Life Gets In The Way

“Life gets in the way” they say, when all that minutia and micromanagement pulls us away from projects or practice, when we fall short on our promises to get together with this musician, and learn that song, and take care of x or y…

They tell kids to get the practice in when they’re young, before this dreaded “life” creeps in and drags us into the real world, leaving our drum kits to rot, dust covered in the corner of a mortgaged basement.

 [Insert every poor, neglected Craigslist drum kit you’ve ever seen.]

The reality isn’t quite so dismal for everyone, necessarily, but there are certain “responsibilities” – whatever they may be – that divert our attention away from what we think we’d rather be doing. Hours roll by, and we’re stuck with precious few moments to squeak out some paradiddles during a lunch break.

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Gear Review: Low Boy Custom Beaters

Ohhhh man! I don’t think I ever considered just how crucial the beater is to the overall sound of a kick drum. It makes sense, of course – just as mallets and HotRods and brushes all have different tone and attack on a head, how even nylon tips make a difference in cymbal sound – that a beater would have such an impact (pun intended).

I’ve always been pretty heavy footed. For a long time (and still, kinda), much of my playing revolved around syncopated kicks over straight hat/snare backbeats… I’m a beater burier… I like a lot of thud and not a lot of sustain…

All of that adds up to not paying much attention to the beater – as long as it pounds, it works.

I’ve only ever really played Pearl pedals, first the old strap drive/hard felt beater affair, then an Eliminator/Powershifter with the 4-way beater (after quickly flattening the rounded felt side, I stuck with the plastic), and finally my current pedal of choice, a direct drive Demon-Drive. For basically no reason, I swapped out the “flying saucer” beater for the one from the old Eliminator… and didn’t think about it after.

Enter into my awareness: Low Boy Beaters, a custom beater maker from Colorado, with snazzy all-maple, two-sided beaters that, well, look kind of weird…

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Simplify To Expand

A little while back, I recounted the slightly silly story of some jams that happened a while back. It wasn’t very “drum specific,” just something that we all may face at one point or another.

I wanted to come back to it from a drummer’s angle, though, and talk about the other (more personal) side of the “challenge” at hand.

When I play with Short Hair Domestics, I go for a very intentionally minimal setup: kick, snare, hats, and a crash – that’s it. It’s a perfect setup for that particular band, and helps me keep the parts simple to fit the straightforward theme of the songs.

For a jam session though, that means no B section on the ride, no tom fills, not even two different crash cymbal sounds to play with… but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Teaching Drums – First Attempt

Teaching drums seems like tricky business, having only really dabbled in it myself. It’s one thing to go over things with your peers, to compare licks, or even to learn from a teacher (or a video) something reasonably within your skill level…

But I’m talking about teaching beginners. Not necessarily kids – at least for me, because I don’t have any experience in it – but largely novice drummers.

There’s something valuable in getting back in touch with those roots, though, that makes you reevaluate the importance of your first rudiments, your first fills, of gaining those first few glimpses at independence.

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Perspective for Growth

Perspective is a funny thing – it has a way of (narrowly) defining how we see the world, and preventing us from seeing the wider picture. We can only ever really understand things through our own experience… even hearing lessons from others and trying to put ourselves in their shoes is only an approximation…

Yeah… uhhhh… what’s he talkin’ about? Isn’t this supposed to be about drums or something?

Stick with me, all of this perspective stuff is important.

As far as I can tell, it’s the biggest factor that influences how any of us might feel about our own playing.

One perspective might lead someone to feel totally inept. They’ll look at the vast world of drummers – famous ones, local shredders, all the stuff they can’t do… and get bogged down with self doubt.

Another perspective might do just the opposite and lend itself to confidence – even cockiness – because of the praise of others, standing in a local community, honors, etc. It might make people feel like they’re the best there is, and that there isn’t really anything more they can (or should) do to improve.

Both of those, no matter how beginner or advanced a drummer might be, are only a shred of the bigger picture…

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Why Bother With Other Instruments?

Jack of all trades and master of none?

If skills take time and energy to develop (and they certainly do), why waste precious hours on something other than your favorite? Or at least… on things you don’t really plan on putting all that much effort into?

My drumming to do list is a staggering, sometimes daunting reality that’s never too far from my mind. I know I have an all but endless amount of things to practice and learn, that things can always be cleaner, faster, funkier… It truly never ends. I hear people who can play circles around me say the same thing, so I know it’s not just me.

The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

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Last Minute Gigs (and then some)

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Sometimes booking – especially at the local level – is a little ramshackle…

Things fall through, bands cancel, shows get thrown together on a whim, and every once in a while, you’ve got to salvage what could be a frustrating scenario.

A while back, I played a show with Short Hair Domestics. We booked the show at the beginning of the week, agreeing to flesh out the lineup for a touring band whose vocalist hails from our little city of Muskegon. It was a bit of genre mashup, sure (something I’m all for, and will address in a later post), but that’s just fine. SHD has a policy of taking just about any and every gig that comes our way – we just love to play, and we aren’t too picky about where.

We showed up to the bar to unload to find out that the two other bands on the bill cancelled THAT AFTERNOON. Now, no hard feelings for these other bands or anything, but right from that moment, we knew we a long night on our hands. We collectively shrugged our shoulders and went inside. The traveling band had asked to play first so they could hit the road shortly after their set, and we’d just do our thing when the time came. No big deal.

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Oh snap! After far too much procrastination, I’ve finally decided to start a blog dedicated to this weird, obsessive, vast hobby of mine…

Of ours.

The butt of jokes and keeper of the time, way too loud with way too much gear. I’ve been doing this thing for half my life, but I’ve never spent much time writing about it.

It’s been something like 16 years since i started playing, and I’ve learned a fair amount along the way… but only in the last year and half (or so) have I really started taking this instrument – and the whole universe that surrounds it – very seriously.

Sure I practiced in high school, played in the marching  and concert bands, I was in a band through college (and truly fell in to being a kit player), and have only been making more and more music over the better part of the last decade. I have been an active drummer all along…

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