youngraven: (suffer)
[personal profile] youngraven
Since October, I've been building a new drum in my head. You'd think I'd get better results playing an actual drum, but there's something to be said for the conceptual phase. It's served me reasonably well, the Metloef (I still say it 'meatloaf') one I've had since... janey, 2006? 2007? It's been reliable, and until just before I shipped out to Atlanta, I'd consistently been able to coax decent tones out of it. At first I thought it was a fluke (props to anybody who catches the pun there), the occasional dodgy thump, but then it became more and more of me spending an evening teasing a pleasant sound out of it. I'm never somebody gifted with perfect pitch, mind, but my relative pitch is fairly honed. As such, I can tell when a tune ends on a G, and my drum does not do. On a few occasions, the tone has been off enough that I've been filled with an urge to climb into the thing and roll away. 

Let's pause for a moment to imagine how that might look...

In October, I played with an 11-inch drum that a mate of mine had tossed together (his description) in hopes that he could flog it to a new player at O'Flaherty. When I got back to Atlanta, my 14 suddenly seemed to engulf me, which is when I realised that I'd got a drum at the top of my size threshhold. Briefly (or not), I believe that a person will have better results with a drum whose diametre is not greater than the length of the person's torso when measured from under the arm to the hip - or thigh (assuming the person is seated). How I ever managed that 17-inch monster is...well, I was going to say 'is beyond me', but there's a goodly chance that I could play it because - although its diametre was vast, it wasn't terribly deep (which leads into what's been going through my mind and solidifying in the past few weeks).

I had the maker instal a crossbrace into my drum. I learnt to play on a drum with a crossbrace and until a certain point, I did absolutely need as I'd stand when I played on stage (and a four-hour gig with a heavy drum and no leverage makes for a parcel full of agony and playing that dives into the bog). More to the point, since the crossbrace was there, I worked out ways to use it to my advantage with some level of finesse (never mind me looking as though I've put my fist into a wall at the end of the night - we all suffer for our art eventually). I have become somewhat reliant upon that crossbrace for certain quick tonal changes that I lack the language to adequately describe. It's a rocking motion, chromatic sort of thing that I'd be better off showing rather than telling. 

So...what's the trouble, then? My friend, whose drums I fancy for the fantastic quality of the heads (and the overall quality, come to that), never makes drums with crossbraces. Never, ever - and I'd not want him to do, 'cos that would but increase the drum's weight. See, it all comes down to size versus weight for me. As it works out, I can play a 14-inch drum lacking a crossbrace without causing myself that aforementioned parcel of agony (bit like being run through with a spike) providing it's light (and has got an agreeable head on - which mine hasn't got at this point). Once we add in, say, a brass tuning ring, the weight increases significantly. Therefore, for myself to play it without silently whimpering after the first turn, it's got to be a smaller diametre. 

That one 11-inch drum showed up to a house seisiún yesterday, and since the owner had wandered away from it, I decided to play it instead of my own. Even though it lacks one of the maker's better heads, it's still got a fine sound to it, and other than me getting tangled up in the rim a few times, it wasn't a bad size. I think I'd like a 12-inch, 'cos my hand span did fill it in a way that made me think I needed a bit more space back there. He'd rather convince me on a 13. Over his career as a drum maker, he's learnt rather a lot about sound waves, and he's concerned that smaller drums mightn't produce sound of the same quality as larger ones. And since he talked two smaller players out of buying drums from him in the past, he's changed his mind about not making anything smaller than 15s.

In the past month, I've crossed paths with him three times. Which is usually about as often as I see him in an entire year; he travels rather much. I think it's time to pop round his shop and see what he's got in there. 



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