Feb 19, 2009

From My Drum Arsenal: The Raw Brass Snare Drum

Behold my 14x5" Raw Brass snare drum, a one-of-a-kind custom creation that has beaten it's way into many a drummer and producer's heart. The shell came from my good buddy and the Godfather of the vintage drum scene John Aldridge. He had tried to start a drum company to build brass shell replicas of 1920s era Ludwig Black Beauties, but when a problem occurred with the metal spinner who was fabricating the seamless shells, John had to shelve the project into which he had sunk a considerable amount of money. He was left with a few choice shells, one of which he generously donated to me. It sat on the shelf for about a year before I took the time to drill and assemble the drum. I used some 8-hole brass hoops and 8 brass tube lugs I had left over from my Galaxy Snare Drum days and I threw on some 14 strand Puresound snares and a brass-plated Ludwig P-83 strainer that was laying around.

I owned plenty of brass snare drums already so I thought I'd try something different. I had noticed a marked difference between the sound of old brass snare drums compared to newer ones, but I didn't have the patience to age the shell for 75 years to mellow it's sound, so I left the drum unfinished to provide a less reflective surface for sound to bounce off of and hopefully get a warmer tone. Normally, brass drums are buffed and lacquered (or black nickel-plated in the case of the Black Beauty) to produce a lasting shiny finish. I have always liked the patina that certain metals acquire through oxidation over a period of time so I thought the drum might look unique and change appearance over time.

The result is what you see above. I started using it on sessions and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The drum has tons of body and just as I had hoped it was less brittle sounding than a brand new brass snare drum. It is one of my "go to" drums when a focused, bright sound is required.

Here's the Raw Brass snare drum on That's How You Know by Morningwood:

Feb 18, 2009

Link Again

Drummers and drums in the news...

1) Motown Funk Brother Uriel Jones
recovering from heart attack

2) How Dave Grohl got
the Paul McCartney Grammy gig

3) Step 1: Impersonate British Drummer. Step 2: Steal Corvette

4) Taylor Hawkins: 'Dave Grohl is a control freak'

5) Child-Like robot can play the drums

6) Become an iPhone Drummer

Feb 17, 2009

Edith at Woolly Mammoth Sound and a Lesson Learned.

I spent the weekend at David Minehan's Woolly Mammoth studio in Waltham, MA working with local Boston band Edith and drummer Scott Rogers. We used the studio's Gretsch Reknown 22x20" (!) kick and 16x16" floor tom, my 13x9" Eames rack tom , a 14x6.5" Yamaha Sensitive Series snare drum, my 14x6.5" Pearl Steve Ferrone snare, and a 14x5" "Raw Brass" snare that I built.

We A/B'd 3 different bass drums and to my surprise ended up using the very deep 22x20" Gretsch, which goes against my predjudice of favoring shallower kick drums (14", 16", or even 12") in the studio. I have had to revise many of my preconceptions over the years, because for every rule I have about recording drums there is always an exception that makes me look stupid. Deeper kick drums are a relatively recent innovation designed to deliver a powerful attack by pushing air down a long cylinder. My experience has been that these drums are all attack with very little of the round tones that define a great bass drum sound. But here's the kicker (pun intended): on any given day, in any given studio, with any given drummer, and any given set of mics, and any given engineer, you are going to get different results and that's what happened Saturday. We tried other traditional size kick drums and they just didn't sound as good as the Gretsch. Once it was miked up it of course had great attack but it also had a nice round tone and was in balance with the rest of the kit. In other words it didn't sound like I expected it to. If I didn't know better and just listened to the results I would have sworn it was a 14" or 16" deep kick drum. So the lesson learned here is to keep an open mind and be prepared to drop your preconceived notions about what works and what doesn't. Sooner or later you will be humbled by the truth.

Louie Bellson 1924-2009

One of the all-time great drummers Louie Bellson passed away on February 14. He will be missed by his many fans and friends in the drumming community. Anybody who ever met Louie was touched by his positive and generous spirit and his willingness to help his fellow musicians. To offer your condolences to the Bellson family send cards and contributions to:

Mrs. Louie Bellson
c/o Remo, Inc.
28101 Industry Drive
Valencia, CA 91355

Feb 7, 2009

What? More Links?!!!?

We got more drum links than Trump's got towers!

Bill Bruford retires from public performance!

Keith Moon is to be honoured with a blue plaque at the site of The Who's early gigs

3) New Led Zeppelin book.

4) Blink-182 is Back.. sort of.

5) Drummer's freak death by anthrax.

6) Blondie's Clem Burke
to research benefits of playing drumming video games.

Happy 80th Birthday Hal Blaine!!!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree and the world's most recorded musician Hal Blaine celebrated his 80th birthday with a big party at L.A.'s Baked Potato thrown by his daughter Michelle and fellow Wrecking Crew member Don Randi. Proceeds from the soiree went to help create a scholarship fund at the Berklee College Of Music in Hal's name.

If you're reading this blog and don't know who Hal is, shame on you! Google his name and prepare for your jaw to drop. Hal played on more hit records than any other drummer in history and his tasteful, inventive playing have influenced many generations of musicians, including your humble blogmaster.

I've know Hal for quite a few years and there isn't a more generous, down to earth, and downright hilarious musical "legend" around. So happy birthday Hal, and many, many happy returns of the day!

You can make donations to the scholarship by sending a check to:

Blaine Scholarship
c/o Michelle Blaine
80398 Denton Drive
Indio, CA 92203

Make checks payable to “Berklee College of Music”
Make sure to write in “Hal Blaine Scholarship” in the memo field.

Be sure to include your return address (or that the address on your check is current). Michelle will be mailing checks in bulk to Berklee each month and they will mail out formal recognition receipts with tax deduction information.


I'm just getting back into the swing of things after having knee replacement surgery at the end of November. I played a couple gigs last week and the new knee works just fine. Thought I'd celebrate with a smattering of drum related links, cause that's how I single-stroke roll...

1) Wink at the President and lose your drumming gig!

2) Unique art exhibit celebrates the world's iconic drummers in works by 50 artists

3) Buddy Holly played the drums for Dion on "The Day The Music Died".

4) Buffalo Springfield Drummer Dewey Martin 1941-2009