Long before the advent of the modern day drummer in America and women’s incredible contributions leading that movement, our country enjoyed early female drumming pioneers the likes of Viola Smith (née Schmitz).
Born November 29, 1912 in Wisconsin, Viola was the first professional female jazz drummer and noted for using up to 15 drums in her trap set. Many of the early percussion instrument choices Viola used on her trap kit with her first family band the Smith Sisters are the same ones used today by jazz/rock drummers and in group drum circles. Viola approached the drum kit like an orchestral composer meets trained facilitator, surrounding herself with as many tools as possible to create the ultimate rhythm and sound. Sound familiar? Remember Keith Moon’s large double bass drum rock kit with The Who in the 1970s, Neil Peart’s mammoth 360-degree stage kit with Rush in the 1980s, or fellow jazz drumming great Billy Cobham’s 10-piece fiberglass “Fibes” kit playing with Miles Davis in the 1960s? Viola literally invented the large drum kit set-up.
She particularly enjoyed the woodblocks, congas and more famously her unique innovation employing elevated tom toms on her right and left side, which are now an industry standard. Back in the 1930s, many tom-toms required real animal skin heads just like we use today on authentic djembes and frame drums. There are many parallels between what drummers do and use for gear today and the giant footprint Viola carved. She was also humble enough to seek more training attending renowned music college, Juilliard School, and by taking lessons with legendary drummer, teacher and snare drum builder, Billy Gladstone.
When I first heard of Viola’s death, I only had a vague understanding of her immense contributions to the women’s movement and drumming. She was known as the fastest girl drummer in the world and a female version of Gene Krupa. She began drumming at age 12 and took the stage soon after touring the United States and world in orchestras, swing bands, and popular music from the 1920s until 1975 – all during a musical time largely dominated by male drummers and other musicians. Who can forget Viola’s brilliant composition on “Snake Charmer” by the Coquettes – an all-female orchestra she started – where her elevated tom-tom sounds and patterns closely resembled West African Dunduns. Not surprisingly, her dad was also an orchestra leader and gifted cornet player. Viola drummed on Broadway and performed at the inauguration of President Truman. Bucking the female novelty stigma of her time, Viola also appeared on the cover of Billboard Magazine and wrote female musician-centric articles for DownBeat.
Viola was still playing her trap set at age 104. What many may not know is that in her final days before moving on into the universe this past October at age 107, she battled Alzheimer’s Disease at a faith-based community in southern California called Peacemakers.
I’m exhausted just researching all of Viola’s incredible contributions to jazz music and the drumming community as a whole. Let her drum in peace.
Tim Kane is a professional drum set musician, percussion instructor and drum circle facilitator who serves as newsletter curator for the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild. Learn more about him at www.kanedrums.com.
Tim Kane, a professional drummer with more than 30 years of performance experience, teaches beginner to advanced musical styles on drum set and concert percussion, including hard rock with optional double kick drum, jazz, funk, reggae, world beats and marching drum corps. He teaches live in studio based near Boston, MA or online via Skype, Google Plus Hangouts, and YouTube Live Streaming platforms.
Tim graduated from Fitchburg State University and is certified and endorsed as a school drum instructor by Vic Firth, an international manufacturer of drum sticks, mallets, brushes and percussive devices. He is also a recognized current member of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association and Drum Circle Facilitators Guild board of director.
His online lessons include learning and refining students’ rudimentary and sight reading ability, eliminating bad habits, improving dynamics, creating better drum fills, soloing, playing with other musicians, composing original parts, understanding the mechanics of song structure, and building a personal signature playing style. Ear training is enhanced with drum play-along songs. Tim can record every session so students and parents review progress.
Lessons can be offered weekly or less frequently depending upon student schedules.
TOP TEN REASONS TO TAKE DRUM LESSONS
1 – Develop your rudimentary hand-foot technique from beginner through advanced.
2- Learn to sight-read and/or improve your ability to do so live.
3 -Enhance your listening skills with a play-along track program, and learn songs you choose and find challenging.
4 -Learn to compose and play drum solos, which Tim will record for you as MP3 and MP4 files.
5 -Work on school-based band sheet music and songs you need to learn.
6 -Refine your playing style, whether it’s double bass oriented or traditional hi-hat.
7 -Improve your endurance and sense of dynamics.
8 -Play better and more intricate drum fills and a variety of musical styles from jazz and funk to rock and metal.
9 – Benefit from decades of wisdom from playing with other musicians, and a growing collection of instructional videos and audio recordings.
10 – Set goals and achieve them by having a professionally trained instructor guiding you along the way.
I’ve been working with engineer Steven Tamburri on designing a working prototype for a special Djembe stand idea I created that is intended for wheelchair users and others.
Through working with mostly senior citizens for the past 7 years facilitating drum circles, I discovered that many existing Djembe stands just aren’t designed for people in wheelchairs.
Wheelchair users find it difficult to play a Djembe at the proper height using both their hands because neither it alone nor a stand can easily be positioned between most wheelchair tires and foot supports. Many frail seniors can’t easily move their feet or knees apart as well.
All too often, wheelchair users have to play a Djembe with one hand with it positioned to only one side of the wheelchair. This obviously takes half of the experience away from those players.
Called “Djembe Wings”, the Patent Pending prototype Wings were professionally designed in Brookfield, MA and 3D printed at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing located in Valencia CA. to solve this challenge.
“Djembe Wings” eliminate two of the typical three Djembe stand legs, thus giving wheelchair users the proper forward tilt needed to play a djembe while also centering it directly between both legs with great stability and comfort. It’s fully height and width adjustable and comes with an added knee support brace to fit almost any size or type of wheelchair.
A very special surprise bonus to this prototype was the discovery that players can actually feel the Djembe vibrate while playing via the White Wings themselves.
“Djembe Wings” can also be used for players who are not wheelchair users but may experience difficulty tilting a Djembe forward for a variety of reasons having to do with leg and knee strength/injuries, the slippery finish of djembe outer coatings on pant legs, and other factors. As shown in the attached pictures, my special one legged stand would make a great upgrade or alternative for anyone.
I’m looking for help in trying to further develop this product as manufacturing and marketing costs as a sole proprietor musician like myself are off the charts expensive.
Wondering if there are any partners or special needs hand drum product supporters out there that might be able to point me in the right direction as I think the “Djembe Wings” solves the Djembe playing problem for anyone in a wheelchair and gives players not in a wheelchair an excellent new tool to tilt the instrument at its intended downward angle to be played correctly.
Please let me know if you have any interest or know of anyone who may be interested in speaking with me. I have all the designs and schematics and the actual prototype.
Drums & Keys combines an innovative introduction to music fundamentals and basic piano with a wide ranging drumming lesson program for kids in Grades K-4.
Because many schools don’t offer established concert or jazz band programs until fourth, fifth or even sixth grade and in classroom music budgets have been continually reduced, there is a large drought or void in musical development opportunities for younger kids.
This unique program combines a well established drum set, hand drums, and percussion lesson program along with music theory, songwriting and basic piano instruction. Kids ages 5-9 will now be able to learn the drum set, hand drums and concert percussion while also being trained in general music education.
Beyond drumming, this will involve learning musical terminology, notation, scales, ear training, music appreciation and history, jamming out live with other student musicians, original songwriting and much more.
If you have a younger child yearning for more musical development, please consider Drums & Keys based at Kane School of Drums, which operates a licensed, fun, safe and full music recording studio environment in Brookfield, MA. Tim can even travel to your home if within a 15-mile radius. Parents are most welcomed to sit in on the first few lessons. Many references available.
Blending diverse rhythmic and musical styles into the mainstream scene with good taste has been Tim Kane’s forte as a Massachusetts-based drummer, percussionist and music educator for more than 25 years.
Kane began drumming and playing trombone in fourth grade. He graduated from Fitchburg State College where he was course and ensemble trained in jazz, concert and various school-based jam bands. He also studied and performed with a jazz quintet at the well-respected Indian Hill Music Conservatory in Littleton, Mass.
Today, Tim is entering his 10th year as the drum set and percussion instructor at Eagle Hill High School in Hardwick where he implemented an innovative new percussive arts and djembe group drum circle program for special needs students as well as teaching privately in his home recording studio. He also teaches songwriting and digital audio recording. He can help you record a cover or original song demo.
He endorses Vic Firth Drum Sticks and worked previously for several years as a professional educational and product writer for Dixon Drums and Gibraltar Hardware. He had a major story about famed Police drummer Stewart Copeland published in Modern Drummer magazine two years ago that is featured here.
Kane currently tours New England every summer in a trop-rock Jimmy Buffet-style tribute band, The Island Castaways Band, which released a new CD of original songs this past spring that is getting killer airwaves on a bevy of top island music radio stations. The band’s top single is linked here. TICB’s fan base ranges from a few hundred to thousands at indoor and outdoor public and private venues, including Boston Red Sox Fenway Park festivals.
Kane also holds down jazz drums for the Trinity Swing Big Band, performing most every Tuesday in and around Worcester and Central Mass.
In 2012, he published a full album of his own making, composing and recording 10 original songs and playing all instruments found streaming live at Spotify and located at Reverb Nation here.
Kane expanded his drum teaching and performance business eight years ago to host “All Together Drumming” offering fun, therapeutic group hand drumming circles using djembes and other percussion in private and public settings on a weekly basis year-round. Recent clients have included Stonehenge NH, YMCA, Worcester Art Museum, area schools, senior citizens, town commons, parks and recreation depts., and the Center for Autism Awareness of Central Massachusetts.
He is an active member of the national Drum Circle Facilitators Guild, Percussive Arts Society and Massachusetts Music Educators Association.
As a professional music instructor, long-time trombonist, drum set player, percussionist and songwriter, a strong component of my business involves hosting public and private hand drum djembe and percussion group circle jams for non-profit groups, family celebrations, summer camps, schools, senior living centers and private businesses.
I currently lead weekly and monthly group hand drum percussion circles all over Massachusetts for senior citizens, kids and adults of all ages in local schools, libraries, community centers and senior living communities and COA centers.
The beauty of group hand percussion circle jams is participants don’t need any drumming experience in order to participate, or even own drums. Whether you seek a classroom enrichment opportunity where I can integrate drum instrument historical discussion and rhythm techniques with live playing to music and beats, yearn for that special surprise at a birthday party, need to build teamwork inspiration at your business, or are planning programs for senior citizens with alzheimer’s at a memory cafe, I can cater my programming to any age group or setting.
Each participant in my percussion circles collaborates on rhythms after learning the basics on a variety of different percussive instruments. It is one of the most therapeutic and fun exercises out there. The magic is found in the group building upon its own creations, learning to play rhythms I demonstrate from around the world, and jamming out to special song requests we play-along to.
I own a variety of authentic Djembes made in Ghana, West Africa as well as USA-made models, drums of all sorts, and domestic percussion instruments and accessories for groups as large as 20 members.
My percussion circle jam rates generally average a $150 flat fee for local non-profit, family and school settings. Transportation charged separately after 30-mile radius. Rates differ for private businesses. Sessions can be video/audio recorded upon request for an additional fee.
I once used a credit card as a makeshift screwdriver when my kick pedal decided to take 5 during a gig. I’m sure all of you have been there as well. When things go wrong with your drum hardware, we’re often left without easy alternatives and quick solutions.
As a general rule of thumb, I never play a gig or practice without a spare hi-hat stand and second kick drum pedal at the ready. You lose either component live and you’re cooked. Stuff does breakdown from time to time, so I have compiled these top 10 drum hardware problems as a way to help the working and practicing drummer become better prepared.
1 – DETHRONED
Most drummers sit while playing so the stool or throne they own is an essential component and natural extension of the drum kit itself. What can go bump in the night with drum seats is support failure. First, it is very important that you own a seat that is comfortable and provides maximum support for your body. Otherwise, get ready for back pain and possible future spinal injuries. Spend the extra money on a good quality throne.
Most often the chief problem with seats is they become wobbly. Another common symptom with gas lift thrones is they could eventually leak and lose height-positioning finesse. And anther common issue involves the leg support bar becoming separated from its center support pole.
If beyond warranty coverage, check first with our parts department or your local office furniture manufacturer or retailer to see if they can repair your gas lift system. You’d also be amazed with what your car repair guy can fix with all of his neat gadgets and know-how.
As for annoying wobbles, the most likely culprit is because you purchased a chair with a threaded shaft, requiring you to tighten the wing nut holding the seat into its height. Those holes can become stripped over time, but the larger problem is that the thread itself – not the wing nut – is damaged. One of the best recommendations I can offer is to invest in a universal back rest. Most wobbles begin to occur because drummers are shifting around on the chair too much changing posture positions. Drummers should remain in a relatively straight position while playing and a backrest helps that effort as does buying the right seat.
When a rivet holding your leg’s horizontal support bar to the center pole falls out or snaps, you do have a few options to exercise. Beside pulling a MacGyver and putting a nut and bolt of similar size in the open hole, you may want to avoid that happenstance entirely by investing in one of our double braced throne bases. The extra strength engineered into the supports prevents rivet erosion for occurring in most cases.
2 – BEAT IT
Beyond your seat, one of the top things that can wrong on your drum kit is with kick drum pedals. Before a gig or crucial practice, check the condition of your pedal’s springs, beater nut, beater and tension rods to avoid losing use your bass drum in the middle of a song. Re-tighten and check everything. But what happens when one of these critical ingredients of your pedal system goes down? The first sign of trouble is your bass beater doesn’t spring back like it once did. The most common problem is the nut attached to your spring is too loose or has just fallen off. I carry around spare nut and pedal spring assemblies on my key ring for that very reason. As for squeaks, a non-lubricated pedal chain or spring can sound like someone dragging their fingernails down a chalkboard over mics. Best option is to carry lubricant with you to gigs and practices.
3 – DON’T WING IT
The best way to deal with a wing nut that will not screw back on securely is to not further tighten it. Often times, drummers will purchase or place the wrong sized wing nut atop their cymbal tilter, thus eventually stripping its threads. Routinely lubing your tilters with oil or WD40 will help extend their lives, too. But if a wing nut breaks or flies off in the middle of a show, your best medicine is to have some wire at the ready. When unable to properly attach a wing nut, you can temporarily lock it to the tilter’s screw by winding wire around the threads extending beyond the nut. That will get you through until you can replace the nut or purchase a new tilter.
4 -WHAT’S THAT BUZZ?
There is nothing worse than too much buzz emanating from your snare strands. This is often evident in the interaction between your drum and bassist’s amp and monitors. It’s an annoyance that can be fixed for the most part. As is the resounding theme of this blog, a bit of pre-gig maintenance can solve a whole lot of worries later. For a full check, take your snares completely off your resonant head. Lay them on a flat surface such as your batter side floor drum head. If all the wires are evenly spaced with no slight bends, they are OK. If some (or even one) is slightly bent, they need replacing.
Another tuning method to consider for reduced buzz involves how the wires interact with the head. I usually tune the lugs closest to the wires either looser for thicker tone or tighter for more sensitivity.
Those are the easy fixes for snare related issues. But what happens when you have tightened your snare-tensioning knob beyond what is reasonable and still lack a proper buzz? I always bring a back-up snare drum to gigs, but not everyone owns one. In most cases, your strainer’s tape or string that attaches to the wires’ butt plate has issues. If you forgot to bring Gibraltar spares, I have cut a makeshift strap from a drum head in the past. Another option is to buy a few extra nylon strips. And if all else fails, use shoelaces or old guitar strings for strainer cords that break.
If the wires or strainer connections are not the issue, then there is a problem with your tension knob control itself. On the fly, apply a drumstick between the bottom of the snare throw off and your hoop to tighten things down. If all else fails, duct tape your snares to the bottom head. After the gig, you should assess the working value of your strainer system, which we carry plenty of models on, and see if your shell bearing edges are worn.
5 – RACKING IT UP
For drum kit rack system owners, we could write an entire blog on how to resolve challenges. In our minds, the worst possible thing that can happen to a heavily used rack system – beyond the components mentioned elsewhere here – is your bar connection points failing. Patch-it methods won’t last long. Owning a few extras or reinvesting in rack clamps will resolve many of your challenges.
Like anything, drum hardware does vibrate and excessive noise does not bode well for miced musicians. I have heard of drummers with rack systems actually stuffing their tubes with packing popcorn, insulation or foam to dampen them and hopefully reduce crosstalk issues. The reality is that is not normally needed. One simpler method to try is to replace your bars’ stock plastic end-caps with rubber stoppers as a dampening method.
Li’l K9 (Christopher Miles Kane) released his second full RAP/Hip-hop album “PA$$” on July 31, 2020. Chris, 13, composed the entire album himself, playing keyboards, drums, vocals, lyric writing and most all sound design and loops. He self-recorded the album in his home studio using Logic Pro X, Behringer UPhoria, and M-audio. Below are the tracks linked to his YouTube account:
Christopher Miles Kane (Lil’ K9) released his debut 7-track EP “Fix U” on Dec. 31, 2019. He composed, played, self-recorded, and produced all acoustic and electronic drum kits, keyboards, bass, percussion, lyrics and vocals. No pre-recorded loops were used on this album.
View Lil’ K9’s title track full video , “I’m Gonna Fix You”, linked here. View his “Moonlight 2” song placeholder video here.
“TIKI TIM’S TROP-ROC TRIBUTES” is a special live and recorded weekly podcast powered through Zoom to Facebook Live, re-emerging later on RSS Feed and YouTube. Drummer Tim Kane hosts the show Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. in his home-based recording studio turned tropical island paradise with everything miced up.
Tim’s show features guest trop-roc singer-songwriters from around the country during his in-depth live Zoom interview broadcasts, also appearing simultaneously on Facebook. Recent guests have included major trop-roc touring artists Ray Boone and Don Middlebrook as well as members of The Island Castaways Band among others. Tim also plays-along to his guests’s own original songs during the back half of his program as well as features a trivia contest and drumming tips and stories. Besides drumming, Tim has been interviewing people for more than 25 years professionally as freelance writer for newspapers, magazines, and online realm.
“How to Create Homemade Hand Drums” is a special 10-minute How-To video produced by Drum Circle Facilitator Tim Kane in June 2020 to help players of all ages who want to participate in a virtual online group drum circle, but don’t yet own their own drums.
Someone remarked to me before a recent drum circle that she thought I was just a “rhythm starter” who owns a bunch of drums, and not an actual teacher of drumming.
It’s a common misperception in my industry. While there is nothing wrong with simply starting rhythms as I have to do that often during drum circle events, there’s also many hidden elements folks can’t see or initially understand on the surface. It helps to also attend a drum circle before formulating an opinion. Negative stigmas and confusion can easily set in without experiencing one live.
I’ve played drum set and percussion since I was a little boy of age 8. I never stopped playing. I’ve been formally trained in jazz and marching drums and percussion and music in general through college courses and many live playing gigs. I also play trombone and compose songs on piano. I have taught drum set to kids and adults professionally for more than 15 years. I have taught percussive arts at a local high school for the past 10 years.
I’ve lead drum circles for all ages for the past eight years and actively study rhythm and music cultures from around the world. While that is lean time compared to the full body of my musical learning, I still draw from all those past experiences today.
Additionally, I also was fortunate enough to develop and hone leadership skills managing large groups of creative-minded workers for many years. I was formally trained in public speaking and helped organize conventions and professional workshops for seven years in Boston.
I’m a current board of director and newsletter curator for the internationally recognized Drum Circle Facilitators Guild.
And I’m blessed to play drum kit and percussion for The Island Castaways Band, which is probably my 10th legit musician group in my lifetime that has exposed me to creating rock, jazz, funk, world and reggae beats. Most of those bands also composed their own songs. I draw from all of those incredible band rehearsal/performance experiences as well dating back 30 some odd years.
When you combine all of this into my current drum circle program, it’s fairly obvious that I am not only a rhythm starter. Experience counts and the more diverse the better.
I am a drummer, teacher and performer who facilitates therapeutic, lively and fun hand drumming programs as one part of my full-time music business. Many dozens of clients across New England can vouch for that.
I would like to take this brief time to thank you for hiring me to lead your recent drum circle experience. I thought it went well and hope you and your guests feel the same.
As my business relies on word of mouth and referrals, I invite you vote and comment on my services at the quick Poll link below? I will use comments and feedback to improve my program.
I find most repeat clients of mine remain happy with the services rendered. I would like to extend the same opportunity to you and perhaps any peers who might be interested as well.
Thanks again for the opportunity.
All Together Drum Circles
kanedrums.com is a multi-faceted, self-employed music business offering online virtual and live performance, drum set and percussion lessons, drum history lectures, group djembe drum circles, drum and percussion repairs, and musician/band marketing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org • Cell/text: 774-757-7636