Restoring A Vintage Olympic Drum Kit

I would highly recommend a restoration to any drummer who has some spare time. The art of dismantling, cleaning and reassembling drums helps us to understand their design and construction on a deeper level and we can gain more respect for the instrument when we put time, care and effort into bringing a drum kit back to its former glory.

This lovely little drum kit on the restoration bench belonged to the late Delvin Stonehouse – A session drummer who worked with the likes of Mike Batt of the Wombles amongst many other artists. This was his personal drum kit – An early 1960s Premier Olympic ’65’ Outfit in white silk pearl finish, which he owned from new when he was 15.

According to Delvins wife, He played with a group called ‘The Waffle’. Cutting their teeth in halls and pubs in his early career. He met and played with Mike Batt in 1968 – the band were called ‘The Fat Ladies Twin’ – with their trademark black and white jackets, they frequently performed at the Railway Inn in Eastleigh. Mike Batt formed The Wombles (Mikes mother made the Womble costumes) but Delvin fell ill with Crohn’s Disease and could no longer play as much by then so could not commit.

The drum kit had been modified over the decades, which is fairly common – especially in the 1970s when many drummers added more tom tom drums to the smaller kits of the 1960s in order to play louder, more popular rock music at the time. Some of the badges were removed and I can only speculate that this was done as to hide the identity of the drum kit as being a ‘budget’ kit. But as many vintage drum enthusiasts may know, Olympic drums were simply drum shells which were not deemed high enough a quality to be used for top line Premier drum kits – these drum shells obtain the same specifications as the top of the range but were fitted with less hardware and sold as budget drum kits.

Here is a list of the restoration work carried out on the drum kit:

General:

  • Replacement tone control knobs sourced and fitted. Aftermarket [incorrect] locations of tone control attachments were retained to prevent further drilling holes in the drum shells.
  • Original Pre-International drum heads were cleaned and reused on the 12″ and 16″ toms due to their excellent condition.
  • All shells were stripped of hardware and treated to a deep clean, polish and wax finish with Autosol. Internal wood of shells were cleaned with wood silk cleaner/Polish.
  • All chromed items cleaned by hand with wire wool and polished with autosol and buffing wheel.
  • Internal screws and nuts were de-rusted in a surfactant mix and mild abrasive rub.
  • Original bass drum pedal, hi hat stand and snare stand cleaned

Snare Drum:

  • The discus snare drum (Model 1108) is a very desirable model being only 3″ in depth with a simple snare mechanism. I cleaned and detailed this drum without stripping it in order to retain the original factory assembly. Evans heads fitted.

Bass Drum:

  • The bass drum was the worst condition shell with many after-market modifications – A Rogers Swivomatic holder had been fitted, which requires an extra hole to be drilled in the shell. A slingerland tom mount had been fitted also. All of these fittings were removed.
  • Bass drum hoops were stripped of original silver paint in favour of a natural oiled finish.
  • Mounts replaced with original replacement mounts in order to blank-off additional aftermarket holes and retain an original aesthetic.
  • Damaged spurs replaced with original replacement parts.
  • Reproduction logo sourced from Premier Drums Forum on Facebook. Aquarian double ply clear batter head fitted.

This restoration took approximately 30 hours over six months not including sourcing replacement parts. The retro look and feel of the drum kit makes for a real delight to play – the photos of the kit are excellent but this kit needs to be seen and played to fully appreciate its beauty.

The replacement parts seemed to just appear at the right time on Facebook forums without having to seek them out – maybe it was meant to be! It was a real pleasure to work on this kit and I hope Delvin would be happy with the results and that this beautiful little drum kit will give another drummer a great service for the next 50+ years.

The natural oiled finish for the bass drum hoops were inspired by both Jamie Corstorphine of the Drum Vault and Darren Hambling, who is a member of the Vintage Olympic Drums Forum on Facebook who also restored a kit of the same finish.

Additional hardware supplied by:

Tristan Head

Joe Cox

Mike Ellis

Jamie Corstorphine

DD Drums, Falkirk

www.vintageolympic.co.uk

Barkeepers Friend

Autosol

B&Q

 

How to select a drum kit for a recording session

In this first part of a series of blogs I discuss the process involved in how and why I selected the drum kit to be used for a recording session.

I will be open and honest about all of the aspects and issues of this particular studio session and my overall experience of being called upon for session work as I feel it may be of some use to fellow musicians who find themselves being called upon or who are already in the studio environment.

Firstly, I would like to say thank you to The Coaltown Daisies for asking me to drum on their second album.  I find myself in a really fortunate position to be considered as drummer for this album and also being able to choose drums from a collection of drums I’ve hoarded throughout my career.

I had envisaged using my vintage aquamarine sparkle drum kit which I had played on the artists first album back in 2013 (recording studio) and had the kit set up in my music room at home.   After receiving the tracks from the artist I set about rehearsing with that drum kit but as time went on I felt that there was just something not quite right with the kit – something about the kit was not hitting the mark for me whilst rehearsing the songs.

Vintage Premier Aquamarine Sparkle Drum Kit

I tried a few different things to change the sound and feel of the kit such as using calf skin heads on the toms, thinking it would offer a nice tonal difference to the previous recordings.  Several types of bass drum heads, mufflers, snare drums and other gadgets started appearing in the music room but the unknown element missing from the sound of the kit was becoming increasingly frustrating.

I had recently acquired a black marine pearl Premier vintage drum kit which I was using in my tuition room and decided to remove the silencing pads and tune it up and as I played this kit more and more it just felt great and sounded fantastic.  I swapped out the aquamarine kit for the black marine pearl kit, which has a larger bass drum and floor tom and replaced the heads with Remo ambassadors.

The matching snare drum for the kit needed a reskin also so I went with what I knew best for these Royal Ace snare drums and that was an Aquarian Modern Vintage head.  This snare drum and head combination provides a focused snap in the centre of the drum and a warm overtone as it’s played towards the outer circumference.

This was definitely the kit for the album so I took it home and swapped it for another vintage kit to be used in the studio whilst the aquamarine kit went into storage until it is needed again. Getting the black marine pearl kit home and set up in our music room seemed to re-ignite a flame in me which helped motivate me to both practice and have fun on the drums. The sound of the drums was of such quality that I felt confident in the overall sound I was producing as I played which in turn boosted my creativity and experimentation in music.

Vintage Premier Black Marine Pearl Drum Kit at the Recording Studio in 2018

The set up was simple with four drums and four cymbals. This newfound ‘simple and quality’ approach began to have an effect on my work ethic, which in turn felt like it began to light up and energise my performance for the tracks during the rehearsals.

Drummers View of the studio set up 2018

In the next part of this blog I’ll chat about my rehearsal process for the album. All the challenges and how we managed to overcome them.

Thank you for reading my blog – feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions regarding drumming!

Drum Practice Makes Progress – An Introduction

Drum Practice Makes Progress - Scott Burrell Drums Drummers Drumming

Practice does not make perfect – this idiom makes for what may be an unrealistic goal.  Get the most out of your drum practice by changing your approach:

Practice Makes Progress

Changing one crucial word for a more pro-active word can make a huge difference to the approach and attitude of drummers towards practising.

This is the first in a series of blogs which aims to discuss the various issues regarding practice.  This blog aims to introduce and discuss some of the issues faced by drummers when it comes to practising.

It can be challenging to carry out a ‘successful’ drum practice session. This may be down to a number of factors both singularly and together; lack of motivation, not setting realistic goals for the session or just not having time – distractions can sometimes get in the way of your drum practice and motivation may be adversely affected.

Over my experience as both a drummer and a tutor, I have often encountered what I call ‘The Troublesome Trio’ – the three most common excuses drummers use for not putting in the time and energy needed to effectively progress.

‘I don’t know / can’t remember what I need to practice…’

‘I haven’t had time to practice…’

‘I find it difficult to practice and end up playing along to songs I like…’

I understand that due to the vastness of material, studies, books and concepts in drumming, it is impossible to practice every aspect of drumming in one session – but it is important to practice what aspects you feel need the most attention.

To really observe your strengths and weaknesses and take action to progress is key to both setting goals and working to success.  A good tutor will assist you in analysing your needs and setting goals for your drum practice sessions.  I would suggest writing out your goals to help make them more tangible and also to enable you to look back at a later date.

As a general rule and for the purposes of this introductory blog, I would recommend firstly to set time aside for drum practice – Commit to it and make sure you divide your time into three equal chunks:

  1. Start your drum practice with a warm up session which should consist of rudimentary and numeric exercises firstly to waken up the hands, feet and mind.
  2. Now you’re warmed up it’s time to get stuck in to material you don’t know – the challenges you currently face may be tough at first but always remember: The more you practice – the stronger you will become
  3. After challenging yourself, finish off by playing material you do know and love to play – be it your favourite song/band/solo – it is healthy to finish up on a positive note which can help with motivating yourself for the next session.

What you may find in time is that the challenges in section two will gradually start entering section three and may even become your warm up!

Remember it is OK to sound rough when you are practising – Practice Makes Progess

Stay tuned for more in-depth material regarding the art of practising!

Thanks for reading – have a great drum practice!

Scott

Drummer Survival Kit

Thomas Lang ponders a drumming catastrophe
Thomas Lang ponders a drumming catastrophe

With frequent gigging comes potential equipment emergencies. Being prepared can be the best course of action to reduce/prevent sticky situations during live performances.  Many drummers may not have the luxury of a drum tech to look after equipment so it’s wise to compile a Drummer Survival Kit to take on the road with you.  Here’s what’s in mine:

Drum Key
The ‘key’ item in the survival kit – a basic square headed drum key for tuning drums, loosening/tightening/repositioning hardware – even if you carry one with you closely, always have a spare in the kit – these things have legs and can often run away.

Approx £4-6 from dD Drums

Gaffer /Duct Tape
A roll of black or silver duct tape is essential (or for the more fashion-conscious drummer out there – This). Prevent tripping over cables by taping them down to the floor. Tape up wobbly stands, Patch up broken drum heads quickly. On one occasion I constructed a make-shift Hi Hat clutch from this wonderful stuff, which is why I now recommend having the next item in your Drummer Survival Kit.

Approx £5 from B&Q

Spare Hi Hat Clutch
A simple slim-line Hi Hat clutch can be a life-saver at a gig. When on an intense touring schedule – things can be left behind and trust me, there are not many things which feel worse at a gig than not having a functioning Hi Hat. Invest and thank me later.

Approx £10-15 from dD Drums

Stubby Multi Screwdriver
Ratchet-type with Flat and Cross Head bits – incredibly handy when you need to screw stuff.

Approx £5 from B&Q

Combination Pliers
Useful for nuts and bolts and the ‘snipping’ section may be handy too.

Approx £5 from B&Q

Allan Key Set
Hardware and pedals are littered with tiny little grub screws which can seriously affect functionality if they loosen off.

Approx £5 from B&Q

Spare Snare Drum Head
Don’t leave the house without at least one of these. Period.

Approx £15 from dD Drums

Spare Drum Sticks
I have a pair in my car, in my partners car, in the bands PA desk case, at my tuition room, in the garden, in the toilet – you get me?

Approx £10 from dD Drums

Cymbal Sleeves & Felts
Those pesky little darkly coloured felts which drop onto the stage when your setting-up or breaking down… they roll off into oblivion never to be seen again whilst you are on your hands and knees around your guitarists feet with a magnifying glass – no thanks!

Approx £5 from dD Drums

Wingnuts
As a Gibraltar hardware user, a great design feature is interchangeable wingnuts, from rack fittings to cymbal tops, the wingnuts are mostly the same thread. Carrying a few spare will prevent you ‘winging-it’ and going ‘nuts’.

Approx £3 for set of 2 from Rattle & Drum

Small Bottle 3-in-1 Oil
Zap squeaky pedals, springs and chains in a few drops. A thin coating of the oil to bare components can help prevent them rusting in your hardware bag and it’ll make you smell like a person who knows technical stuff.

Approx £3 from B&Q

Micro Fibre Cloths
Wipe down grubby fingerprints from your gear, wipe you sweaty post-gig brow, divide cymbals in cases. Cloths are just great.

Approx £1 from most supermarkets

Snare Cord/Tape
Tape can be cut from an old drum head in 1/2″ x 6″ strips. Nylon cord can be purchased in 1 metre lengths from hardware stores. Practice marine knots during soundcheck.

Approx £1 from most hardware stores

Black Sharpie Pen
Doodling, marking, set lists. They smell great too.

Approx £1 from ScrewFix

Small First Aid Kit
What good is an injured drummer? A compact pouch of essential plasters, gauze tape and cleaning wipes for cuts, abrasions and general bumps. Fingers can get pretty gnarled-up while setting up drums and hardware so look after yourself out there!

Approx £2 from The Safety Supply Company

The costs start to add up for the Drummer Survival Kit, but I can guarantee these costs outweigh the headache of a stranded drummer with broken equipment.  You may feel that you wont need everything I’ve recommended here and that is absolutely fine as long as you are confident in your equipment! There may be some other things you would benefit from having in your Drummer Survival Kit – Mini Torch, Rubber Duck? Whatever it is, be sure to keep it handy and be confident that you are prepared for the unexpected with your Drummer Survival Kit.

Have a great gig!

Scott

Prices are approximate – I have no affiliation with any product manufacturers or merchants mentioned in this post – Links to websites operational on 01/02/2017 – Photo: Thomas Lang & Sonor Drums