuration.  For example Steve Jordan might perform on a six piece kit with a 24” bass drum and 18”  hi hat cymbals……or he may need to perform on his famous “Club Jordan” cocktail type kit.  Rick Marrotta is another drummer who may opt for his “Hip Gig” kit rather than his larger kit.  Other drummers like Keith Carlock and even Billy Cobham might also make kit modifications/size reductions for smaller venues.


Well, not everyone can afford several drum kits, so maybe this blog will stimulate some ideas that will be useful to you.  Obviously, the ability to “strip” your current kit down to a four-piece kit is simple enough.  If that does it for your needs then you already understand one of the concepts I am discussing……a versatile kit.  If that still doesn’t allow you to have what you really need then here are some more ideas.


Let’s create a scenario:  You are called to play acoustic jazz at a small supper club on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights for a four-week run with a piano trio.  You can still rock with your week-end cover band, but this opportunity pays great and gives you an opportunity to break into another genre.  


However, say your “rock the house” kit has a 24” bass drum; 16” and 18” floor toms,  10”, 12”, and 14” rack toms, and a killer 7” x 14” snare drum?  Just the look of that set-up might scare the jazz club manager.  So….what if you used a “bass drum lift” and used the 18” floor tom as a smaller and quieter bass drum?  What if you clamped the 10” tom and the 14” to cymbal stands?  What if you used a smaller and more sensitive snare drum?  Maybe you already have a smaller “side snare”.  I know that you can buy new auxiliary type snare drums pretty cheap today on-line.  And maybe there are some used bargains at the drum shop too. Anyway, by doing something similar to what I described above, you can create a smaller four-piece kit.



Modern Drummer Editor Rick Van Horn does something that a lot of professional drummers do.  He buys drums with the same finish so he can mix and match a lot of different configurations.  Now before someone says it…..I know all the drum finishes don’t have to match in order to sound good.    But I still think it’s still a really cool idea for guys who work in several musical genres.


If you buy a kit with ….say a 22” bass drum; 10” 12”, 14” 16” toms, then you have your base configuration.  Add in the snare drums you prefer and add on an 18” bass drum......okay...now with all of those drums in your stash, you should be able to pick and choose to create suitable configurations for most gigs.  The kinds of drum heads and sticks you use also affects the sound of the drums, but these can be modified quickly. 


Now as far as bargain ideas….here’s one for you.  Lot’s of times you can find an odd drum cheap.  Sometimes at a pawn shop or maybe a garage sale…whatever, but the point is that you can buy it cheap because it’s an odd piece they want to get rid of.  I have friends who have bought such drums just for spare parts!  Anyway, some patience and some time checking out the right places can result in acquiring some mismatched drums in the sizes you want.


EXAMPLE:   I have a friend who bought and old 18” Gretstch bass drum; then a 12” Slingerland rack tom; and finally an old 10” x 14” Ludwig marching tenor drum.   He found them all at garage sales and had a grand total of $55 invested.  He removed the wrap covering and finished them in a walnut stain.  Then he put new heads on them and guess what?........they look and sound great for his low volume gigs……and as his practice kit. 


Another friend wanted a second bass drum for his “drum stash”.  He had purchased an old drum that had been in an automobile accident with lugs like the ones on his kit.  The shell and the rims were trashed, but all of the other hardware was fine.  He gave the guy $10 for the trashed drum.  He then ordered a pre-drilled drum shell with the edges already done; covering to match his other drums and some new drum heads.  For less than $300, he put together a great looking bass drum and saved himself about $500.  How cool is that? 


Well, there are other examples and ideas…..but I think if you are this far into this blog that you now have some ideas of your own.




Cymbals are what they are, but they too may be multi-functional.  That 18” Rock crash that you use for high volume gigs might be cool as a ride for a quieter gig when played with a smaller stick.   That 14” medium-thin crash you use for a fast crash on certain tunes may be useful as a main crash for a jazz gig.  As you experiment with such alternatives you’ll find that smaller sticks can often bring out other possible uses for your current cymbals.


It never hurts to find some you extra cymbals either.  Like finding bargain drums, some patience and serious looking can often result finding in a cymbal bargain too.  Whether it’s hi hats or mounted cymbals there are some good used ones out there in the drum shops and pawn shops.  Additionally, some of the lower priced cymbals in the major manufacturer’s lines can be used in effectively low volume situations.   Lot’s of times you will find these available in drum shops as drummers “trade up” to other models. 




I did talk about sticks and drum heads a little bit, but your bass drum beaters, as well as the actual drum tunings have a big impact of the sound of your drums too. 


As I said, not everyone can afford to own several drum kits.  However, maybe these ideas will help you think of ways you can modify or augment the drums you have to give you greater versatility in your drumming work. 


Until next time…




IBJAMN in Nashville

Tags: Drum Kits

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