Whether you march with an uber-modern DCI corps or your community band, summer is the time to play outside!
And so I've been readying myself and my gear.
1. The heads that came with my Ludwig drum were, along with the snare hardware, pretty beat. The snare-side head had a hole almost as big as my pinky finger. It wasn't too close to the edge of the shell or I would've replaced it sooner. Still, when I noticed a split forming in the batter head -- a CS black dot that was almost as old as the drum -- I decided to bite the bullet and replace both heads.
2. While I was at it, the original strainer mechanism was beginning to fall apart. The tensioning screws for each individual snare had fallen out, and a few snares were missing. The remainder were showing a little surface rust. So after pondering my options, I replaced the entire thing with something simple and more modern (Gibraltar, for all its plainness, sells excellent, serviceable parts that stand up well to daily use). After all, this was never going to be a showpiece. I bought it as a player and the random scratches in the finish never bothered me. I got some trade-in on the parts at Revival, and the new hardware went on fairly easily. I only had to drill new holes for the butt plate.
3. I finally managed to re-shape the steel leg rest I'd scored, so that it would fit my older, larger thigh. (Don't blame that on weight-gain; my quads are a lot bigger now from all that cycling then they were when I was fourteen, and the platform had to be spread a little.)
Early 1970s Ludwig 10 x 14" marching snare, with angle bar and new heads and strainer.
Mylar heads are tuned lower, meaning that the player has to do a little of the rebound work themselves. But if you tune the batter head a little high than the snare head, you'll get a crisp, dark sound that those of us of a certain age still know and love.
4. Next up: Sticks. After trying several different makes and models, I finally took my friend Mary's advice and went with the Vic Firth Jeff Queen signature model. Although Jeff designed it as a "solo" stick, honestly it's a fine ensemble stick, especially for smaller hands and for use on Mylar heads. With my arthritis, it's the stick I've kept coming back to. So when I pulled out my sticks after my last band practice and saw the telltale ridge (see photos), I knew it was time to buy new sticks and wrap them in fresh tape.
The ritual used to go like this: I'd go to the music shop, spend about half an hour finding two sticks of the same model that matched in pitch (in those days I'd settle for 1/4 to 1/2-step apart if I had to); then begging the shop owner for a quantity break on 4 pairs (he almost always said no, unless he'd just smoked a bowl), and then taking them home and setting out the stuff I'd need to wrap each pair in a fresh layer of white electrical tape. In high school, this would be trimmed in thin stripes of royal blue tape at both ends to make the sticks match our school colors. (In corps we didn't bother with trim, because the snare line went through sticks too quickly on tour. I swear, sometimes they'd tape up new show sticks every two to three days.)
I'm mostly packed for Honk! weekend, and looking forward to a great time playing live in the streets of South Seattle this weekend. I'm playing with the Unpresidented Brass Band. If you read this blog and come to the festival, find our band and say hello.