Dis Is Da Drum

Yes it’s true, I bought a drum set. Believe it or not my wife thought it was a good idea. Well better than getting a motorcycle anyway.

It arrived just over a week ago. I got a complete kit with all the drums, cymbals, stands, hardware, and a throne, all as a single unit. I didn’t even know that was something you could buy all together. This saved me the trouble of picking out all the individual components and the whole thing was a reasonable price. I guess it’s a basic, entry-level set but everything is well-made and sounds good. I also got sticks, mallets, brushes and (of course) earplugs.

The kit I got was from Ludwig, with Remo heads and Zildjian cymbals. It’s a gold sparkle finish, very nice. The kick drum is 22″, and then there’s two rack toms, a floor tom and and a snare drum, plus a ride cymbal, crash cymbal and hi-hat.

On the web they advertise the same kit with a 20″ kick drum and correspondingly smaller toms. This seemed like it might be suitable for jazz, but no one has it in stock, so it may not really exist. I asked one of my jazz drummer friends about the 20″ vs 22″ kick. He says back in the day jazz drummers used full size kick drums just like everyone else, and he prefers the 22″ anyway cuz it has a bigger sound and is more versatile, good for rock as well as jazz. So I stopped waiting for the smaller set to be in stock, which is just as well cuz it’s still not available after a month.

Unpacking and setting it all up was a major endeavor. I’d never done that before and I learned alot. Michelle was a big help. Then it was on to tuning the heads. Sweetwater has some videos on their web site, which was useful. But the tuning is by ear and by feel, so it’s hard to get that across in a video. I’m now in a phase where I’m experimenting to see what sounds and feels good.

Once I has it set up put together a little practice routine to get started. I haven’t played drums since high school or maybe college, and while I’m happy that I still know a few beats and basic grooves, that’s about it. So the focus on fundamentals. For on thing I’m just practicing single hits on all the drums, to get consistent control over the tempo, loudness and accents. Hitting the drums and cymbals in different places and at different angles to hear the different sounds. Getting consistent between the right and left hand. Experimenting with grip, where to hold the stick for the best balance, how tight or loose, and how to best take advantage of the bounce you get after a hit.

Next is moving around the kit, smoothly and without the sticks interfering with each other. Also experimenting with the placement of the drums and what feels comfortable. Third is patterns, mostly on the snare. I only remember a few rudiments, but I’m working on constancy, gradually increasing the tempo.

Last is beats and grooves. I must say many years of playing piano while singing has really my hand/foot independence. Again the focus right now is consistent tempo and volume. Being able to hone in on one part and not loose the others, particularly the kick drum. Putting in accents or extra hits to vary the groove. I noticed that when switching from the hi-hat to ride cymbal, the ride seems much louder. It’s a challenge to bring down the volume with keeping the kick and snare at their level, particularly since I’m playing the snare with my left hand.

One thing I never considered before is that the drum set is organized backwards in terms of high vs low, compared to the piano or other percussion in-struments like the vibes. In a basic beat the bass drum is on 1 and 3, and struck with the right foot. Then the backbeat is on the snare on 2 and 4, struck with the left hand. Compare that with a stride rhythm on piano, where left hand does both the bass note on 1 and 3 and the chord on the back beat, but the and moves to left for bass notes and to the right for the chord. I’ve known left-handed drummers who play the whole kit reverse. And there are right-handed guitarists I can think of who play left handed. I wonder if should try reversing the kit to see how that feels.

In any event, I’m working my way thru different videos about tuning the drums. After that I’ll look at a few basic videos about the issues I’m already working on in my playing, and maybe see if I can find a series of lessons online. I’ll probably also get a few books. Something like the Rubank elementary series (I wonder if they still make those), and a book of different rock and jazz patterns, beats and grooves. Everyone tells me a good samba beat is one of the hardest things to play well.

I might even try recording a drum part for the song I’m working on, but that’s still a little ways off.

The Global Jukebox 2.0

I’m happy to announce that last Friday, July 31, we released The Global Jukebox version 2.0. This is pretty much the culmination of my last year’s work, with the help of alot of people including my brother Martin, our administrator Kiki, our visual designer Alona and the project director Anna Lomax Wood.

There’s lots of exciting new stuff in it. The top three new things are an extensive style redesign, a whole new world taxonomy, and an all-new education section, including the Musical Roots classroom experience. So take some time and explore the world of world folk music and culture.


There’s lots more in the offing, so hopefully it won’t be long before release 2.1. Enjoy!