Regarding Drums

Jaki Liebezeit

Recorded on January 23rd, 2017

Jaki Liebezeit, original drummer and founding member of Can, died yesterday. No, I didn’t know his name before this (the only Can names I could rattle off were Holger Czukay and Damo Suzuki), but I sure knew his drum work. If you’ve heard Neu! or Stereolab or Unrest or the Fall, you’ve heard Liebezeit’s influence.

The track above is practically a Can hit and is one of my favorites.

YouTube Drummers Rabbit-Hole

Recorded on January 14th, 2017

Thanks to my buddy Eric for hipping me to this crazy video of Dominic Fragman pulling off a one-man-band version of “Tom Sawyer” by Rush. Sure, it’s a bit of a liberal take on the song, but I couldn’t conceive of keeping these three things in my head at once and doing it that well for that long.

As YouTube forces a person to do, I went down the rabbit-hole. Meytal Cohen is a super talented drummer who only started playing when she was 18, and now she’s this good. Her arms are so relaxed, yet her attack is so accurate.

And then this, which proves she’s truly obsessed. How does she make it look so easy?

The Sonor Martini Drum Kit

Recorded on November 24th, 2016

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I recently got to see a friend’s Sonor Martini drum kit in person. The Martini has been on my short list of drums to wish for for a while, but seeing them for myself cinched it.

The 4-piece kit Sonor sells is only $399, which seems nuts, but is a little easier to believe when you realize it comes with no hardware or cymbals. Still, the drums themselves feel like they’re much more expensive than they are. The blue sparkle is beautiful, and they are very small. Just right for taking up minimal space and being easy to tote.

How Hugh Padgham Got the Phil Collins Drum Sound

Recorded on October 27th, 2016

My friend Derek asked me about the crazy drum kit Questlove played when The Roots backed up Phil Collins on The Tonight Show. We wondered if the missing bottom heads on the toms were integral to recreating the classic sound or not. My feeling is that they were done that way to match how Collins played his kit back in the day, and they may have helped control the sound a bit on the live stage. Who knows?

Here’s where I did my research. A very fun read:

Classic Drum Sounds: ‘In The Air Tonight’ | MusicRadar

The Appeal of Double Drums

Recorded on October 3rd, 2016

This afternoon we saw Skydog, an Allman Brothers tribute band, at Forest Hill Park. My fondness for southern rock goes back to when I was three-and-a-half and got my first stereo and listened constantly to 96 Rock in Atlanta. The Allman Brothers Band was a regular fixture. (All you whipper-snappers, that was in the mid 1970s, when “classic rock” was not yet classic.) At that age I didn’t know the band’s name, nor the names of the songs, but I knew the riffs to “Ramblin’ Man”, “Melissa”, “Jessica”, and “Blue Sky”. All the indie rock in the world won’t wash those away. So of course I jumped at the chance now to see a band who does all covers of their songs.

Skydog is really, really good. Everyone in the band is totally technically capable, and most importantly, they capture the feel of the Allman Brothers Band. I don’t have that many of their records, so I didn’t recognize most of the songs — they didn’t wheel out hit after hit — but the noodly arrangements and extended solos were perfect for sitting outside on a blanket with a few hundred of your neighbors. (Yep, I like the Grateful Dead, too.)

And the drums! True to Allman Brothers lineup, Skydog had two drummers. The thing about being a drummer in a two-drummer band is you have to check a lot of your ego before you play a note. If there’s going to be any groove or drive to the songs, both drummers have to be in lock-step the whole time. Individual flourishes here and there are permitted, but unless you’re trading actual solos, you and the other drummer have to be of one mind all the way through. It’s a humbling experience, but you both get to serve something bigger than yourselves, and there’s no other sound like it.

A single drummer is the typical model in the vast majority of rock bands. Maybe some people think two drummers is “too much”. It probably would be for most bands. But the Dead, the Doobie Brothers, and the Allman Brothers Band wouldn’t sound the same with only one drummer. The effect of two is like a chorus of synchronized raindrops falling on a tennis court. Plus, it just looks cool as hell.

I Have So Much to Learn About Drums

Recorded on April 30th, 2016

That’s Hannah Ford Welton from 3RDEYEGIRL, the band that played with Prince. I was watching this and feeling humbled by her chops, and then she dropped the bomb when she mentioned the proper way to play flams.

Quieter grace note? What?

I’ve been playing drums off and on since 8th grade, shortly after I discovered Rush. I never had real lessons — only a few pointers from our after-school jazz band teacher in high school. I had always prided myself on being self-taught by studying Neil Peart, Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, Bill Berry, and Larry Mullen, Jr. I know I have serious limitations, but I’ve been able to mimic well enough and make up the rest. Nowhere along the way did anyone mention that flams have a quieter grace note than the primary stroke. Turns out I’ve been playing ham-fisted “power flams” — with both strokes at the same loudness — all these years. How much better would I have sounded if I had bothered to learn any proper rudiments, and just practiced those first and gotten a better form down, instead of diving in and learning “Red Barchetta” first? What else am I clueless about?

Now I need to get a practice pad.