When it comes to gear, Jerusalem-born/Nashville-based session drummer Nir Zidkyahu, whose ultra-precise, intense pocket can be heard on hit records by pop/rock great John Mayer, alt-rock legend Chris Cornell, and modern country superstar Blake Shelton, isn’t too particular, as long as he has a sturdy seat. “The older I get, the more I care that the drum stool is comfortable,” he says. ”I’ve been using the Porter & Davies [BC2] throne. It’s a great monitor system, and I think it makes you play better.”
To keep the engine in the BC2 from punching too much bass into his rear end, Nir opts to place the microphone that feeds the system in a position that captures more of the natural resonance of the entire drumkit. “I find it weird to feel just the bass drum,” he says. “So I’ll put the microphone off to the side of the floor tom, facing the kick drum. That’s a sweet spot that gives me enough of the kick, plus there’s more of the toms and some of the snare. Or I’ll place it really low, beneath the ride cymbal, facing the shell of the bass drum and the floor.”
To be prepared for any type of session, Nir likes to fill his cymbal bag with contrasting colors. “I’ll have at least two pairs of hi-hats. One will be dark and old-school, and one will be more hi-fi. I like Sabian Legacy and Manhattan hi-hats. And when I need something to cut through, I like the Evolutions. For rides, I’ll have a heavy Legacy and a light Artisan. Those cover pretty much everything. Most recordings end up becoming so bright and crispy, so darker Artisan crashes are my first choice.”
When asked to pick his three must-have snare drums, Nir favors a couple of new Sonor models, as well as a classic Ludwig. “The 5.75×14 Sonor Vintage series Beech snare is one of the best wood drums I’ve ever played,” he says. “It’s very versatile. It sounds good in a variety of tunings, and it’s extremely dynamic. It’s beautiful for light brush playing and ghost notes, and it has a very warm crack when you go for a heavy backbeat.
“But the snare that’s taken over everything is Sonor’s 6.5×14 Bell Bronze,” Nir continues. “When I first got that drum, it sat on the stand in my studio for about six months, and I never changed it. It’s incredible. My third choice would be a vintage Ludwig Acrolite. There’s a sweet spot with that drum that you can’t get from any other.”
To get what he refers to as that super-deep “potato bag sound” from his Acrolite, Nir covers part of the head with a cheap Home Depot shop towel. “I’ve found that the red ones sound best,” he says with a laugh.
Nir’s stick bag is always stocked with his signature Innovative Percussion model, which has a fairly thick grip and a small, jewel-shaped tip. “I try to divide them into two different weights: medium-heavy and medium-light,” he says. “That way I can grab whichever feels best for a particular song. I also usually have two pairs of brushes—one with heavy wires and one with light wires. Plus I bring some of the other weird sticks that [Innovation Percussion] makes. Then I’ll throw in some drum keys and the Promark Cymbal Sizzler, which always does the job.
“Even though it’s been about five years since I quite smoking, I’m still chewing Nicorette,” Nir continues. “So I have to have a box of that in there. And I know I’ll sound like an old man, but I carry a massage stick and a massage ball so I can massage my own back anytime I need to.
“Other essentials are gaffer’s tape, Moon Gel, and a towel,” he concludes. “And I try to remember to carry some protein bars so I can take a bite between songs. When you’re working in the studio, it’s easy to forget to eat, which isn’t healthy. And of course, I always carry my Direct Sound Extreme Isolation EX-29 headphones.”
• Porter & Davies BC2 throne
• Sabian Legacy, Manhattan, and Evolution hi-hats; heavy Legacy and light Artisan rides; dark Artisan crashes
• Sonor 5.75×14 Vintage Beech, Sonor 6.5×14 Bell Bronze, and vintage Ludwig Acrolite snares
• Home Depot shop towel for snare muffling
• Innovative Percussion signature sticks
• Promark Cymbal Sizzler
• massage stick and massage ball
• Moon Gel
• protein bars
• Direct Sound Extreme Isolation EX-29 headphones