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Ask the Experts - Orchestral Tips

"Hi, I'll start by saying I'm not a drummer, but I just bought a used set for my 14 year old son. Traditional piano lessons a few years back just didn't really go anywhere, hence a used set (just to get started). I think the problem with piano lessons had something to do with the theory, practicing scales etc. that just didn't make it seem like much fun. I appreciate the value of musical theory, but he quickly lost interest. So, now I'm talking to drum instructors and they're saying they'll tailor their instruction to make sure the student gets enough technique to have fun and start enjoying the instrument right away, even at the expense of musical theory, note reading, etc. They get him playing along to his favourite CD's right away to help keep the sense of accomplishment high, and develop from there. While I agree he will enjoy playing the instrument right away with this type of instruction, I wonder if his depth of musical knowledge and ability will be compromised? Can a kid learn the finer details of notes, advanced techniques and musical theory later in his career with this kind of start? Having fun and therefore sticking with the instrument is obviously important too..."  Thanks, G. Masikewich

Glenn, This is John Beck, Professor of Percussion at the Eastman School of Music answering your questions about your son's drum lessons. A complete drumset to start with is the wrong way to go. A better way is to start with a drum pad, sticks, book and a teacher. Then as technique is developed add more drums until a complete set is attained. How long this takes depends on how fast he develops his technique. There is no question that someone with a sense of rhythm and desire can play the drums but it is a short lived career if there is no foundation to the art of drumming. Yes, drum lessons should be fun but at the same time they should be challenging and at times a bit frustrating when a rhythm pattern is difficult to perform. It takes lots of practice to become a drummer or any kind of instrumentalist and a good teacher is necessary. Learning other percussion instruments such as timpani and marimba are also important. It certainly would be good and necessary for him to have a melodic background if he is going to take drums seriously. The better drumset players all paid their dues to studying theory, piano and musicology to some degree. You can learn these things later in life but it makes more sense to learn them early and then use them to become a fine drummer. I hope this gives you some insight into the art of drumming.

John H. Beck

"Mr. Carroll, Can you tell me what the tuning  ranges are on 32", 28", 25" and 23" pedal tympani?" Thank  you, Dave

Hi Dave,
I will give you two sets of ranges. First is the extended range which includes all "possible" notes on the respective drum and then the practical range which is where the drum usually sounds the best. The extended range includes notes that are playable but are either very pinched (very high) or very flabby (very low).

Extended - C through Bb
Practical - D through Ab

Extended - F through D
Practical - Ab through C

Extended - Bb through G
Practical - Db through F

Extended - D through Bb
Practical - E through Ab

Keep in mind that these are general ranges which will vary depending on the manufacturer, model, and the condition/age of the drum head.

Glad to be of assistance,
Raynor Carroll

"I was wondering if someone could give me a tutorial on how to change heads on pedal tympani. I need a step by step process." From "Dr. Percussio"

Changing A Timpani Head - by Raynor Carroll

1) New head
2) Rags
3) Tension rod keys
4) Teflon spray/tape
5) Grease lubricant
6) Shims
7) Mute
8) Mallets
9) Ruler or T-square
10) Felt marker
11) Electronic tuner
12) Drum dial

With the old head still in place, mark the counterhoop and a corresponding spot on the bowl. Adjust the fine tuner so that it is midrange. Pedal the pitch of the head down to its lowest point.

Put shims under spider mechanism of Dresden or Berlin style drums, under the pedal of Ludwig, Yamaha or other similar model drums.

Remove tension rods. Remove counterhoop. Remove the old head. Clean inside of bowl with a rag. Clean lip of bowl with a clean rag.

Apply Teflon tape or spray to lip of bowl. Clean the counterhoop with a rag. Clean the remainder of the drum including spider, struts, wheels, etc. Apply lubricant as directed by the manufacturer.

Place new head on the bowl. Line up the markings placed earlier on the counterhoop and bowl. Place counterhoop over the head making sure it is centered correctly. Carefully position the head and counterhoop so that an equal amount of collar is maintained around the drum. Check with T-square or ruler. If necessary, clean and grease tension rods.

Replace tension rods and lightly apply tension in order of 1, 5, 2, 6, 3, 7, 4, 8. Continue applying tension to head by hand turning tension rods. Maintain an even feel of tension. Use keys to bring head up to low playing range. Remove shims.

Pedal the drum up to midrange and check pitch and quality of sound. Place a mute in the middle of the head and check the pitch of each tension rod. Raise the areas that are low. Repeatedly check each tension area and make the necessary adjustments until the head is clear. Use drum dial to check consistency of tension.

Check the playing range. Make sure that the head will obtain a pitch higher than necessary. For example: 32" - B, 29" - Eb, 26" - G, 23" - B. If not, make adjustments. After final adjustments have been made, leave the drum on the highest note it will obtain so that the head may stretch and seat properly. Over the next few weeks play on the head and continue to make adjustments until the head has settled and stretched.

Best, Raynor

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