Sunday, December 30, 2018

Cool little drum pad -- buy this and support youth music!

So I've got myself a cool little pad (New, NOT vintage, sorry), made and sold by a drum corps called Jersey Surf. Unlike many drum corps in this all-too modern era, Surf remains a volunteer-driven organization, which means everything they raise goes directly into equipping, feeding and transporting the corps during their summer tour.  (There are drum corps today whose senior staff members pull down huge salaries. Most volunteer-driven corps have much lower staff salaries and it's a labor of love. The latter are getting harder to find at the top levels of the activity.)

I ordered my pad as soon as they were made available this winter. After all, it would make a nice addition to my collection, and the price ($12) was right.

I've been enjoying my little pad since it arrived. It has two sides: one side is made from a mousepad the corps sold last year. They had extras and decided to repurpose them for these pads. (repurposing makes Surf a drum corps after my own crunchy-granola, PNW environmentalist heart.)

The mousepad side is a little harder and tighter, and makes you work a little more to get decent diddles and rolls. And it's SO clean-sounding that there's nowhere for your lazy technique to hide.
You'll hear every note whether you want to or not.

The other side is a hard, dense rubber that's only slightly thicker than the mousepad. It's also a fairly hard surface, but without as much "bite" as the mousepad side. Both surfaces are glued securely to a particle-board platform. The whole pad fits easily into my messenger bag and therefore is a pad I take with me anywhere. Below is an example of how this little pad sounds and plays.

This is not a super-high-performance drum pad. (For that, spend the bigger bucks and get a Xymox or Offworld pad.)
Instead, this is the pad to reach for when you find yourself with five minutes of downtime and you need to play a few rolls to calm your squirrel-brain. Or the pad to keep at the office when a vendor puts you on hold for too long. Or the pad to take to beach with you so that you can chop out while you stare at the waves and go all Zen-like. (One of my favorite pursuits, BTW)

I'm taking mine on tour next month when I go do some singer-songwriter gigs in Seattle. Because it's the perfect size to travel with and for what it is, it's not bad at all.

There are still some available at the corps web store:
Every purchase supports youth music.
Which I know you absolutely WANT to do.
Happy chopping, kids!
And all the best to you and yours in 2019.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

And sometimes I just chop out

Several months ago I began drumming a little bit every morning, primarily as a way to establish a daily morning mindfulness practice that did NOT require me to sit still and go "ohmmm..."
Because I just can't.

Since then, I've made it a point to sit at home, or bring along a drum pad and sticks when I travel, and carve out a few minutes each morning to "drumitate".

I start slowly, single alternating strokes placed carefully in the center of the pad. I gradually speed up, staying relaxed and never letting tension come into my hands, writs or arms. After five full minutes of that, I'm ready to play around with some rudimental stuff I already know for another five to ten minutes. Then, I'll pull up something new I'm in the process of working up and trying to get into my hands. Finally, I'll go back to a familiar exercise and finish up with that, shake out my hands gently, and get on with my morning.

The whole thing takes about 20 minutes and it's a nice way to wake up.

Special shout-out to the nice folks at Marching Percussion 101 FB group for giving me new exercises, tips and inspiration.
Happy chopping, kids.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Pad du Jour: "Swingmaster" training sticks by Cappella

More fun from the elusive Cappella drum company.

These "practice" sticks are heavy. They're meant to be. Basically a 5B stick made of solid aluminum, wrapped in layers of rubber and intended for use only on a rubber practice pad (they'd destroy an actual drum).
Designed to give arms, wrists and hands a real "workout" by applying more resistance, these sticks are almost uncomfortable to use after just a couple of minutes of slow, careful warmups. And to avoid any risk of injury, I can only use them with matched grip.

One online reviewer insisted that he gave all if his drum students these sticks, and deemed then an ideal stand-in for drumming on a pillow. Assuming his students were kids, I'm not sure this was an ideal practice, especially for anyone younger than high school age. The sticks are that heavy.

They were made by the Cappella drumstick company and were last sold anywhere over a dozen years ago; at least that's when the last online reviews date from.

Definitely a bit of an oddity for my collection, but also a great conversation piece for the wall rack.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

It's here! 1940s (?) Slingerland Radio King pad

 Look what came to my house today!
Carefully wrapped, and beautiful to behold.

I had been waiting for this with baited breath ever since I bought it online from a vintage music dealer.

The pad measures just a tiny bit bigger than my two Ludwig pads, similarly designed but twenty to thirty years newer.

The rubber on this pad is in pretty good shape for its age. I have every reason to believe it's original; it's not glued down, but held in place by deep metal staples in the corners.
 This is a gorgeous pad. The headbadge, I've since learned, was specific to the practice pad and was not used on Slingerland drums from the era.

I'm not certain that the stand is original to the pad. The mounting holes are drilling off-center and use wing nuts to attach the pad to the stand.
It's highly possible that the pad and stand were purchased separately and then brought together later.
Below: A little video I made tonight, using smaller vintage sticks (1970 Regal 5B) and playing something more old-school in feel just because it felt right at the time.

This is now the oldest pad in my collection. But I am always on the lookout for older pads and documentation.

(One thing I've noticed is that the construction is a tiny bit loose in one corner, and if I play too loudly I can hear it.
I don't know if I will try to remedy this, or just let it be. I'm in no rush to decide.)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

pad du jour: 1955-ish WFL aluminum pad ("Way Best")

While I await the arrival of my Slingerland pad, here's another tidbit from my existing collection. WFL pad, mid-1950s. It's hard to confirm an exact year because a practice pad design would be carried over (depending on its popularity, materials on hand needing to be used up, etc.) for a few years. The earliest example of this exact design I could find was in a 1955 WFL catalog (courtesy of the growing files over at My pad does not include a mounting bracket. Another of this design include a fixture for attachment to a stand; presumably a second, perhaps newer mold would have needed to be made.

One-piece aluminum molded construction makes for a lightweight but reasonably strong framework on which to affix a rubber playing surface.

The tiny rubber feet on my pad are still in great shape, allowing me to use this pad on a tabletop.

The page below, from the 1955 Slingerland catalog, calls the pad (upper right corner) by the name "Way Best," probably a reference to drummer George Way, who worked for Leedy and Ludwig on and off and on again from the 1920s through the 1950s. Way was known as an innovator of drums and drum technology; one of his most famous contributions was the invention of the floating head hoop, a design still in use today.

WFL was a separate company founded by William F. Ludwig; when Leedy and Ludwig was let go by its parent company in the late 50s, William Ludwig and his son bought the trademark to solidify his hold on the brand and eventually changed the company name from WFL to Ludwig.)

It's not clear why this pad was named "Way Best" in the catalog. It may have been a nod to Way, which in light of the way he was treated seems unlikely; or it was a way to add the cache of the Way name to a product to boost sales without having to pay Way anything for the use of his name. (If you're really interested, you can read this version of how Way got screwed by the drum industry. It doesn't put the industry in the best light, but retail in general has been something of a quagmire for centuries anyway.)

(Note: The name "Way Best" only appears in the catalog and not on the pad itself.)

The video I took shows what the pad sounds like on the tabletop, and also on top of another pad (which also prevents slipping).
It's a fun little pad to play, though the hardening of the 60-year-old playing surface makes for a less forgiving experience. Not a daily player by any means.

Fellow vintage drum enthusiasts will find the web site a great resource for filling in blanks about make and model of many drums. For practice pads, it's not quite as reliable due to both the overlap of manufacture dates and the number of companies making pads and stamping them with a larger companie's logo), though it can be helpful from time to time.

Happy drumming!

Friday, December 14, 2018

coming soon...

Yes. Really. I gulped hard, made an offer, and the seller accepted. YAAAAAAAS. This baby is going to become my oldest pad yet. Already looking for patent/design/historical info. Stay tuned. 

Postscript: The 88-year-old guy in the previous vblog post is playing on THIS SAME make and model of pad! Look closely. This pad is HUGE and deep and it sounds great for its age.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Simpson "Tomahawk" Training sticks, 1960s

I'd seen pictures of these on the internet in my research, and when I had a chance to buy a pair, I jumped on it. The sticks and their system of rubber balancing rings were designed in 1962 by Allan Simpson Jr. and awarded a patent two years later. Without the rubber rings, there's really not anything remarkable about the sticks; even the carved "notches" have been seen on other drumsticks.
But Simpson designed his notches to take a set or adjustable rubber rings. Move the rings forward and back along the stick, into the notches provided, and you could ostensibly change the balance and feel of the stick. As you can see in the photos below, these are designed to be used with traditional grip only, which would have been the preferred grip in Simpson's time.

Below is the illustration of the system from Simpson's patent application:
The sticks I purchased were New-Old-Stock from a music store that had been bought out some years ago. My sticks arrived without any packaging or instructions. Online research hasn't turned up any photos of someone actually using these sticks, so I had to read the patent application to know which stick is meant for which hand.
 The sticks measure 17" long and are around the same diameter as a pair of 2S marching sticks. The wood is lighter, and the tips considerably bigger than most modern rudimental sticks.
 Playing on a rubber pad caused no problems, though if you want to really slam it out these are not the sticks for you. They definitely have a lighter touch because of their lighter weight. They also make the unfortunate model name ("Tomahawk") seem a little incongruous.

Right hand position:
Left hand position:
There is a web URL for Tomahawk Training sticks, however, the link is not functional. I've found no other information on the manufacturer or on any other designs Simpson may have patented. I also don't know how long this stick was available. I've seen other Tomahawk sticks for sale on the web but don't know how many were actually made. It's a mystery, and an interesting one at that.
Fellow drum geeks are welcome to share additional info with me.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pad du Jour: Beato "Stealth" pad by Cappella

Cappella Percussion, in addition to manufacturing sticks under other companies' brands, also made practice pads for other companies.
Beato -- which once upon a time, had its name on practice pads, drumsticks (I vaguely remember owning a pair of maple Beato sticks in high school) and accessories -- contracted with Cappella to make a practice pad for them. Cappella made a few different models of pad and imprinted them with the Beato brand.

This pad, sold under the model name "Stealth", is a recent acquisition for me from an online auction. Like the other Cappella pad (mentioned last week), it's made from a slightly lighter weight wood platform than most wood-block pads.

 It came still wrapped in its bag.

I decided to remove it but will save the packaging.

Inside were papers with the old Cappella web site (, no longer a valid web address.

The pad is slightly heavier than the Rite-Touch, though not as heavy as more modern rubber-on-wood pads like RealFeel.

It also uses a closed-cell rubber foam, rather than a more solid gum rubber pad. The foam on the Stealth pad is denser than the material on either side of the Rite-Touch, but it still encourages the player to do some of the work on balancing rebounds and rolls.
Once I got used to it, I actually enjoyed playing on it even more than on the Rite-Touch. There's enough "there" there to let the sticks bounce a little more, but not obnoxiously so.
The angle of the wedge is not extreme, but it's just enough to provide a good slant for traditional grip playing.

The size makes for great portability.

Sadly, the pad itself is prone to slipping on a tabletop, because the tiny rubber "feet" are not grippy enough to keep the pad in place, especially when playing louder than mezzo-forte.

Even placing this pad on top of another larger rubber pad doesn't help very much (as you'll see in the video below). All things considered, this is not a terrible pad and would be quiet enough to use in a hotel room or backstage to warm up on.

Video below.

Stay tuned. More pads on the way!