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HomeHumorThe Papa Files: Buds and Muffs

The Papa Files: Buds and Muffs

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I bought a five-piece drum set, not long ago. It’s called a five-piece because there are five drums: a floor bass, a snare, and three toms. Cymbals don’t count, apparently. But I count them. My set includes three cymbals: a high-hat, a crash, and a ride. I insist that such a combination, electric or actual, should be called an eight-piece percussion set, so as not to confuse beginners.

Mine is electric, brand-name “ddrum.” It’s size of 38 inches wide by 24 inches deep (from my last adjusting of it) fits my office more conveniently than a set of real drums, which is about three times larger. I can hurriedly step around mine to any drawer in my office with only a sixty percent chance of hurting myself or damaging the plastic-and-rubber cymbals. If I’d bought real drums, my wife would have found me dead in the tom rack on the first day.

I rarely write a review, but I did for this, after I got an email from the company asking how I liked the product. I told them, “The snare is too loud and the ride is too faint, therefore each drum and cymbal should have its own volume control. Also, sometimes the rim of the snare doesn’t click when I’m going for a cross-stick, and the drumsticks you included are raw wood (I had to buy better) which left white marks on the cymbals. Otherwise I love them.”

Naturally (for me) the first thing I did was try to play the drum solo of Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. I discovered I could mimic the beginning and a little of the middle, but there was no way I could perform all of it. I am not a born drummer. But I loved hearing me play it over my headphones, which I plugged directly into the drums. I can also plug the set into an amp, but I’m not ready for that. I’ve done so only once, when my grandson dropped by and I played the drums to his strumming of chords to some song. We started getting pretty good. I should have recorded it. Well, we’ll do it again.

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He has an eight-piece percussion set, but his is real. It’s in the garage, and lately he’s been trying to muffle the sounds so he doesn’t disturb the peace of the house and neighborhood. He bought mute pads, which work on the drums but are way too mutish on the cymbals. Next he tried dampening gels for the cymbals, and rubber tips for his drumsticks, and those work much better. The only method I can think of for muffling the bass drum is to cover the felt beater with foam rubber (we already tried putting towels in the drum), but that’ll be an experiment for later. I’m all for ACing his garage and lining the walls with sound-proofing so he doesn’t have to mute or dampen or muffle anything, but I’m told that’s too expensive. I suppose, then, that adding studio lights and AV equipment is also off the table. Oh well.

I’ve always viewed a drum set as a natural progression from the percussives used in a marching band. And I will argue that every song ever written, especially Rock, can be accompanied only by a bass, a snare, and a hi-hat. Anything else is just showing off. I researched a little and found that Ludwig & Ludwig Co. patented the first successful bass pedal in 1909, which set the course for the drums we know today. Wire brushes were introduced in 1912 to lower the volume of drums and cymbals, and even wire fly swatters were used for that same effect. Hmm. Jazz was the first music to fully popularize the combo set, using the Ludwig 1918 Jazz-Er-Up.

My drums came with a round stool, which I’ve stored against the wall under my 48-inch-deep table-desk because I prefer sitting in my armless chair when I’m beating the mesh and rubber. I need the assurance that if I get tired and lean back, I won’t wind up with my neck on the floor and my knees propped on my keyboard typing out a final message of nothing but As and 6s. (Push A and 6 at the same time and see it happen.)

Because I’m still fiddling with Noteworthy Composer, and other things, I haven’t practiced the drums like I want. Eventually I plan to regularly plug my earbuds into my computer for YouTube live performances, and plug my earmuff headphones into my drums, and play along. I’m sure I’ll try to improve on what I hear, but that’s just me. I get bored doing the same thing over and over, and must improvise for sanity’s sake. I look forward to donning both my buds and muffs for many sessions. And I’ll do the same with my Discman and my few CDs of favorite groups. Perhaps I’ll practice to the drumless recordings of the songs I wrote so many years ago.

You know what? I think I’d like to get my own audio system, a program that allows me to record and blend several tracks of music. I’d have to practice my songs again, and figure out bass lines, and perhaps add a few chords and notes from the keyboard. The drums will be easy; all I’ll need is bass, snare, and hi-hat.

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