Drummers are the butt of many jokes. Far too many jokes. You know the type of thing –
What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians? A drummer.
How do you know when there’s a drummer at your front door? The knocking speeds up and slows down.
What’s the last thing that a drummer says to the rest of the band? ‘Let’s try one of my songs’.
– even some drummers find them funny but it’s all rather unfair in our opinion, so we thought we’d attempt to redress the balance by producing our retro-styled ‘I Like To Bang’ t-shirt alongside a few things here that you might not know about drums and the people who play them :-
According to the Hornbostel–Sachs system of musical instrument classification a drum kit consists of a mix ofmembranophones and idiophones (as oppsed to chordophones, aerophones or electrophones). Drums are membranophones – the sound is created by a stretched membrane (in this case a drum skin or head) being hit by a stick or hand. Most percussion instruments that are not drums are idiophones – they still produce sound by being struck or hit, but have no vibrating membrane, for example a cymbal. You can’t say that you don’t learn anything here can you?
The alligator drum was used in Neolithic China, and is the earliest example of a drum so far discovered. They were made from clay and alligator hides on a wooden frame, and are are known to date back to 4100BC when it is thought that they were used in ceremonies and rituals.
There are two main ways of holding drumsticks. With Matched Grip both of the sticks are held in the same way with the thumb at the top of the stick (‘overhand’) whereas with Orthodox or Traditional Grip the snare drum is played with an ‘underhand’ grip with the drum stick resting between the thumb and index finger with the palm pointing upwards. The Orthodox Grip originated from military marching drummers who carry a snare drum hung around their neck or shoulder.
Because the drum is tilted an overhand grip would make playing difficult if not impossible. This style is very popular among jazz players although it’s also used by rockers like Stones stalwart Charlie Watts, Police man Stewart Copeland and Mick Avory of The Kinks.
In 2009 the drumming magazine ‘Rhythm’ held a poll to find who their readers thought were the most influential drummers ever. Here’s the top 10 :-
1. Buddy Rich
2. John Bonham
3. Gene Krupa
4. Ringo Starr
5. Steve Gadd
6. Stewart Copeland
7. Tony Williams
8. Keith Moon
9. Elvin Jones
10. Billy Cobham
– some very cool names there don’t you think?
Bass drums, snare drums and cymbals were originally played by separate people until the Vaudeville era of 1880s America when space constaints meant that fewer people had to play more things. Bass drums were originally played using sticks until the early part of the next century when foot pedals were used for the first time. By World War 1 bass drums had tom-toms and other percussion items fixed to them, with a ‘contraption tray’ for bells, whistles and cowbells. These were known as Trap Kits. Hi-Hats appeared in 1926 with the Trap Kit being paired down to snare, bass drum, tom-tom and floor tom soon afterwards. This set the template for the drum kit that we know and love today, and it’s still a format that is used by many drummers although much larger set-ups are common – which brings us to…
…the World’s biggest drum kit, which was assembled over a period of 20 years by Reverend Mark Temperato, who goes by the stage name of RevM. It features 813 drums, cymbals and cow bells and weighs over 2,250 kg or 5,000 lbs. To qualify for the World record all the parts of the kit had to be able to be hit from either a standing or sitting position without taking a step to either side. ‘I have dedicated a lot of hours towards building the kit but my aim is to break the 1,000 part mark’ says RevM, who is allegedly working on making the kit even bigger. And on the subject of World records Steve Gaul played for a total of 121 hours between the 5th and 11th August 2011 at The Burlington Music Centre in Ontario, Canada. Afterwards he said that the hallucinations he suffered due to sleep depravation helped him to overcome the pain. Who says drummers are mad?
On June 1, 2010 a fan uploaded film of U.S. showband Rick K. And The Allnighters playing the ZZ Top song ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ onto YouTube. Entitled ‘This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig’ the performance showcased the visually extraordinary drumming style of Steve Moore – it went viral receiving over 5 million hits in less than a month with Dream Theatre drummer Mike Portnoy tweeting ‘O MY GOD…..This guy RULES!!’ The clip has now been seen over 26 million times, and Steve has since appeared on the sitcom ‘The Office’ as well as playing at drum festivals all over the World. If you’ve not seen it then it’s well worth a look –
He loves to bang and so do we. Maybe we should send him a t-shirt?
Oh and in case you were wondering, it’s five – one to change the lightbulb and four to discuss how much better it would be if Neil Peart had changed it…