"People who make no noise are dangerous."
--Jean de La Fontaine

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Question About Cymbal Rivets

I want to throw this question out to those that are older and wiser than I am. I have a ton of sizzle cymbals but I don't own any that are more than 20 years old. I was putting one of my cymbals away after a gig and noticed that the rivet seemed to be creating a key hole in my cymbal. This particular cymbal is thin and has 2 rivets. Both rivets seem to be making the same indentation. I tried to take a picture to show what I am talking about but it's hard to see. The holes were drilled at the factory.  I switched the rivets when the plate was brand new and remember the holes looking correct. Now they are beginning to have an oval shape.

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone out there has seen their rivets creating a keyhole effect on their cymbals?  All of this could be my imagination but I don't think so.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

If I Can Hit It, It's an Instrument...

I was digging through a box of instruments this weekend and found more things that I use to create music that are not necessarily considered instruments. I've written several posts on this blog about unusual instruments and this post is a continuation of that series.  

This first picture is of two brass bells. The bells usually have a hanger on the inside so that they can be rung by hand with a cord. I took that part out of the bell so I could mount them on a stand and hit them with a stick. They have a great sound for when you need to replicate a ship's bell or any other type of small bell sound.  

This is an aluminum fan from the inside of a refrigerator compressor. It makes a great clanging sound when struck and also looks cool when included as part of my set-up. It's easy to find great sounding timbres like this if you spend a little time going through junk piles. Even if I am not sure what I am going to do with an item, I'll save anything that sounds good with the hope that I'll find a use for it later.  

This instrument might be unusual for those of you who are younger, but these two brass cups are from the inside of an old phone. As there are millions of these type of phones not in use, it should be easy to find your own set of these. 

Dig this! Each part has been labeled either "A" or "B" so that it's easy to keep the cups separated if you have various sets. I use these to recreate the sound of a phone. It's not a stretch I know. I gently affix each bell to a board and then use a triangle beater to create the ringing sound. I also like to take this sound into offices and see how many times I can get someone to answer their phone. It's pretty fun.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

You Know...Because Who Doesn't Need a Giant Bell?

My dad saw this giant bell and thought I need it for my collection. He was right. This giant bell is awesome and believe it or not, I've used it several times over the last couple of years. The bell is solid cast iron so it weighs a ton. My dad built the cool wooden stand that it sits on and he created it in such a way that the bell is detachable from the stand for easier cartage. I found this metal frame with wheels and decided it would be the perfect rolling platform for the bell. I have no idea as to what the cart was originally designed for but, my bell stand fits perfectly on it. The are so many crazy instruments that you can add to your collection. Keep an eye out and I am sure you'll find all kinds of fun stuff!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meinl Knee Pad Jingle Tap

I stumbled upon the Meinl Knee Pad Jingle Tap a few weeks ago and it is the most fun I have had in years. The Knee Pad Jingle Tap, (stupid name) is basically a wooden block with jingles attached to it that straps to your knee. I had never actually heard this instrument and the packaging on the instrument made it impossible to tell exactly what it sounded like. The $30 price tag was low enough to take a chance on this instrument.

Like all Meinl equipment, this instrument is really well made. I have huge legs and the strap fit comfortably around my leg. When struck with the hand, the instrument has a loud "stomp box with jingles" sound. Hitting the instrument with just the fingers creates a secondary sound not unlike a Kevlar headed snare drum although not in an offensive way. I think the possibilities for this instrument are endless. I was so intrigued by the instrument, I opened it in the car and played along with the radio for the entire 2 hour ride back to my house.* If you play a lot of percussion gigs, especially hand drums or cajon, pick up one of these instruments. 

I also picked up a set of Meinl Finger Jingles while at the store. You already know these things are fun to use. I used them while playing congas, cajon and drumset. They proved to be effective in each instance. They were so inexpensive, I recommend grabbing a set.

*I do not recommend playing this instrument in the car if you travel with other people. Passengers will most likely leave you in a ditch.  Also, it's probably unsafe as a motorist to play while driving...

Monday, January 26, 2015

In Search of a New Key

I must admit that this post is kind of silly. A few days ago, I was helping a student tune a drum so I reached for my trusty key. I placed the key on a tension rod and couldn't get it to turn. A quick look confirmed that instead of being square, the inside of this drum key had was round. I hear all of you shouting, "So what! Get another key you big cry baby!" The thing is, I have had this key on my person everyday since 1994. This key hasn't been left under a bass drum in bar as I hurried out. It hasn't been taken from me by the TSA. It hasn't been stolen by a student. These are amazing accomplishments for this little key.

So now I have 2 problems. The first is that I need a new key. I have a new key on my key ring right now but it  doesn't feel right in my pocket and frankly, I'm not sure it'll ever be able to replace this old Pearl key. I'm sure I'll figure something out. The second problem is trickier. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I am a fan of recycling. I like to recycle as much of my used drumming equipment as I can. I recycle because it helps the environment but as is the case with my drumsticks, I feel there is something spiritual about disposing of something that helped me create art. So, I'm not sure what to do with this key. I would like to recycle it but I believe the pot metal it is made of makes it hard to recycle where I live. If you have any suggestions, drop me a line and until I figure out something, I'm going to keep looking for a replacement.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Meinl Make-Your-Own Cajon Experiment

I have been cajon crazy lately. I recently bought a great cajon and have been using it on every gig I can. I thought it might be fun to build my own cajon. After combing the Internet for different examples, I found that there are hundreds of people making custom cajons. 

I decided the best course would be to buy a Meinl Make-Your-Own Cajon kit and see how these things work then later, build my own from scratch. Plus, the $50 price tag made this an affordable experiment. If I messed up, no big deal. I will do my best to describe each step of the building process so you'll get a sense of my experience. I know I should have taken more pictures of each step but to be honest, I forgot.  

The cajon kit arrived with everything you would need to build except for glue, sand paper, and a small number of tools. The instructions start with the basic construction of the box. Basically, you glue all of the supports to the inside of the shell and then glue the box together. This was really simple with the help of some C clamps and wood glue. The sides come notched so they fit together easily. Make sure you fit the sides together correctly before gluing. There are 2 ways that the sides will fit together and if you pick the wrong one, you're pretty much DOA. The instructions tell you to glue all of the pieces together and then use strap clamps to hold the box in place. Like so:

If I were to make another, I would not use the clamps. You really don't need them and they are hard to work with if you're building by yourself. Just pile some heavy stuff on top of the box and make sure it's square.  It should be fine. Let the glue dry for a day or 2 before going to the next step.

This is another view of the strap clamps. The more observant reader will notice tools and the front piece sitting on my congas. You should not use your congas as a table. I should know better and I am ashamed of this picture.  

Once the sides dry, you attach the snares and the other 2 sides. This isn't a big deal except that it does require some time. The front piece has 10 or so screws that have to be perfectly diagrammed and drilled into the front or your cajon will look bad if a screw is out of place. This takes some time, especially if you're not used to using the metric system (my hand raises) because all of the figures are metric. Aside from a metric ruler, you will also need a screw tap for this step so the screws will sink into the front piece and not stick out.  

Once you have finished putting all of the pieces together it is time to sand your box. Hilariously, the front and back piece that came with my cajon were slightly larger than the box shell. No problem except it meant a lot of extra sanding. I went mental and thought I could sand the box by hand, giving me something to do during commercials. Five minutes of hand sanding made me run to get my electric sander. Sanding this box takes forever if you want to get it right. You have to sand all of the sides smooth but also sand all of the corners round. All of that plus the incorrectly cut back and front pieces made for an all day sanding event. I should have a picture of this but...

I had so much time to think while sanding that I realized I don't need another cajon. I decided to finish this cajon as a gift for a friend. Christmas was about a week away so I had to make some quick decisions. I decided to finish the cajon with "child like" pictures of my friend and his family. I was going to create a cool design in black for the front but I decided this cajon should be fun and not so stuffy.  

Actually finishing this cajon took some thought.  I originally wanted to paint the box but quickly realized that the paint would run on the unfinished wood. I eventually used Prismacolor Watercolor pencils. They are expensive but were perfect for this project.  

The pencils work like pencils but when dipped in water, they function like a paint brush. The mixture of the 2 options made the drawings look like a kid drew them with crayons. I finished the drawings with a paint marker to add outlines. Once the drawings dried, I clear coated the entire instrument. It took many coats of polyurethane to get a solid result. Each coat required light sanding which was difficult because of the drawings, but I made it work. The final step was to add the feet on the bottom, which once again called on knowledge of the metric system.

Overall, I had a blast making this instrument and it sounds great. I must admit that it's probably just as easy and cost effective to buy a cheaper cajon and paint something on the side. This project was about the journey. If you decide to make your own cajon, drop me a line and let me know how it went.

Monday, January 12, 2015

TreeWorks 6" Studio Grade Triangle

I had some time to kill a few days ago and found myself in a Guitar Center. If you follow this blog, you know I am not a huge fan of this company but every once in a while, they have some deals on instruments that are so weird that your average drummer wouldn't touch them. I was looking for that kind of deal and stumbled upon this TreeWorks 6" Studio triangle.

I believe that TreeWorks makes some of the finest mark trees in the business and I love that they are made in Nashville, TN. I have been looking for a triangle to keep in my percussion bag that would work in pop music situations and found this TreeWorks Studio triangle.  I didn't know TreeWorks made triangles so I was excited to check it out. I could not test the triangle in the store because it was wrapped in plastic and even if I could, I wouldn't be able to hear it over the 5 church drummers who were giving a recital on the electronic drum sets.  I figured for $25, I could take a chance and if it matched the quality of other TreeWorks instruments, this triangle would be a great investment.

I must say that this triangle did not live up to my expectations. The overall sound quality is ok.  It's not super bright and does not have the "ping," that you would hope a nice symphonic triangle would have. I don't think this triangle would be able to handle the demands of an orchestra but it should sound ok for the typical pop gig. On the upside, I found the woodblock triangle holder to be easier to hold than a typical triangle clip but of course, the block does not give you the option of clipping the triangle to a stand after you finish playing. My biggest complaint about the triangle is the unusual finish. The metal has been finished so that the surface texture is rough. This would be ok except the surface finish is so rough that the triangle kept catching on my shirt every time it got too close to my body. It was also very uncomfortable when I played it while holding the triangle in one hand without the clip.

Overall  this triangle is an alright instrument for the money, but I hope TreeWorks continues to develop this instrument in the future to make a better product.