In Depth: A Long Overdue Drum Session

It’s been a long time since I have an opportunity to drum at all, nevermind at the studio, so I thought this is the perfect opportunity for a blog post.

A couple of things actually led up to this:

  1. I have a Pirate Studios voucher from my wonderful sister
  2. Want to try out my new Ear Peace hearing protection
  3. Someone actually messaged me about doing another drum post at some point

I’m not sure what said person is expecting but I thought this is better than nothing.

When I was booking my session a few days ago I immediately went for a morning slot for the slight cheaper price giving me two hours in the wonderful Studio 19 at their Digbeth studios.

In this post I will be talking about my general drum routine when I get a chance to go to the studio. I will include links to everything at the end of the post including a Spotify playlist of any music mentioned.

What do I take to the studio?

  • A drink – usually water but if I’m low on energy maybe a soft drink
  • A snack – again…energy
  • Headphones – both my Urbanears Plattan ADV Wireless and my JBL T110
  • Drumsticks (no sh*t) – I usually take two pairs of Vic Firth 85As
  • Practice pad – great to stick on the snare whilst warming up; Vic Firth 12″
  • Hearing protection – for when I am not using headphones; Ear Peace HD

The Drums

The drums at the studio aren’t actually too bad – usually. They have a range of drums in the different studios; some without cymbals. In the studio I was in the kit is a Natal five-piece with Stagg cymbals (a hi-hat, crash and ride). I tend to remove one of the toms from the kit because since I’ve been playing without I’ve actually become a better drummer.

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The hardware is basic but functional if you’re gentle with it. On an occasion I was faced with a broken kick pedal and I had to find a replacement during my paid time but usually the service and equipment here is pretty good.

Setting Up

First things first is adjusting the kit so I actually can play it. I’m very short…just pushing at 5’2″ so that is a lot of adjusting. And usually knowing my luck, the last person to play the kit is an actual giant.

Basically the snare and the hi-hat needs to go lower is the main focus; oh and the stool made taller. I then remove the unwanted tom – usually the smaller of the two – and bring the cymbals closer in just so I get an easy reach. The sticks I have are a decent length (16″) which help but I still like the ride cymbal especially to be as close as possible without getting in the way. This way I have access to the bell of the cymbal giving me a wider range of sounds.

I hit a few issues with the kit I had paid to us on this occasion. I immediately noticed the tape on the bass drum skin…I mean who would not?! There was obviously a small tear that had been patched up with a lot of tape. It was holding up the whack of the kick pedal just about but the sound wasn’t pretty.

And then there was the snare. Initially, I was impressed as the snare drum is not the usual one that’s with this kit but as soon as I struck it I knew something wasn’t right.

It sounded as if the snare was broken or faulty so I turned over the drum to check. It was an ugly sight.

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Not very impressive.

Warm Up

I like to do a few physical warm ups just to prevent any strain to my back which I have a reoccurring issue with. For a while I was drumming with a back support but I’ve got myself to a point where I don’t think that is necessary; which is good because it was restrictive.

These exercises are nothing strenuous just simply stretching out the arm, shoulder, neck and back muscles slightly so I don’t strain anything. I then do some hand warm ups, some of which were taught to me by Vijay from the Kaiser Chiefs.

Using my practice pad, I turn off the snare of the drum and stick it on top of the skin. After this I do some simple “Left, Right” exercises just to continue the warm up of my hands.

Actual Session

Today, I started with playing a couple of songs which I know well and don’t have a problem playing.

“Hole In My Soul” by Kaiser Chiefs

“Centuries” by Fall Out Boy

These are all great tracks to not only play at the beginning of a session but also experiment with. Make them all more exciting to play. I don’t play any of them like they were originally written.

I then thought of songs that I would perhaps like to learn – right now every track by Calva Louise is up there.

“Getting Closer” by Calva Louise

I chose this track to learn as not only does it have a strong, steady beat but also there are points where the drums are more active making it a very interesting song to play. So after listening to the track through once I give it a go – I tend to just delve straight in when learning songs.

Mistakes are always going to be made, it is never going to work first time, but once a track is nailed it is very rewarding.

I usually then go back to a track or two I’ve attempted to learn in previous sessions. This gives my mind a rest from the new track and let’s me mess around a bit.

“Champagne Supernova” by Oasis

“Everyday I Love You Less And Less” by Kaiser Chiefs

Neither of these tracks I have absolutely nailed yet but playing them is fun and leisurely. At the end of the day, that’s why I drum.

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Usually, I would have a crack at learning another song but due to all the faffing about trying to get the kit to be usable my plans changed.

Recently I’ve been finishing up with a track which isn’t difficult to play and is kind of the perfect “warm down” song.

“Tomorrow I Love You” by Nick J.D. Hodgson

At this point, I am usually pretty exhausted and time is coming to an end so I focus on tidying the studio up for the next person. This includes putting the tom back.

Reflection

The walk back to my flat is always a good time to reflect on the session I have just experience. I am always very chilled out after a good drum regardless of how well the session went.

Yes, there were several frustrations during the session. Not only the state of the kit but I also got a painful blister on my hand – which has never happened before – that made the session a bit difficult. However! It was actually the best I have ever drummed. I felt like for the first time in ages I made progress.

I played without caring about how well it was going. I was free.

And, my new ear pieces are awesome.

PMA – positive mental attitude.

Links:

Mentioned in this post: Spotify Playlist | Pirate Studios| Urbanears Plattan ADV Wireless | JBL T110 | Vic Firth 85As | Vic Firth 12″ Practice Pad | Ear Peace HD

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