Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Drum blues

The other night I had the opportunity to play on a nice acoustic kit. It had a double bass drum pedal, though attached to a fairly small, tight bass drum. A tiny little snare that really cuts through the mix, 5 toms, and a pretty intense selection of china and hardware. (Also the high-hat was positioned up and behind the 2nd and 3rd toms on the rack. At first I thought this would be really prohibitive but I actually found it kept me from crossing in a lot of positions and thereby allowed a little more flexibility.) It's always nice playing on a kit that has more roll on the heads than the rubber ones on the V-drums, as useful as they are for recording certain kinds of music and keeping the neighbors happy. What surprised me the most is that the people nearby seemed to be deluded into the fact that I could actually play. Since, to a greater or lesser certain extent, all musicians are playing that trick on you, it helped to re-affirm that the off-hours I've spent on the thing haven't been a total waste of time.

But I also feel a little bit stuck. Let me explain and maybe some of the musicians out there can help suggest something. Ever since I started to really get the hang of rolls with my hands - though I still excel at rolling with my right over my left but slowly that's getting better - I've had more options available to me with my arms on the kit. I don't have real independence yet but from working both hands off the highhat and hitting my crash with the uncrossed hand (there's only one on the v-drum kit, its a joy when I play kits that have more) I'm getting a tiny, tiny bit better at that. That is opening up options as well, although of course I really wish the progress wasn't so glacial.

However, this is only making it more clear that my bass-drum work is what is really holding me back from what I would consider a "real" drummer. My bass-drum work is fucking awful. I've spent hours working out of a book trying to get the whole 'heel-toe' thing to happen, but it doesn't seem to work for me at all. I am a little more solid down there if I hit the kick by using my entire leg (Lars Ulrich style) but this is very slow, though fairly powerful. It's also distressingly exhausting- I tried to play through an Amorphous song with a single bass drum pedal and though the attempt was pathetic to begin with I was literally limping for a day and a half after. This can't be the right way to be playing down there.

Any drummers have any suggestions that don't involve spilling the majority of my lifeblood so as to please the Lords of Rock? (Seriously, I enjoy drumming but I don't have time right now to begin working through ridiculous workbooks, and developing a form of tapping autism as my English slowly bleeds away to a series of grunts and chirps. Those of you who have played with really dedicated drummers know what I'm talking about.)

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