When was the last time you visited a music store or drum shop?
If you’re like me, you’re probably spending less and less time hanging and talking shop with other local drummers and musicians while picking up a new pair of sticks because of how convenient it is these days to order that stuff online. Heck, the bulk of my vintage collection came from scouring eBay, Musician’s Friend, Reverb, and other auction websites.
I hadn’t thought much about how apathetic I’d become in regards to supporting independent drum retailers until this past year, when I started booking drum clinics around the east coast. The first event was at Philadelphia Drum & Percussion, which is a super-cool spot in northeast Philly that’s set up more like an art gallery than a retail store, with an emphasis on boutique and/or limited snares and kits by A&F, RBH, Keplinger, Sugar Percussion, and others, as well as choice cymbals from Bosphorus, Sabian, Zildjian, and Meinl, plus hip accessories like the Reflexx CP1 practice pad, Snareweight M80 dampener, and Low Boy beaters. The storeowner, Brandon, is one of the most knowledgeable guys I know when it comes to getting the scoop on what’s hot—and what’s not.
The next place I visited was a hybrid drum school/retail space in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, called EPIC Percussion. The folks there are doing great things to provide top-notch education to young, aspiring percussionists, and co-owner Mike Wrench is helping children and adults with disabilities through his drumming-centric Upbeat Outreach program. I also took a trip back to my hometown of Frederick, Maryland, to give a workshop at Make ’N’ Music, which is the store where I spent many hours as a teenager drooling over the latest Zildjian cymbals and DW pedals, usually after getting schooled on the Joe Morello methods of drumming by the great teacher Keith McMichael. I hadn’t been inside Make ’N’ Music for many years— probably not since I picked up my first professional drumset from them: a limited edition Premier Signia kit with a dark walnut stain and gold-plated hardware. (I still have that kit, and it still knocks me out like it did back in 1997.) But I was thrilled to see that many of the same people still work there, and the shop remains stocked with tons of fun gear. They also added a really nice performance room in the back, providing the perfect professional yet casual atmosphere for my clinic.
On the way back to New Jersey, I stopped by Woodland Percussion, which is a custom shop and retail space located about a half hour west of Wilmington, Delaware, in the little town of Avondale, Pennsylvania. Like Brandon at Philly Drum, Woodland’s owner, Allan Fausnaught, has focused his inventory on harder-to-find boutique items, like Sweet Spot machined-aluminum hi-hat clutches, Big Fat Snare Drum mutes, Spinbal cymbal spinners, One Beat Better practice pads, Booty Shaker tom isolators, Drumtacs dampener pads, KBrakes bass drum anchors, NickyMoon custom cymbals, and Tackle Instrument cases. Alan also keeps a stock of handmade stave-shell snares, kits, cajons, shakers, and claves that he builds from a variety of woods, including reclaimed local pine. (Visit woodlandpercussion.com to check out some of his handiwork. The Black Out Birch series snares really caught my attention.) Everyone who came out to these clinics was super supportive and eager to learn. I hope they left inspired to spend a few more minutes on their kits that day; I know I did. If you find yourself near one of these stores, or any drum shop for that matter, do yourself a favor and pop in for a visit. The real-world drum community is waiting for you!