Saturday, April 24, 2010

drumming again

To recap: In the winter of 2007-2008 I began playing drums again after a decade-long hiatus forced by injury. While I couldn't play mallet/keyboard percussion as well as before (I can't hold four mallets comfortably anymore because of the injury), I discovered that, with practice, I could get back most of my snare drum chops. In summer 2008 I auditioned for Pacific Crest Wind Ensemble, was accepted and spent one semester playing with them. For a number of reasons it didn't work out and I quit the group after Thanksgiving.

But I could play again, and I realized I wanted to. I began cobbling together a sort of drumkit, slowly and one piece at a time. Meanwhile, I needed to figure out where and how I might do that.

Enter Sweetie and Klezmer music.

Sweetie used to sing in a local Klezmer band called Fermisht Nussen (roughly translated, "Mixed Nuts" in Yiddish). The band broke up a couple of years ago but a few of the former members would meet from time to time and make music. I was invited to join Sweetie and a couple of her former bandmates for a gig at the local Jewish rest home. All I had that was ready to go was a snare drum and some sticks and brushes (I had a hi-hat stand, a bass pedal and no cymbals). In spite of how ill-equipped I was, I said yes. And I went and played and had a really great time.

After that, I began moving quickly to assemble the rest of a tiny drumkit. Between online sales of bike parts from my stash and a couple of local trades of parts and labor, I managed to put together something resembling a sideways cocktail kit.
meanwhile, Sweetie and I included more Jewish music in our at-home listening, and she began teaching me some of what she knows about it.

This past week I finished assembling the kit. The biggest challenges were acquiring cymbals -- even cheap ones cost a lot -- and converting a floor tom into a tiny bass drum. The conversion required replacing the tom hoops with larger bass drum hoops and adding spurs on the sides to prevent the drum from creeping every time I applied the pedal. I left one of the three floor tom leg mounts on the drum to function as a mount for a small cymbal arm.


For now I'm using a stuffed animal to muffle the bass drum (it's looking a little forlorn at being squashed against the inside of the head there) --

beat the pig

--eventually it will be replaced by something a little more appropriate (a Remo Muff'l Ring).

I assembled it at home and Sweetie insisted on getting a picture of me actually playing it.

trying it out

Yeah, that's traditional grip. Most drummers I know play matched grip but traditional grip is how I learned and it's what I'm used to.

Sweetie wishes we could go to KlezKamp, this thing back east where people go to learn more about Klezmer and play together. More specifically, she wants to send ME so I can study with Elaine Hoffman Watts, the great Klezmer drummer.

I'm looking forward to playing more with Sweetie and her pals this summer. Stay tuned.

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