Music Learning Systems - Guitar, Piano, and Drums


Dazed, But Not Confused

by Omar on January 10, 2013

in Article, Education, Product Review

Pearl Forum Jet Black 5pc kit, Sabian cymbals

Pearl Forum Jet Black 5pc kit, Sabian cymbals


Way back when (I’m talking a little more than a couple of years ago now), I wrote an article called “When You Least Expect It”.  The premise of that article was to show how being a little prepared, and a little available, could land you a gig.  Of course, there’s more to it than that, but the bottom line was to keep practicing, play your drum covers (more as an educational tool), and let people know that you want to play in a band.  You keep doing those things, and sooner or later – you’re on!

Even though I had been playing to rock songs, the band mentioned in the article needed a multi-percussionist – a la Walfredo Reyes, Jr.  It was a huge challenge, but because of my practicing I was able to play pretty respectably, and it gave me loads of confidence going forward.

Well, some time has passed since then.  I’ve recorded several more drum covers, and I think I’ve made slight progress each time.  I’m especially proud of my cover of Rush’s “Headlong Flight” and the Genesis medley “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight/The Musical Box ”.  Trust me, this is not for tooting my own horn, but it is to show you what is possible with whatever tools you choose to practice.  I just happen to think that drum covers offer the student many things to keep in mind, which forces discipline, and hence forces you to focus and subsequently play more precisely over time.

So again a friend (a different one this time), after finding out I play drums, asks me if I’d like to play with him in a little band.  Nothing serious, just a get-together on a semi-regular basis playing some tunes with some like-minded musicians.  This time, however, the genre was rock (the main genre, anyway).  This would be a lot more comfortable for me to play instead of mostly Latin tunes, as in the previous band.  It sounded like I would just fit right in, so I was glad to join.

We decided that since we were the elder statesmen of the band, we would have last say on songs.  However, we were definitely open to the input of the rest of the members, otherwise the band wouldn't function.  We started off with just two songs, and have added some more since then.  No need to overwhelm, because it's not like we have to play an actual gig (well, not yet anyways).

We decided to take the slow approach as far as learning the songs.  We would decide on two songs, as an example, and each member would take those songs and listen to them and rehearse them on their own time, practicing the more difficult parts and what not.  Later, when we got together, we would do a run on the songs, to see how we sound playing them.  Of course, this method worked out great for those who could carry their instruments around, but lugging drums around would be a major chore at best.  But fortunately, that was taken care of.

The keyboardist just happened to have a drum set he was not using, a jet black Pearl Forum 5pc kit.  It was the basic, out of the box kit with the standard Pearl cymbals.  The kit was already 'set up' at our practice location, so I just went over to take a look and start getting familiar with it.  The toms are larger than the ones on my DW Pacific FS kit, so this would take a little getting used to.  The single pedal simply would not do, since I'm used to having a double pedal at my disposal (even if I don't end up using it; I just like it there).  Also, the cymbals were the stock Pearl cymbals that came with the kit, which could not hold a candle to my Sabians.  So a little rearrangement was in order.

Tuning is (almost) everything to the sound of a kit, so right then and there I tuned the bass drum and the floor tom. Everything was tuned way too high, so that needed adjustment right away.  I decided to take the mounted toms and the snare back home to my 'studio' and tune them there.  That way I could use my keyboard if I wanted to tune the toms to a specific pitch, and also I could reference them against my DW Pacific toms.  As mentioned in the article "Name That Tune", I prefer tuning the top and bottom heads to the same pitch - I don't like the pitch to go up or down after striking the head.  So I spend as much time as possible to get that part right.

Another reason I was happy about using another kit is that I wanted to see how the Pearl kit stacked up against my Pacific kit. After playing them both, I like the sound of the Pacific kit better.  It just seems to have a more rich tone than the Pearl kit. The Pearl Forum kit is made of poplar, whereas the Pacific FS kit is birch.  Although I give the nod to the Pacific kit, the poplar snare sounds surprisingly good.  It has a nice, well, 'pop' to it, and that's the behavior I prefer from a snare - make your mark, then get out of the way.

So the only thing I had to bring to the practice location were my cymbals, which I was happy to do.  Nothing can replace the Sabian Paragon 22" ride, and even though most of the other cymbals are the Sabian B8 line, they certainly sound better than the stock Pearl cymbals.  Also, I brought my Pearl hi-hat stand since it has rotating legs, to more easily accommodate my Off-Set double bass pedal.

One thing I preach about playing drum covers is recording them, to keep track of your progress.  I wanted to do exactly the same thing for the band, so I took charge in keeping a video and audio log of all our sessions.  I brought the camcorder and my Zoom H2 digital recorder to the session, but right away I saw that it would be difficult to keep track of the audio and video.  I really couldn't get a good angle of the band based on the space we had, so I decided to ax the video and just record the audio.  This would exercise our listening ear when heard ourselves back, for when we listened for what we needed to improve on.

I wanted to have a good left to right sound stage for the recording, so I placed the digital recorder at one end of the practice room.  This location happened to be where the bass amp was.  Well, big mistake when I heard the recording back - everything sounded a little off in the distance, with the bass pounding in the foreground.  The next time we got together, I used the H2 like it was intended.  I set the mic gain switch to the 'low' setting, and turned on both the front and rear-facing mics on the unit.  I then put it on a tripod and set the recorder right smack in the middle of the musicians.  This allows recording from all directions, with somewhat of an even mix (the unit also can record in 4-channel surround, which I may fiddle with sometime in the future).  In any case, the recording was significantly better the the first one.  Everyone sounded pristine, and with a few tweaks, a slight adjustment in the position of the recorder, it can sound even better.

Since our little project is so new, it is too soon to post any videos of performance, but if we get good enough, it will happen.  We have a couple of guitarists, bass player, keyboardist, two singers (a guy and a gal), and yours truly on drums.  Having two voice types as lead singers allows us flexibility in song selection, both with lead and background vocals.  So once we get our act together, we'll see what's worth posting.  But at worst it will be an educational experience, and there's nothing 'worst' about that.

I've always said that 'even if it sounds bad, just have fun'.  Well, I'm not saying we sound bad, but we definitely sound better than at the beginning.  This is due to practice, of course, but it is also due to listening back to our sessions and hearing where we can improve, and having a group of musicians who are humble enough to take constructive criticism, and run with it.  Now you go run with it. 🙂

If you have experiences, good or bad, related to starting a band, recording techniques, how songs are selected, etc., please leave a comment below!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Hicks January 23, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I haven’t started recording anything yet, but I want to. For my English class we had to read 4 blogs and write an essay on what we learned and our thoughts about it. I love drumming and I want to start to do covers of metal songs, but I didn’t know where to start. I liked reading this and reading about your experiences, it’s really cool! 🙂

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Omar January 23, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Hey Jessica.

Very glad you enjoyed the information here! Let me know what questions you have, and I’ll do my best to answer them. 👍

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