In between shows with the bands I play with, and/or if there’s a bit of a break in the flurry of activity, as part of my practice I’ll pick a handful of cover tunes to work through. I find this helps me emulate playing with a band; a skill all to itself really, just as important (if not more so) as mechanical technique, rudiments and stickings, especially if your focus is performing within a band context. I pick songs for different reasons; sometimes there’s an interesting groove or feel I want to explore, maybe some challenging fills or patterns, and often it’s just because they’re fun tunes to play along to.
As any drummer I have many, many influences but identify with a short list of specific drummers that really made an impact on my playing at some stage. We all have those, players that affected us is such a lasting way technically, feel, motivation or emotionally, that you listen and absorb everything you can about their playing in an attempt to understand what they did or how they approached their drum craft. This is the way with all arts and skilled crafts and I never intend of ~not~ viewing myself as a student of everything.
When I first heard Scott Rockenfield of Queensryche way back in 1983/84, everything changed for me. I was already in to more “progressive” music like RUSH and Iron Maiden, but there was something uniquely innovative, regal and orchestrated about his drumming, it spoke to me at that unknown deeper level that only music and rhythmic vibration can. Scott Rockenfield became one of my main drum inspirations and influences during my formative years. I remember back in the 80’s playing and creating with my band at the time, thinking, “Hmmm, what would Scott do here ?”
So, the past week as I was pondering some new songs to play through, Queensryche’s “Rage for Order” 1986 release popped up on my iPod (one of my fav QR releases to be honest). Sweet ! So I decided, you know what, I’m gonna play through the entire release and not just ‘play over’ the songs, but make it a task to really analyze the parts as played to pick up some Rockenfield gems.
One song that immediately grabbed me was “The Whisper”. I’ve linked a live version from 2014 below, this song captures the genius of Scott Rockenfield. The song itself is in 6/8 (however you choose to count or feel it) but the manner in which Scott and band phrases the 6 is bloody brilliant and creates an aural texture that belies how creative music can be in conveying a feeling or thought.
Normally in a 6/8 vibe, drummers play straight 8ths on the hihat or ride, 1-2-3 4-5-6 (1-ta-ta 2-ta-ta) with a snare downbeat on 4 and kick on 1 and 6 – a common variation is accenting the start of each triplet grouping, the 1 and 4 on the hihat or ride for a half-time feel. That’s the deal, if you open the universal drummer rule book it says, ‘If playing 6/8, do straight 8th notes on the hihat or ride, the accepted alternative is 1 and 4, the beginning of each 3 note triplet group’. That’s just how it works, lol.
What does Scott Rockenfield do in “The Whisper” ? He plays a 2, 4 and 6 pulse !. He’s playing the ‘upbeats’ on his hihat in the verse, which takes some practice to do in a 6/8 groove while maintaing the same kick and snare pattern. It’s quite clever and creates a unique feel within a common time signature. Besides the defacto 4/4, the 6/8 is probably the most common signature in rock/blues based music.
As you listen to the verse sections below pay attention to how ‘stuttered’ and ‘choppy’ it feels as the guitars and bass accent just a few beats, it creates a tense anticipation in the song as it moves forward. Then as the verse transitions to the chorus, Scott Rockenfield moves back to a more tradition feel accenting 1 and 4. That verse-chorus transition itself makes it feel like the song opens up and releases any tension stored up during the verse, like a building orgasm hitting the point of no return and releasing. (ha ! – had to put that in there). Post chorus, Scott does a tasty ride pattern to gradually make a transition back to the ‘choppy’ upbeat 2, 4 and 6 in the verse.
It’s all very subtle, but holy crap, how amazingly creative and a great example of how a slight phrasing difference can make a huge difference if a band is open to being a bit more creative.
Both the Gibraltar and REMO variants of these ‘Quick Release’ style of hi-hat clutches provide the same similar advantages:
Both eliminate the screw on/off bottom mechanism
Both make hi-hat change outs quick and easy
Both are stable, reliable designs and eliminate hi-hat cymbal loosening scenarios.
I have both of these clutches and have used both extensively in working and touring environments. The Gibraltar has a “push” ball bearing spring mechanism, while the REMO has a “twist-notch-pin” sort of release. Each unit has the standard pair of hi-hat cymbal felts. Up top things are slightly different. The Gibraltar has your normal pair of counter turning screws to fine tune how freely you’d like your hi-hat cymbal to be, and the wing screw to clamp the clutch on to the hih-at rod uses an ‘eyelet’ gripper (which is quite nice and will not score your hi hat rod). The REMO similarly has felts, but uses a single spring assisted screw assembly for adjusting the hi hat cymbal freedom, this is excellent and stays in place better than the normal counter turning screws in my opinion. The REMO has a standard wing screw that screws against the hi-hat rod keeping the clutch in place. Both are constructed extremely well and I’ve not experienced a failure with either one.
For me quite honestly, I’m not a spring chicken any more and as any musician will attest to, whether playing a seedy club or nicer venue – most times you’re setting up and tearing down in less-than-optimal lighting. The ability to pop on hi-hat cymbals without having to fumble, drop and scurry around looking for that darn bottom clutch screw is a life saver ! Additionally, both of these are easy and FAST to manipulate, no more unscrewing a locking nut, then screwing it back on, tightening an extra drum key bolt, adjusting the tightness of the cymbal, etc… Either push or twist, put the cymbal on, push or twist the quick-release back on, Done ! Either clutch eliminates the occasional mishap when you may have forgotten to tighten something and the bottom screw loosens causing the the hi-hat cymbal to work itself free. Seriously, how many times have you been stomping and beating the crap out of your hi-hat and it happen, you hear that SCHLOP and quickly realize the bottom nut of the clutch came undone and your hi-hat is now in drop-clutch mode until the song is done. Must have accessory in my book !
Would I recommend one over the other ? Hmmmm…. tough call. Both will suite your needs. Myself I normally use the Remo QuickLock, mainly due to the spring based assembly for adjusting the cymbal freedom, I really like that on the Remo. However, if it comes down to budget, the Gibraltar Quick Release will save you about $10 and do just as good a job, AND the ‘eyelet’ rod gripper and overall build on the Gibraltar is beefier.
The New Mapex SONIClear Bearing Edge is awesome – but there’s a conversion about drum heads that everyone is avoiding.
Up front let me clarify that as in any blog or review, the content is solely ~my~ opinion and observation based on my collective experiences and perceptions. I am not an endorsed artist and do not currently represent any manufacturers in an official capacity. I do from time to time receive items from companies to check out and review – but that’s rare and it comes with absolutely no obligation to be biased towards gear received.
I have played Mapex Drums for a long, long time. I love their drums and hardware and have purchased two kits from them; I have a 20 year old Mapex Mars Pro kit that still kicks major rear end to this day, and I have a new Mapex Saturn IV kit that’s absolutely exquisite and sounds amazing. Mapex is one of those manufacturers that no only builds great stuff, (one of the few companies offering ‘lifetime warranty’ on their shells to the original purchaser) they’re also continually pushing the envelope in drum and hardware development.
This year Mapex introduced their new Mapex SONICLear Bearing Edge as one of their new advancements in shell design. You can read more specifics at their site and/or the video below, but essentially they’ve modified their bearing edges to incorporate a slightly different profile allowing the drum head to sit nice and flat, preventing that annoying head wobble. Mapex put a lot of thought and research in to this obviously, not only solving the head wobble issue, but also creating a bearing edge that allows for more head-to-shell contact which results in cleaner tone, less overtones and a wider range of tuning capability. This a a huge win for every drummer looking to get a great drum sound simply and quickly. My hats off to Mapex, they constantly lead the way.
This all sounds great, right ? And it is… so what’s the ‘conversation everyone is avoiding’ ?? Well, here’s the thing, and again this is just my opinion and observation, take it with a grain of salt and it should in no way take away from the excellent work Mapex has done.
There is only ONE drum head manufacturer whose heads have that wobble when seating their products. Yes, there, I went ahead and said it. Flame me all you want, but it’s the truth. Let’s look at the head manufacturers that do ~not~ have this issue and just focus on the wobble.
Since their inception decades ago Aquarian Drumheads by design have always seated perfectly flat and evenly on any shell or bearing edge. They pioneered that fit with their ‘Sound Curve’ collar design and wobble has never been an issue with Aquarian heads. They manufacturer top quality, great sounding heads.
Recently (past 2 years) Evans Drumheads introduced their new ‘Level 360‘ head design – what’s that about you may ask ? They redesigned their collar allowing the drum head to sit evenly on the bearing edge, thus eliminating the wobble – no issue with Evans any more. (In fact I love their new heads so much I have a review up on their new Evans Heavyweight Snare Drum Head).
So, no problem with Aquarian; No problem with Evans; that leaves only one of the major three drum head manufacturers, you can figure that out on your own. They are the only head manufacturer with this wobble issue when seating a drum head. That being said, they also produce amazing quality heads, no denying that – I personally just wish they’d advance their design a bit.
Now, there’s all sorts of rebuttal of why they still use a collar design that causes the ‘wobble’ – it allows the head to conform to the shell, sitting perfectly even and flat isn’t the only factor in tone, marketing hype, etc. – in the end it comes down to results. I can take an Evans or Aquarian head, seat it & have it perfectly tuned quickly, easily with a wider range of tuning capability and a lot less tuning-drop after initial use. That’s the working drummer brass tac’s.
Should this take away from the improvement Mapex has done with their SONIClear Bearing Edge ? Absolutely not ! Regardless of what heads you use or my personal opinion of head manufacturers, the Mapex SONIClear is going to give drummers a much better drum sound, achieved a lot easier !
To Rack or not Rack – Racks vs Stands – That is the Question.
To add back context to this – I love using a drum rack; My preference would be to use a rack in all scenarios. For many years I’ve used Gibraltar Racks on my own setups and also adore Pearl ICON Racks. Most drum manufacturers offer some sort of rack system these days. Whether stationary in a practice room/studio, or in live environments, I think they offer the best stability, setup flexibility and replication available to a drummer. Whether you play a massive kit and are reducing overall hardware footprint or you’re playing a smaller 5 piece kit, racks are downright ~da bomb~ !
All that being said, I’ve switched to an all stand setup and have been using it for about a year or so now. What ? Why would I switch to individual stands if I prefer racks ? Two reasons: 1. Total number of metal pieces to transport, and 2. Ability to quickly and easily move kit off stage without extra assistance.
To break down point numeral uno, for my gig kit I’d use a simple two post Gibraltar front rack, and then a single stand on my right side for extra accessories and a china. That front rack and single side stand equates to (4) pieces of metal to haul – (2) vertical posts, (1) horizontal bar and the (1) side stand. Enter the Gibraltar 9613PM 3-Mount Platform stands; Each stand is designed to natively mount three items, and with extra clamps they can easily handle four or five items. I could replace my (4) pieces of metal (the front rack and side stand) with just (3) of these Gibraltar stands, maintain setup integrity and although the Gibraltar 3-Mount stands are individually heavier than rack bars, I prefer to carry more weight if it means less items and trips to the car. Three individual stands versus four pieces for the rack/stand combo meant one less thing to lug around and keep track of. Winner = Stands.
On point numeral deuce, I’m a working drummer, I gig a lot. Most shows I do are venues where we play a 40-60 minute set and have 5-7 minutes for stage changes, which means your kit is pre-setup & staged off stage somewhere with rack populated with tom(s) and cymbals. With that amount of weight you need someone to help you move the rack, which can take time to either wait for another band member or wrangle someone to help. With stands I can easily handle those myself since each stand may only have a few cymbals and a tom. Setups and change outs are a lot quicker with stands and I don’t need to find assistance. Winner = Stands.
Mind you, on a decent tour with a crew and decent transport, forget about it, I’d run with a rack, but for the individual working schmuck handling his own gear – stands for me (for the time being).