Sunday, July 18, 2010


Life, that is, for the working blues or rock drummer. There comes a time in the life of most working drummers that they begin to slow their gigs down for two reasons: lateness of gigs and hauling drums and drum hardware. I say hauling because you often don't carry or tote or bring with you drums and the stands that go with them. You haul those often heavy parcels and load them in.

Always envious of the guitarist, who could load in and out in one trip, if they had a cart for their amp, or at most two trips. Pity the drummer loading in and out four or five drums (and loading them in and out of cases) plus heavy metal hardware like cymbal stands, snare stand, high hat stand, throne stand and perhaps a tom stand. Add to that items like a throne seat, bass drum pedal, stick bag, gig rug, cymbal bag and other stuff, you're making five or six trips if someone is helping you load in/out.

Allow me to suggest a few load lessoning trip tips. After years of drumming, mostly in Houston and Austin but other places as well, I found I was playing two basic types of places. Either places where the drums were miked by the house PA people with their gear, or smaller rooms where they didn't want a ROCK AND ROLL sound, they wanted a moderate rocking sound at a medium level.

I saw Frosty playing a be-bop sized Fibes kit, and marveled at how he had stripped it to the basics for lots of gigging. Frosty had a goal of having a kit that would fit in the trunk of his car.

For those who don't know, a be-bop kit infers the type of smaller drumkit used with be-bop jazz, and other jazz music like trios. Certain drum engineer types claim you are going to get the best sound out of an 14" x 18" bass drum for either recording or miking, and lots of stars seem to agree.

For instance, although through his career with Bad Company, Simon Kirke played a black, Bonhamish sized Ludwig kit. 14" x 26" bass drum. 10" x 14" wing tom. 16" x 16" floor. That was what you always saw him playing live or on TV.

The Ludwig ads at the time said "Simon Kirke plays Ludwig". But in reality, he recorded at least the first Bad Co. album on a Gretsch be-bop set, not his mammoth Ludwigs. Lots of other endorsing drummers have done this as well over the decades. But even then, it was well rumored that Bonham DID actually play Ludwigs on their recordings, with ONLY two mikes on the kit, directly out front.

So folks like me of course had to have a larger bass drum at that time, as did many folks. I didn't go to the 26", mainly because it was just too much to haul around. I did go with a 24", which had a bit more umph than a 22".

So when I heard Frosty just laying into his Fibes bop kit, I was amazed. There were no drum mikes at the joint I heard him at in Austin, yet he was right there in the mix, and although it wasn't at ROCK AND ROLL sound levels, it was certainly at a comfortably loud club volume level for live music. It was a large room, and the only thing going through the PA was the vocals.

As I've said before, Frosty is hardly your average drummer. He is still a force to be reckoned with behind the kit, who can just do amazing things, incredibly fast things while doing a different rhythm with each of his 4 limbs. And sometimes blowing a whistle in there too.

But for a guy like me, who at the beginning of the 2000's had launched into a second career of club gigging. Many of my former bandmates were still around, and getting gigs was no problem. Nice gigs with nice folks playing lots of blues music.

So all of this drum hauling was wearing on me. I was toting a Tempus kit, which is lightweight by drum standards but still big and you still had the hardware problem, which was lots of heavy stands.

Over the years, I had been able to accumulate some lightweight aluminum stands by Gibraltar and Sonor, and used those with some other stuff. With three or four cymbals, a tom stand, a myriad of percussion items and either one or two wing toms, I was toting a lot of stuff. Even a dolly and an SKB stand case didn't help too much, cause I still had too much stuff.

So I traded some stuff and got a be bop kit of my own. It had a great sound, and was in great shape. Almost standard Be-Bop sizes: 15" x 18" bass, 14" x 14" floor and 8" x 12" tom, then I added a 5" x 14" Slingerland Niles black badge snare drum with a black covering that I got for $100 and a LP mini-timbale (8").

I mounted the timbale on an elongated LP cowbell mounting bracket that mounts off of the bass drum hoop, effectively allowing you to position a mini-timbale over the bass drum and between the snare and floor tom, inside of where the ride cymbal resides. Thus, with your right hand you can access floor tom, ride/crash cymbal, cowbell, mini-timbale and reach over to the snare when needed. Everything on the left side of the body (hats, snare, crash) is taken care of by the left side of the body.

So with the purchase of a small folding luggage rack, I could load my smaller drums onto a rolling rack, with the cymbal bag on top of the bass drum and behind the floor and wing tom in the stack. I'd wedge the Yamaha rectangular mesh throne seat behind the toms as well.

That's one trip in and out.

With the SKB rolling stand case. since I was only using four cymbals total (2 hihat, one crash, one ride/crash), I had less stands. The tom was mounted off one of the cymbal stands on a DW bracket residing on a RIMS. In my SKB case, I carried the following:
1. DW Pedal in small padded case
2. 2 cymbal stands fully extended, one with tom holder attached (both aluminum with steel tom attachments)
3. 1 hi hat stand (Gibraltar AX series-aluminum)
4. One Tama single braced snare stand from the 80's
5. Some extra sticks, just in case
6. a small parts and repair bag
7. 1 throne stand bottom
8. 1 gig rug in bag
9. Floor tom legs
10. Small bag containing extension cord, surge protector, extension mic cables, and a roll of duct tape.
11. A padded small bag that holds the below-mentioned cow bell wrapped in a t-shirt inside the bottom of the timbale.
12. The timbale cowbell mount.
13. 1 lightweight microphone stand for the DAT mic.

That's two trips in and out. Versus five or more otherwise.

I also threw a 3" Toca cow bell on top of the stand holding the mini-timbale. It's quite loud for it's size, and is plenty loud for what I need. I tend to throw a lot of latin accents into my music, and although I started using timbales in drumset playing in high school, I learned much about what could be done on them, again, from watching Frosty gig with tons of bands.

With personal stuff like water, DAT recorder, etc, inside a backpack, I can load in and out in two trips with this rig, or one trip if it's not over bad terrain. I can wheel both items to the club door and get someone to watch it while I get my ride and pull up next to the door if playing at a busy locale with no real load in/out door where you load out the front door, or wheel to my car if parked nearby.

When playing Johnny Finz in Austin on Lake Travis at a floating marina, I had to park way far away from the marina but an employee would tote you from the parking lot to the stage in a golf cart. I was able to sit in the back of the cart with one rolling gear cart in each hand, and she took me up near the stage. Same thing on the load out as well. Quick and easy.

I'll add it's a benefit too when staying at hotels/motels following a gig. It's a big hassle hauling gear up on the rolling luggage racks hotels have (if you're lucky), or hauling them in by hand with no cart.

Using my carts, I can make two trips into the hotel or one if helped by a doorman. Since I have a medium large SUV with folddown seats, I can leave the drums on the cart and just slide them into the back of the ride, as with the 48" long SKB rolling stand case.

I've been known to leave the SKB stand case in the car, covered by a black sheet (my suv has a dark interior and the black sheet all but makes it invisible) depending on my security feel for the location or how close I'm parked to the front door.

I never leave my drums or cymbals in the car. Ever.

Another tip with black sheets in an suv like mine with a dark interior is that when on the way to a gig, if you have to stop somewhere, no one can see what's in the back of the ride. Even with light window tinting, the black sheet over the drum cases and stand case just makes them invisible from outside the ride. A big theft deterrent in my mind, although I never try to eat anywhere going to or from a gig where i can't see my parked car.

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