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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's in Your Wallet...I Mean Stick Bag

I had an interesting gig recently where I was surround by a ton of drummers. Between talking about gigs, money and women, we started this long discussion about what's in our stick bag. It was an interesting conversation and I thought it might be fun to discuss the topic here.

The items found in a drummer's stick bag can really say a lot about that individual. For this post, I am going to skip the inside of the stick bag proper and move to the pockets.  It's what a drummer keeps in those side pockets that really demonstrates their personality.  I realize that different type of stick bags, musical situations and other factors determine what you might find in someone's stick bag. I have an unusual stick bag that was custom made for me. It looks like a a regular stick bag but has a huge pocket on the front. The following is what I found inside that pocket this morning.  


Towel:

I sweat a lot when I play so having a towel nearby is an awesome thing.  This towel is a very important piece of equipment because when needed, it can also double as an external bass drum muffle, stick tray padding and in those rare instances, can be used to clean beer and blood off of your tubs.  I especially like having a towel when I play outside.  There's always that weird part of an outside gig where the sun starts to go down and the air fills with humidity.  I will lay the towel across my snare on a break so that the batter head does not collect dew.  It's super hard playing brushes on a head that is slightly damp.  Remember your towel should be a dark color and that you must wash it after every gig.  


Drum Key:

This is a Sonor drum key. I keep a drum key on my key chain so I don't need to keep one in my stick bag.  However, this key is special because it has a slotted end.  I have to use this key to tune my vintage Premiers which have slotted tension rods.  


Sizzler:

You never know when you might need one of these to help fill that sizzle void.  I can't stand playing with it on a cymbal but it has got me out of a jam on occasion.



 Shakers:

I like these little shakers. I use them a lot and since they are so cheap, I suggest everyone to buy a couple.  That Bossa Nova gig can get pretty boring without them.


Bass Drum Beater: 

I usually carry a spare bass drum beater.  I don't carry one because I'm afraid I'll need a replacement but I carry and extra in case I need a different bass drum sound.  The one below replicates a wool beater for softer situations.


Cymbal Kit:

This bag if full of cymbal parts.  You never know when you might need and extra cymbal sleeve.



Pencil:

A MUST!


Magical Rabbit:

This rabbit lives in my stick bag and sits on my bass drum when I play with my country-punk band Rape Whistle.  I don't know where he came from or how he got in my stick bag but he's a magical mascot for that band.

Ear Plugs:  

You've got to have ear plugs.  I can't tell you how many jazz trio gigs have turned into hard hitting metal gigs in the blink of an eye.  Protect your ears!


So, that's what I found in my stick bag this morning.  Tomorrow it may be a whole new collection of things.  Shoot me a comment below and let me hear about the unusual things you keep in your stick bag.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

1930s 12" Avedis Zildjian Splash Cymbal

I was driving home form a long trip and needed to take a break. I took a random turn off the highway in Tennessee and found myself still unwilling to get back in the car even after spending 10 minutes in the parking lot of a filling station. I decided to drive around this exit and see if there was a place I could waste a few more minutes. I found a older style shopping mall which had been converted into some sort of consignment/antique mall.  I love these sort of places because there is always something interesting to see. I didn't find much but this particular mall also had real stores, one of which was a music store. I had to check it out.

I was expecting the typical small music store experience but I was surprised by this little store.  It had your basic low level stuff, like cheap guitars and band instruments but it also had a lot of weird instruments like homemade Native American flutes and some bizarre 3 string guitars. The most unusual thing I found was also one of the saddest things I've seen in a while. Someone had taken two vintage Slingerland bass drums and attached them to make an extended bass drum. The idea, while stupid, isn't that sad. The travesty was in the execution. The two bass drums were attached by screwing the rim of one drum to the shell of the second drum. Imagine if you will, rim/bass shell #1/rim-bass shell #2/rim.  I wanted to take a picture but the store owner was bird-dogging me and I didn't want to look like a creep.

Anyway, there was a small stack of used no name cymbals sitting next to this drum set. I casually looked through the stack. The patina on this cymbal made it stick out from all the other sheet metal cymbals.  I had to take a closer look.


This is a 12" (it's actually 12 1/4") Avedis Zildjian cymbal. This plate is so thin that I could easily bend it in half with my hands. The weight and malleability caused me some confusion as I have never seen an A that was so light weight. I have a 6" A splash which weights about the same as this cymbal. I took the cymbal to the counter and asked how much it would cost. The guy asked if I had a $10 bill in my wallet. I did and I left with a vintage 12" A Splash for $10. Not too bad.  


Once I got home, I put the cymbal on a stand and found that the hole is slightly smaller than my modern cymbals. The cymbal has a beautiful dark tone when crashed and has an amazing choke sound when stopped with the hand. I looked up the stamp on a few websites and my best research found this cymbal to date somewhere between 1920-1940.  I'm guessing it comes from somewhere in between.  I could be totally wrong about this and it could have been made last year but I don't think so. I understand that I'm taking some guesses on the dates so if I'm wrong, just let me know in the comment section.


I've got a gig tomorrow and I think I am going to take this plate out to see how it sounds with a group. I bet it's going to be great.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Mighty Pack-N-Roll

Here is a blast from the past. The Pack and Roll* was an essential piece of equipment (luggage) for drummers of the 1960s and 1970s.  The idea was that you could put all of your hardware, cymbals, sticks, snare drum and other accessories in one case on wheels.  Simply stack your bass drum and toms on top and your load in now becomes 1 trip instead of 12.  It's never that simple, but the Pack and Roll (PNR) had it's day and most drummers of the rock era owned one.  



Here is my Pack and Roll. Her name is Cupcake. The box of a PNR of this vintage is usually built out of a fiber material which helps keep the weight down. The box sits on a wooden foundation.  The PNR has a handle on each side, some nice casters and two seat belt type straps which hold the lid on. This is a pretty strong design as long as you don't over load the case with weight.  For anyone who has owned one, you know that it is pretty easy to over load it.  When this happens, usually the lid breaks first followed by the internal structure.  At that point, your case was usually in serious need of duct tape or a dumpster. The straps wrap around the bottom which means you can use them to help lift the case but it is best to use the handles and the straps. Actually, the best thing is to lift from the bottom of the case, but who wants to do that.  I usually use my straps to hold other things, like a carpet, tight against the lid.  

It was common to accessorize your PNR with stickers, your name stenciled on the side in orange paint or, if you were super classy, a bitchin' air brushed picture of banditos riding their steel horses across the desert while being chased by the fuzz. This last picture matched the one on the side of your van. I do not use my PNR on drum set gigs. I use mine in percussion situations and often, it doubles as a table.  I put a black towel across the top and place accessories on the lid.  This saves me from having to carry more gear.  I like to keep my case as clean as possible.  As bad ass as a portrait of guys riding their steel horses can be, it doesn't really look great on the concert stage.**



The PNR has a tray on the inside which can be used to hold many different things.  Most people use it to store hardware. The trouble with this is that a lot of modern hardware simply isn't made for easy travel.  If you've got a set of flat based stands, this tray is golden.  If you are packing Ludwig Atlas boom stands...good luck. I use a set of light weight Yamaha stands and they won't fit in the tray without taking them apart. 

There is a small slot for cymbals  I carry my cymbals in a case so they don't get damaged but if you don't care too much about your plates, they fit nicely here.  My hand doesn't fit in the space allowed so it's a struggle for me to get cymbals out of this space.  There is a small space next to the cymbal space.  I have no idea what is supposed to go here.


Underneath the tray are two larger compartments. You can put all kinds of things here. As I mentioned, I don't use this case for drumset gigs so when I use this case, I typically have small drums or accessories in these compartments.  A snare drum should fit in this space but mine won't because I keep all my snare drums in padded bags.  

The Pack and Roll isn't something you see very often these days. Sadly, I think they lost footing in the case wars when people stopped driving vans. It's hard to fit one of these in your Toyota Prius. In addition, modern stands are made differently so this case is sort of out dated. It's simply not a practical case for hardware anymore. However, it is really useful in a lot of other situations, especially if you work as a percussionist and need to travel with an eclectic setup. 

If you really want one, there are several companies who make their version of a PNR. These are made of heavy plastic and have better engineering all around, if you like that sort of thing. For me, I'm going to keep my PNR. If you find one of these older models, grab it.  I think you'll fall in love just like hundreds of drummers before you.  



*I'm going to bet that the Pack and Roll has an actual name.  It's probably something like "Trap Case" or "Hardware Case on Wheels."  I honestly have no idea what these things were called but the old guys I grew up playing with called them a Pack and Roll. I'm sticking with Pack and Roll for this post.  If you've got something better, drop it in the comments. 

**Says lame violin players.  Jealous.




Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Letter to My Readers

Dear Reader,

I know this blog is supposed to be about gear and technique but I have to take a minute to talk with you about an issue that has been weighing on my mind these last few weeks.  I apologize in advance for wasting your time.

I have recently found myself in an awkward situation at my job.  I don't want to go into details but it has opened my eyes to the fact that I can no longer continue to work at my job and be successful with my life.  I have one more year to go at my current teaching situation and feel it's time for me to move on to a new environment.  I am telling you all of this with the hopes that any reader of this blog might be kind enough to pass along any positions they hear will be open next year.  I am looking for a job in higher education, in either percussion or music education, but would also be open and qualified to teach music in an elementary school.  In addition, I am interested in working for a drum company or a gig at a museum, non-profit or any other kind of non traditional music teaching situation.  I am seriously tossing around career options outside of teaching as well, including trying to find a regular 9-5 job that would allow me to play some on the weekends.  

I am also trying to find a community to live in that is welcoming to musicians.  I currently live in an extremely conservative community that has no musical activity aside from church music.  This place is so void of gigs that most of my playing revolves around weddings and the occasional church timpani gig.  I don't mean to complain.  I have tried to make the best out of my situation but it is time to go.  On top of the work situation, I am interested in starting a family and I'm in a community that makes this activity almost impossible.  I simply feel like it's time to check out a new scene.  I am currently looking at a few towns in Tennessee and am seriously considering St. Louis as a place to begin a new career.  I am trying to stay East of the Mississippi to be close to my family but would consider anything if the gig is right.  

Alright, if you're still reading this, you must be extremely bored.  If you hear of any gigs, drop me a line in the comment section.  By the way, I am serious about considering gigs outside of music.  I have a very eclectic resume and am willing to try all kinds of new experiences. 

I know this move is a year away but that is not much time.  I have decided to clean up some debt by selling some equipment.  This isn't the easiest thing for me because I love having a lot of sound options but I think it's time to lessen the load in case I am unable to find a job by May 2015.  If you're interested in picking up some good equipment at some great prices, check out my handle on eBay mongobaou1.  I will be selling off equipment periodically over the next few months.  I currently have some stuff up and will probably post some more later in the week.  

Thanks again for putting up with this silly post.  There will be more posts about gear next week.  I promise.

BA

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recital Part 1

I performed a large solo percussion recital last week.  In previous posts, I talked about some of the gear and setups I used for the concert. The program for the recital was as follows:

Merck's Tattoo--B. Michael Williams         Riq
1 + 1--Philip Glass                                   Amplified Table
My Lady White--David Maslanka              Marimba
Cage for One--Dwayne Corbin                 Multiple Percussion
To the Earth--Frederic Rzewski                Flower Pots and Speaking Percussionist
Hymn For Prayer--Benjamin Arnold          Marimba
The Drum Also Waltzes--Max Roach        Drum Set
Perfectly Frank--Daniel Levitan                Congas

I had a great time at the recital and I believe it went very well.  There were some major issues before the gig.  Massive tornadoes moved into the area and kept me guessing all day whether (weather) or not the gig would actually happen.  They were so bad that 3 of my players couldn't even make the gig.  In addition, one of the pieces I played used a prerecorded soundtrack.  Until 15mins before the gig, I had no idea if I was actually going to be able to use the soundtrack for the piece.  The sound man tried three very expensive cd players and for some reason could not get any of them to work.  He finally borrowed a cheap boombox which he plugged into the master sound system.  It worked just fine but had me pretty worried.  It was after he fixed this problem that he told me the hard drive to the recording equipment had fried.  So, I didn't get a recording of the gig.  There were other issues as well but these were some of my favorites.  

I did have some luck however.  One of my students illegally recorded the gig on his phone.  I found out about it and now have a copy of that video.  I'm not usually this vain, but I couldn't help myself.  I have posted two videos below of the recital.  It's not Tony Williams but you get to see and hear me having some fun.  Keep in mind the video quality is pretty bad and so is the camera work for that matter.  Beggars can't be choosers.  I hope you enjoy the videos and I promise this will be the last I speak of this recital on this blog.  


Recital Part 2

This is my interpretation of Max Roach's composition, The Drum Also Waltzes.  It's not my best version of the piece but it's the one I played that night.  

video

Recital Part 3

The final piece of my recital was Perfectly Frank by Daniel Levitan.  The composition is a concerto for congas and percussion ensemble.  The composition calls for 5 players-congas, marimba, tom, drum set and timbales.  As I explain at the beginning of the video, three of the players were not able to make the gig due to tornadoes in the local area.  Luckily for me, I had Shaun Schuetz on marimba. He and I have been playing music together for a very long time and we were able to rearrange the composition an hour or so before the performance. It would have been fun playing with everybody but I like our arrangement of this piece.  



video