Last summer my family and I decided to move out of the house we’d been living in for thirteen years, and into a new one. Among other things, the old place didn’t have a basement, and the jazz-size drumkit we kept in the family room prevented all five of us from being able to sit and watch TV at the same time.
By move-in day, I’d pretty much forgotten what the other rooms in the new house even looked like, but that basement…. I’d spent hours since we first saw it obsessing over exactly where I would put the drums, guitars, keyboards, and amps that I’d accumulated over the years, but that I was never able to set up in our old home.
I went down to my unfinished, underground haven-in-the-making, and started setting up my drumset, which I could finally blow out the way I wanted: Rototoms, 27″ China, electronic pads, 10″ and 12″ aux snares…. As I dug through my box full of multiclamps, I thought to myself, This is going to be great!
When I sat behind my elaborate new setup and began to play, though, I noticed that all those extra pieces forced my kit to expand farther away from my body. It was actually uncomfortable reaching for certain things. I began to think about Brandon Greene’s current series in MD on Drumset Ergonomics, and that perhaps I should give the articles another read so that I could better adapt to this setup.
I also realized something that I knew in my heart but chose to ignore in the run-up to the set-up: Adding a bunch of new targets is not always a recipe for artistic tastefulness. It changed the way I played, and not for the better. What a bummer!
The next week I was editing the manuscript to this month’s Inside Methods piece on L.A. studio whiz Aaron Sterling, who describes having several sonically distinct setups at hand for various musical purposes, and I thought, That’s the ticket. Rather than create some monstrosity with little practical purpose, how about setting up two different-sounding kits, each sort of tricked out with specific accessories that support its artistic purpose.
So I set up my son’s Pearl kit, tuned it to a thuddy ’70s vibe, and added my big China, Paiste Giant Beats, and Rototoms. Then next to them I set up my old Slingerlands, cranked the heads, and put the two aux snares where the rack toms would go. Immediately things got interesting; I found myself inspired as much by the kits’ unique sounds as I was by their inherent limitations.
Another benefit: Having two kits set up and ready to go meant that not only could I jam with my drummer friends whenever they came by, but my son and I could hash it out together. Times like those can be hard to come by in a busy household, and they inevitably turn into special memories. I also suspect my wife will want in—when the spirit hits, she’s been known to put the limb-independence and rhythm skills she learned as a modern-dance student to gleeful use at the drums. And there’s not much in the world that I enjoy more than watching my wife play drums.
So, two big lessons were learned. First: Sometimes things turn out even better than you imagine if you just flip the script. And second—well, we all know that one: more drumsets, happier life.