Mega Tom Rolls
I've been playing drums now for almost 18 years, and have been steadily collecting gear for most of that time. I've also been extremely fortunate to have a higher-than-average income level that has allowed me to spend most of my 20s splurging on gear like a idiot. In addition, many of my drumming heros have always been hard-rock and metal monster-players of the 80s and 90s like Danny Carey, Vinny Paul, Dave Lombardo, Igor Cavalera, Gene Hoglan and more recently Neal Peart, Chris Pennie and Brann Dailor. In that tradition, I have always sought after the big kit so I could do all those crazy fills I heard and have a richness of sound that went with that music (I never found something that sounds quite like that high-crack you hear in fills on Roots and Chaos A.D. I think it's some variation on either an Octobon or a Timbale).
So, my kit has gotten big. With 5 toms and 9 cymbals, there's a lot of stuff up there. Granted, I got all that stuff with good intentions; I actually put the 10" tom to the left of the hi-hat, and came up with some interesting patterns and fills I used in the new material that let me move my hand all the way over there to challenge myself. We've been very impressed with the sound of it in early recording tests as well. The blasting, present tone produced by the bubinga shells does an excellent job of cutting though the Burning of I wall of guitars, and Matt is creating rough mixes that already sound better than Nowhere is a Destination's final mix with minimal effort. Especially the 24" kick. It's like driving a V8. It has all the power and punch you'd expect out of a triggered sound, except it's real and doesn't have that stupid clicky machine sound (I could probably never pass an audition for Nile, Hate Eternal or the Black Dahlia Murder).
However, I've found an interesting thing out the few times I've played other people's kits the last few months; I seem to be better on them. Just jamming around, I found I came up with more interesting patterns and combinations on kits with less stuff. I think it goes along with a sort of life discovery that I've made lately, that our modern world with too much stuff going on at once is distracting. The amount of options in front of me were actually limiting my ability to grove, and the creativity of my natural responses to the other guys' playing in Burning of I. It seemed to me like I would benefit from rethinking my kit a little bit, and shrinking it down to a level I felt more comfortable with.
Build from Scratch
I decided I should start from the bottom up, so that I could reduce the kit to only what I felt was really important to Burning of I's music. So, to start with, the bare essentials:
- 12" rack
- 16" floor
- 18" floor
- 18" Crash
- 2 20" Crashes
- 18" China
So I set it up and tried it. It was a great improvement! With a few things out of the way, I tightened up the positions of the instruments. I adjusted to playing this way, and have already found my parts are more interesting and fit better with the music.
The Erector Set
Since I got rid of a bunch of instruments, it occurred to me that my big rack was overkill. It also added additional visual clutter, which I believe was part of my problem; I've found I don't play all that well when it's really dark. After all these years, it surprises me how much of my playing is affected by visual queues. Maybe it's bad technique, I don't really know. But either way, I wanted to reduce my hardware, not only to reduce set up time and weight to carry to shows, but also because people have come up to me at shows and said how they felt I was "hidden" behind the drums. I thought if I could lower some parts of the kit and get rid of the rack, and that would solve that problem.
I decided the ideal solution was to use the DW 9000 stands with dogbones. My 16 and 18 inch toms were converted to free standing drums, and I figured I would be able to use those to hold up the rest of the entire kit (all three crashes, ride, china and 12" tom) on just two stands. I spent this weekend setting it all up and using the opportunity to change heads, readjusting the kit, and putting some old gear on craigslist. The end result is amazing! I am astounded at the physics for how the dogbone system is able to adjust and still be quite solid, and I'm able to have huge drums floating in air with a minimal foot of hardware. The drums feel great, and I'm really having fun playing them right now.
We also did a bit of playing with microphones, but that is really incomplete and I will talk about it in another post. The following are a couple pictures of the new setup. They're a bit dark, I guess I need a better camera. :)