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!

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