Down With Kick Drum Flatulence
In the spirit of Bill Maher’s New Rules and after listening to an entire set of this last night at TT Reynolds, I’m going to say this about double kick drum pedals :
Henceforth, double kick pedals should be banned from local bands until a drummer has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt1 that they can, in fact, use this device properly.
First off, TT Reynolds is a venue in Fairfax, Virginia. This venue has a very odd setup in that it is an old (circa late 1800s) hardware store that’s been converted into a bar. The stage faces a wall across the shorter width of the room, creating a mild slap back on occasion. Add these factors to the apparent obsession with loud half-stack amplifiers (that are way overkill for this, and almost any, room) creates a problem for the sound guys. The front of the stage either gets killed with guitar or a good mix, and the side of the stage heading towards the bar gets the inverse (good mix or low guitar volume). Since every guitarist continually turns up their amp or asks for more guitar in the monitor (I’m guilty of this myself), they generally opt for a guitar-softer mix. So the song is really driven by the booming kick drum and bass guitar.
This venue setup and sound system rapidly allows you to see if a band’s rhythm section is tight or not.
The band in question was named Halfway Broken] and they seemed like nice guys and had some pretty good songs. But the kick drum. Oh boy. The kick drum was all over the map. When I’m not familiar with a band’s music, I follow the rhythm section to get into the structure and groove of the song. This kick drum had the consistency of a sputtering car. And, courtesy of the mega bass sound system, it was in your face
Listening to the song “Alone” on their website (via the media player), it’s far tighter in the rhythm section. Perhaps the majority of the kick issue could be hyped up to caffeine, alcohol, or a combination thereof. Let me make a clarification here: It’s not that intricate kick drum patterns are bad, but rather that inconsistent kick drum patterns just make a song sound sloppy.
Take Incubus as an example of doing it right. The kick drum patterns can be somewhat complex, but they’re always consistent, and I can count the number of times JosÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¯Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¿Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½ Pasillas does a double kick drum roll on one hand. Start off with Kick – Snare – Kick Kick – Snare. Add something to change the overall pattern up. Go with an occasional fill. When in doubt, simply hit a crash cymbal on the 1. But keep it consistent for the love of God.
Being a drummer is not a glorious job. Drum solos are rarely justified. The job of the drums and the bass in rock music are to establish the rhythm of the song. It should make your body move, sway, bounce, something.
One of the best drummers I’ve seen locally recently plays for a musician named Minh at the Dr. Dremo’s open mics. Kick, snare, hi-hat. That’s it. That’s all you need. Lose the mini-cymbals. Lose the roto-toms. Simplify. Less is more. But, as Jason Fried reminded me recently, that implies that more is somehow better. So, as he said, “Less is less.”
1 Reasonable doubt being approval by a board of really talented people with good taste, like Ted Comerford. If Ted says you can use a double kick pedal, then you can use one.
2 This was my first time ever hearing of these guys. I don’t dislike them, or have ill will towards them, they just happened to be the most recent example of this phenomena which seems to stalk the local music scene.