Wednesday, November 04, 2015

By the Time I Get to Simi, You'll Be Writhing

We bought a little SPL bop drum kit for Garrett for his Unorganized Hancock gigs. There are half a dozen or so terms currently in use to refer to a small drum kit. Some call them jungle drums, street kits, cocktail sets, breakbeats, or jazz sets. Everyone argues endlessly over the terminology because each of the names was in (obscure) use for other types of drum sets. For instance, a true cocktail drum set is played standing up, and usually features a beater pedal that strikes the underside of the bass drum, with a snare placed on top of it. I think the term bop kit is the most useful.

We bought Garrett's bop kit using the money they won in the Lewiston/Auburn Fighting Spirit hockey team anthem contest. He formerly played on a drum set left over from when I was a working musician in the 1990s. It was a modest set, a Pearl Export Pro, but it was way too big, way too loud, took up too much room, and was way too heavy to cart around. Drum sets are stupid. We had to do something about it.
Drum sets have gotten really elaborate. They were originally intended to keep up with big bands, who were as loud as rock bands in some cases. Once the 60s rolled around and the volume of pop bands got uberstupid, drum manufacturers started making drums even louder to compete with Marshall stacks. The volume arms race was moronic beyond belief, and even though it was shortly made superfluous by secondary amplification, it continued unabated. Everyone miked the drums and put them through the PA system, so volume shouldn't matter, but they kept making drums louder. Nobody knew how to play anyway, and volume became a stand-in for musicality.

The more drums and cymbals I see when a band sets up, the less music I expect I'm going to hear. If you could play the drums properly, you wouldn't need very many of them. Buying a little bop set has made it possible for Unorganized Hancock to play in smaller rooms without blowing people out of building, and it lets Garrett see the audience, and lets the audience see him better, too. They're still too loud for him to practice with unless he wears headphones, but progress is progress. They take up half the area that the old set required, both when they're set up and when they're being transported. Their white sparkle finish is jaunty to look at, too.

There's another rub. The new bass drum sounds good. Drummers have come up with a very elaborate process for making their giant stupid bass drums sound like something. They stuff them full of pillows, cut holes in the front head, remove the front head entirely, or just give up and have the PA do all the work. The idea that the bass drum itself should sound like a drum, and have a satisfying tone, was lost.

We filled Garrett's old bass drum with stuffed animals, which the audience always found amusing, but it was only incidentally for visual effect. We were trying to shut it the hell up. For his new bop kit, we ignored everyone and simply put a strip of felt across the inside of the head to keep it from ringing when it wasn't being struck by the beater. We tuned the heads properly, and it sounds exactly like the bass drum in this Simi Stone video.

It sounds musical. What a concept. Might catch on, you never know.


vanderleun said...

"The more drums and cymbals I see when a band sets up, the less music I expect I'm going to hear."

The iron rule of pop music today: "If it's bad, make it much louder."

vanderleun said...

Now if somebody can just do something with Simi's grating nasal overtones...... Like pounding two corks into her nostrils.

Johnny Glendale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Glendale said...

I agree less can certainly be enough with drum kits. However (and keep in mind if you respond), Terry is my all-time favorite drummer, despite the fact that he and his once-upon-a-time-wife Dale are responsible for rupturing both of my ear drums during the early 80's...OK, maybe it was my fault for wiring lights during sound check, but still: