The Black Crowes are considered one of the most impressive live bands in the world. Adding the fact that they have been at it since 1989, with 11 studio releases (over 35 million sold), multiple live albums and DVD’s, and countless world tours; the broad spectrum of sights and sounds that they have been sure to experience over the course of their 24 year history is sure to be mind boggling.
So, how do you impress a band that has seen and done it all?
Bring them to the Memphis Gong Chamber!
Memphis Gong Chamber proprietor Jim Pettit explains the visit:
" [Drummer] Steve Gorman visited Memphis Drum Shop last year to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary. He absolutely loved being in the Memphis Gong Chamber and told me his number one goal was to make a return trip, only next time he wanted to bring the rest of the band. When they arrived, I placed them on the floor of the Chamber in a circle head-first – the lights dimmed and I played the gongs in a 360-degree movement with the 84” Paiste Symphonic being the tone center of the sound. When the sounds ceased, it took several minutes for everyone to come back to normal and then they started to describe the trip they just experienced. As you can see from the photo – a lot of good vibes was had by all.”
Check out the Memphis Gong Chamber for more information, including pictures of the visits by other artists and celebrities, as well as a wide selection of gongs and accessories available for purchase.
Also, be sure to keep up with the latest news and releases from The Black Crowes.
Snare drums are easily one of the most significant changes a drummer can make regarding the sound of his or her kit. Many drummers develop a “signature” sound that is in direct correlation to the snare drum of their choice.
Can you imagine Dave Brubeck’s classic song, “Take Five” with anything other than Joe Morello’s light and airy snare echoing through it? How about any classic reggae tune without the sharp, concise upbeat of a piccolo-style snare leading the way? Drummers like Stewart Copeland of The Police, Chad Sexton from 311, and Phil Rudd from AC/DC, among others, all have their own snare sound that can be immediately identified by any fan of their music.
The snare drum sound is one of the most important components to any drum set. Knowing some of the common differences of what is available on the market can go a long way into helping you find the right snare sound for your kit.
Wood VERSUS Metal!!!
Some people like to pretend that there is a big rivalry between snare choices, as if it is a professional wrestling heavyweight title match.
"In the red corner… manufactured from a variety of tree species grown all around the world… it’s the master of lacquer and the sultan of stain… the one and only, the Wood Snare!!!
And in the blue corner… forged using multiple forms of metallic elements mined from deep beneath the earth’s crust… it’s the wood grain assassin and the pillar of projection… it is…. the Metal Snare!!!”
In reality, there is no battle. The truth is that both types of snare drums can work in most settings. Like anything else, it just depends what your own individual taste prefers and what the music you’re playing calls for. Wood drums tend to have a warmer, round sound while most metal drums are more cutting and have more ring. Many drummers that play heavier music choose a metal drum to cut through the thick crunch of the guitars while softer styles of music prefer the warm crack of a wood snare.
But once again we are reminded that there are not necessarily any rules that must be followed when it comes to art, because many jazz players who use brushes want the sensitivity and volume that a metal snare can provide where a wood drum may just not cut it. So if you’re a heavy metal player that wants a wood snare, you can be sure there are plenty more out there like you.
Also, the different types of woods and the different types of metals all have their own characteristics; such as sustain, fundamental note, and volume. Some metals like aluminum and copper; and certain woods, like birch and walnut, tend to sound drier than others like brass and steel or maple and ash, which ring more openly. Drums that commonly have a lower fundamental note are brass, bronze, African Mahogany, and bubinga where some with higher tuning ranges are aluminum, steel, wandoo, and birch. A steel or brass drum is what you want when a high volume drum is what you’re looking for.
Lastly, most people would agree that although there are many metal drums that can come very close to mimicking the sound of a wood drum, there is nothing that brings a sharp crack like an actual wood drum. For some reason, metal can’t give drummers the distinct sound of a tree branch breaking.
Hmm, I wonder why?
Those same people may also all agree that although there are wood drums that can mimic the tuning range and projection of a metal drum, there is nothing like the bright and responsive power and wonderful ring that an actual metal drum can bring.
So while both the wood and metal drums can claim the popular wrestling moniker of “often imitated but never duplicated” in their own ways, there is enough room in the ring for both types. This is why most studios around the world will have a large variety of both wood and metal snares to choose from.
The diameter of most snare drums fall within the range of 12”-15”. Of course, the most common is 14” so we will focus on this diameter for the most part. As we learned with any drum shell configuration, the size of the diameter and the depth will affect the note of the drum; the larger and deeper the drum is, the lower the note will be. This is why a high-pitched piccolo snare is normally a 13” x 3” and a big and powerful snare drum would be something like a 14” x 8”.
The depth of a snare drum will effect the sensitivity of the drum as well. A depth of 5” will be more sensitive than a deeper drum, so a drummer who does a lot of brush work or light stick articulation may want a shallower snare. Those who want a versatile size that is both sensitive and has a little bit of projection may want to go with a medium range depth of 6” to 6.5”. Of course, if you are a drummer who wants to feel the power of a strong snare, depths anywhere from 7” to 10” or more exist for your cause as well.
Research is the Key!
There are plenty of other variables that can go into achieving the sound of your snare drum; such as drum head choice, snare wires, hoops, and of course, tuning. However, most of those decisions can come after the fundamental choice of what kind of drum you want is made. It is important to remember to not get discouraged, though, because it can take some time to determine what you like and want. Do your research and listen to as many drums as you can in order to find out what characteristics you like best. Memphis Drum Shop has video samples of most of the snare drums that we carry, expertly played in multiple tuning ranges, and recorded with no effects or video tricks so that you can hear the snare represented naturally, as if you were playing it yourself.
Some people are looking for one “workhorse” snare drum that will do everything that they require and once they find it, they will be happy. Others will keep adding more snare drums to their ever-growing collection to fill every void that they could possible find.
It is possible to do both and neither person would be wrong.
There are some drummers that take pride in being a hard hitting power rocker. You know, the ones that hit so hard that the people standing in the back of the room can feel the air move from every tom hit and every cymbal crash. These were and are the John Bonhams, the Dave Grohls, and the Chad Smiths of the world.
Working in a drum shop lets us sometimes have the privilege of seeing famous drummers from time to time, and I can tell you that Chad Smith is without a doubt one of the hardest hitting drummers that I have ever seen. See for yourself!
As Chad Smith may tell you, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a hard hitting player. In fact, many agree that the hard hitting types are generally the most fun to watch and listen to. But unless you have an unlimited supply of free gear to go along with your sledgehammers, the price tag for broken cymbals can get pretty expensive if you’re not hitting hard the right way.
There are many players out there that seem to break cymbals all of the time, no matter what cymbal they use. Conversely, there are just as many players that, although they are hard hitters, hardly ever break a cymbal. That is the difference between a responsible and an irresponsible basher. Also, lets not forget that a poor technique can also lead to serious health problems that could ultimately lead to serious time away from the kit. So let’s take a look at a few ways to keep your cymbals, your health, and your wallet in good shape with a small course for the hard hitter in all of us.
Similar to how every cymbal sounds different, we should be able to agree that no cymbal is necessarily stronger than another. When in the market for cymbals, many drummers assume that because many of the cymbals that are made for louder music are thicker, that means they are stronger and can take a bigger beating. While this can be true to a certain degree, most of the time the cymbals modeled for heavier music are made thicker because they are louder and cut better than thin cymbals do. Thin cymbals tend to be darker and blend into the music more… but they’re both going to have pros and cons when it comes to “strength.” A thin cymbal is, in some ways, more delicate because it is thin but it many cases it will actually “give” more and be less rigid than a thicker cymbal will. Because of this, it’s often seen that the thicker cymbal can crack just as easily as a thinner cymbal can. So, there is really no such thing as an indestructible cymbal.
There are really more important factors that should be determined when searching for your cymbal than whether or not it will break. Most importantly, how do you like the sound of the cymbal? Ultimately, that is really all that matters. If it doesn’t work for your music, whether you will break it or not won’t matter. All cymbals are made to be hit, so they will all be strong enough to play. Because of this, the sound should be your biggest determining factor. If your music calls for a dark cymbal sound, then you may want to look past some of the thicker and brighter models.
Once you have your cymbals, there are a couple of general rules that you can follow that will go a long way towards keeping them in good shape. Obviously, you want to make sure your stands are in proper working order and that no metal is in contact with your cymbal. Using the correct cymbal stand sleeves and felt washers are easy steps that are important to protect your cymbal from damage due to metal to metal contact.
One of the most common mistakes is having the cymbals screwed down too tight on your stands. Leaving your cymbals too tight will prevent them from vibrating the way they are meant to, which will not only choke the sound, but will almost always lead to cracking at stress points. In fact, many players don’t even use a wing nut and therefore let the cymbals move freely.
Also, most drummers will tell you to hit with a glancing blow in order to extend the cymbal’s life and to get the best sound out of the it. Allowing the stick to bounce will let the cymbal vibrate naturally. There are a variety of ways and techniques that are practiced to achieve this, but some of the most popular are playing the cymbal by moving your arm in a circular motion while striking or by simply loosening your grip and allowing the stick to bounce, instead of holding it too firm and burying it into the cymbal. Preventing the stick from rebounding naturally can also lead to fatigue, strained muscles, and joint problems such as tendinitis.
Honestly take a look at your playing and determine if you could be endangering yourself and your equipment by bashing irresponsibly. Ultimately, you’re hitting metal over and over again with sticks… so there is a good chance that there may be some damage eventually. But if you are able to adjust your playing with the suggestions above; with some care and maintenance, you can have a long and healthy relationship with your cymbals.
In addition to choosing the best cymbals for their setup, many drummers have trouble sifting through the countless types of drum shells that are available to choose from. There are several different species of woods, various shell constructions, and an array of sizes that can make any drummer get lost in all of the options. In order to understand some of the differences, let’s go through some of the most popular shells and configurations.
Keeping this as simple as possible and only covering some of the basics, let’s all agree that just like many other things involving music and art: much of this is subjective. There is no perfect sounding species of wood, perfect size, or perfect drum that works for absolutely everyone.
Also for simplicity’s sake, we won’t go into much of the details about how the drums are built; such as ply, stave, or solid shell or what direction the grain of the wood is cut. That can all be important, but we’ll acknowledge that there are more things to learn and layers to peel once we get through the basics. We’re not all “Woodologists”, like John Good! And of course, drums aren’t always made of wood. There are various other materials used for drum making: different metal alloys, carbon fiber, acrylic, etc… but we’ll just stick to the wood drums for now.
What’s The Gig?
First, the most important thing to figure out is what you’ll be using your kit for - Is your kit for live gigs or mainly studio sessions? Are you playing jazz? Rock? Blues? Or could it be any of those on any given night? Many of the drum manufacturers take some of the guess work out of drum buying by offering kits made for certain genres of music, like jazz/bebop kits. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, you can simply trust the manufacturer with the specifics, pick your finish, and start playing. However, some of the fun of spending your hard earned money on a drum set is to personalize it to your specific tastes. Spending the time to put your own finishing touches on your very own kit can be worth it. Just make sure you’re not buying a small jazz/bebop style kit for your Led Zeppelin cover band.
How Does It Sound?
Different woods have different densities which make each wood vibrate differently. Woods that are dense and more solid tend to have an even tone; whereas the softer the wood, the less controlled the vibrations are. Some woods are too soft to make drums out of because they don’t vibrate evenly enough to produce a consistent tone.
Over time, drum builders have used a large variety of woods. Some of the most popular are maple, birch, mahogany (Luan), and bubinga. There are many different sub-species of woods for these as well; such as Birdseye Maple or African Mahogany, but for the most part we won’t get into those. The exception is mahogany, where there is a large difference between the more exotic mahogany such as African Mahogany and the more readily available Philippine Mahogany (commonly referred to as Luan). But more on that later.
Maple - This wood has become as close to the standard for drums as you can get. When discussing other types of woods, you will frequently see maple used for comparison. This is because maple has a very consistent tone and generally has a larger tuning range, meaning it can sound good low, mid, or high. This makes maple a very versatile wood that can be used in almost any application and any musical setting; be it studio or live and from jazz music to hard rock.
Birch - Bright and punchy. A favorite among many jazz players, but also very popular with rock drummers who want a quick, lively sound. Compared to maple (see, I told you) birch has a slightly higher fundamental tone and a shorter sustain, but it can perform well in low tunings, as well. Studio musicians tend to love birch because it is easy to work with, meaning it doesn’t ring too much and it is very consistent.
Mahogany(Luan) - Often used in entry level drums because it is easily obtainable; Luan offers a warm, low end that has recently become popular due to the resurgence of the vintage sound that it brings. It is best used for live settings and generally likes to be tuned to a lower range, but many variations of the wood can be used for multiple applications. African Mahogany is a more exotic and expensive species of mahogany, which took the place of the highly-prized South American Mahogany when it was put under trade restrictions in 2003.
Bubinga - Increasing in popularity every year, bubinga wood brings a beautiful low end punch that many drummers gravitate towards. Similar to the higher end types of mahogany, it works great in many forms of music. Rock drummers tend to enjoy the lower tones that can still manage to cut through heavier music with a rich, concise, and clear tone. It’s also known for its beautiful grain patterns.
There are many more types of woods that we won’t mention in this post but these are the main players. There are also countless variations of hybrid shells, such as maple/mahogany or birch/bubinga, that combine the various woods in order to capitalize on the characteristics of both species.
Come On, Get Down With The Thickness
Drum shell thickness generally affects the tone and the resonance of the drum. The thinner the shell, the lower it will sound and the more sustain it will have. Thicker shells will not vibrate as long and will usually be higher pitched.
There are techniques that some drum manufacturers use to manipulate the wood using certain ply and grain pattern configurations that can go against these general rules, but as stated before, we won’t get into all of that. Simply note that those are usually exceptions to the rule and not the rule.
Shell thickness is one of the most subjective things about drums. Some people love thin shells that “sing” and others want a thick shell for a quick and to the point note that can power through a room. Neither person is wrong or right.
Drums with thinner shells can sometimes be a little finicky while tuning, but can perform very well when the right drum head combination and tuning is found. Thin shells can be more sensitive, so they are great for smaller, lower volume gigs that don’t require a lot of projection.
Thicker drums tend to have a slightly smaller tuning range but can really sound powerful when used in the right application. Arena rockers that want a large and powerful sound will many times choose a thicker shell. Many wood snare drums are made with thick shells in order to mimic the projection of metal snares while maintaining that warm crack that only a wood drum can create.
What’s your size?
Drum size is probably one of the most important specifications that a drummer can make when selecting drums and thankfully, it is one of the easiest concepts to understand. First, when discussing drum sizes, most will list the diameter first, then the depth; such as 14” x 5” or 10” x 8”. Some will reverse it and confuse everyone, but we won’t worry about that. The diameter is what you will buy heads for and is generally what people will use to describe their kits.
"I have a 10",12",14",16", 22"…"
The larger the drum diameter, the lower the note and the louder the drum will be. Most drum sets are setup to go from small to large which, as we all know, is from high to low. This makes sense for most people musically, although some have been known to arrange their kit in other patterns.
The depth of the drum will affect the tone as well. The deeper the drum, the lower the pitch will be. The depth will also affect the volume, making deep drums project more. This is why a 16” x 16” floor tom will be low pitched and boomy compared to a smaller drum.
Snare drums are popular at many different depths. A 14” x 5” is going to be more sensitive than a 14” x 8”, but the deeper drum will be louder.
Regarding size, the thing that can make or break a kit for a specific genre of music the most is the bass drum. A rock drummer is usually going to want a big powerful bass drum to lead the beat along, for instance a 22”, 24”, or even a 26”- if you want to be like Bonham. But if you were to bring a big rock style drum to a jazz gig, you may get some angry looks when your bass drum is overpowering your band mates. Most drummers in lighter music prefer a smaller bass drum that allows more finesse and tone to compliment the music, rather than sheer volume and power. Additionally, we’ve already learned that the depth of the drum can affect the sustain, so if you need a little more versatility, you can get a more shallow depth on a bigger diameter drum and have the best of both worlds.
Are We There Yet?
Whew! As you can see, the sea of options with drum shell configurations can seem intimidating (and this was just some of the basics!) but hopefully we have been able to give you a starting point. Choosing the right drum set can be challenging for anyone but a little research and knowledge can prevent you from having regrets down the road.
Remember, we at Memphis Drum Shop are here to help you choose your perfect setup, so feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have.
Many people wonder why it’s necessary to individually list cymbals as “myCymbal Exact Cymbals.”
Isn’t every [insert your favorite make and model cymbal] the same?
Don’t all 18” Thin Crashes from the same manufacturer sound exactly the same??
Well, yes and no. All cymbal makers strive to provide consistency with their products, but their cymbals can only be so consistent. Some of the beauty and artistry in cymbal making is the ability to create complex and musical sounds that are distinct from each other, despite being the same.
Everyone has different tastes, right?
In order to understand why individual cymbals can be different from each other, we must first understand why they’re the same.
In order to become a certain cymbal of a manufacturer’s series, each piece of metal has to fall into the range of that specific cymbal. So, for instance, when Sabian is making their popular 21” HH Raw Bell Dry Ride, all of those specific type of cymbals are going to have to be within a specific range of alloy, weight, thickness, hammering pattern, lathing pattern…among other things…in order to be considered a 21” HH Raw Bell Dry Ride.
Inside this range of specifications, there are many factors that will give each particular cymbal a unique characteristic. Simply put, there are so many possible variables that could determine the sound of a cymbal that I could not possibly describe them all. To give you an idea of some of the factors, I will list some of them:
Weight- Often thought of as the biggest determining factor between cymbals by many cymbal lovers, the weight can definitely determine whether a cymbal sounds different from the next. However, in our experience, we have found weight to be overemphasized by many a consumer. While a difference in weight, even slight, can frequently determine whether cymbals will have a different pitch, tone, or sustain; there are times that cymbals with the same weight can sound drastically different. This is due to other factors, such as…
Weight Distribution- The way the metal has fused together inside the cymbal during casting is rarely going to be exactly the same. Certain spots or zones on one cymbal could be light and on the next cymbal, that same spot or zone could be heavy. This is why certain cymbals you play always want to spin to a certain spot. Gravity is pulling the heavy spot down. (More on heavy and light zones of cymbals + rivets later)…now back to the factors…
Hammering- Each specific hammer mark can change the characteristic of the cymbal. One cymbal could have one less (or one more) hit or have a mark a little closer to the bell than the other which will make the two stand apart sonically. Also, some cymbals are hammered by a machine, providing very consistent patterns from cymbal to cymbal; while others are hammered by hand. The cymbal artisans who hammer by hand have developed their hammering technique after decades of practice.
Finish- Natural or Brilliant finish? Although many drummers simply think that this is only for aesthetics, the finish of a cymbal can affect the sound. Although sometimes subtle, a brilliant finish can indeed brighten a cymbal, making it shimmer and cut through the music; whereas a natural finish may be slightly darker.
As said, these factors are not the only things that determine the sound of the cymbals you may be in the market for. The type of stick you use, the size of the cymbal, the acoustics in the room you are in, and perhaps most importantly- how you hit the cymbal- can all be major determining factors in the cymbal’s sound.
Almost everyone has heard a truly talented drummer get behind a set of “garbage can lids” and make them sound spectacular. They’re able to find the positive accents in what they have in front of them and focus on them.
And in most cases, it is not only one of the characteristics listed above that will determine the sound of the cymbal- it is a mixture of them all.
So when you’re looking for a cymbal, keep in mind that searching for a cymbal that has that perfect sound can be a lifelong journey. Not everyone is lucky enough to find the perfect sound on the first, second, or even third try. But like anything else in this world, when you put the time and effort into picking out your cymbals, the sonic rewards will be tremendous.
Also, because art is all about expression, there is no “wrong or right” cymbal sound. What sounds horrible to one person may be exactly what another person is looking for.
With myCymbal Exact Cymbals, we have provided a large and easily searchable inventory of cymbals to aid you in your search. We record the cymbals as organically as possible, omitting any effects or recording tricks, and with utmost respect for consistency, in order to represent the cymbal in its natural state as effectively as possible. What you hear is what you get!
Of course, we are available to answer any questions you may have, either by phone or by email, any time that you feel you need assistance. While we definitely don’t want to make your decisions for you, we can certainly give you our honest opinions. All of us are drummers and on the same journey you’re on: looking for our ideal cymbal sounds.
Take pride in your cymbal journey, wherever you may be, and let myCymbal Exact Cymbals help you find the exact cymbal you’ve always been looking for!
“My dad heard about this cool place called the Memphis Drum Shop so he decided to take me by there one day. I remember walking in and there were drums EVERYWHERE. Straight up drummer’s heaven. I wanted to play on every single drum in there, but I didn’t. (I didn’t want to be THAT kid.) So we walked through the first room and into a bigger room with MORE drums, and there they were, sitting up on a drum riser with a plexiglass sound isolating screen around them (which for some reason made them look even cooler). It was a 5 piece CHROME (Yeah I know…I was 13 ok!) Pearl Export series kit. The lights were hitting them just right. They were so SHINY! I knew they were supposed to be mine. I just stood there in awe of them. I finally walked around some more with my dad to check out all the other cool stuff in the shop, and it was all cool, but not as cool as that chrome Pearl Export kit. Of course, I ended up standing right in front of them, gawking, and maybe even drooling a little bit. I’m sure my dad figured out what I wanted for Christmas pretty quickly. We went back a couple times and every time I made a b-line for that kit, until one day it wasn’t there. Man I was bummed, but I’m sure you can guess what happened. I went into the living room on Christmas morning and there they were! Sorry to tell my whole life story, just got caught up in some memories (sniff sniff). But hey, if it wasn’t for those memories, I wouldn’t be writing blogs about drums would I?
Ok, on to my gear. For the last 3 years I have been playing on a Pearl Reference kit, which I also bought at the Memphis Drum Shop and had a similar experience when I saw it in the window. It’s a granite sparkle 4 piece kit and I love it. I hope to never sell it. It’s pretty sentimental to me. (First tour, first music video, etc.)” -bydrummers4drummers
Ronn Dunnett of Dunnett Classic Drums, "Artifacts & Relics", October 4, 2013
Ronn Dunnett of Dunnett Classic Drums will be making an in-store appearance Friday, October 4, 2013. Ronn will be bringing lots of new drums to talk about and may also do a Live Webcast from myCymbal.com’s studios. More details to follow regarding the webcast. For more info, see below:
"A Workshop for the Modern Drummer
Think of it as the DaVinci Code for drums.
A workshop that is more than just a presentation, but a dialogue between you, your fellow drummers and myself (Dunnett Classic Drums/George Way drums). I’ll be sharing what Modern Drummer once referred to as “The Gospel according to Ronn” - a concise explanation of the architecture and mechanics of the modern acoustic drum including “tuning” and how to get the most from your drums. Unhappy with your snare drum sound? Bring your snare drum with you - your best or even better, your worst! You’ll leave with a better understanding of your drum and a better sounding drum!
There will be a substantial collection of rare and unique Dunnett Classic snare drums to check out as well: pre-production prototypes of new models, back shelf beauties (drums so unique that I had planned to keep for myself), plus a personal introduction to the new George Way Tradition model snare drums. Admission is free! I look forward to seeing you soon!