I’ve been playing the drums for 13 years now
And for a very large portion of that time, I would always practice on my own drum kit.
Everything was set up exactly how I liked it and I’d know if a single drum or cymbal had shifted a millimetre.
When I first got the drumming bug, I convinced my dad to build an extra shed in the garden and made it my musical home. I playing on the same drum kit, set up in exactly the same way for a good few years before I even thought about doing a gig.
When I finally started practicing with a band, we had a rehearsal place that a family member had built. Eventually, I moved my drum kit in, and with few other people using the place, I was still able to fulfil my slightly OCD tendencies of having everything exactly how I wanted it.
When the time came to start gigging,
I realised something very important: drummers need to learn to be comfortable playing on unfamiliar drum kits.
You can’t always take your own kit with you, especially when you’ve just started out and you’re playing support slots in dingy London bars.
Other people’s bass pedals are weird. Tall drummers have incredibly low seats. Some long-armed musicians have cymbal stands locked in place at a higher altitude than Mount Everest.
Before a gig, I would get really, really nervous. Not so much about getting on stage and playing in front of people, but nervous about what the equipment is going to be like.
I quickly learnt that you’ve just gotta suck it up and get on with it.There was one time where there were not enough stands for the amount of cymbals I use. I only had one crash where I would usually have two. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but because some of the songs were so engrained in my muscle memory, I tried to hit a non-existent cymbal on a few occasions during that gig!
I learnt to get over the fear of the unfamiliar drum kit by making myself play the same drum beats to my band’s songs on different parts of the kit. I would play the song using less cymbals and think about the pattern of drum fills rather than the actual drums that were being hit. That way I knew if all else failed, I could play them just on the snare and not put any other band members off.
Once I let go of having my cymbals in a certain place, and putting up with it if my seat was an inch lower than I usually had it, I realised I could get through any gig regardless.
Now you've got drums you'll need to learn to tune them!
Drum set tuning is the process of tensioning drumheads on a drum to produce a pleasing drum tone. A drummer tunes the drums using a drum key, a small, square socket-wrench that fits over the tension rods. Drum tuning styles and techniques vary between different drums, music genres and the preferences of drummers. In addition to tuning drums, drummers often treat drums with muffling material to alter the drum sound.
Tuning toms is the act of ensuring that the tensions on the individual batter and resonant heads on each drum are consistent and deliver a clear tone and the heads deliver the desired fundamental pitch when struck.
The relationships between the batter head and resonant head provide a sound character suitable for your intended use; and that the relationships between individual drums and the overall drumset provide a logical and pleasant sounding combination.
When tuning a drum, know that the top (batter) head controls attack and ring, while the bottom head controls resonance, sustain, overtones, and timbre.
The thin, sensitive bottom (resonant) head is generally tuned looser than the batter head. The resonant head tensioning is adjusted to allow the snares to sit into the snare beds; and treatment or muffling may be applied to the drum head to control overtones.
The resonant (front) head is usually looser than the batter head and is mainly responsible for the fundamental, audible tone of the drum;
The resonant head can have a small (approx 6") offset hole to allow for air pressure escape and for the insertion of a microphone;
Some drummers use some kind of treatment inside the drum (such as a pillow, towel, etc.) or one of the many head variations and appliqués to control overtones, this could be that a drummer fills up his kick drum with materials to absorb the sound, or that the batter head has a ring of foam on it or perhaps a kick pad placed on the batter head.
What are the musical commonalities between famous artists such as Skrillex, The Prodigy, Jay-Z, Slipknot, Bjork, Oasis, Amy Winehouse and Duran Duran?
The answer is rhythm
All of these artists have at one point used a specific rhythm pattern that is so identifiable you would recognise it even if you have never heard the original title song.
At just 6 seconds long it is the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Winstons, below, were an American funk and soul band who were not very well known, (their drummer G.C. Coleman even more so) and they released a song in 1960 titled ‘Amen Brother’, listen below! Little did they know that a sample derived from the drum solo in this track would become the ‘Amen Break’ - the most sampled rhythm in the history of drums.
The Amen Break is a loop of 4 bars that was popularised by the drum sample album ‘Ultimate Break and Beats’ released in 1986 for the DJ population. Since the sample was created it has become a prominent feature in mainstream music, featuring in a host of famous songs such as; Oasis - ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’, Nine Inch Nails - ‘The Perfect Drug’, Slipknot - ‘Eyeless’ and Björk - ‘Crystalline’.
The concept of sampling: where did it come from?
It was in the 70’s when the concept of using a ‘sample’ was brought about. Musically speaking, sampling is the process of taking a portion of a sound recording and reusing it on a separate piece of music. More often than not, this is done through a ‘rhythm break’ whereby a small section is sampled from one piece of music to form the beat on another track. It is through the sampling method that a piece of music can transform from average to being equipped with a catchy and memorable rhythm, making it hard to forget!
So as a result of this, DJ’s, musicians and artists like Skrillex and Jay-Z are continually in search of a melody ostinato/lick or drum pattern, that has the ability to resound in your mind long after it has been heard, leaving the taste of desire to hear it again… which is how the ‘Amen Break’ became one of the most extensively used rhythm across all genres of music.
Unfortunately, The Winstons never received any royalties for their original creation. However, in 2015 a DJ from the UK created a ‘GoFundMe’ page in the name of Richard Spencer, the singer and saxophonist from the band, to acknowledge and give appreciation to the ‘Amen Break’, whereby 2,000 people have donated $24,000!!
More about the ‘Amen Break’
It is a groove of 4 bars, originally played at 136 bpm, composed of 2 sequences.
1st Sequence: The main groove is played twice; 8th notes played on ride, snare accents on backbeats, 16th notes played by the bass drum on the “and” of the 3rd beat and 3 ghosts notes per bar.
2nd Sequence: It is a variation of the first one. The 16th notes have moved to the 2nd bar on the ''and'' of the first beat, the 2nd snare accent originally on the back beat has moved to the ''and'' of the 4th and in the second bar we can notice a tasty punctuation change on the off beat of the 3rd beat, which can be played on the crash or the edge of the ride.
Blog post by Planet drum teacher, Sebastien Solsona
It's always best to buy a quality branded drum kit. Brands include DW, Yamaha, Pearl, Mapex, Tama, Premier, Ludwig, Sonor, Pacific and Gretsch. The cheapest brands at the bottom end of the market are best avoided, even for children.
If you seek the advice of an experienced drummer and reputable drum dealer, then the chances are you will be armed with the advice you need to go out and make a great buy. You will get a lot more for your money buying second hand.
We can give advice to all enrolled students and help them to find the right kit.
Electronic kits have come a long way since the 80's. They allow you to play with headphones and are virtually silent. Electronic drumkit brands include Roland and Yamaha. Prices start from about £500.
Again, stay clear of budget brands!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.