Monday, May 24, 2010

Part Two: The Ins-and-Outs

Well, one of the first steps to becoming a professional drumtech usually starts with sort of knowing how to play the drums. You don't have to be a great drummer, just a bit of knowledge of how to maneuver around a drumset does come in handy, mainly for serious sound checks. Knowing the workings of all the drums and all the gear involved.

The next thing that you really, really need to know is how to tune the drums. In my experience, it is not memorizing this note or that, but getting them very close to the sound that fits the drummer you may be working for at the time. Most drummers, even the elite, top pro's will still come out before sound check to do their final tweeking. Your main job at that point is to get them dialed-in to a certain sound and then working VERY close, and very quickly to get things perfect.

Here is one example and sort of a funny story pertaining to the subject; recently (for the last few years) I've been working for Mr. Jeff Kathan, current drummer for The Paul Rodgers Band. I would always have his kit set perfect (heights, spaces, and lengths) all set to within a micro hair. And I "ALWAYS" have my written notes! Notes are very good for reference points. And, during the middle of the 2008 tour, there were a few times that the kit progressively seemed to be out of wack; when jeff came out to the stage for his tweeking one particular show he sat down and said that something did not feel right, "did you check the measurements?'' so I went over everything again, and on went another great show once he was satisfied. But, this kept happening over the course of the next few gigs and it took me a little while to figure what the heck was going on? It seemed at the time jeff was on this ''getting healthy kick" and was trimming his weight down tremendously, well, it may sound funny, but every time he would shed 5 pounds or so, the whole kit would have to come down like a quarter of a inch or so - might not seem like a lot, but to a drummer it makes all the difference for comfort, and kick-ass playing.

And that leads to the next words of advice, which is get to know your drummer. I don't mean move in their house, but knowing what is going on and always being alert to what is going on around you, will always make the gig go better. Your main job is the gear, but all the other things like towels, drinks, etc, are equally as important too.

Then there is the work of checking all the gear, so let's back up a little bit. It is always a good idea to check, re-check, and check again. Making sure every wing nut, fastener and screw are set and locked into place. I always go over the full kit right after sound check, tightening everything one last time before the curtain goes up. So when everything is set, then comes the taping down of all pieces that can move. Taping is very important so that the kit does not move during the show, but makes for a neat, professional job. Nothing lying anywhere, causing a clutter on the riser is definitely a big no-no!

And one final word is to learn PATIENCE. To a lot of folks, they think it is always hurry, hurry, balls to the wall kind of thing [which it is], but there will be a lot of down time from set-up to sound check. That is when you can use all of that time to network, learn, pick up more knowledge, meet new people, or just go to the bus for a nappy because this is show 9 of a twelve show run. I usually use my down time to do anything that will make an particular show go smoother, get a jump on the tear down and load out, so you can be ready for the next day, and so on.

Ok ladies and gentleman, thank you for letting me share these little examples of experience for you and there will be more to come. Feel free to contact us with your own thoughts and experiences, and good luck to you on your adventures out there in one of the coolest fields in the world



  1. Very nice written story, i found it all being very interesting.

  2. Ahh. The nuggets (sweet bits of info and wisdom) from Brett. Like a cup of coffee and a lemon bar....brings on a focus and series of daydreams rivaled by no other. Keep them coming! Maybe they will enable me to become the drum tech that I know I can be!