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Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Article by Jayson Brinkworth // October 02 2009
Gear Acquisition Syndrome

This month I want to have a look at an issue musicians deal with all of the time: gear. As players, we love to keep up on the latest and greatest gadgets and toys out there, and the companies love this too. Also, players love to dabble into the vintage market and find equipment from the past that has a classic sound or tone.

With all of the gear out there, how much is purchased "just because", and how much is purchased with an actual long-term use in mind? I know from my own experience that I have bought gear in the flavor-of-the-day mode and it had limited application in the music settings I found myself in. I still have some of this stuff and am in the process of trying to clear it out. Anyone need a snare or three?

It would be great to have all of the toys needed for every possible style of music or situation we find ourselves in, but does it make sense? I would love to have a wall of 50 snare drums with every possible sound at my disposal. Who wouldn’t? I would also love to have several full kits in birch, oak and maple to choose from, complete sets of hardware for all of these, and don’t even get me started on the cymbal collection!

The reality is I don’t have the space or money to justify all of this. I would also find that most of the gear would be sitting idle as I end up using a backline kit 95% of the time when we travel. So my question is this: If we had to choose a few key pieces of gear that would serve us in most situations, what would it be and where would we start? Well, here are my thoughts on this subject, and let me know if anyone is looking for a snare drum...or three.

Let’s start with the basis of what we will use, our drumset. There are a lot of great kits out there and our budget will be a determining factor on what we will be able to afford. I am finding now that you can get into a maple or birch set for a reasonable price.

Another determining factor in our decision, and this is a big one, is what do our favorite players use? We may know the brands they play, but have you done research to find out why they play what they do? Why do they prefer birch over maple? What determines the sizes of drums they use? This research can help us a lot, and if nothing else, it will give us knowledge and insight into our instrument.

We will also need to consider the sizes of the drums we want. The biggest factor in this should be having the right gear for the music we will be playing. Do we want a 20” bass drum? Is a 22” or 24” more practical? How deep do we want this drum to be? How many toms? Would a 12” and a 16” be enough? How deep do we need these to be? I also find that players can have a certain look in mind for their setup, thus determining how many pieces there are. As I said before, the biggest factor to keep in mind is the music we will be playing, but make sure you do some research to gain insight and knowledge.

This is one of the most important pieces of our setup. The sound of a snare drum can change the whole attitude and approach to the rest of our kit. This is one area that players have a weakness and can definitely go a little crazy. (Have I asked if anyone is looking for a snare drum?)

In a perfect world, a snare would have crack and body. It could be tuned very high and very low and not lose any character. It would sound like wood and metal all in one. It might be impossible to make this “perfect” drum, but again research into the subject can help us a bunch. I do have a collection of snares ranging in woods from maple to birch to oak, and metals from steel to copper to brass. The sizes are varied as well--10”, 13” and 14’s--and the sounds are all over the map. My ear and the music I play keep favoring four of these drums, and the guys in my band will kill me if I don’t bring the brass drum to a show. Don’t forget to factor in the type of hoops on the drum and how they affect the sound. From wood to die cast to triple flanged, they all have a specific use. Again you have to do the research.

So this is the other weakness and can be highly addictive to some. So many companies and options in sizes, metals, hammering patterns, etc. Again the music should determine our choices, but where to start. The trend right now is to use bigger cymbals--24” rides and 20 “ crashes and hi-hats have been up to 18” for some players! Depending on the venues you play, these choices might be very wrong for your gig. Also bigger hats won’t cut it on a jazz/be-bop gig; that is a lot of weight on that hi-hat stand.

My struggle has always been to find the perfect ride cymbal for all situations (like the snare drum). Not too light, not too heavy but just right (cue the 3 bears). I know I am not alone in this search and hopefully this perfect cymbal will show up someday.

Crashes are tough as well with the many weights and different lathing patterns. This is one area where I found it very useful to see what players are using in the same style of music I play. Research and knowledge is our power in making an informed and educated decision. 

The last element in this segment is the hardware. I am a fan of sturdy hardware, but not breaking my back getting it too and from a gig. There are a lot of great pedals and hi-hat stands out there; you need to find one that really fits your playing style. Also your best investment might be a high quality throne; your back will thank you.

As for tom mounts and cymbal stands, this will depend on your brand of drums and your budget. Cymbal stands these days can adjust to almost any imaginable angle and position, but don’t forget that you pay for this convenience.

So where does this leave us? Are you still confused as to your best choices? Here are my thoughts and how I approached the kits I have now. I do have the luxury of having three kits: one with an 18” bass drum, 10 and 13” toms, and the other has a 24“ bass drum with 12 and 16” toms.

My main kit consists of a 22” bass drum, 10 and 12” toms, 14 and 16” floor toms. These drums are all birch and have great tone and body. I can use all of the drums or just the 10, 12, 14; or the 10 and 14; or the 12 and the 16. On most gigs and sessions, I use the 12, 14 and 16. I have found this setup and sizes give me many tonal options for any situation and can cover a wide range of possibilities.

My main snares are either a 5 ½ x 14 copper, a 5 ½ x 14 brass or a 6 ½ x 14 maple. My cymbals are quite varied, but I am trying to narrow it down. I have three sets of hi-hats but found a pair of 15's that are my main choice. I also have three rides and a new one on the way. I am really thinking the ride I am getting shortly will be the one I have waited for. They all have very different characteristics and uses, but I know there is one out there that has the sound I hear in my head. My crashes range from 18” to 20” and are quite varied in their tones. I like having choices for different sessions and gigs depending on the room, etc.

As we play and mature as musicians we really start refining our choices and developing a sound that we are looking for. I envy the horn players that get an instrument and work for years and years with the same variables. It is ultimately our own bodies that will produce our musical tone.

My main point of this article is to get us thinking about the music we are playing instead of the gear we wish we had. Make gear choices that will support the music, thus making us think musically and be more employable in this industry. Now seriously, is anyone looking for a snare drum?



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About the Author
Jayson  Brinkworth

Jayson Brinkworth is an accomplished drummer, percussionist, vocalist, educator and writer based out of Canada. He is co-owner of the Saskatchewan music school Music In The House, as well as the founder of both the Regina Drum Festival and The Stickman Drum Experience.

Jayson proudly endorses Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans heads, Impact cases, Kickport, Flix, Future Sonics and Mountain Rhythm. Visit Jayson online at www.jaysonbrinkworth.com.

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