I once heard a story from Billy Ward that he took a lesson with Elvin Jones on a trip to New York City when he was a kid. The drum studio had this beat up kit and when Elvin sat down at it and played it, the kit sounded like a million bucks. Moral? It’s NOT the kit, it’s the player. That said, a nice kit sure makes your music making experience more fun and often times, more inspiring. I love drum gear – LOVE IT. As such, I have a fair bit of it kicking around. Of course, what I use depends on the gig, but here’s a list of goodies you might see at a gig or session.
I have been part of the Ludwig family of artists for a few years now. Ludwig was my first kit: my dad’s early 70’s Mahogany Cortex Super Classic kit (the jazzette configuration).
One thing about endorsements: it’s not about getting free gear, it’s about building and establishing a relationship and proving to each other that you want to help the company and they want to help you. I don’t get stuff for free from Ludwig or any of my other endorsers. But, It’s a real honor to be part of all of their families of artists.
Here’s the Ludwig gear I use for my various live and session work:
Legacy Classic in Burgundy Glass Glitter
These shells harken back to the original Ludwig formula that made them household names. The shells are 3-ply with 1/16″ inner and outer plys of maple with a 1/8″ inner core of poplar. Then, 1/4″ maple reinforcing rings top and bottom finish the job. The bearing edge they put on these drums is more round so more of the head is touching the shell edge. The result? Warm, ‘phat’ tones that project with punchiness and authority, but retain warmth and maintain clarity.
Bass Drums: 20×16, 24×14
Rack Toms: 10×7, 12×8
Floor Toms: 14×14, 16×16
Classic Maple in Sable Black Lacquer
This is the classic maple shell that Ludwig has been doing since the 70’s. This 7-ply, 6 mm shell is bright, articulate, and warm. I actually got this kit off of CraigsList when I was waiting for my Legacy kit (see above) to be finished. The sable black finish looks super classy and sounds wonderful at any tuning range. These drums are also super easy to cart around!!
Bass Drum: 18×14
Rack Tom: 12×8
Floor Tom: 14×14
1966 Black Diamond Pearl
White interiors and a virgin 20×14 bass drum. This was an acquisition from Pro Drum in Hollywood. Word is, this was in the back for over 3 years. It was covered over with yellow/gold contact paper. So, when they finally started taking that off and saw the beautiful Black Diamond Pearl finish, they were all surprised. I had been looking for a vintage kit for a while and, while it’s not typically my thing, I went with this kit. You see, I’m not traditionally a big fan of 13″ rack toms. But, it was a great deal and a wonderful finish so I said ‘alright, let’s see.’ I’m glad I did. I lucked into the 12″ rack tom courtesy of my buddy Jimmy Paxson (he had two from the same vintage!). The 14×14 floor tom was an Ebay acquisition and while it was more than I would have liked to spend, I’m glad I did: the drum sounds phenomenal. Add the matching wood snare (5×14) and a similar vintage Acrolite snare and you’ve got the makings of a killer studio kit. These tubs have that vintage warm woody tone. I couldn’t be happier!
Bass Drum: 20×14
Rack Toms: 12×8, 13×9
Floor Tom: 14×14, 16×16
When I found out that Ludwig was going to be coming up with a ‘mini-kit’ I was certainly intrigued. I have a version of travel kit that I use A LOT around town and I really love it. I knew Ludwig’s kit was going to be similar but I still felt compelled to order one. Now that I have it and have it dialed in, I really am digging it a lot. It’s got a different quality to the other mini-kit I own, but still gives me the benefit of a small footprint and a great sound. The black sparkle finish is subtle and effective and the bass drum lift gets the kick off the ground for more thump. I can’t say as I sound anywhere near the man himself when I play this hotrod, but it sure inspires some fun breaks and grooves that I can dig into for hours.
Bass Drum: 16×14
Snare Drum: 14×5
Rack Tom: 10×7
Floor Tom: 13×13
Dunnett Custom Drums – Titanium Bop Kit
This baby started as a conversation when Ronn was kind enough to let me borrow one of his snare drums for a performance I was doing at NAMM 2010. He came by to check it out and we started talking about doing something. About 5 months later, over lunch, we discussed what I would want a kit to be. I have a penchant for small bass drums and with the many big ‘Bonham’ sized kits he had made in titanium, I asked him what he thought about a ‘titanium progressive jazz type kit’? He was all ears and it was unveiled at NAMM 2011. This kit is incredible. Super thin shells, tube lugs, die-cast hoops (which I’m usually not a fan of, but they sound great here), and wonderful maple bass drum hoops. This IS my little Bugatti roadster. It looks like something out of the past… but it’s build quality, and performance are absolutely 21st century. It has a wonderful sonic character. These drums speak and are a joy to play. Ronn is a wonderful cat and a great builder. I’m honored to own one of his sonic works of art. You can check him out at www.dunnett.com
Bass Drum: 18×14
Rack Toms: 8×12
Floor Toms: 14×14
Tempus Drums – Carbon Fibre Shells
Paul Mason and I have known each other for a number of years. I remember the first time I decided to swing by his booth at NAMM some years ago. He had a lovely 4 piece kit on display and several snare drums. We talked for a few moments, he was very kind, and suggested I sit down at the kit. I hit the bass drum once. Once. I looked at him and said ‘Really? Even here in this convention center?’ You could just tell. The drums sounded great. Crisp but resonant. They felt good when you hit them. The sound translated wonderfully. I was sold.
Now, let’s make one thing clear: when Paul was making drums, he wasn’t out to put any other companies out of business. What he was doing was making a drum unique in sound, design, and aesthetic. That made a big impact on me. That’s why I have such a long list of Tempus snare drums (see below). It’s also why I chose to have Paul make me a full carbon fibre shelled kit before he closed up shop. Here’s what I decided on:
Bass Drums: 20×16, 18×14
Rack Toms: 10×7.5, 12×8
Floor Toms: 14×14, 16×16
The mini marvel – small drums, big sounds
I bought this kit on a lark because I needed to leave something at a theatre for a gig I was doing. Little did I know this thing would be a monster. Don’t let the sizes fool you. This little gem is a great kit for the various small venues I play and it’s just a fun kick around kit that always sounds good. Far from a toy, this thing delivers the goods. Ludwig is now making something similar in the form of the Quest?Love Breakbeat kit (which I also own… see above).
Bass Drum: 16×16
Snare Drum: 12×5
Rack Tom: 10×7
Floor Tom: 13×13
This drum set is in the process of being modified with a new finish (for those that love the brushed silver finish… I’m kind of over it… sorry…) I might do a blue glass glitter or perhaps a grey strata (harkening back to the classic Rogers finish from the 60’s). Stay tuned for pics once that all happens.
There’s a lot of them, but not as many as some. Here is a sampling of some of my favorites:
Black Beauty w/Tube Lugs – 5×14
Black Beauty w/ Imperial Lugs – 6.5×14
Hand Hammered Bronze w/ Imperial Lugs – 6.5×14
Copper-Phonic w/ Imperial Lugs – 5×14, 6.5×14
Limited Edition COB w/Tube Lugs – 5×14
“The Chief” Titanium shell – 5×14
Supraphonic 402 w/ Millennium strainer – 6.5×14
1971 Supraphonic 400 – 5×14
1978 Hammered Supraphonic 400 – 5×14
1968 Acrolite – 5×14
1966 Jazz Festival in Black Diamond Pearl w/ COB hoops – 5×14
Classic Maple in Black Glitter – 5×14
Legacy in Burgundy Glass Glitter – 6.5×14, 8×14
Oak/Maple Hybrid w/ split lugs in matte black – 8×14
Carbon Fibre Shell – 6.5×15, 8×14, 6×14, 7×13
Dunnett Classic Drums
Stainless Steel – 6.5×13
George Way Drums
Prestige (heavy brass shell with gold hardware) – 6.5×14
5×14 (Jarrah Ply w/ Silver Gimlet satin finish)
Zelkova (1 piece shell) – 6.5×14
I’ve been lucky to be with Istanbul Agop cymbals now for about 8 years. Scott Liken is a cymbal guru. He knows how to listen to a cymbal and how to pick them out based on some, at times, strange descriptions of what you want. I tend to use the Traditionals and Signature series as well as their Alchemy and Xist lines. My general tendencies are:
Hi-Hats (Traditional Medium Thin, Thin, Dark, Xist, Om, Signature) – 14″ – 17″
Rides (Traditional Medium, Medium Thin, Dark, Signature, Xist, Alchemy, Mel Lewis) – 20″ – 24″
Crashes (Traditional Medium Thin, Thin, Dark, Signature, Alchemy, Xist, Azure, Om) – 17″ – 21″
Trash-Hits, Ion, Splashes, Effects (Traditional Medium Thin, Thin, Dark, Xist) – 6″ – 22″
Istanbul cymbals are dark and yet have a great amount of cut to them. I have loved pretty much everything I’ve heard from day one and am constantly amazed whenever I visit at the sheer amount of ideas in metal form they have to hit! Brilliant!!!
I recently switched head companies to Remo. This was something I always wished for – they’ve always been my first choice – but, the timing was never right until it was I guess. The fact that I’m now an official artist still fills me with a lot of pride. They are incredibly family oriented/feeling and they not only make a very consistently superior product (in my humble opinion), but they also have an amazing environmental focus and the amount of recycling they do and re-use of materials in their manufacturing processes is staggering! Given the variety of drums I have, I use a little bit of everything in their product line. But, here is a basic breakdown of what is used where:
Batter Side – Powerstroke 3 (Coated)
Front – Ambassador or Vintage Ambassador (Black or white)
Top – Vintage Ambassador (coated) or Ambassador (coated)
Bottom – Ambassador (coated or clear)
Top – Vintage Emperor (coated) or Emperor (coated)
Bottom – Ambassador (coated or clear)
Top – CS Bottom Dot (coated) or Vintage Ambassador (coated)
Bottom – Ambassador (Hazy) or Diplomat (Hazy)
Vater Drumsticks, mallets, brushes
Vater has been my go to ever since I was back east opening up for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and their drummer (Joe Sirios) tossed a pair of 3A’s my way to check out. Those were way to heavy for the way I play, but I loved the feel of the finish. I went out and started buying Vater 5A’s and haven’t looked back. Chad Brandolini gave me my endorsement with Vater right after I hooked up with Attack Heads. I’ve been nothing but pleased, happy, and blown away ever since. Vater has got so many great things and I use a lot of it depending on the situation. Here is what you’ll typically find in my stick bag though (all hickory and wood tip models unless otherwise noted):
Oval Stick (maple)
Splashsticks (hickory and bamboo)
Monster and L’il Monster brushes
Wire Tap brushes (various)
T-4, Green Yarn, Blue Yarn mallets
Jingle Rings (various sizes)
I’m very pleased to be a part of the growing POPercussion family. I got my first cajon from Patric before he moved shop back over the Germany. Josh Day (Sara Bareilles) recommended I check this cajon out and I was blown away. I use the ‘Big Bass Box’ and it’s absolutely killer. Live and in the studio, engineers and sound guys love it. It speaks wonderfully and gives me the entire world of a kit in a portable package. This and a few shakers, some brushes, and tamborines for the feet and I’m ready for just about any kind around town gig or small touring situations. Plus, they’re a blast to play.
I have a couple of different models:
Big Bass Box
Heavy Line Big Bass Box
These drums speak with authority. It’s like ‘Bonham in a box’. Patric’s build quality is unparallelled and he’s a wonderful guy.
The Black Swan Drum
I became aware of this company and this drum through my friend Mike Meadows. He is not only a wonderful drummer, percussionist, hypnotist (seriously!), and human being – he also is the creator of this amazing drum. It’s inspired by a Ghanaian Gombe (Gome) drum. It works like this. A 16″ drum head sits on a metal frame that is clamped down with a retaining ring. The body of the drum is made of any one of a number of woods (mine is carmelized bamboo), and the metal frame is attached to this body. You are able to adjust the tuning of the drum by way of a turn screw (like you would on an old tympani). You can achieve a variety of tones by adjusting the tuning. You can play this with your hands or any number of implements. You can also use a bass drum pedal (with your heel) to get bass tones happening. There are also panels you can purchase for either side of the drum to get more slap type tones (as you would on a cajon). It’s an ingenious instrument and it all fits in a standard 16×16 floor tom case. So, it (along with some assorted shakers, tambourines, bass drum pedal, implements, etc.) can all fit and clock in at under 50 lbs. It’s a great option when you are doing acoustic gigs in town or fly out dates (you’ve got a whole kit right there basically!) Mike did a wonderful job concocting it and Eric Holland (his partner at Black Swan) did a great job of designing it and working out the engineering kinks. This is a great drum!
Bongos, tambourines, dumbeks, darboukas, djembes, shakers, log drums, udu drums, there’s a lot that goes into being a drummer today than just kit work. That said, I’ve also got a mountain of hand percussion gear that I’m often called on to bring out for overdub sessions, or to just give a different feel on a gig when an artist wants to do a little something different.
Bongos, Udu drums, shakers, tambourines – Meinl
Dumbeks, Darboukas – Remo, Mountain Song, Meinl
Cross Crashers, Cross Benders, Celtic Bells – F.M.P.
Log Drums – unknown
Reco Reco, Satellite Drums, Snail – Pete Englehart
Mics, Pick-ups, and Electronics
B-Band Contact Mics – UKKO Drum system
B-Band has really come up with an amazing idea based on acoustic guitar and bass pick-ups – tweak the frequency responses and create the same concept for drums. It works brilliantly and is very low profile so it doesn’t look like I have an erector set hanging off of my toms and snare drums. These are wonderfully designed and sound beautiful. I also use their cajon contact mic/pick-up and get a huge sound out of it.
I get called for lots of sessions and most of the time the places I’m recording at have great mic closets with tons of options to try out. Other times, it’s smaller production studios that have limited mic resources. Because of this, I’ve chosen to invest in a small closet of my own that I can bring to any session so we have any sound options we would like to try easily at our disposal. This is an ever growing list, but here’s what I have currently:
Audio-Technica – ATM-25 (4)
Audix – D6 (2)
Audix – D2 (4)
Audix – D4 (2)
Audix – D1 (1)
Audix – i5 (1)
Beyer Dynamic – N/D 468 (3)
Electro Voice – RE20 (2)
MXL – 993 (stereo pair)
MXL – 992 (4)
MXL – 990 (2)
Rode – NT5 (stereo pair)
Sennheiser – E609 (1)
Sennheiser – MD421-II (4)
Shure – SM57 (3)
Shure – SM7-B
Cascade Fatheads (2) w/ Lundahl Transformer upgrade and Blumlein Bar (Fathead and Fathead II mics are sonically the same. The only difference is the size of the body and the type of shock mount that ships with the mics. Seriously! They say so right on their site!)
I am currently assembling a collection of electronics and recording gear and I’m excited about the new possibilities presented by use of these instruments.
Ableton Live (9)
Focusrite Scarlet 18i20 Interface
Focusrite Octo-pre Dynamic
M-Audio – Oxygen 8 v2
M-Audio – Trigger Finger
Yamaha DTX-12 multi pad unit
Yamaha DTX 950 Electronic Drum Set