You have been learning the basic beats without ever sitting down at a drum set! Perhaps you’ve been practising with the drum pad that you made or just by tapping on your thighs with your hands and on the floor with your feet. I think that you have been serious in practising and are able to play the different beats smoothly and without hesitation, you’re ready for the next step.
If you wish to continue, you will need an actual set of drums. If you do not have a set. my advice is to begin by renting one through your local music dealer. I do not recommend that you buy a set at this point.
Even though you have come this far, you may still lose interest in playing. Renting a set gives you a chance to decide whether or not you want to continue drumming without tying up a lot of money purchasing drums—should you decide to stop playing.
MEET THE DRUM SET
The most basic parts of a drum set are shown here. Such a set consists of a snare drum, tom-tom, floor tom-tom, bass drum, ride cymbal, and hi-hat cymbals. Each of these will be described for you in the next pages.
The snare drum, tom-tom, floor tom-tom, and ride cymbal are played with the hands. The bass drum and hi-hat are played with the feet.
The Snare Drum
The snare drum is really two drums in one because it can be made to produce two different sounds.
A set of strainers (snares) is attached to the bottom of the drum. A special switch on the side of the drum can bring the strainers tight against the bottom skin (head) or loosen them. When the strainers are tight against the bottom skin while the top skin is played upon, the vibrations cause the snare drum to produce its distinctive snare sound.
When the strainers are switched off and do not touch the bottom skin, the snare drum will sound like a high-pitched tom-tom.
You will be using both the snare sound and the tom-tom sound in learning to play certain beats. When I want the snare sound, I will ask for “Snares on,” and when I want the tom-tom sound I will ask for “Snares off.”
Notice that the bottom skin, or membrane, of the snare drum, is thinner than the top skin, the one on which you play. This is because the skin you play upon must be stronger to withstand the pounding from sticks. The thinner skin on the bottom is also necessary because it is more sensitive to the vibrations of the strainers.
You can tighten or loosen the drum skins with a special key which is fitted to the lug-heads on the sides of the snare drum. This key fits a four-sided lug head and will make you think of the key used to tighten roller skates.
When you tighten the skins, try to get equal tension all around the drum head. This will keep the drum in tune, and it will produce a more even sound.
The Bass Drum
Years ago, the bass drums were much larger and certainly more awkward to carry around than they are today. Modern drums are generally smaller and easier to handle. The average bass drum is 14 inches deep and 20 or 22 inches in circumference.
The skins of the bass drum are fastened to the shell of the drum in the same manner as those of the snare drum. The difference is that the rods which loosen or tighten the skins can usually be manipulated by hand. No key is needed. The degree of tightness or looseness depends upon the drummer. You experiment with different tensions to find the sound you prefer.
Until a few years ago drum heads were made from calfskin. An important change came when plastic was mould-ed into drum heads. This is an improvement because calfskin was easily affected by humidity. When the air was moist, the drummer had to tighten his skins periodically to keep a “crisp” sound. But with plastic heads, the drummer rarely has to tighten his heads after initial tuning because they are hardly affected by changes in humidity.
Two different tom-toms are generally used by drummers. The first is the small tom-tom, mounted on the bass drum. The other is the large tom-tom, which is placed on the floor to the right of the snare drum. The floor tom-tom has adjustable legs, and it can be raised or lowered to the height most comfortable for you. Since it is larger, it naturally has a deeper sound than the • small tom-tom.
The snare drum and the bass drum have two drum heads, one on the top and one on the bottom. You may have noticed, however, that many rock drummers use a bass drum and tom-toms that do not have a bottom head. These have a sound the drummers like.
The tom-toms are the least necessary of all drums. Unless you are a solo artist and know how to use these drums they are more for show than practical use. Until you are further along in your development as a drummer you don’t need tom-toms. They take up a lot of room and won’t be necessary for use with this book. Everything you learn will only require a bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals.
Cymbals Some drummers use an array of cymbals of differ-ent sizes. These are mounted on stands or holders around the drum set. For now you will only need one large “ride” cymbal, which can be mounted to a holder on the bass drum. This cymbal should be 18 or 20 inches in diameter.
The hi-hat, a set of two cymbals. is sometimes referred to as the “sock” cymbals. The hi-hat is usually placed to the left of the snare drum, where it is played with the left foot. When the foot presses down on the pedal, the two cymbals come together to make a “chick” sound.
The average hi-hats are 13 or 14 inches in diameter. They may, of course, be larger if the player prefers. The hi-hat can usually be taken apart so that it folds up and fits nicely into a special case which also holds the snare drum and its accessories.
If you have a hi-hat, spend some time taking it apart and then putting it together. You’ll understand after this how it is made and how it works.
SETTING UP YOUR DRUM SET
Now that you know the names of the parts of your drum set it’s time to learn how to set them up.
First, place the bass drum on the floor. Attach the spurs to each side of the front rim. The spurs will stop the round bass drum from rolling over the floor.
Now attach the foot pedal to the rim of the bass drum. The pedal has a little round beater which strikes the skin of the bass when the pedal is pushed down with your right foot. (Remember, I am assuming you are a righty. If not, you should play the opposite hand or foot and set up the drums in the reverse of the position described here.)
Hook the long cymbal holder to the right side of the bass drum shell. There is probably a piece of metal built into the drum through which the holder slides. If you find nothing on your bass drum to grasp the holder, there are cymbal holders that can be mounted on the bass or will stand on the floor. Once the holder is firmly attached, place the large ride cymbal on the top of the holder.
Open the snare drum stand and place the snare on it, then push it close to the bass drum, a little to the left of the foot pedal. The hi-hat (sock cymbals) is placed to the left of the snare drum and played with the left foot.
There you have it—the basic setup. The tom-toms are not necessary, but if you do have them, just place the large one on the floor to your right. Then mount the small one on the bass.
Meet the Drumsticks
There are several different ways to hold the drumsticks, as you probably know from watching drummers. Here, however, I will only show you one way, the “matched grip.” It is the most natural of all ways to hold the sticks. In fact, the playing of most percussion instruments requires this grip.
The basic grip is exactly the same in each hand. Hold the drumstick between your thumb and index finger.
Now, place the remaining three fingers under and around the stick. Your palms should be facing down. When you play, try to move only your wrists. Keep your arms as steady as possible.
Now that you have the drums set up in the proper position and know how to hold the sticks, have a seat. There are special drum stools you can adjust to your height. If you do not have one, sit on a chair or regular stool. You can use a pillow if you feel you have to sit higher. It will also make you more comfortable.
The snare stand and cymbal holder are adjustable. You can move them up or down until you find a comfortable height for them in relation to how you’re sitting.
Place your right foot on the bass drum pedal and your left foot on the hi-hat pedal. Pick up a pair of sticks and play. That’s right: PLAY! You’ve been reading long enough. Hit anything you want to. Make as much noise as you cant
Good! You’ve gotten rid of some frustrations and can get down to the business of learning how to apply the beats you have learned at the drum set. By the way, banging at the drums is an excellent way to get rid of aggressive feelings. When I’m mad, I often find myself going to the drums and practicing—very LOUD.
Note: Drumsticks come in many different sizes. When buying a pair, simply find two sticks that seem to be comfortable in your hands. Try to see to it that they’re of equal length and weight. This will help to produce an even sound as you play. If and when you get a private instructor, he or she will probably give you more specific advice as to what sticks to purchase. Many teachers like to start their students out with a 5A or 2B stick. You might start by asking for sticks with those numbers and see how you like them. The numbers refer to the sizes of the sticks.