The clinician & session player talks about his first kit & the drumming paragons who informed his grooves.
Listening to Gil Sharone talk about drums is to listen to a love story. And to watch him play is a transcendent percussive experience. The guy just swings on drums.
Gil Sharone draws his influences from every corner of the musical universe.
Sharone discovered the instrument as a curious 13-year old hammering on the drums of a friend’s older brother while doing a wall sit (the throne had been hidden to avoid letting them play). And from that point on it’s been a 25-year continuing theme of “play, listen and learn from everybody,“ he says.
Before and since his fateful discovery, he’s always had an insatiable appetite for music. “I remember my parents dropping us off at the local music store to entertain ourselves,” says Gil.
"I didn’t have a closed mind to any style starting out," says Gil. "The first rock drum teacher I met with wanted me to get rid of my brushes. And I knew that wasn't my approach." Gil soon began taking in straight-ahead jazz furnished by an East Coast friend and began voraciously learning from any player. From cruise ship bands to beyond. "You can learn from everyone—what to do and what NOT to do."
Eager to make a name for himself, Gil’s early approach on the session circuit was to, as he put it, "play what's there." As he grew in the craft and his focus on sessions became more prominent, Gil began to understand why the iconic session players had gearhead sensibilities. If they wanted to carve out a career, they had to establish a signature sound.
Gil started with mahogany-poplar drums that mimicked many of the session greats—a DW Classics Series kit. “It’s such a musical drum set. And I wanted to be period correct with it; even down to the coated single-ply Remo Ambassadors.”
Eventually he became an in-demand session player with wide tastes and proficiency in a range of styles. Gil put in the work and never turned down a gig. “You have to have a working arsenal at all times,” he says. He eventually became a DW artist in 2011. "DW has been so innovative from the beginning and each series kit I have has a specific feel. Whether a small fusion-sized kit or my bigger Marilyn Manson kit (DW Collector's Series), they have amazing tone, attack and clarity. And they're all easy to manipulate."
With an ongoing mantra of no limits, Sharone has made a side snare a constant companion in most of his setups (a gong drum in his Manson setup). This provides him with some brighter tonal accents to experiment with on his backbeat. “If I’m specifically doing a reggae setting, I’ll use a Latin Percussion brass timbale,” Gil says. “In other settings, I’ll use a DW 14” x 4” copper piccolo snare that sounds great tuned up or down.”
Sharone also has a knack for striking a tasty balance in cymbal play—not proliferating or simply punctuating measures, but adding textures that fit a style and groove. The longtime Zildjian artist credits this to constant experimentation. “I love smaller cymbals and developing an awareness for accents,” he says. Gil’s selection of smaller cymbals offer a quick sustain that won’t get in the way of his groove, but rather add tonal complexities to make it more colorful. But again, it all comes down to swing for Gil.
Gil’s selection of accent cymbals offer a quick, fast sustain that won’t get in the way of his groove, but rather add tonal complexity to make it more colorful. But again, it all comes down to swing for Gil. “How you feel something—your dynamic touch. How you approach what you’re playing. If you take these cymbals away, I’ll just play a ride and get different sounds out of it. It’s not just the gear you have, but how you play it. And paying attention to that.”