Frequently asked questions...
What sticks are right for me?
Sticks come in a variety of lengths, thickness’, materials and tip shapes. Choose a stick to suit your hand size, and the volume and style of music and you are playing. Heavier sticks give more volume than lighter ones. The type of wood affects the weight of the stick; Maple is light, Hickory medium weight and Oak heavy. There are also ‘indestructible’ metal sticks available, personally I don’t like their bounce, sound and feel. The style of tip also influences the sound the stick gives, especially on the cymbals. There are beaded tips, arrow tips, ball tips and every style in-between, and of course plastic tips.
Sticks are graded to give an indication of their size although, rather like clothe sizes, this varies between different manufacturers. Here is a guide to the standard numbering system:
7A (Jazz) Very light and thin. For playing quiet songs and suitable for younger players.
6A Light. Versatile, usually with a ball tip.
5A Medium weight. A good all-round stick.
5B (Rock) A bit heavier and thicker than 5A’s, good for playing loud rock.
2A Heavy and thick.
As you can see, with such a variety available you have to try a few pairs before deciding which model suits you. It is important to have a variety of sticks in your stick bag so you are ready for any musical situation you may encounter as well as a pair of brushes, hot-rods and ‘mops’ (timpani sticks).
What type of drum kit is right for me?
A good kit to buy for most people, would be a standard 5-piece 'Rock' kit. This would include:
• Drums: 22” Bass Drum, 14” Snare Drum (Wood or Metal), 12” & 13” Rack Toms, 16” Floor tom
• Hardwear: 2X Cymbal stands, Hi-Hat stand, Snare stand, Bass Drum Pedal, Stool
• Cymbals: 1 pair of 14”Hi-hats, 1X 16” crash cymbal, 1X 20” Ride cymbal
To this you can add any number of cymbals, tom-toms, cowbells, mounted tambourines etc.
For younger/smaller players, and those who usually play quieter music, smaller ‘Fusion’ sizes are also available, with a 20” Bass drum and 10”, 12” & 14” Rack toms. Some players use even smaller ‘Jazz’ sizes, typically with an 18” Bass drum and 12” rack and 14” floor tom which can likewise might suit younger players.
Cymbals are bought separately. Starter budget-range packs cost about £100 for 14” Hi-hats, 16” Crash & 20” Ride, beyond that there mid-range packs are also available. Professional cymbals are sold separately. The main manufacturers are Zildlian, Sabian and Paiste. Typically a pair of Hi-hats @ £250, Crashes @£120 and Rides @ £200 each.
Kits can be bought from a music shop (new or second hand) or second hand through advertisements in local papers and of course ebay. New kits can be bought from @£300, but I find the quality of these kits to be poor and that they have very little resale value.
If buying new I would recommend the Pearl Export or Yamaha Stage Custom which cost @£700 including stool & Cymbals. These are better quality and will give you years of use and are usually made using several plies of cheaper wood covered with vinyl.
Other reputable manufacturers to look out for when buying a kit are DW, Arbitor, Gretch, Tama, Sonor, Remo, Slingerland, Ayotte, Mapex & Rogers. There is a good second hand market for these kits, where a 5 years old kit can be bought for about £400.
A Professionals Kit would total @ £2000-£3000 and are made with quality woods such as Maple, Beech, Birch or Oak or and coated with several layers of lacquer.
I also recommend buying cases for your kit & cymbals, these can cost from @£120 but are vital to protect your investment when transporting you kit.
If noise and space are a problem, there are a few options.
Firstly, electronic kits. These pack away to save on space and make allot less noise than an acoustic kit as they can be listened to through headphones. Please be aware that if played in an up-stairs room, you will likely hear a thump in the room below due to the bass pedal. They can be an excellent learning tool, as most kits have clicks and recorded songs to play along with. Some electronic kits now come with mesh heads, more of which later. They start at around £700 for a Roland or Yamaha.
Secondly, Flats kits and the Pearl Rhythm Traveller. The Flats kits are like a real drum kit with real heads but no shells, this means that they sit allot closer to wall and fold up to take very little space. They do make a noise though as they are real drumheads. It is possible to convert a Flats kit into a silent practice kit by using mesh heads. These feel like real drum heads but are made of a plastic mesh, which let air through, so therefore don’t move the air around to create a sound wave. These can be bought separately. The Flats kit makes for a good practice kit (with or without Mesh heads) and can still be used for band practice. These kits are @ £350 not including cymbals. The Pearl Rhythm Traveller is like a real drum kit with shell less deep than usual and comes with both real heads and mesh heads for all drums. It also comes with cymbals (cheap ones) with silencer pads. I haven’t seen one of these as yet, but it does sound like a good solution for those who want a first kit and practice kit in one. They are @£400.
Third, a real kit with silencing pads. Sound Off make a good range of silencing pads. They are made from a thick rubber similar to a divers wet suit. A set for a full kit, drums and cymbals, is @ £60.
Can I Take Drum Kit Exams?
It is possible to take Exams for the Drum Kit in contemporary styles: Pop, Rock, Funk, Jazz, Latin etc.
I teach the Rockschool Course as it is most popular with my pupils. The course ranges from Grade 1 to 8.
In an exam students are required to play 3 pieces along to a backing track as well as being tested on their reading, technical and aural skills. There is also a preparatory Performance only grade, Debut. I have entered pupils for Debut from 10 years old.
I have entered many of my pupils for the Rockschool exams right up to Grade 8.
In May 2004 I entered myself for the Grade 8 (The highest Grade). I passed with Distinction (94%)- scoring the highest mark of the year and was awarded the Excellence in Performance Award 2004.
I also help many of my pupils to prepare for GCSE and A level performances.