Best drums at winter NAMM 2013 day-1: the T Bruce Wittet “off beaten path” awards

best drums winter namm 2012 t bruce wittet 

You heard it here first: the return of the legendary 1950s – 1960s A Zildjian. I’m not kidding. They’re back…. I refer to the truly thin A Zildjian Thin Crash and the truly south-side of medium A Zildjian Medium Ride. Photos will follow in a subsequent report, maybe video.

And the Booty Shaker. Again, I kid you not.

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Before we get to Booty, I want to plant a seed in fertile soil tilled by you cymbal freaks (I am one and the same and am a long time member of cymbalholic.com) I knew about the quiet revolution at Zildjian a week or two ago but was sworn to silence by Zildjian design and quality head Paul Francis. While it is, perhaps, idle speculation to suggest that Paul’s mentor, the late Armand Zildjian would be done-proud by Paul’s reworking of the A Zildjian heritage cymbal line—sort of resetting defaults—such that the entire line, New Beat hi-hats included, take a trip back to their original profiles, weights, and so on.  All I can say for now is that the 16” Thin Crash A Zildjian cymbals I struck at NAMM, either with pad of finger or stick, responded like my old, almost played-out Azs.

This retooling is extensive, so much so that retro cymbals including certain A Zildjian & Cie and Armands have been withdrawn; they are unnecessary given the fact that A’s have gone back to their old weights and ways—including their vibrational modes, which has required a massive “rescheduling” of hammer peen diameters and placement. To offer one example, certain crashes are now hammered closer to the edge than prudence would portend. And all cymbals seem to feature slightly lower profiles in kindred with my own collection of old A Zildjian cymbals. We’re talking about true medium rides returning to-spec, often dipping as much as half-a-pound on the scales. You know how you spy a 1970s A medium ride in a pawn shop, or maybe a 1980s medium-thin-something, and you strike a glancing blow and then bow out because it neither responds quickly nor gives up the expected payload?

Those days are over if Zildjian keeps with the current agenda. Seriously. I’ve got lots more to say and photograph and must attend to equipment malfunctions in the latter category.

The other reason for delaying my reports is that I returned to my hotel at the Desert Inn and Suites, began writing in Ernest (what an image), and the phone rang. Dan from NAMM Oral History Department at NAMM: He was double booked and, thus, could I get to the Hilton as soon as possible and interview David Garibaldi?

I thought I might, you know?

This was fun, creative, and I discovered a serious side of the man known for his recklessness—kidding, again! David Garibaldi, who set unprecedented standards in his combination of street, New Orleans and Bay inspired funk, and Cuban drumming, often termed “linear”, back in the day (and continuing to this one) with Tower of Power and all those albums that were so nimble and soulful (eg Back to Oakland), and all those videos with Michael Spiro and other Latin guys, is a serious cat – a dictionary-definition drumming scholar. And teacher. He not only plays what is hip; he sets it out in DVDs and in books.

I drafted questions while running the entire route to the Hilton, thinking about the late engineer-producer Tom Dowd, who had been echoing in my ears on account of the hotel room replay of the Rock Hall of Fame Awards. David responded to my questions regarding transitions in recording techniques from that early 1970s to present. Later.

Booty Shaker: a quiet star of winter NAMM 2013

So get this. One week before NAMM I’d revisited this notion of placing toms on a snare stand and how it looked cool but usually sucked on account of the basket arms choking tone and sustain. I suggested that although placing foam at the point at which the tom rim sits is the obvious cure, it’s a difficult proposition. You make a wrong cut when fashioning the foam, as it were, and the tom sits precariously on the foam, and, worse, “overflowing” foam reaches up and touches the bottom  tom head and mutes it. I’m not finished with the scenario that this weirdly-named Booty Shaker company addresses. Give me another moment given I’m jet lagged.

I’ve mentioned recording back in the day and having to place carpet remnants under floor tom legs, the reason being that if the metal legs aren’t sufficiently “suspended” or cushioned, the tone transmits to the floor. My DIY carpet remnants worked fine but didn’t always sit tight, and, thus, did not foster consistent improvement of tone.

Accordingly, here is my vote for the most innovative, reasonably priced, and inherently effective product drummers could, and ought, to buy if they seek massive improvements in tom tone.

The Booty Shaker? As in shake, shake, shake your ~ ?

The founder, Toby, didn’t give me the bum’s rush….He showed me his patented items, which fit on the ends of snare stand basket arms, costing somewhere in the $10 -$30 US range, and cushion or “suspend” small toms (12”, 13”, 14”, 15”) on snare stands and not suffer a noticeable decline in sustain and squeezing of frequency output.

 That’s not all: Toby showed me, and I will show you in photos herein, his round prophylactic floor tom leg cushions, which occupy a tiny footprint on stage yet yield dramatic results. To appreciate the benefits, you strike you floor tom, tuned as best you can, on its regulation legs/feet. Then you lift the drum and quickly shove Booty Shaker cushions under the legs, one per leg, and strike again. The difference is so profound and lasting you will want to employ these. Unless you own, say, the Pearl “cut out” rubber floor tom rubber feet, which work well.

So we’ve got floor toms and small toms covered.

What about bass drums? On Dave Mattacks’ suggestion, often I will place a chunk of firm foam underneath the bass drum towards the front end if the bass drum, especially when recorded is problematic.

Immediately my DIY solution increases bottom end and increases “good sustain”. But my home-jobs tend to destabilize the bass drum. It’s something I live with, however, having abandoned those hideous “stilts” that supposedly lift a small-diameter bass drum high enough that the beater can strike dead-center and, thus, utter deadly tone. It just doesn’t work that way. So I remove the metal altar and sit the bass drum on the ground and the tone improves measurably. But sometimes I place foam underneath the 16” kick (sometimes even under one of my other bass drums) and enjoy the additional low-end augmentation…even though the beater is striking far north of batter head center on smaller diameter drums

Toby and Booty Shaker are currently addressing this scenario with prototypes. He wasn’t ready to show me a prototype but he’s near read.

Watch out for Booty Shakers, deceptively simple and dramatically effective.