Thursday, April 2, 2020

drum lessions in the time of coronavirus

I'm happy to report that I've begun taking online drum students!

I'm keeping it basic and super-affordable (sliding scale $3-10 pay-what-you-can; no one turned away for lack of funds).
Your choice of a 15- or 30-minute lesson, focusing on any aspect of rudimental drumming you want.
My specialty is adult beginners playing or wanting to play with a community band or drum line, but I will work with teens and/or intermediate players as well.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR ACTIVE MEMBERS OF HONK! BANDS. Just show me a picture of you playing with your Honk! community band and we're good for a buck off whatever you can pay.

I will be teaching from a pad while weather keeps me in the house. When the days grow warmer I'll move outside with an actual drum if you want. All lessons available on your choice of FaceTime or Facebook Live chat.

Find me on Facebook and Private Message me if you're interested.

Monday, March 30, 2020

does vintage mean "no longer made"? Or just "old"?

Vic Firth came out with a line of practice pads some 15 years ago called the Heavy Hitter series. They were designed primarily for marching drummers, to be durable and to approximate the feel of a marching snare drum.
The current line of Heavy Hitter pads includes the Stockpad and the Slimpad, both of which I own; the different thicknesses of rubber give the two pads a different sound and feel.
I like switching back and forth depending on my mood, my hands and what I want from the pad

 The Stockpad comes with a 3/16" thick gum rubber playing surface, and is meant to approximate the feel of a drum with a Mylar head.

It's not bad, and I do like to take it with me when I want to chop out at a park or something.
It fits easily in my bag and is portable.

(Second-generation Heavy Hitters had an all-white logo; third/current generation versions come with a white and red logo. I have one from each generation.)

The Slimpad is basically the same design, only with a thinner 1/8" gum rubber playing surface designed to approximate the feel of a drum with a Kevlar head. Sometimes, if my hands are feeling warmed up enough, I actually prefer chopping on this pad. 
Vic Firth Slim Pad Heavy Hitter 12" Practice Pad - Slimpad Marching Drum Corp 1/8" Gum Rubber HHPSL
The earliest version of these pads looked like this, with the rubber covering the entire wooden platform and lettering applied to the rubber.
Heavy Hitter Stock PadVic Firth Heavy Hitter Slimpad HHPSL
Other than the visual difference, some players swear that the gum rubber compound on this first generation of pads was different, and better, than what is currently available.

One fellow has gone as far as to offer up his first generation Stockpad in trade for the same vintage in the Slimpad version. He's had no luck so far. I've offered hima s much as $50 for his Stockpad but he is not interested. I'm not willing to pay $100 for a modern-era rubber pad, so I've let it go.

But it got me thinking: How long does something have to be unavailable before we can call it "vintage"?
I have pads in my collection that are older than I am, some dating from the 1940s (when my parents were kids). I have newer pads that are no longer made but which some people call "vintage" simply because they're out of production. Depending on whom you ask -- a antiques/collectibles dealer or a drumming ebthusiast -- both may be right.

I never had a chance to try the first generation of the Stockpad. I'd certainly like to try it, but not at the price that fellow is asking

I've got enough to keep me busy, even in this time of self-isolation. Happy drumming.,\

Thursday, March 12, 2020

what is the sound of one drummer chopping?

Now that we seem to be taking COVID-19 seriously and everything is cancelling or postponing indefinitely, I must self-isolate at home for the foreseeable future.
I have autoimmune issues that require me to take some varsity-level medications. These medications partially suppress my autoimmunnity, making me more susceptible to infection than the average human. So after checking in with my doc, I'm self-isolating for at least the next two weeks, and possibly longer.
That means no band rehearsals, no gigs, no nothing with other people in the room.

What's a gal to do?
Keep playing.
Today I posted the first of what will be a series of drum videos, designed to help those new to drumming (especially in Honk! bands, which are known for not having many rudimentally-trained drummers) get a grip on basics of snare drumming.
I didn't know if there would be a need for it, I just needed something to do and a way to remain useful, so this is what I came up with,
Today's video was a rundown of a couple of the most basic drumline warmups, plus a quick look at diddles (double-bounce strokes).
I tossed it up on my band's FB page, the Honk! Bands Network page and my own FB Music page. And so far response has been positive. So I'll make some more over the next couple of weeks, toss them up and let people use them if they want.
It will keep me sane while I figure out how to deal with deep isolation and stave off boredom.

And perhaps in the longer term, it may help me connect with some good people after this mess is over.
Happy drumming!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Aurora Pad addendum

One small quirk about the Aurora pad that turns out to be disappointing:

When the pad is mounted on a drum stand and you play accented notes louder than mf-f, the snare module can fall out from the underside of the pad. (When the pad is on a tabletop this problem is not an issue.)

I will contact Offworld to see if newer generations of the pad or modules have stronger magnets.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

pad review: Offworld Visitor

A little late to the party on this, but that's because I try to find my stuff used to save money.
I'm also pickier about what I'll try and own, because no one is sending me free pads to try out.
Im neither good enough nor famous enough for that,
Fair enough.

I scored this pad and insert last week online, from two different sellers. They arrived the same day and I took some time to mess around with them.

Offworld Percussion has been making a series of smaller, lighter pads called the Aurora series.
This one, the Visitor, is from a wood platform of 9" diameter, with an 8" playing surface made of Offworld's "Darkmatter' material. It's the same material used to make their popular (and near-ubiquitous in marching circles) Invader practice pad.
More recently, they've adapted their Aurora pad to a slightly larger size in partnership with the fellas at BYOS, which they're calling the BYOSphere Pad. It features the same playing surface as the smaller Visitor, and also offers options of laminates to more closely approximate a high-tension marching snare drum. (I don't feel a need for laminates, now that I play on Mylar heads exclusively.)

Here are some photos.

The pad itself is rather lightweight for the paying surface, but it does feel and respond just like the Dark matter in my larger and much heavier Invader pad.

The back side of the pad has a recess in the plywood platform, which allows for the insertion of any of a number of accessory panels into the recess. The most popular insert is the one that provides a tight, crisp "snare" sound -- which is what I bought from the other seller.

Small, strong magnets on the back side of the insert connect with equally powerful magnets inside the recess, allowing the snare panel to fit nicely and stay put.
Once the panel is set in place, it will hold when you turn pad right-side-up again, allowing you to use it on a tabletop or on a drum stand.

Here's a preliminary video.


And since I already had the Invader pad, I decided to do a little comparison.

A couple of things I noticed right away:

1. The smaller, lighter pad is great for portability. It fits easily in my messenger bag and is light enough that bringing it along doesn't feel like a slog, especially in long walks through airport terminals.

2. You sacrifice volume and stability with this smaller pad. The original Invader is nearly 14" in diameter, and is really heavy because the entire pad is filled with "Darkmatter rubber, with a hard plastic rim that surrounds the rubber on the sides. Turning the pad over gives you another surface to play without a rim.
The Aurora Series Visitor pad is built around a plywood platform and uses a thin layer of Darkmatter rubber installed on top. This makes for a much lighter pad and changes the sound. The lightness also makes the inserts designed for it make more sense. In addition to the "snare" insert, Offworld also offers a dampening insert (for a softer sound, might be good in a hotel room); a Shaker insert (which sounds looser and "crunchier" than the Snare insert), and a Docking Station, a larger platform to offer greater stability for tabletop use (though the Docking Station can also be used with a snare drum stand if desired).

Details about all the Aurora accessories can be found HERE.

3. Another thing I noticed right away after a few strokes was that tiny particles of wood STUCK to the surface of the pad. I know that the Darkmatter material can be wiped clean with a arm, soapy water in a damp washcloth, and I suppose I could do that with my old Invader but I haven't yet. I'm going to wipe down the Visitor and see if that re-activates the "stickiness" of the rubber. If it does, then I may just let it get a little funky. I don't necessarily want my sticks to wear down quite that quickly.

Overall, I'm looking forward to traveling with this pad and trying it out in different places. If I like it enough I just might invest in another couple of inserts down the road.
It's a nice enough pad for the money that I'd recommend it, especially if you already use and like the Invader and are just looking for something more portable.
Happy drumming.

Friday, January 17, 2020

It's here: The Deco pad

The new pad arrived in today's mail.
I unwrapped it carefully and examined it for a long time before trying it out.

The pad is about the same size as many factory-made, mass-produced pads of the era.
It has thin-walled wooden sides and a curved plexiglass top mounted on a wooden base.
The pad mounted on the plexiglass is made of rubber that is quite cracked with age.

There's a steel rod running through the middle of the pad, that can be tightened or loosened to change the pitch of the pad. The notes from my research say it was originally able to change by as much as two whole tones. I won't attempt such a stretch now because of the pad's age (and the wooden sidewalls seem pretty thin).

 The sidewalls, slightly warped from use and time, do not reach the platform. There's a tiny open space at the bottom of the sidewalls to allow for the adjustment.
The thumbscrew could easily be turned farther than I feel comfortable.

I will have to guess at what other pitches might be possible. I don't mind at all.The pad is in amazing shape considering its age.
There appears to be an imprint from a decal or badge. I thought they might be lettering from a logo, but it could just as easily be squiggles of thinkly-applied glue. I just don't know.

The rubber circle, not quite 4 inches in diameter, shows a lot of cracking -- but it's also still very pliable. I played with sticks and was surprised at its bounce and response. In fact, I decided to make a little video so you can all see how lively the thing is, over fifty years after its creation.

This is one of the coolest finds ever in my quest to research and learn more about practice pad design and development. I'll keep looking to see if I can find a patent (which would be cool, since it would fill in some blanks historically and mechanically).

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Research project: "Deco" pad, 1940s

I will be taking delivery on a very distinct vintage pad sometime next week.

In advance of receiving it, I decided to begin researching its history.
I ended up going down a cool little rabbit hole, and thought I'd share.

Here's the pad.

The pad, which doesn't seem to have a brand or model name that I can find, was designed and made by Robert I. Woods in the 1940s, and sold through his local music dealer in Liverpool, NY.

What's interesting about this pad, besides its distinctive design and looks, is that it can be adjusted to change the pitch using the bolt that runs through the middle -- tightening it will give you a slightly higher pitch; loosening will lower the pitch. According to the seller, later models in the 1950s included another adjustment that allowed one to open or close side panels for a change in tone. This is an earlier model from the 1940s, before that feature was added.

Some of the pad's historic info was provided by the seller; the rest I had to go looking for.
What I found included stories about the music shop's origins and the sale of the building for conversion into condos (sigh); some hunting to determine which Robert Woods actually invented this pad (Robert I. had a son named Robert F, who was not a musician); and the history of the business where Robert I. did his inventing.

Most of this info was found by scouring the web for obituaries. You can find out quite a bit from reading someone's obituary about how they lived and what they did with their time on earth. And you don't need to pay for an Ancestry subscription, either. Many newspapers keep records of obits going back into the late 19th century. You just have to be willing to do more digging on your own, which for my money beats paying Ancestry to do it. It's more fun to do it myself, anyway.

Here's what I found about the music dealer that sold Woods' pads:

From Syracuse historical site:

Business started in 1935.
Owners Dave Gersony,  Howard Gersony
Location- 119 So. Jefferson, later moved to So. Clinton Street.
Lines- Gretsch, Martin, Fender, Haystrom, Yamaha, Ampeg,
Marshall Amps, Peavey, Polytone, Korg, Crown, JBL,
Malatchi, various sax, trombone lines, Vinyl Records (45's, Lp, 78, EP's)
Recording tape & accessories, Vinyl Records (45's. Lp, EP, 78 RPM)
Musical Instrument sales & lessons, a full serve music store.
Huge selection of Jazz Recordings
Sadly our good friend Dave Gersony passed away Aug 31, 1997

And here is what I found out about Robert I. Woods, who was an inventor, the local school band director and a lifelong musician (obituary from 1984):

Finally, digging a little further I was able to learn about Woods' employer, the Lipe Machine Shop:

(from Wikipedia)

The building became an industrial incubator after Charles E. Lipe, 29, a young Cornell University engineering graduate of the Sibley College of Mechanics in 1873 and son of a German-born farmer from Fort Plain, Montgomery County, New York, moved into the building in 1880 and set up the C. E. Lipe Machine Shop. The building was commonly known as the Lipe Shop.
The Lipe Shop was a "haven for inventors and an incubator of industries" and Lipe himself was a prolific inventor. He had invented a cigar-rolling machine, a broom making machine, motion picture equipment, automatic looms and time recorders.


Now, I didn't absolutely have to go digging this far back to get the basic facts. It would have been enough to know who invented and sold this pad. But going back further gave me a richer picture of the environment in which Woods was encouraged to innovate and invent things that would make something better out in the world. As a high school music teacher, he certainly would have seen his share of cheap practice pads that offered nothing other than a flat surface to practice on. His design added in some adjustability, and some nice design elements as well.

What's interesting (to me, at least) is that Woods doesn't appear to have registered a patent for his invention. This could be for several reasons:

-- he may have attempted to file a patent claim that was rejected because his design either copied too many aspects of someone else's or because not enough of Woods' design was considered "new" and/or "original" to be granted a separate patent;

-- he may not have had the means to file -- it costs more than applying for, say a simple copyright for a song -- but that's not likely considering his lines of work;

-- he was making them on his own time and selling them through his local music shop, which means this product was never produced on a large enough scale to go forward to patent registration and marketing beyond the Syracuse area. If that's the case, it also suggests that relatively few were made, and therefore even fewer exist today.

My money is on the last possibility.

I am hoping to find out more about this pad, but like all my vintage pads, information can be difficult to come by because practice pad innovation wasn't as big a deal as new drum designs (Remo Belli's tunable practice pad excepted).

But if any of my readers have ever seen another one of these, I would love to know about it.

I'll share more pictures and, if the pad is safely playable, a short video after it arrives.