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So I just picked up one of those new Flip camcorders. It is completely awesome. 8 gigs of HD footage = 2 hours of recording time. I tried it out yesterday at a session at Skyland Studio, and I’m really impressed.  It gets pretty good audio for something the size of my cell phone.

The session was for the new Miss Minnesota, but I forget her name right now.  She’s doing a record to raise money for a MN charitable organization of her choice.  I’m using the house DW kit at Skyland, which is always fun to play on. I also got a new ride a few weeks ago off Craigslist… a 21″ Paiste Dark Energy. This was the first studio run with that cymbal, and it is SO BOSS.  Much thanks to my new friend Dan Noraker for that one.

57658621I hung out with my friend Bill last week, and he’s a huge cymbal head. He knows TONS about modern and vintage cymbals… tones and history.

I realized after hanging with him that I know very little about the fascinating history of these instruments, so I did a little research on the topic just now. Regardless of your brand preference (personally, I really enjoy Paiste stuff), the fact is that the Zildjian Company has had the most influence on evolution and development of drumset cymbals. Check out these videos if you want to learn a thing or two about that.

I wrote a post last year about set-ups that have too many cymbals.  And then, a buddy sends me this photo…


Frankly, I’m not sure how to respond to this picture. There are just so many things about it that are simply as awful/awesome as they possibly could be.

HT: Phillip

My friend Matt Patrick has a very cool studio in South Minneapolis called Two Pillars, and I’m there today doing a session for the new Elizabeth Hunnicutt record. Tyler Burkum on guitar and Aaron Fabrinni on bass are also playing, which is cool because most of the sessions I do are drums only (recording by myself along with scratch tracks). There’s obviously more fertile ground for creativity when musicians are playing live along with each other. I think the stuff we’ve come up with so far is pretty cool.

For those of you paying attention, that snare in the pic is the same WFL snare from the Pachyderm pics a few months ago. Man, these days I am really liking that thing. In other gear geekness, I’ve been using this 20″ K Custom Dry Light ride as a crash. It has a really fat but short sound, and the compressed room mics make it sound very cool.

Mike Portnoy… maybe compensating for something? #yeahIsaidit

When I was young I had a cymbal set-up with hats, 2 rides, 4 crashes, 2 splashes, a bell dome, and 2 chinas. I thought I was the bomb… and I had a ton of fun experimenting with all those different sounds. Now, however, I run hats with a ride and 1 crash… sometimes 2 if the situation requires it. I think the main difference is that over the last ten years I’ve been able to refine my understanding of the role of a cymbal.

The biggest issue is knowing when to NOT play. For instance, listen to “One Headlight” from the Wallflower’s first record Bringing Down The Horse. Notice anything? Matt Chamberlain doesn’t hit ANY crashes… or ride for that matter. It’s hats and hats only for the entire track… and the cool thing is that most people (even drummers) don’t notice the lack of crashes until someone else points it out. Just listening to that tune is a great lesson on knowing the role of a crash.

I started exploring this idea in high school when I would intentionally take parts of my kit away and try to play with the limited set-up that remained. Maybe just kick/snare/hats… or just kick/toms/ride… or whatever. I enjoyed the creativity that came from forcing myself to play a stripped-down kit… and I began to discover how many different sounds could be pulled from only one cymbal or drum.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to say that having a lot of cymbals is automatically bad. The only real problem with it is temptation. Honestly, how often does a bell dome REALLY fit in a song? Answer: not very often… maybe once in your band’s entire show. But for most drummers, simply having the bell dome set up on the kit makes you want to hit it. You’re trucking along on the tune and you notice the bell dome sitting there and you think “oh… I haven’t hit that in a while…” and then you force the issue and play it in a spot where it doesn’t belong.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with a bell dome. You just have to know when to show some restraint and NOT hit it. An example of this would be Jack DeJohnette in the Keith Jarrett Trio. His set-up is almost unforgivably excessive for a jazz context, but you would never know it from just listening. He’s not hitting anything that doesn’t need to be hit, and the discipline and musicality he shows in having all those cymbals and not hitting them is incredible. He just uses what he needs and it rules.

SUMMARY: Put as many cymbals in your set-up as you want… but prioritize knowing when to NOT play them.

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