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L.A. Beat

The Drum Beat

Drum Beat #16— Do’s and don’ts for the drummer in the studio

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In this column we will discuss drumming in a recording studio and the many things to prepare for and be aware of. 

We will focus on knowledge of microphones and micing techniques, set-up of drums, patience, getting your sounds, i.e. no drum solo, know your parts before you go, know how to read charts, be familiar with click tracks, do not get lost in the “I am recording, therefore I play differently”  trap, and always be on time if not early.

Get to know microphones and placement.

For most recording sessions there is going to be a producer and a technician who will have their own ideas about microphone placement and the sounds they want to achieve. This does not let you off the hook to be knowledgeable about microphones and placement. Of course do not go into a recording session and start questioning the technician’s work.

This would not be professional as well as it is rude. (Remember this, for the most part every sound technician believes the way they record is the only way and every other technician in the world sucks).

So be careful treading these waters. 
Now I could write a 10 page dissertation on microphones and mic placement but for this column, here are two links that offer an explanation with diagrams and in-depth analysis.


Drum Beat #15— All you ever wanted to know about drum heads, and more

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This column I am going to discuss drum heads. I will look at the different types, the sounds they make, different manufacturers  and price point. It has been said that a solid relationship with your drums is like a solid relationship with your spouse or partner. It starts with good quality heads. Good heads that are made for the sound your are trying to achieve make all of the difference.

There are many different manufactures of Drum Heads. Some of the more common are, Remo, Evans,  Aquarian and Hart.



Every manufacturer of drums issue their own heads on their drums when they ship them. Generally as a rule, all of the heads from a drum set manufacturer are worthless. The manufacturers heads are cheap and I believe are made so that the drums do not come without heads when sold. I would think this help sales. My favorite manufacturer of heads is Remo. They have

been making quality heads for a long time. They have great quality control. They manufacture all sizes and kinds for every type of drum. Of all of the heads out there, Remo seem to tune up nicely, wear evenly, keep their tone the longest and are generally priced so they are affordable. I have noticed many drummers use Evans heads. They are a close second to Remo. Actually, I prefer their bass drum heads because of selection and types. Aquarian and Hart are other players in the market. 

It seems Aquarian are a cheaper head, trying to take some of the market from Remo. Hart is an electronic drum company who is making heads and they seem to be pretty good from what I hear but I do not have any actual playing experience with  them. I do know that Hart makes quality products when they decide to make something. They call their heads the next generation of drum head for what that is worth. 

There are many different types of heads and they each make different sounds. They come coated, oil filled and are made of animal  skin. They come synthetically made, one ply, two ply, three ply, with muffles and without muffles. The list goes on and on. Basically animal skin heads are for conga and similar drums. (There are heads made synthetically that give the same look and feel of animal skin heads on the market. Remo make one called the Fyberskyn). Each drummer has their own preference as to the type of head they use. As a note: There are many different heads for concert drums, tympani, etc. but I will focus on heads that are made for drum sets and the styles of music that is being performed. 

Here is a basic list of drum set head types and the style of music they could be used for.


This head is an all purpose head that seems to be the most common. Many manufacturers make these. They come in many sizes and thickness. They can be used in all styles of music and are very durable. I like to use them for Jazz and Rock styles.


This head combines coated and clear heads with mid range tones, resonance and sustain. These heads seem to be good for additional tom-toms and bass drums. They are versatile for all styles but I do not use them very often.


These heads come with a layer of oil between two heads. These are great for dark metal music. They also seem to work well for Latin sounds as well as deep sounds. They tend to muffle the sound. I like to use these to record but not as a rule.

They have great durability. They provide a good tone and can be very useful for different sounds. I like to tune them tightly on a drum as to achieve a higher tone so it resonates longer. 


These heads are great for all styles except some jazz. They are very adaptable to electric fusion jazz but for straight ahead Jazz they just do not work. I especially use them for the bass drum. There are many brands of these as well as names.  They are usually a pretty thick head that makes for a thicker tone.


These heads can be used for all styles depending on the amount of plys. As a rule the thinner the head the better it is for  light acoustic based styles of playing with the thicker heads being for heavier darker styles of music. 


Drum Beat #14 — four concepts of a drummer’s thought

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I get asked this question quite often. What is going on in your mind when you are playing? There are several things but let’s keep to the music. I have four basic areas of concentration going on at the same time. They are the tempo, the melody line, the dynamics and the overall structure of the song being performed. Once these factors are humming along you can then be free to interpret and create music rather than just executing it.

The first area of concentration and most important is of course the tempo. Keeping the correct tempo steady throughout a song is what separates a good drummer from a bad one. It is obvious a song that unintentionally is dragging and then rushing will lead to incontinuity and sound wrong if not just bad. In your mind it is a good idea to constantly count. This can be different for all players. Some have to count all of the beats and some can just count the one of every measure to keep great  time. Find out what works for you. Counting the tempo also helps you not get lost where you are at in a tune. Lots of drummers get lost where they are at in a song especially jazz guys during a solo. By counting you are continually keeping track of the measures and tempo with a side effect being you inadvertently are keeping track of where you are at in the song.

It is amazing to me how many drummers actually do not count during a song. Again try many different ways to enable yourself to execute this concentration without inhibiting your musicality. Find a balance that suits you. One quick tip for counting odd time signatures is to count them in sections. Say you are playing in 11. Instead of counting 1 through 11 each measure, first relax, then count it 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2.


How to play a drum solo that doesn’t suck

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Let's take a look at the drum solo. In my opinion drum solos are completely over-rated and in most cases are boring and unnecessary unless they are played melodically or with a band playing behind them.

There are many factors to playing a drum solo that actually has more merit than showcasing how many chops a drummer has or how fast they can play. The best way to explain this is to examine this question —
why does a band quit playing when it comes time for a drum solo. The answer is, there is usually not any musical merit or melodic overtones for the rest of the musicians to enhance or accompany. The reason for this is most drummers do not think melodically especially when it comes to their solos. I do not blame other band members for leaving during a drum solo. Let me digress for a second.

This is just a thought I have sometimes. Can you imagine if during a song when it came time for a  guitar solo you, as the drummer, just quit playing and left the stage. HMMMMM. Sometimes though, during a tune it is very effective to lay out  for a chorus during a guitar or piano solo. It makes for a great diversion and is excellent use of space but is not recommended very often.

Back to our focus. I know we all have played behind a solo player who was just playing as many notes as they could with no care given to melody or emotion. How many times have you just wanted to stop playing and just let the solo player take one more chorus of schlock so your arm will not fall off. This is a horrible feeling.

It is this feeling that you have that other players in your band get when it comes time for a drum solo.
Hopefully this is a good parallel to demonstrate why a drum solo not played melodically is just as boring and obnoxious as accompanying a solo player who is just playing a ton of notes. With these thoughts in mind and as a backdrop for this column, I would like to touch on three styles of drum solos. They are the “look at me, I can play fast and a ton of notes solo,” “the melodic solo” and the “playing while the band plays the chords of the song solo.”

First let's examine the “look at me, I can play fast and a ton of notes” solo. These kind of solos, although it seems to be entertaining for some, usually quickly become very boring for those listening. Sure there is
initial excitement when you start but quickly it becomes very boring. In a rock and roll setting these solos seem to be more effective. I do think we all can agree if the non-melodic drum solo went away it would not be a very big loss. I would agree these type of solos can be very impressive and do showcase a drummer’s ability and understanding of chops. In this respect I guess we should appreciate them.

Though sometimes entertaining, as I said before and will say again to get my point across, these are very boring, have little merit and can be played by almost any drummer with a good amount of angst, an ego the size of Mars, and a limited amount of chops. In summary there is some merit to these type of solos but very little when it comes down to nuts and bolts of being an accomplished drummer and performer.


Discipline helps drum in the lessons of life

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Seriously playing drums taught me many valuable concepts and lessons about life. The three most important are overcoming the fear of the new or unfamiliar, discipline and patience.

I wish I had listened to them more.

First drumming helped me in overcoming my fears of life's unknown or things I am not familiar with.
When you hear something involving drumming that you do not understand do not be afraid of it or even think you cannot master it.

Drumming teaches you to break things down part by part. Once you have examined the  individual parts you can then proceed to put them together in a total sum creating the end result. It may sound silly but this is what we are taught from early on in how to deal with life challenges.

For example when learning something new at a job or at school you are taught parts of the overall learning objective so you can understand the end result.
You learn and understand different parts of something with the final result being a mastering of the objective. This is how I was taught to learn the drums and it has translated to several things in life ever since.

Lets look at algebra as an example of this. First you have to learn what all of the different symbols mean. You basically have to learn the parts of algebra. If you take the time to learn the rules and definitions of the symbols and terms then the overall concept of algebra become simple.

The same goes for your drumming. Say you are learning to play jazz. There are many styles of music in the Jazz genre such as bossa nova, Latin, swing, be-bop and so on. Each style has its own concepts. It involves placing beats together, dotted eights, playing the Clave', different tempos, etc. By breaking each of these styles down and mastering their basics you can then effectively play jazz as a genre. In other words learn the  rules and concepts or the parts that are the make up of these beats and then it is easy to get better at them.
Once you understand the rules or parts the beats become easy with a little practice. As we all know knowledge of something alleviates fear of the unknown.

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