Drums

The Art of Rhythm

“There isn’t time to teach a lifetime of music to kids who don’t know a drumset is an instrument. Not a donkey for freeloader, horn-happy soloists to ride tempo on, because it’s easier to listen to drums beat out tempo, wrong or right, than it is to think for yourself the tempo a musician like Danny or Elvin suggests to you; yet not too obviously.”

Charles Mingus
(Liner notes excerpt from: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady)

I grew up wanting to be a drummer like all of the rock & roll drum heroes of my day, e.g. Peart, Bonham, Moon, etc. But when I began studying the jazz approach to the drumset, learning the instrument’s tone and multiple voicings as well as the technique of playing it, a whole new world opened up for my playing, as well as my approach to all other forms of music. I then grew to appreciate drummers like Tony Williams, Omar Hakim, Casey Schelierell and Manu Katche (just to name a few). These were guys who understood how to subtly enhance a song with their playing, and not stomp all over it.

It would be fair to call me a fusion player- but I simply try to walk-on to any playing opportunity with an open mind and a desire to say something, via my instruments, that enhances the song and is undeniably my voice.


The 7-Piece Set

SG’s “Big Set”

Drums
Yamaha Maple Custom series

  • Toms: 8″, 10″, 12″, 14″ & 16″
    w/Remo clear “Pinstripe” series heads
  • Kick: 22″
  • Snare: 13×5 ” Dave Weckyl signature

Cymbals
Zildjian A Custom Series

  • 13″ HiHats
  • 22″ Ping Ride
  • 19″ Crash
  • 17″ Crash
  • 15″ Crash
  • 22″ Swish
  • 14″ Oriental w/10″ Splash inside

Sticks
Typically by Vic Firth

  • 5A Wood Tip
  • 5A Nylon Tip

The 5-Piece “Fusion” Set

SG’s 5-Piece “Fusion Set”

Drums
Yamaha Maple Custom Advantage

  • Toms: 8″, 10″ & 14″ w/Remo clear “Pinstripe” series heads
  • Kick: 18″
  • Snare: 13×5″ Dave Weckyl signature

Cymbals
Zildjian K Custom Series

  • 13″ Dark HiHats
  • 20″ Dry Ride
  • 20″ Dark Ride
  • 20″ Medium Ride w/rivets
  • 18″ Dark Crash
  • 8″ Splash

Sticks
Typically by Vic Firth or RegalTip

  • 5A Wood Tip
  • Steve Gadd Signature

The 5-Piece “Rawk” Set

SG’s 5-Piece “Rawk Set”

Drums
Yamaha Maple Custom series

  • Toms: 10″, 14″ & 18″ w/Remo coated “Ambassador” series heads
  • Kick: 22″
  • Snare: 14×6, Yamaha’s “Anton Fig” signature (not pictured here)

Cymbals
Zildjian A Custom Series

  • 14″ HiHats
  • 22″ Ping Ride
  • 19″ Crash
  • 17″ Crash
  • 15″ Crash
  • 22″ Swish
  • 14″ Oriental w/10″ Splash inside

Sticks
Typically by Vic Firth

  • 5A Wood Tip
  • 5B Wood Tip

The “Jazz” Set

SG’s “Jazz Set”

Drums
Yamaha Maple Custom Series

  • Toms: 10″ & 14″ w/Remo coated “Ambassador” series heads
  • Kick: 18″ or 20″
  • Snare: 14×6″ Simon Grant Springer

Cymbals
Zildjian K Custom Series

  • 13″ Dark HiHats
  • 20″ Dry Ride
  • 20″ Dark Ride
  • 20″ Medium Ride w/rivets
  • 18″ Dark Crash
  • 8″ Splash

Sticks
Typically by Vic Firth or RegalTip

  • 5A Wood Tip
  • Peter Erskine Signature

Electronic Integration

DrumKat DK-10

In all of the live and studio performances with Disjunkt- I brought a whole spectrum of samples and sound FX to the mix by integrating a Kat DK-10 pad into my drum set. This particular pad is only a MIDI controller (i.e. no internal sounds), so it was patched through an Alesis D4 drum sound module, then daisy chained through an EMu ESI 4000 and a vintage Simmons sound module.

In addition to the DK-10, I could also access the sound samples with triggers (by DDrum) mounted on the acoustic drums. You can actually see these triggers in the “7-Piece” drum set picture above (you’ll see those little red devices attached to the rims).

While I mainly used the electronics with Disjunkt, I have also managed to fit them in to many other forums once in a while; but they were mainly an SG signature in the Disjunkt sound.


Secret Weapons

The Simon Grant Springer Snare

The Simon Grant “Springer” Snare Drum

I originally set out to build a sound FX snare but when I got this far I found that I really loved the tone of this instrument so I left it as you see it. It’s an old Gretsch metal shell with after-market die-cast hoops. Rather than traditional lugs- I have used heavy duty springs to pull the hoops together; this leaves the shell floating for excellent resonance. Due to the spring strength- there is very high tension on these rims and the head tension is really even around the circumference of the head; causing a very solid, well-balanced tone with no sour spots.

This drum is not tunable, it has one head tension and tone can only be set by head choice. The typical head setup for this drum is a coated Remo Emperor on the batter side, and a clear Remo Diplomat on the snare side.


Deagan Roundtop Bells

SG’s Deagan Roundtop Bells

One tool I have found handy is my Deagan Bells. This is one percussion instrument that will punch through any wall of sound. They offer a unique tone that really doesn’t compete with any of the traditional instruments you find in a non-classical ensemble.

In this music link- you can hear these bells at the end of this intro track; listen for them around 2:19 on the time counter…

Fantastica (Disjunkt)

Mallets, Brushes and Specialty Stix

SG’s Assorted Specialty Stix

So as your grasp of the fundamentals of drumset playing grows- you may eventually want to try variations in your sound and technique. One of the simplest and more challenging ways to do this is to integrate different types of specialty sticks into your bag. Shown here- I always have a few differnt types of brushes, a set of mallets and usually a pair of Blastix.

Brush Playing Samples

Bird of Paradox (Disjunkt)
030405-05 (Subspace Transmission)

Mallet Playing Samples

Minor You (Rik Wright)

Tuning Key

Drum Keys

Nothing is more important in any music ensemble than being “in-tune”. All players must ensure their instrument is tuned to a common standard and that their intonation, as they play, is consistent with the rest of the group. Many drummers don’t know this- but this rule applies to them too.

Every drum has the ability to be tuned and on most drums you accomplish this by using a “drum key” aka: tuning key. In addition to tuning your drums- these keys are generally also used for adjusting many of the mechanical settings on your drum set’s hardware. I mention this important little accessory because I am constantly amazed at how many drummers are out there performing with no drum key. I have personally given out about one hundred of these little guys over the years; usually because some yahoo was fumbling around, cursing at his equipment because he needed to make an adjustment or fix a broken hardware component and had no key. Of course you can guess what his drumset sounded like too.

Which brings me to my next point: Drums are tuned by adjusting the tension on the heads (top and bottom!). If you tune your drums with duct tape or some kind of “gel-stick” you’re missing out on what your drums are supposed to sound like. And I’m here to tell you that unless your drums have some kind of manufacturing defect- all drums are tunable.

Drum Key & Mini Flashlight

As a Recording Engineer- I was taught and mentored by several people whose careers ranged from the ‘1950’s through the ’80’s, and through them I learned that it was common practice to use duct tape and even cotton balls under duct tape just to get the “ring” out of a tom or snare. This is what happens when you let a soundman tell you how to tune your drums. You can eliminate ring and achieve great tone if you tune your drums correctly.

Once you’re out of the garage and gigging regularly- you will find it helpful to keep several keys in your setup. I like to keep a key in my pocket (the loaner) and one on a lanyard where I also keep a tiny flashlight and my tour access card. The flashlight is for foot pedal adjustments which only seem to be needed on-stage and there is never enough light down behind the kick drum.