Print 

Drumming Up Conversation

Posted on .

Regardless of your specific drumming ability and the type of music that you play, buying a drum set is a big decision. It is easy to either keep it too simple, pick up a three- or five-piece drum set, and just not think about it again, or to make things too complicated by getting wrapped up in the dozens of decisions that you can make about various types of equipment. Whether you are in the process of buying your first drum set or you're interested in upgrading a few key components, you can get some great insight about drum gear from some professional drummers.

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

Jimmie Fadden of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Jimmie Fadden is the drummer for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB), a veteran group of talented musicians which was - and still is - considered a catalyst band for the entire country rock and American roots music movement. Fadden says that he is the most important asset of his drum set.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
The snare is the sensitive one in the set. For some reason, it also shoulders the most abuse, like being the out-of-favor kid in the family, but always the one that understands what you are talking about.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
The most important piece of equipment in my set is me! At my age, I take that seriously. If I don't, I can't bring the energy and enthusiasm to it that it takes to make it sound its best.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
My little bag of sounds relies mainly on the tools that I choose for hitting the drums. I have a very large collection of brushes, sticks, and things in between that I use. Each one has a different sound. Within our music, I find that there is always one choice that seems to work best for the song.

Drumming to a Different Beat

Willie Jones III

Willie Jones III is a noted jazz drummer, and his life-long musical experience has played a large role in his bold articulation and innovative sense of swing. He believes that buying drums is a personal thing and that each drummer must experiment with multiple sets to determine which one will work best for a particular style of music.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
I've been playing Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute drums for 15 years. I find them to be the most consistent in their sound and quality.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
The most important pieces of equipment in my drum set are my snare drum and my ride cymbal because I feel like my personal sound comes from these two pieces more than anywhere else.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
I always prefer a live acoustic drum sound over a synthesized or electronic sound.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
Buying drums is a very personal thing. I think that it's good to try a lot of different drum kits to get an idea of what brand of drums will work best for the style of music that you play.

A Cymbolic Choice

Geoff Clapp

Geoff Clapp has been playing drums since the age of three. He's currently working on releasing his first project as a leader, which, among others, will feature Ellis Marsalis and Nicholas Payton. Clapp is passionate about synthesized drum sounds and has a unique method for playing a china crash cymbal.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
My Gretsch USA Custom is definitely my most sensitive drum set. It rules! I can tune it down for a singer-songwriter thing as needed. I recorded an album in NYC called Picnic that included a track called Stop What You're Doing. For this track, I used an old dark red 80's Gretsch kit USA Custom, a rock sized kit with an amazingly deep tone yet precise attack.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
The most important piece of equipment in my set is my 20” old Zildjian K Ride cymbal. I feel it as an extension of my creative mind. The sound, feel and vibration that I get from it inspires me to no end. Its explosive crash allows me to mark forms and navigate through various arrangements as well as color the music at any dynamic. You can listen to a session with my Gretsch USA Custom kit and 20” old K on my left side by hi-hats.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
On the topic of synthesized versus live sounds, I love synthesized sounds. You're talking to one of Rush's biggest fans from way back. Neal Peart was one of the pioneers of synthesized drum sounds in the 80's. Of course it can be overdone. Many bands rely too heavily on it. I do still prefer a live “sound” over anything reproduced.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
My 20” UFIP Natural Series China crash gives my drumming its unique sound. One time in the studio I had it sitting behind the kit on the floor waiting to be recruited. As I was getting up, I stepped on it by mistake and turned it inside out. Serendipitously it became the coolest sounding crash ever! Listen to a sample of any of the songs on For Those Who Believe to hear its dark super crackling short decay of a sound. It's so unique. I'm the only drummer that I know who uses the china crash in this fashion.

Jazz It Up

Mike Veny

Mike Veny is a drummer, entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant. He is the founder and owner of several music-related websites, is on the Board of Directors for the Fender Music Foundation, and is a member of the NAMM Foundation's SupportMusic Coalition. Veny favors Gretsch drums and has definite preferences when it comes to Gretsch equipment.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
In my opinion, Gretsch makes the most sensitive and responsive drums. One of the best sounding drum sets that I've ever played is the Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz kit. In fact, this is the kit that I play the most as a working drummer. Although it's priced as a beginner model, the quality of sound and feel rival many professional model kits.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
If I had to pick one piece of equipment that's the most important, it's the bass drum. I'm a big believer in the idea that a solid bass drum sound is critical to the arrangement of most popular music. My snare drum takes second place. On all of my Gretsch bass drums, I use a clear Aquarian Super-Kick 10 bass drum head and a Kick Port for the perfect balance of punch and tone.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
It may seem boring, but I try to avoid effects percussion. I feel that I am still discovering the sounds of my drum kit and cymbals. However, I have used a few items that have added some nice flavor. LP cowbells and blocks consistently do the job. Occasionally I will use a Toca Freestyle djembe with my drum kit, which adds some unique coloring to the music.

The Whole Sound

Brian Gormon of Tartufi and Rainbow Beast

Brian Gorman is the lead drummer for the critically acclaimed touring band Tartufi and for the San Francisco-based Rainbow Beast who will release a new album in February 2014 that they created with the kids that they teach in their Rock Band Land classes and camps. Gorman believes that virtually every part of a drum set plays an important role in the music that a drummer creates.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
There are so many variables that go into determining the responsiveness of a drum including tuning, type of head, and positioning. Ideally you have tuned and tightened all of your heads in such a way that they are all responsive to one's own playing style.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
The drum throne might be the most important part of the kit. When you are sitting for hours on end in rehearsals, your playing will suffer if you are not comfortable. Aside from that, I would say that the kick pedal is most important.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
I have mics on all of my drums as well as a drum machine that I sub-mix and send to loop pedals. The result is often an enormous sound full of polyrhythms that were all played live but have the sonic effect of synthesized beats.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
Both live and programmed sounds have their place in music. When used well, each one is just a tool to create a sound that conveys the artist's intention.

Drum Roll, Please

Sheldon Kreger

Sheldon Kreger is the founder of ProDrumBlog.com. He has played in multiple bands over the past seven years and is in the process of establishing his own studio. Kreger says that you should use the music that you are playing to choose your acoustic or digital sounds.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
The tuning of the drum largely dictates its sensitivity. It's not something that you necessarily want for all styles of music. The most sensitive drums that I've ever played are the Craviatto Classic Series (maple). I think that cymbals are the most important investment in a drum set. With cheap drums, you can still tune them and have a decent sound. However, with cymbals, there is no way to modify them to sound better.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
Whether your sounds are acoustic or digital, you should choose them strictly with regard to the music that you are playing. One is not better than the other, except in context of the application. For example, dance music often sounds best with digital drums. However, bop almost never sounds good with digital drums. As a professional, it is best practice to be ready to play both kinds of music.

Caught in a Snare

Jude Moran of Adela & Jude

Jude Moran is part of the Boston Americana duo, Adela & Jude. Moran began his music career as a percussionist and eventually gravitated toward string instruments of the Americana genre including the banjo, mandolin, and six-string guitar. Moran has always experimented with unique setups and is happy to share his insight on his various drum set configurations.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
Ludwig Super-Sensitive Bronze Shell snare drums are the most sensitive, responsive drums that I've used. The bronze provides a very unique character to the sound that a normal steel shell drum does not. The drum heads are by far the most important component of a drum set. Changing heads on a marginal or lower cost drum set can dramatically improve the sound.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
I've always experimented with unique set ups. Currently I use a foot snare exclusively in a duo with a bass drum on the right. This allows me to play guitar with my hands and 2 and 4 on the snare with my feet.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
The modern sample rates of digital drums can replicate the sound of acoustic drums to the ears of 99 percent of the people who hear them. The response of the cymbals lags behind the drum stick feel of electric mesh pads. I have had many black and blue knuckles from playing electric cymbal pads too hard.

A Sound Opinion

Jason Stare

Jason Stare is a drummer, sound designer, audio engineer, and visual artist from New York. He has been performing and collaborating with a number of musical acts over the years, including The Submarines and Ferraby Lionheart. Having worked extensively with both synthesized and acoustic sounds, he has come to the conclusion that, above all else, he enjoys sound.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
Hands down my favorite go to drums are C&C drums for their versatility in controlled vintage sound that stays in tune. Currently I perform and record on a custom C&C 6 ply Luan Kit with 6 ply rings (14x22, 9x13, and 16x16) with an MPM snare (6.5 x 14) and Istanbul Cymbals. I prefer luan wood for its warm, dark and dry sound that responds in the same way with different techniques.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
The most important pieces of equipment that I own are my ears and my sensitivity to the vibration around me. Without my ears, I wouldn't be able to respond intuitively and collaborate with songwriters / bands. However, if I had to choose one physical object, it would be the bass drum because it keeps the pulse of the song.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
When it comes to special effects percussion, I love dampening the drums and cymbals by applying gaffers tape and cloth. I have been known to incorporate a Jameson bottle on my kit and strap bells to my ankle.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
The bottom line in the debate between synthesized versus live sound is that I enjoy sound period. Whether I am adding effects, mixing beats, or creating original music in ProTools or Ableton, it all comes from the same creative drive and for me, is just as rewarding as performing on stage.

Percussive Practice Makes Perfect

Sam Nadel

Sam Nadel has been a freelance session drummer for over a decade. Currently he is on the road touring around the world with Sony recording artist Lucy Rose. Nadel urges drummers to get specific with their practice regimes in order to continue to improve their craft.

What drum would you recommend as being the most sensitive / responsive?
I love my Gretsch USA Custom kit because it operates really well at medium and low volumes, which is perfect for jazz. My Ludwig Classic Maple Kit, which I love, is great for rock and pop. However, you have to work it much harder, and it doesn't have the same range as the Gretsch.

What is the most important piece of equipment in your set and why?
My most important piece of equipment is my Zildjian Constantinople 22” Ride. It has a beautiful dark wash. I use it for almost all of my gigs.

Which special effects percussion has given your drumming its unique sound?
I love dark and organic sounds so I don't use too many special effects. However, after hearing Mark Guilana's playing on the Phronesis Alive album, I've been inspired to experiment with some of Zildjian's EFX range.

What's your opinion on synthesized sound versus live?
I have to say that I've never been a fan of backing tracks and electronic pads. Backing tracks are always liable to malfunction – with catastrophic consequences – and leave little room for the band to breathe. I find that playing pads feel unnatural as the sound source is totally separate from the rest of the acoustic kit. Saying this, I'm aware that electronic equipment is often necessary for a gig so it's important to find a way to make it work for you.

Finally, detail is important. Don't be afraid to get specific with your practice regime. Single out a specific area for improvement, however seemingly mundane, and master it. Taking care of the little things will mean that the big picture will start to take care of itself.

Feelin’ Your Own Groove

Many people look for drum gear advice without considering how they will actually use the gear. For example, the best china crash cymbal for an experienced jazz drummer may not be a great fit for a beginner rock drummer. As you get tips about purchasing various types of drum equipment, think about how it fits into your experience level and the type of drumming that you do or that you would like to do. The professionals will guide your decision making process, but ultimately you must decide what will work best for you and your music.


For much more about choosing the right drums, percussion, and cymbals, read our in depth buyers guides.

Drums Buying Guide

Electronic Drums Buying Guide

Cymbals Buying Guide

Tags: Cymbals Electronic Drums Acoustic Drums Percussion Drum Accessories & Parts

Comments  

# John Kessell 2014-02-27 17:53
I play a big Gretsch kit from 1976. Now have Stern Tanning calf heads--jazz weight-- on everything. Play big band, 10-piece R&B, small group jazz, music theater. Calf soooo sensitive! I can use light finger tips and get snare response. Ppp. Huge back beat when I need it. Sound changes with temp and humidity, but always better than Mylar. IMHO. Could play the bolero in West Side Story at a whisper under UN amplified singers on stage. Can also play Mustang Sally amplification optional.
Reply
# Mike @ MikeVeny.Com 2014-02-25 04:20
Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this article!
Reply

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

The Hub Musician's Friend Logo

DON'T MISS THE LATEST UPDATES!
CONNECT WITH US.

FIND GREAT DEALS NOW
ON MUSICIANSFRIEND.COM

Stupid Deal of the Day (SDOTD) Musicians Friend Hot Deals Used Musical Instruments at Musician's Friend

SHOPPING TOOLS

  • Guitar Case Finder
  • Cable Finder -- Every Cable, Adapter, & Connector You Need

SHOP BY CATEGORY

  • Used Gear
  • Hot Deals
  • Private Reserve
  • On Sale

SUBSCRIBE

  • Newsletter
  • Digital Catalog
  • Order the Print Catalog -- It's Free!