What a musical world we live in. Every drummer has the potential to realise and create their own specific voice and personality but what a diverse and frankly confusing amount of sonic options to choose from! How does one actually achieve this as a drummer in 2020? Does modern technology and the constant evolution of sound hinder or help modern drummers?
Sonic The Drumhog
This isn’t an easy one to crack. The very nature of new sonic abilities excites many but for others, it’s a daunting idea – one that can just turn people off trying altogether. Some of us prefer the old way – acoustic, natural, vintage whilst some of us prefer the new way – modern, electronic, hybrid. Neither way is wrong but it’s definitely subjective. Genre plays a part here too. Modern pop is so loaded with electronics that the modern drummer has no choice but to adapt and evolve – regardless of whether they love the music that much. But regardless of personal taste, there’s no doubt that trying to mimic modern electronic sounds is an interesting challenge. But there’s more ways than one to skin a cat/drum.
Mimic Me, Mimic You
Interestingly, for many drummers (in the last decade at least), there’s a strong link back to vintage sounds and older style kits. In the same way fashion has embraced the looks of older generations, drummers are once again seeking the sound of the older recordings. Even vinyl is back in a big way. Perhaps there’s a rawness and an honesty to the sounds of those older drums and recordings that appeals to our ears? For many too, the very nature of shorter, controlled, vintage tones sits better in the mix for a variety of musical applications. Jazz drummers fiercely hold on to the traditions of high tuned toms and small bass drums – yet modern Jazz is so un-traditional.
Drumkits these days need to be everything to every gig. Whether it’s a wedding, a Jazz gig, touring with a known artist, an original band, the drums need to be versatile enough to meet the needs of the music we play. The incorporation of technology and electronics was always going to be a thing. Whether you choose to hybrid this with vintage or modern drums is subjectively interesting and neither is wrong. It’s just interesting how different the results can be. Some drummers – think Jojo Mayer or Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave – like to mimic electronic sounds on acoustic drums without resorting to electronics at all. Old drumheads on top of snares, splash cymbals gaffa taped to floor toms, stacked cymbals (everyone has tried this one), jingles, sizzles, the list goes on. Small changes can result in big differences and every modern pop tune that comes out presents a new sound or idea that could be tried.
Modern electric kits have never been more real feeling or sounding but most drummers haven’t made the change over and the human element is flying strong. DJs have lots of work but for a live concert, there’s no getting around using live musicians. So clever drummers have, for a long time, used the hybrid set up as the way forward. Where the budgets allow, sampling, triggers and use of electronic pads alongside the acoustic drums is a sure win. The hybrid kit still allows for the use of full acoustic sounds where necessary too. Where budgets aren’t as high shows the most innovation though – drummers resorting to their ears to somehow recreate the sounds they’re hearing on the recordings. A simple wedding gig is a really interesting one. So many different styles and artists/songs get a whirl and every one of them has a different sound to mimic. Most of kit doesn’t change too much but different snare and cymbal sounds can really make the difference. Adding some electronics – claps, 808 style kick sounds – moves the game on again. Applying these things over a vintage style kit too really mixes the old with the new and the result is modern, yet reliably nostalgic for the listeners.
The Fresh Prince
Regardless of where you’re at, there’s no right or wrong but being open to new sounds and ideas promotes movement and constantly keeps your ears alert. Modern technology – no matter how far you want to go down the rabbit hole – works alongside the modern drummer to present nothing more than options. Whether you use a ‘clap’ sample or mimic the sound using a rim click and rim shot combined, you’re still imitating the sound. Electric kits may be a thing but there’s something more interesting about the hybrid option and using other ways of creating these sounds. The human element remains and our individual personality and voice keeps things fresh.
Revisit our drum column from last month here.