Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back Into The Studio | Finding Soul In Your Drumming

Studio Drumming
I’m heading back into the (home) studio tomorrow night. We recorded all of our songs about five months ago, and I just didn’t like how the bed tracks sounded.  I’ll be the first to admit that I felt a bit stiff during the sessions.  Surely, there were “keepers” in the bunch, but after playing them back; they just didn’t seem to have soul. Tomorrow, I’m going for soul. How can I shake those anxious feelings that come right before we push the record button? I’ll tell you.

I would say that preparing for the recording by practicing a lot is probably a wise thing.  Having known these songs backwards and forwards for a while now, it’s all down to execution. I have rehearsed these songs five out of the past seven days. I have worked out, then rehearsed, and then done the reverse by banging on the kit until I was worn out, following that up with a quick 2 mile jog.  In prior years, I didn’t tie my physical exercise with my drumming.  I didn’t focus on cardio and leg strengthening.  I would lift weights, focusing on my shoulders, and the muscles that help me keep my arms up.  As a result, my legs just didn’t feel strong enough.  I’m three months into this new program, and I love the fact that my whole body feels pretty strong after playing the set twice.

Drumming Is All In The Mind

Now for the mental part of recording, I’m hoping for some encouragement from the rest of the band, but I don’t really care to have the entire band watch me lay down drum tracks. In fact, I prefer to have just one band mate at the session.  I could be wrong, but I just don’t see the need for all the cooks in my kitchen.  Most times, their minds wander after the first few takes.  You might finish a song and ask them what they thought, only to get a “That was okay.” from someone who you knew wasn’t really listening. So here I go, stronger, ready, and hopefully with just one helper in the booth.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ear Plugs For Musicians | Protect Your Hearing

Ear Plugs for Musicians
I am a drummer who suffers from tinnitus. The constant ringing in my ears is something that I have gotten used to.  That doesn’t mean that I have accepted it. I hate it. I wish it would stop.  I started wearing ear plugs in 1993.  I was nine years into my musical endeavors, but the damage was already done.  It didn’t help that I fell asleep each night with headphones on. When the ringing started, I found myself trying to stop the advancement of the tinnitus, rather than eliminating it altogether. There are very few effective ways to eliminate tinnitus. My efforts to stop this progress have surely helped me to understand what musicians can do to take care of their hearing.

Ear plugs made of foam are usually the first type that a musician uses.  They can be found at any drug store, and are usually sold next to silicone plugs, or earplugs that swimmers use.  There are a few different styles of foam plugs, some with a sponge type feel, that are cylindrical shape.  Others look more like a bullet, and have a smoother finish.  Either type will certainly give you protection, but I find that the “bullet” shaped plugs tend to slip out of the ear as time goes on.  The other issue I have with these plugs is that they tend to mute the incoming sound in ways that makes it harder to play drums at a proper level.  I find myself hitting the drums harder, thus killing some of the overtones of the drum kit. Still, foam plugs work well to spare your ears, and they come with different levels of noise reduction capability.

Ear Plugs For Musicians

Musicians ear plugs are designed to reduce sounds evenly.  You will see these plugs have flanges, and a central flange. There are two parts to this plug that work to reduce high and low frequencies. The diaphragm will take care of the lows, while the central flange helps to bring down the high notes and sounds. These plugs cost more, but can be reused.
In this category, you will also find the custom made ear plugs.  I took the time to visit an audiologist, to have a mold made of ear canals. After taking a hearing test, the audiologist made that mold, and within a few days I had a pair of earplugs that fit my ears exclusively.  They offer the best attenuation, and noise reduction.  They certainly cost more than a box of foam plugs, but the fit and sound reduction made it an easy choice.

Finally, I must admit that I have a set of ear muffs, just like the kind you see the airport baggage handlers wearing.  I wear those when recording the drums.  The ear muffs allow me to first put on a pair of in-ear noise reducing headphones, and then I can put said earmuffs over the ear plugs.  I use the headphones to play along with a click track, but have a second layer of sound reduction with the ear muffs. I also use the ear muffs during rehearsal, as they offer up a different type of sound for the listener. I tend to hear more of the lows when I wear them. I must admit that the bass guitar can bleed right through the ear muffs, so it’s best to remind your bass player to keep the volume down, if possible.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crazy Tour Story Part Two | Bullet Holes In The Lobby

Croatian Rock and Roll Show
This is part two of my Rock and Roll in Croatia tour entry. We had the opportunity to perform in some rather remote regions of Yugoslavia.  Most times, the shows were just like any other, but this one had a feel that I will never forget. 

The club was now full, and upon the first notes of our opening song, the room turned into a violent, swirling mosh pit which immediately drove some of the wiser and more fashionably dressed people out onto the gravel pavement surrounding the cafeteria.  The majority of the men in the mosh pit were clad in worn out military fatigues. This hunter green melee forced many to watch our band through a single grimy window. An ice storm had started outside, and for some reason my mind focused on the sharp crystal pellets bouncing off the heads of the people that gathered close to the window.   As we ticked off the songs in our set, many of the men seemed to lose control.  Empty bottles started to fly from the crowd, creating brown and green fireworks of glass that drove even more people out onto the gravel.  Two security guards stationed on each side of the stage were throwing men back into crowd, but noticeably losing control of the situation.  Our bass player was kicking people back into the crowd, men were crashing into the drums, and broken glass was flying like shrapnel.  We had to cut  out songs from our list and end this night before something very bad went down. 

As I clicked off the four-count start to our last song, everything went black.  A man had lassoed my head and arms with his jacket. He had thrown off most of his clothes and tossed them in the air, and I just happened to be in the line of fire. For just a second or two, I lost it. In that short burst of anger, I yanked the jacket from my head, and stood up from behind my kit.  Standing on the stage in front of me was a drunken soldier, stripped down to his underwear and one shoe.  The entire club broke out in laughter.  My rage diminished instantly, and we went on with our last song. It was fitting that the night ended with a bit of slapstick comedy.

We packed up our gear and headed to the hotel.The only hotel in the village had no power, but they managed to show us to our rooms with flash lights.  The hotel manager confiscated our passports, and left us alone in the pre-dawn darkness.   

Our tour driver shared the hotel room with me.  He pulled out a flashlight, cleaned the blood from his mouth, and nursed a sore shoulder.  He had his own battle off-stage that night, having been head-butted by a man who tried to steal an empty CD case.  The fight lasted only seconds, but the damage was apparent.  He muttered something about his jacket being torn and didn’t bother undressing.  He collapsed on his bed and we tried our best to get some sleep.

At first light, I found that we were staying in a brown painted room with brown carpet, brown blankets, and brown furniture. The morning was cold, grey, and it was time to get rolling to the next town. We got our passports back from the hotel manger, ordered some coffee, and waited in the lobby for the rest of the band. I happened to look up at the ceiling.  Directly above me were 23 perfect little black holes. I pointed to the holes just as our hairy legged waitress came back with our coffees.   "Bullet Holes. Someone got a little excited." she said to me, as she put her hand into the shape of a gun.