Getting the biggest bang out of your bass drum pedal  

By Tim Kane

http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

As a professional drum instructor, I’ve found one of the largest areas of confusion and need for improvement exists with my students’ feet and the techniques they use to power their bass drum pedals.

Younger drummers are playing louder and more intricate kick drum/pedal patterns than ever before in today’s age of speed metal-driven music. Even the older players are rediscovering the wanders of double kick playing versus the traditional bass drum-hi-hat pairings. First, though most of us should already know this, it is imperative that drummers never take their feet off the pedal board while playing. I recommend a heel-up on pedal board approach for younger players, using only the ball and toes of their feet to power pedal strikes. More advanced drummers tend to use both heel down and up methods to achieve a full range of different dynamic stylings. Heel up for younger drummers, at least in my opinion, allows for more volume and ability to develop long-term muscle memory.

I primarily play flat-footed, and go heel up for speed. But there are subtle differences to the heel up style that drummers should also understand. Heel up with leg thrust strikes creates maximum sound while pedal pivots powered by your ankles are more reserved for faster patterns. Generally, the after strike goal is to get a good bounce off of the bass drum head as the beater positions back to its original resting place – unless of course when you are going for that extra punch enabled by pushing the beater into the head with no initial rebound. A good tip I give my students is to play paradiddles with both their feet. They don’t like it because it’s hard to do RLRR-LRLL with only two feet for five minutes straight at 110 BPM tempo, but the reward is quicker development of bass drum pedal skills.

The main three problems I see with bass drum pedal spring tensioning is my students want to position the beater too close to the head for some odd reason; turn the beater sideways for a heavier punch; and don’t have the beater’s height set in the most efficient location to realize the full tone and resonance of their bass drum. Here’s what I recommend as do most professionals: your beater should be about halfway between your leg shin and the bass drum head when the pedal is not pressed down; use only the front felt side of the beater or its back hard plastic end to strike the drum head – not the sides; and beaters when pressed against the bass drum should hit the exact center of the batter side head. Your pedal board also requires adjusting. Too low a height off the floor and you will lack agility; too high a setting and your beater will be too far back for any type of solid foot control.

A good trick to use when it comes to learning and further developing your bass drum technique is to use a pillow, blanket or damper system inside your shell or head so it is not too boomy and loud. That way, you can closely analyze all the above-mentioned tips on technique.

Tim Kane is a freelance drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

 

In the groove of drum cymbal cleaning

By Tim Kane

There is nothing better than playing in front of fans and fellow musicians with a brilliant, flashy array of sparkling clean cymbals, and there’s nothing worse than having to clean the grease, grime and gruff off of them. Countless theories exist about the best and safest ways to get that brand new look back on your alloys and bell bronze varieties, and no single method is the ultimate solution.

I for one believe consistently clean cymbals sound better, or at least sound more like how they were intended to sizzle when they first came off of the manufacturing floor. That said, I know a few drummers who like their select cymbals to have that distinction of age appearance. For the majority of avid cymbal cleaners like you out there, however, it is important to understand why your crashes, splashes, chinas, hi-hats and rides become tarnished in the first place.

When our fingertips (and others) touch the cymbal surface, acid transmitted through fingertips interacts with the alloys. They are amino acids to be all-scientific on you, and they can source approximately 100 times the concentration of amino acid found in a New Zealand fossil shell. That’s a lot of acid, dude, but the molecule also is the cleaning solution to your problem. Cymbals can easily tarnish from the dust produced by human skin, airborne grime emitted from nearby appliances such as boilers, and even wooden chafe from your stick strikes. There are a thousand ways to make cymbals dirty, but thankfully only a few methods actually work to get most of that shine back.

Most drum and cymbal manufacturers sell relatively mild and effective acid-based cleaners, and there are a few specialty products on the market that contain even stronger ingredients. “Groove Juice” is a hot one right now, for example. Most of these cleaners will over time take your logos off of your cymbals, however. So unless you want to eventually remove your logos, then you must clean around them or wash that area immediately if it comes into contact with your chosen cleaner.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of every cleaner depends upon how thick your cymbal’s outer protective lacquer coating finish is. The thicker your cymbal’s finish is, the more difficult it will be for you to reach the actual metal. If you want to retain that heavy protective finish, then you must abide by that company’s exact cleaning recommendations. Otherwise, the outer protective coating will be diminished over time.

Then there are homegrown cymbal cleaning approaches to consider. I’ve tried a few of these myself, but by no means endorse their usage. Lemon juice was once recommended to me and it did do the trick on some of my cymbal products and not others. I have also dabbled with mild dish soap, and the so-called deep clean method using a retail cooper cleaner. Cooper cleaner is really intended for badly tarnished or rusted cymbals when nothing else will work.

Some of the more alternative approaches I have read about, but have not attempted, involve using ketchup, metal polish, glass cleaner, and even human silva.

Many drummers forget the final step of cymbal cleaning, which involves waxing. Just like your car, a very thin layer of car wax can keep a cymbal all shinny and nice for up to six months.

The key with any new approach to cymbal cleaning is to test it out on a less popular cymbal of yours. If your array are all preferred cymbals, try using the inside bottom hi-hat as a test area to make sure it produces the results you want. Preventative cleaning is really the best way to avoid having to scrub and rub those grooves like crazy every two months in your bathtub. Carry some rubbing alcohol and cotton cloth with you and use it sparingly. The best advice of all is to use cotton gloves or cotton clothing to pack your cymbals away and set them up again. That way, you leave the fingerprinting to the police.

Tim Kane is a freelance drummer, instructor and writer living in Central Massachusetts. http://www.kanedrums.com

 

 

How to negotiate a paying gig for your band    

By Tim Kane

http://www.kanedrums.com

 

In this economy, landing a steady paying gig in a club can be akin to outperforming Buddy Rich in a drum battle, unless you have some solid negotiating skills under your belt.

 

Drummers “paying to play” has unfortunately become the norm the farther away from music-centric cities you drive, leaving many career-oriented musicians unemployed or performing for free. And that downward trend takes even more potential work away from the majority of drummers who work part-time or as weekend warriors.

 

Playing music is certainly not about the money for most of us, but gig pay does help pay for gas, food and replacing broken drum gear. At Gibraltar Hardware, we thought it might make sense this week to offer our advice, garnered from musicians we know and from our own experiences, to give you more of a fighting chance out there in Gigville. And we hope you too will share your insider tips with us as well.

 

 

Don’t sell yourself short

 

 

Golden rule: It is difficult (seldom a reality) to get an increase in pay once a band has admitted how low they will stoop to get a gig. The opening offer is often the best opportunity to negotiate; regardless of what the “optimistic discussion” is while the club is getting a bargain. Bargaining points like “if we draw a crowd” might sound good, but are so nebulous that it’s hard to actually ever hold a club to the specifics of it. The club will typically keep the band for as long as they can at the lowest price and if push comes to shove will play the “business is slow” card followed by the “we’ve decided it isn’t working out” and let the band go “for now”. We can thank the rise of DJs for that disaster in American music club management protocol.

 

If club management doesn’t make a reasonable financial commitment up front, they tend not to feel any need to properly promote it because they don’t have much to lose by not promoting it. So our advice is to “get it while you can, as soon as you can”, because there is no guarantee that it will ever increase to what you’ve allowed yourself to hope it might become. When the thrill of playing for (almost free) wears off, it also slowly wears down morale, one player at a time. That packed club with rosewood bartop and large stage that actually had a powered monitor for the drummer may have seemed glamorous at the time of negotiation, but not if morale destroys your band in the process.

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO BE PAID?

 

A minimum of $75 per player and, yes, free unlimited drinks is a reasonable place to start for 2-3 sets of music. It would also help to renegotiate later if you set a timetable for renegotiating in advance, say one month or six weeks and revisit it, rather than wondering when and if it’ll ever change in your band’s favor.

 

The point is, it’s just like any other job, sort of (except many out of work musicians are willing to play for free – it’s hard to compete with that), and if you consider your own employment situation you’ll notice that raises are harder to come by than we all hoped they’d be.

 

 

HOW TO REASON WITH CLUB MANAGEMENT

 

 

To a bar, we are like beverage sales – a means to make a profit. If Brand X (no, not Phil Collins’ former fusion band) is offered at $5 dollars a case today, it is perceived as a cheap beverage and a good deal. If the price goes up, the owners will look for another cheaper beverage to fit the same niche. If brand Z is promoted as a “better beer”, it is considered to be a good value even at twice the price and the club “buys into it” and offers to put up flyers and banners and promote it heavily by word of mouth to “help themselves” recoup their added expenses. Both brands probably cost about the same to manufacture. The main difference is mainly the “perception of higher quality” and a commitment to significant promotion by the manufacturer and the retailer. Keep in mind, those two items are actually not the main ingredients in the beverage at all, and there will always be a cheaper brand waiting to “sell for less” and hope to make up for losses “in volume”, someday.

So it comes down to negotiation skills, marketing, and, oh yeah, the product can’t suck – at least not for very long. Having a nice demo CD, band picture, and online social page helps get you into a meeting – a lot. But not if you can’t stand your ground on gig pay and know how to say thanks but no thanks.

 

The fact is most live music clubs outside of major US cities – and plenty of ones inside of them, too – don’t have the long range vision to commit to building a good paying band scene and weathering the ups and downs of the bar/band business – even if you drew 50 of your own beverage drinking fans on opening night. There are so many reasons that people don’t show up in subsequent weeks – sporting events, the weather, the holidays, schools in, schools out – which have nothing to do with the band, but the band gets blamed, because at that moment in time they are perceived as a bad investment.

 

 

CHOOSE YOUR POTENTIAL VENUE WISELY

 

 

Clubs who haven’t done lots of bands before tend to bail out after a month or so when the anticipated instant cash cow doesn’t meet their immediate expectations, so the short-term deal is all you’d get. So start first by targeting the clubs that have been in the live music business for a long time. And when that avenue dries up, there are ways to entice local civic clubs and smaller acoustic act venues to host once a week or twice monthly rock and blues jam nights with your house band holding down the first and final sets, and inviting guest musicians up to play in between. More often than not, those same guests will keep coming back to play a few tunes with you for free and drink bar beverages. And you create a “scene” out of virtually nowhere.

 

Formulate a negotiating strategy with your bandmates first, ask other bands what they are earning, and perhaps consult with a promotions agent in your area.

 

Tim Kane is an independent drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kanedrums.com

 

 

How to negotiate a paying gig for your band  

By Tim Kane

In this economy, landing a steady paying gig in a club can be akin to outperforming Buddy Rich in a drum battle, unless you have some solid negotiating skills under your belt. 

Drummers “paying to play” has unfortunately become the norm the farther away from music-centric cities you drive, leaving many career-oriented musicians unemployed or performing for free. And that downward trend takes even more potential work away from the majority of drummers who work part-time or as weekend warriors.

Playing music is certainly not about the money for most of us, but gig pay does help pay for gas, food and replacing broken drum gear. At Gibraltar Hardware, we thought it might make sense this week to offer our advice, garnered from musicians we know and from our own experiences, to give you more of a fighting chance out there in Gigville. And we hope you too will share your insider tips with us as well.

Don’t sell yourself short

Golden rule: It is difficult (seldom a reality) to get an increase in pay once a band has admitted how low they will stoop to get a gig. The opening offer is often the best opportunity to negotiate; regardless of what the “optimistic discussion” is while the club is getting a bargain. Bargaining points like “if we draw a crowd” might sound good, but are so nebulous that it’s hard to actually ever hold a club to the specifics of it. The club will typically keep the band for as long as they can at the lowest price and if push comes to shove will play the “business is slow” card followed by the “we’ve decided it isn’t working out” and let the band go “for now”. We can thank the rise of DJs for that disaster in American music club management protocol.

If club management doesn’t make a reasonable financial commitment up front, they tend not to feel any need to properly promote it because they don’t have much to lose by not promoting it. So our advice is to “get it while you can, as soon as you can”, because there is no guarantee that it will ever increase to what you’ve allowed yourself to hope it might become. When the thrill of playing for (almost free) wears off, it also slowly wears down morale, one player at a time. That packed club with rosewood bartop and large stage that actually had a powered monitor for the drummer may have seemed glamorous at the time of negotiation, but not if morale destroys your band in the process.

WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT TO BE PAID?

A minimum of $75 per player and, yes, free unlimited drinks is a reasonable place to start for 2-3 sets of music. It would also help to renegotiate later if you set a timetable for renegotiating in advance, say one month or six weeks and revisit it, rather than wondering when and if it’ll ever change in your band’s favor.

The point is, it’s just like any other job, sort of (except many out of work musicians are willing to play for free – it’s hard to compete with that), and if you consider your own employment situation you’ll notice that raises are harder to come by than we all hoped they’d be.

HOW TO REASON WITH CLUB MANAGEMENT

To a bar, we are like beverage sales – a means to make a profit. If Brand X (no, not Phil Collins’ former fusion band) is offered at $5 dollars a case today, it is perceived as a cheap beverage and a good deal. If the price goes up, the owners will look for another cheaper beverage to fit the same niche. If brand Z is promoted as a “better beer”, it is considered to be a good value even at twice the price and the club “buys into it” and offers to put up flyers and banners and promote it heavily by word of mouth to “help themselves” recoup their added expenses. Both brands probably cost about the same to manufacture. The main difference is mainly the “perception of higher quality” and a commitment to significant promotion by the manufacturer and the retailer. Keep in mind, those two items are actually not the main ingredients in the beverage at all, and there will always be a cheaper brand waiting to “sell for less” and hope to make up for losses “in volume”, someday.

So it comes down to negotiation skills, marketing, and, oh yeah, the product can’t suck – at least not for very long. Having a nice demo CD, band picture, and online social page helps get you into a meeting – a lot. But not if you can’t stand your ground on gig pay and know how to say thanks but no thanks. 

The fact is most live music clubs outside of major US cities – and plenty of ones inside of them, too – don’t have the long range vision to commit to building a good paying band scene and weathering the ups and downs of the bar/band business – even if you drew 50 of your own beverage drinking fans on opening night. There are so many reasons that people don’t show up in subsequent weeks – sporting events, the weather, the holidays, schools in, schools out – which have nothing to do with the band, but the band gets blamed, because at that moment in time they are perceived as a bad investment.

CHOOSE YOUR POTENTIAL VENUE WISELY

Clubs who haven’t done lots of bands before tend to bail out after a month or so when the anticipated instant cash cow doesn’t meet their immediate expectations, so the short-term deal is all you’d get. So start first by targeting the clubs that have been in the live music business for a long time. And when that avenue dries up, there are ways to entice local civic clubs and smaller acoustic act venues to host once a week or twice monthly rock and blues jam nights with your house band holding down the first and final sets, and inviting guest musicians up to play in between. More often than not, those same guests will keep coming back to play a few tunes with you for free and drink bar beverages. And you create a “scene” out of virtually nowhere.

Formulate a negotiating strategy with your bandmates first, ask other bands what they are earning, and perhaps consult with a promotions agent in your area.

Tim Kane is an independent drummer, instructor and writer living in Massachusetts. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com