Friday, February 19, 2010

Old Drums For Sale Blog Refactored

I had a drums for sale blog that has been defunct for months, and since I have sold off most of the gear I wasn't using, I decided to refactor the blog and use it for music recommendations. It is now at Music For Drummers, and has a few posts of recommendations.

One interesting thing is Amazon now sells on-demand video rentals, some of which are music-related, so I have included a few in the new blog. Do check it out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Upgrading your Ludwig Snare Drum to a P86

One of the snare drum strainers (a.k.a. throw offs) I intensely dislike is the P85, which came standard on snare drums from the late 60s/early 70s on. The cursed device looks like this:

My reasons for disliking it stem from the fact that it sticks when trying to reengage snares, often requiring that you not only use the lever, but also simultaneoously pull up on the adjustment knob. The P85, like the P83 before it, and the modern P86 all have the same hole pattern. Therefore, the P86 will fit WFL and Ludwig Pioneer snare drums, Acrolites, Classic Maple, and Supraphonics. It will not fit the new Black Magics, the Epic-series, and possibly Rockers and Accent snare drums (I haven't tried the latter, but have heard they will not fit the hole pattern.) I do know for a fact that the P86 will not retrofit to a Black Magic, much to my chagrin.

Here is what the P86 looks like:

If you want to see how one looks, check these links to my snare drums that either came with the P86, or which I upgraded:

There are more on this site, but you get the picture.

One mistake many people make when doing the upgrade is to try using the screws that originally came with the P85, often installing them from the outside of the shell in and using nuts, or leaving out the black washers that come with the new P86. The following photos of my Ludwig Special Edition Satinwood snare drum show the correct way to install it and where the components in the bag go.

What comes in the bag

Inside shot of a wood shell showing the P86 screws

Outside shot of same shell showing where the screws go through the tapped holes in the backplate and a little of the black gasket peeking out (this is a stock Ludwig snare drum)

A close-up of the P86 (note the threads of the screws and a little better shot of the gasket at the right end.)

I hope this clarifies the correct way to install a P-86 for you. Life is too short to struggle with a P-85!


In my previous post I waxed enthusiastic about Tommy Igoe's instructional DVDs. One can exponentially raise their level of drum kit mastery by watching and following his DVDs. Indeed, with a diligent effort to work through each groove a drummer will attain a level of versatility that would make him or her a much sought after addition to any band, regardless of genre. However, even with such a rich array of material contained in the lessons at some point - even if you experiment in the spirit of Tommy's lessons - you will start to stagnate as a musician. True, you'd still be a exceptionally competent and versatile drummer, but the true foundation will be missing. To continue to grow and develop the chops necessary to take Tommy's lessons to the next level requires a disciplined practice regimen. That regimen and the ensuing foundation can be found in one of the seminal works of drumming: Stick Control: For the Snare Drummer. A true master and pervasive influence, George Lawrence Stone literally wrote the book on stick control. To be sure, this is a book and not an instant gratification device like a DVD. On the other hand, there is a long line of drummers, famous and not-so-famous, who not only developed their mastery of the instrument with this book, but continued to use it well into their careers. Note that Joe Morello, one of my idols, was Stone's student and actually contributed to later editions of this book. More about Joe further on. Suffice to say that this is the learning resource to start with.

Stones's Accents and Rebounds: For the Snare Drummer is the logical next resource to use after you have mastered (or at least are comfortable with) the lessons in Stick Control.

Joe Morello, teamed with one of his star students, created a series of DVDs that will instill a relaxed, natural technique that is founded upon connecting the dots between how your body works and how you communicate with the drums via sticks. In some ways I feel that this series (or at least lessons 1 & 2) should precede Mr. Stone's workbooks. What holds me back from recommending that particular lesson is the videos are somewhat unfocused (too much banter and anecdotes between Joe and Danny Gottlieb), and I feel that anyone who has not tackled Stick Control should proceed post haste into the lessons. Don't take this as my diminishing the lessons embodied in the "Natural Approach to Technique" because they are important. Perhaps interspersing Stone's workbooks with Morello's videos is a good compromise. Here are the videos:

An alternative set of lessons on natural technique that Joe Morello did are these two videos:

  1. Joe Morello: Drum Method 1--The Natural Approach to Technique
  2. Joe Morello: Drum Method 2 -- Around the Kit

Of the two, I recommend the first set, and you can easily make do with just the first one (Mel Bay's Natural Drumming: Lessons 1 & 2).

Regardless of which of the above you opt for, I strongly recommend Master Studies (Percussion) as the next step in your evolution as a drummer after Stone's two books. And, of course, the next step after that is Master Studies II: More Exercises for the Development of Control and Technique

If you manage to work through the preceding books (and videos) - a daunting task to be sure - you can tap into the late, great Jim Chapin's lessons in Jim Chapin -- Speed, Power, Control, Endurance (DVD). Mr. Chapin is one of the true greats who influenced generations of drummers, and his body of work will continue to do so. Needless to say, Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer: Coordinating Independence As Applied To Jazz and Be-bop With Cd logically follows. Also valuable: Music Minus One Drums: Modern Jazz Drumming

One final recommended lesson DVD for the dedicated, woodshedding drummer is John Riley: The Master Drummer - How to Practice, Play and Think Like a Pro (DVD). Again, read the Amazon reviews which are effusive in their praise for this DVD.

... Don't forget: you will need a metronome! I like the Korg MA-30 Ultra Compact Digital Metronome. Also, for anytime, anywhere practicing check out the Vic Firth Double sided, 12" Practice Pad, or, even better, Rhythm Tech Lap Top Practice Snare Drum 1

Finally, enjoy some of Joe Morello's wizardry:

My Favorite Instructional Videos: Grooves

Among the most treasured drum drum instructional videos I own, Tommy Igoe Groove Essentials and his follow-on DVD titled, Tommy Igoe Groove Essentials 2.0 DVD, will expand any drummer's horizons. 2.0 contains 53 additional grooves and concentrates on odd time signatures. A good rundown on the first version, which contains 47 essential grooves can be read in the glowing reviews on Amazon. The reviewers express better than I the greatness of the original Groove Essentials.

On Groove Essentials 2.0 the instruction is much faster paced than 1.0, and assumes you have mastered 1.0.

The theme of 2.0, aside from odd time signatures, differs from 1.0 in that in the first DVD you were taught the "connective tissue" of keeping a groove - anchoring on a cymbal pattern or, perhaps, a bass drum to form the foundation of the groove. In 2.0 the theme is constructing a groove and the focus is on groove types covering rock, funk, jazz and world.

The highpoint for me was the lesson on brushes. These were all so briefly touched upon in the original DVD, but were expanded in two lessons on the second. You won't become a brushmaster, but if you are new to brushes the two lessons will propel you. Here are a few clips from 2.0 that showcase Tommy Igoe's talents as both an exceptional drummer and instructor:

I strongly suggest that you augment the DVDs with the following books/DVDs that are companions to the DVDs:

Tommy will be filming Groove Essentials 3.0 in the Fall of 2010, but is mum about the subject matter. I can assure you I will be ordering it as soon as it's published.

One final Tommy Igoe resource is his Tommy Igoe Great Hands for a Lifetime, which was recently published. Here is the trailer:

More on Calfskin Heads

Rob Cook has a new book, Rebeats Calfskin Head Book/DVD, which is a 24-page booklet that is jammed with historical information from Rogers, Leedy, Ludwig, Amrawco and others. The DVD (included) shows how to lay up a flesh hoop for custom-sized drums as well as head-tucking demonstrations by Rob Cook and the late Scotty Doucette of Jacks Drum Shop in Boston. This book is a welcome addition for folks like myself who have a growing interest in using calf drum heads (see some of my previous posts). Rob also sells Calfskin heads of various levels of quality on his web site

The best source of calf heads, though, is Stern Tanning, which is the gold standard in calf heads. Rob also authored Absolute Authenticity: When Only Cowhide Counts for Drum! Magazine that I recommend reading if you have any interest in natural heads.

A less expensive choice for natural heads (albeit goat skin) is Earthtone. Yes, they are goatskin heads instead of calf, but they are a compromise between cost and tone. I have little experience with Earthtone heads, so proceed at your own risk. There are many happy customers, but the diehard calfskin folks claim that there is a world of difference between the two.

In the close, but no cigar category, there is always Remo's Fiberskyn. I prefer the Fiberskyn 3 Diplomat Thin Weight Drum Heads, but there are others who prefer the Remo FiberSkyn 3 Medium Batter Head weight. I pair mine with Remo Renaissance Ambassador Tom Batter heads for resonant side heads (yes, I know the product description calls them batter heads, but they do go very well with the Fiberskyns. Another head that I like is the Remo Skyntone Drumhead, 14 inch, which comes in only 13" and 14" (although I have heard a rumor that Remo will shortly be releasing this model in all popular sizes.) Do be aware that these heads are thin and may not lead long lives if you are a heavy hitter. For brushes, shuffles and press rolls, however, they are excellent.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Zildjian Trademark

Did you ever wonder that the Arabic writing on your Zildjian cymbal meant? Here it is:

More about the Zildjian company and family history: World's Leading Cymbal Maker: Avedis Zildjian Company, which is an 11 page history of the company, and Manufacturering Secrecy: The Dueling Cymbalmakers of North America, which has another aspect of the history, including Robert Zildjian's split from the company to found Sabian.