Category Archives: My Drum Blogs

Drum tip of the day

Fuel your drumming technique instead of failing it

By Tim Kane

http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

I recently played a packed Halloween club gig in which I ate no real food of sustenance most of the day, employed no floor monitor or in-ear device, forgot to bring bottled water, drank too much free beer, allowed the sound guy to cram his PA speakers on either side of me so I had no way out, failed to fight for my rights when our lead guitarist set his large amp up directly in front of my kick drum, and skipped the pre-gig band warm-up. Suffice to say, I violated almost every rule when it comes to fueling your drumming technique.

So where did I go wrong? First of all, I should have known better than to not understand the gig logistics prior to actually showing up with my gear. Come to find out, this particular club didn’t even have a stage area. I helped the bar manager move tables and chairs to open up room. If I had taken just a little more time before the gig to analyze how many tables would actually have to be moved in order to comfortably accommodate a 5-piece band, many challenges that particular evening would have been erased. My bad.

Moreover, the band I was filling-in for on drums did no sound check prior to the first set. We just started playing. If one were held, I would have requested a monitor and more room to maneuver. As drummers, we have just as much right to ask for certain amenities at gigs as our fellow musicians do. My bad.

Getting muscle cramps like I did during the gig is never cool, either. Dehydration and lack of food to power your muscles are the primary causes of cramps. Given bottled water is usually hard to come by in bars, I should have brought five bottles and placed them behind my drum kit. I also should have arrived much earlier at the gig and ordered dinner there. If not, a couple of high-energy bars stuck in your stick bag will do the trick. My bad.

As for floor monitoring and getting proper levels, all I heard that evening was mush from other bandmates (and they actually played well). And with the lead guitarist’s amp placed directly in front of my kick drum, I am sure the audience had trouble hearing me, too. The band ended playing tight against two walls in an L-shape. It was one of the most maniacal stage set-ups I have ever experienced. I should have asked that question well before the gig and also allowed time for readjustment after the sound check that was never conducted. Again, my bad.

This all takes me back to bagging out on the pre-gig band practice (I was teaching drum lessons at the time and should have just rescheduled those students). That dress rehearsal would have been an ideal time to talk about the gig dynamic, my needs, stage set-up, sound levels, and overall expectations. You should have that group discussion well before the gig.

All of this combined into the perfect storm of a third set meltdown for me personally with near exhaustion and frustration. In the end, lack of advance preparation killed my drumming technique at that gig and I have no one else to blame but myself.

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

Playing faster 16th notes on the hi-hat

TIM KANE’S DRUM TIP OF THE DAY: Wanna play lightning fast 16th notes on the hi-hat, but your arms fall off after 16 measures? Here are a few tips to try:

A) Practice at a slower pace and work 16ths up to desired speed as it really is all about developing that muscle memory.

B) For faster beats, make sure you play the hi-hat with the tips of your sticks and not the thicker neck/shoulder.

C) Open your hi-hats slightly to compensate for mistakes.

D) Be sure to breathe with the pace of the song.

E) Play upstrokes. Let the sticks do the work for you.

F) If your arm muscles are burning, you are doing something wrong. Slow down and re-evaluate the process.

Good luck!

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

 

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

 

 

Size and equality matter when it comes to band stage set-ups  

By Tim Kane
http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com

Back in the Big Band days, double bass drum innovator Louise Belson regularly set up his two large kicks smack out in stage front of the brass section. He was the main attraction and rightfully so. In today’s age of less is more, with guitar centric compositions and the advent of digital pad triggers, many drummers don’t need an extra kick drum to play 32nd notes with their feet, and they aren’t stage front center either. Last time I saw a drummer set up forward of guitar amps was San Fran’s “Night Ranger”, and that’s only because Kelly Keagy sang some lead vocals set-up sideways.

For most working class drummers – and even practicing ones – we have to compartmentalize our various sized drum kits to fit the intended stage dimensions. Having a 12X12 stage dimension is gravy for bands these days. More often than not, however, we face strange L-shaped stages situated flat against bar walls, no stages at all leaving us to create one around tables and chairs, or an actual elevated stage that a ventriloquist could barely fit on.

So how do we adapt to ever-changing stage sizes? First, Gibraltar Hardware and other drum hardware companies got smart years ago and innovated the use of drum rack systems, which saves tons of space and lessens set-up time and energy. If you don’t own one and play out regularly, you should definitely at least consider purchasing one.

Before anything else, don’t screw yourself over to accommodate guitar amps. What I mean is if you don’t fight for your rights as a musician, you will lose them. Guitarists sometimes forget that drummers also need to hear the music in order to play well. Unless you have a sound man who understands how to mix all the instruments and vocals into a good monitor for you and you alone, then setting your drum kit up behind everyone else is a mistake.

I have yet to meet a sound man who can mix everything together effectively that way.

My point is guitarists rarely stop to adjust control knobs on their amplifiers while playing songs. Most use their effects pedals and guitar dials to control and change sound. So why must guitarists and bassists set up their amps in front of the drums? The audience will still hear everything fine if the amps are placed against the wall to the left and right beside your drum throne.

My advice is for drummers to get to shows and new practice spaces early and own your space first. Your carpet is king. Let the band build their gear around you, and strongly encourage them not to fear placing amps back in alignment with the rear of your drum set. It will help the mix immensely and provide more actual playing space for musicians. If you are unsure of the stage size, call the club or venue earlier in the week to inquire or go check it out ahead of time.

Enough of my drummer discrimination rant, though I’ll conclude by adding that stringed instrument players should leave their cases and back-up guitars back stage or in the cars just like drummers do. Big space saver. And there’s no need to display five guitars on stage unless you intend to play them all.

Then there’s actual stage sound variations to consider. I’m no soundman, but have found better success with my own band setting up our amps somewhat blowing across stage at each other rather than directly pointing out into the audience. You can control the mix better that way. In very small venues, I have even seen a band leader turn all the amps inward toward the stage to control maximum sound output decibels. Obviously, in that case setting up amps behind the drum kit would be a moot point.

Some bands also run everything through the PA system regardless of stage or venue size. I can’t advise you one way or the other on that front; I only add that for most small to mid-sized clubs – unless you are live recording -you can get away with having only three mics on the drums for your kick, snare and an ambient overhead. That will save a lot of on-stage clutter and time. In many cases, you don’t need any mics and neither do guitarists.

The very worst thing you can do as a drummer is to try to cram a 12-piece Gretsch Renown series into a space not made for it. For one, it will take you twice the amount of time as normal to re-configure your cymbal stand spans, and you’ll end up with too tight an area in which to play. Less is more in that case. Leave half the kit in your car and go basic. 

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

 

 

 

 

Applying more ‘Rubato’ (vs. ‘Mr. Roboto’) to the drum set

By Tim Kane

Drummers are first and foremost timekeepers, plain and simple. That is our core mission. But we are also the gateway to a band’s inner time machine. Like the planet we live on, time fluctuates.

When playing live with other musicians, there is an unwritten ebb and flow of tempo to keep in mind. It’s called “feel.” Play with your ears, first, and then your eyes. That’s what my drum teacher always taught me. But how do you know when to play looser interpretations of time and when to be a metronome (which was first used by Beethoven, by the way)? Not an easy question to answer. Time tends to advance and retract from the initial beats per minute you lay down during certain segments of a song – unless that tune actually calls for tempo changes.

Understanding basic classical music terminology governing time signatures and tempo is helpful – even in rock genres. In any original or cover song composition, there are several main tempo ingredients we knowingly and unknowingly follow, including: Allegro (fast), Adagio (slow), Ritardando (slowing of tempo), and Accelerando (quickening of tempo). There are all sorts of variations within these broad terms, but you get the point.

The most important tempo term – and the one most appropriate for contemporary live music – is “Rubato,” or the free adjustment of tempo for expressive purposes.

Most of us live within this expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing, which is further defined by the spaces between each note we play – otherwise known as subdivisions. Where drummers tend to experience time fluctuations in a song can be both apparent and elusive. Solos and section transitions tend to inherently lend themselves to tempo rate changes. That does not mean the song’s time signature actually changes, though. While guitar and piano melodies can be flexible with tempo, accompaniment by drums and bass never radically departs from the original meter. The rhythm section must keep the regular pulse (yet not rigidly in mechanical fashion) and adjust to pace changes.

Regardless of incidental time changes as they relate to the nuances of playing live, the song must return to its original rate at some point. And the onus squarely falls upon drummers to reel everything back in.

There are a few tricks of the trade to re-set a tempo during a song, if the need arises. Cracking your snare hard on the first beat of a measure is one good way to send a message. Closing the hi-hat on downbeats is also a great tool in keeping solid time, so get solid with your footwork on it. If your other three limbs are playing more “feel” during a particular point in a song, the musicians around you tend to key in on the security of the hi-hat. Brief stops can provide that brief non-musical interlude that makes everyone think about coming back in together. And if all else fails, simplify your drum parts to the point of awkwardness and count aloud.

The best way for you to experiment with time and apply more Rubato to the drum set is by practicing along to a metronome or online click track, particularly at slower tempos that are more challenging to control. Work fills into your beats and have fun with the fluctuations.

 – Tim Kane is a professional writer and drummer of 30-plus years. http://www.kaneschoolofdrums.com