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What do we mean by 'best kit'?
Posted On 12/13/2007 12:30:57
One of the joys of running a drum and percussion information web site is that you get asked lots of questions, about all sorts of subjects. One repeating question (in many different guises is something like, "How do I find the best kit?").

My first question is "Best for what?" In order to know what to look for we must know what we want it to do.

My second question is usually, "What do you mean by best?" This might sound a bit like the first question but let me explain ...

Do we mean the most expensive, the loudest, the most mellow, the most aggressive or what? I always recommend that people relax as one does not necessarily need to go for 'high-end' gear to get the 'best' kit. A friend of mine who is a professional drum maker swears blind that the best sounding kits from one manufacturer are at the lower end of their range. Subjective I know, but that is where we arrive as soon as we start talking about 'better' or 'worse' kits (within reason of course).

So, if we don't have the wedge to afford the high-end gear, does that mean we can't have a 'good' or 'better' kit? I think not.

The choice of a 'good kit' or 'better kit' is VERY SUBJECTIVE. One man's meat is another man's poison as they say. I think that providing you are buying a reputable make, you are pretty much assured of a 'good kit'. However, what makes it a good kit to an individual is not just the looks, build quality etc but the SOUND, and that can only be determined by playing it and then asking some basic questions e.g., "Do I like it?" "Does the sound of the kit suit my style of playing, or the music that I play? If not, can I get the sound I want by changing the heads?" ... and crucially, "Can I tune the kit to get the sound I want?"

It is worth remembering that drums of different sizes within the same range can sound very different, and drums of one particular size e.g., 12-inch by 9-inch tom, may also vary from drum to drum within the same range by a single manufacturer.

Perhaps the best way to obtain the 'best' kit for you is to listen to it, for which I believe there is no substitute.

So, listen to the kit you are thinking of buying. And remember ... always get someone else to play the kit whilst you stand behind it (where the drummer is) and then in front of it (preferably some distance away) so that you can hear what the audience will hear. If the sound suits you, your playing (and hopefully your budget) you've answered your own question. Then providing nothing is loose, falling off or missing (i.e., you can trust the manufacturer) you have just bought the 'best' kit for you ... just be aware that your taste may change, in which case so will your own definition of best.

So if we use subjective words like 'better' we need to understand the full breadth of what the term really means.

To sum it up ... read up, take help and advice and then use your ears to do the final choosing. As an example, I was listening to a couple of friends playing in bands in an acoustic setting on different occasions (a good leveller for comparison) and a kit costing little over £600 blew away the one costing over £2000. Why? I don't know. Perhaps it was the tuning, choice of heads, style of playing, acoustics of the venue ... or perhaps it was just a case that my judgement was based on different criteria to their own ... and to them, their own kit sounded the 'best'.

My website dedicated to helping drummers choose the right kit & equipment, do their own repairs, offer a few playing tips and hints on warm-ups and warm-downs etc can be found at Waywood Music Web Site if you're interested.

Expand Your Creativity
Posted On 12/12/2007 12:53:39
Sometimes, just 'playing the beat' is not enough.

I try to think of a song as a 'musical picture'. Just as an artist paints a picture with many colours, and with many shades of the same colour, so it is with music. My 'musical palette of colours' is the different sounds that I create. However, just as an artist knows when to stop, and what to leave out to make the picture complete, so we must do the same in our playing.

Here are a few ideas that you might find helpful for increasing the colours in your musical palette of sounds.

FOR DRUMMERS

DRUMS

Try hitting the edge of the drum skin, near to the rim, for a more 'open' ('ringy') and higher-pitched sound, rich in harmonics (overtones).

Hit the skin with a stick whilst pressing the skin with your other hand to vary the tension (and hence the pitch) of the drum. You can use this to produce a 'pitch-change' or 'pitch-bending' effect.

Vary your sticks. Use brushes, multi-rods or beaters. Mix the combination of these in your different hands, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand.

Try playing your snare drum with snares off for a different sound.

Play your bass drum with your bass drum pedal and with a stick for interesting tonal combinations and rhythms.

Move beats from the drums to the rims, to the head just inside the rim, or rim shots to produce a range of tonal colours. Try using these strokes in place of accents.

CYMBALS

Try varying your sticks. Use brushes, multi-rods or beaters. Mix the combination of these in your different hands, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand or vice versa.

Use different types of stroke. Drag the stick tip, whilst holding the stick vertically, across the bow of the cymbal from the bell outwards to produce an eerie 'wailing' sound. HINT: Wooden tip sticks work best. Try moistening the tip before playing to increase the friction, and hence the sound. Drag a brush across the bow of the cymbal for a 'swish' or 'sssinggg' sound.

Play the edge of the cymbal using a vertical drum stick, striking the actual edge (i.e., straight against the edge) rather than hitting the cymbal from above/below near the edge). This will produce a sustained bell like sound.

Try the 'old favourite' of beaters on the cymbals to produce a mellow crescendo sound. Experiment with changing volumes and 'choking' the cymbal to produce an instant silence.

FOR PERCUSSIONISTS

DRUMS

Try hitting the edge of the drum skin, near to the rim, for a more 'open' (ringy) and higher-pitched sound, rich in harmonics (overtones). Hit the skin with a stick/your hand whilst pressing the skin with your other hand to vary the tension (and hence the pitch) of the drum. You can use this to produce a variety of 'pitch-change' or 'pitch-bending' effects. When playing drums with natural skin heads e.g., congas, look for variations in the thickness of the head and see how many different tones you can produce from these areas.

Try playing the heads with different parts of your hand, or with your fingers, or different numbers of fingers to produce a variety of tones.

Vary your sticks and strokes. Use brushes, multi-rods or beaters. Use slaps, open, closed and bass notes. Mix the combination of sticks that you use, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand.

Move beats from the drums to the rims, to the head just inside the rim, or rim shots to produce a range of tonal colours. Try using these strokes in place of accents.

Add further interest by playing the drum shell, as well as the head.

CYMBALS

Try varying your sticks. Use brushes, multi-rods or beaters. Risk using the pads and backs of your fingers for 'soft' and 'hard' sounds. Mix the combination of these in your different hands, such as, stick - left hand, brush - right hand or vice versa. BEWARE: Cymbals (especially the smaller sizes) have SHARP edges ... to which the scars on my hands bear testimony! So, BE CAREFUL especially when playing multiple hits using your hands on the same cymbal.

Use different types of stroke. Drag the stick tip, whilst holding the stick vertically, across the bow of the cymbal from the bell outwards to produce an eerie 'wailing' sound. HINT: Wooden tip sticks work best- try moistening the tip before playing to increase the friction, and hence the sound. Drag a brush across the bow of the cymbal for a 'swish' or 'sssinggg' sound. Play the edge of the cymbal using a vertical drum stick, striking the actual edge (i.e., straight against the edge) rather than hitting the cymbal from above/below near the edge). This will produce a sustained bell like sound.

Try the 'old favourite' of beaters on the cymbals to produce a mellow crescendo sound. Experiment with changing volumes and 'choking' the cymbal to produce an instant silence.

Get really adventurous and try a violin bow across the edge of your cymbals.

EFFECTS & ‘TOYS’

One of the real joys of playing percussion is the number of 'toys' you can use. These may vary from professionally made instruments to things you've found in the garden or waste bin.

Allow your mind to wander concerning how you may be able to play these.

For example;

Why not
a. Use fingers on a cowbell, or brushes, or hand strokes?
b. Rest the bell on a drum, hit it and see what sounds you can produce?
c. Fasten a shaker to one or both wrists and then play the drums or other instruments, thus combining sounds?
d. Get some three or four limb co-ordination going, playing bells, blocks, hi-hats with your feet whilst doing the usual things with your hands?

The list is as endless as your creativity.

BUT REMEMBER: If you are in doubt of what to do or play, be risky and leave space; play nothing. It may be one of the most significant contributions you make all night!

If you're interested in more articles like this why not visit my free advice website at Waywood Music Web Site.

Warm-Down Exercises?
Posted On 12/12/2007 12:02:54
I hear lots of people talking about warming-up before a gig or before practising, but what about warm-down exercises afterwards?

A good warm-up gets the blood flowing to the muscles and loosens the joints so that we can function properly when we play. But one of the pay-offs for that exercise is the production of a substance called lactic acid.

Our muscles burn the 'food' (glucose) brought in by the blood, use the energy and produce an end product ... lactic acid. Have you ever had aching muscles the day after a gig or practice session? This is because you have a reserve of this lactic acid remaining in your muscles. It is common in most sports involving a high level of exercise for the participants to 'warm-down' afterwards to avoid the problems afterwards caused by this little beastie. This process is actually quite simple (and pleasant) after all the exercise.

There are main groups of muscles around the neck, shoulders, wrists, spine, abdomen, hips, legs and feet that need to 'chill-out'. Gentle exercises to contract and relax the muscles, in addition to smooth, slow movements will help to relieve many of the discomfort and give pain-free, ache-free days!

If you're interested about specifics, I have some pictorial help and advice for drummers and percussionists at the following web page ...

[url]http://www.waywood.com/drums.htm[/url] and [url]http://www.waywood.com/perc.htm[/url].

Here's to more pain-free days!



Pasha
Drum Solo Artist
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