Common Drummer Mistakes: Part 3 – Thinking A Piece Of Gear Will Solve A Problem

3. Thinking a piece of gear will solve a problem.
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‘I’ve been messing around in my studio for 8 years or so… I’ve tried every mic placement, every tuning, every drum head… every this, every that. Always thinking i’m going to discover the holy grail. It didn’t open up until i realised i need to focus on my touch. I need to focus on my time. I need to focus on my inner dynamics, then i was like OH THERE IT IS!’.Mike Dawson (Managing Editor – Modern Drummer Magazine), Speaking on 180 Drums Podcast.

‘So I got to sit at his (Steve Jordan) kit before he got there… so I got to hit his drums. They sounded like drums’.Mike Dawson

‘Mo Gear… Mo Problems’Notorious BIG.

Okay so the last one, not a direct quote. But you get the idea.
Again I don’t want to be Debbie Downer on this article but here’s the facts…
Buying the ‘Steve Jordan Snare’ will NOT make you sound like Steve Jordan. Buying Jojo Mayer’s sticks will NOT make you play like Jojo. Buying Questlove’s cymbals will NOT make you sound like Questlove.
Gear has almost nothing to do with it. Those drums, sticks and cymbals are really great and nice pieces of equipment. And I AM an advocate of good quality, functional gear…. But don’t be fooled.

Drumheads: Evans, Remo, Aquarian… good. They all make great heads.
Drums: Tama, Pearl, Ludwig, Q, Yamaha… fine, whatever. It all works great.
Cymbals: Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian… yup they all sound like cymbals.

Great drummers transform gear. You and I could sit at Steve Gadd’s kit, hit around and look at each other ‘huh… big deal?’
Gadd sits down and it sounds amazing. I have heard this from too many engineers and seen it myself. It’s not voodoo or in your imagination. People hit drums differently, tune differently, and have wildly different ability levels.
Seeing my instructor at music school play a crappy kit and MY cymbals was a revelation.
‘Ohhhhh so I do have perfectly good cymbals…. I just can’t play…’

Tip: Get someone else to play gear you are interested in. Stand out front and listen. Remember this is where the crowd and rest of the band are! Drums sound really different from the throne compared to the bass player’s position or the front row of the crowd.

If you are an experienced drummer and you hear a sound or flavour you like. If you realise that something will genuinely enhance your drumming, then that is a legitimate purchase.

Here’s the thing, and i see/hear this almost everyday teaching on my basic 4 piece set up:
– ‘I can’t play this without a mid tom.’
– ‘I can’t play this without my own sticks.’
– ‘I can’t practise this at home because i don’t have 2 crashes.’

You have to leave that amateur night at the Apollo attitude behind. You get a big audition, there’s a very good chance you won’t be on your kit. The band/MD/Manager won’t want to wait for you to adjust the whole kit to your exact specs. It just looks like you can’t play.
Need an extra tom to play all your fills? You haven’t learnt fills. You’ve learnt patterns like a robot. You need to be able to play those fills on 3 toms, 2 toms, 1 tom and NO tom.

G. A. S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). It never stops. New types of gear get released every day.
NEVER think gear will solve a problem.

My advice (for what it’s worth):
– Don’t get caught up in the marketing hype. Get solid gear and begin to find what you want to hear. Only you can be you. Not even Vinnie Colaiuta can be you!

– Use the minimum amount of gear to get the job done. If i’m out and see a guy playing kick, snare, hats. I don’t think ‘this guy sucks, where’s the rest of the kit!?’
I straight away think ‘Dam! This guy can cut a whole gig on just that!? I wanna check this out.’
I also understand instantly, this player is experienced. He’s not into lugging a 9-piece kit out to a bar gig.

– The more ‘stuff’ you have in your rig, the more you are going to feel like you need to hit that 6 inch splash and roto tom set up. BEWARE!

– If you can’t say what you need to say with 2 toms, you definitely don’t need 3.

Instead of spending $1000 on that incredible new snare, spend it on drum lessons with the best teacher you can find. In this day and age $1000 is better spent on many other things that could be far more beneficial to your drumming. Laptop, Pro Tools, Sibelius, video editing software, practise room hire.

I’m a drummer and i find beautiful snares/rides/hats as irresistible as anyone. Just know it won’t change anything. Not in any meaningful way. You are getting retail therapy and not improving your drumming.

* You WILL regret certain gear sales over your drumming career!
‘Wait… my first kit came with a Supraphonic LM400? And i swapped it for that!?’

I honestly believe there is something to be said for beating your first kit into submission. Heads are all pitted. Kick pedal can barely take another stroke. You practised tuning. You got your seat and tom heights worked out. People spilt beer all over it at gigs (or Coca Cola at School shows!). You worked hard and the wear and tear on the kit is showing it.
You organically wore out the kit. This is the right time to upgrade.

Take Care!

Catch ya’ll on part 4!

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