Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation
of my heart be acceptable in Your
sight, O LORD, my Rock
and my Redeemer.
STAY ENGAGED with the people. CLAP when you can. Don’t get lost in your instrument or music.
The rule we try to follow is, “Everything for a purpose.” Every note, fill, or chord you play should be purposeful and add something to the song as a whole. Remember that this is a group, not your time to shine. However, every player should know and be able to play their part independently of the other players. Play thoughtfully and tastefully, as close to the original recording as possible. Note the style of music at NLC – no shredding, fast runs, double bass, or slap bass please. We ask our musicians to adhere to our style of music even if it’s not their personal preference.
The followings rudiments are very important to the foundation of your drum playing ability, much like scales are for melodic/stringed instruments. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, your previous practice experience on these rudiments can bail you out!
We play with a click track that we can hear in our ear monitors. It may take some time to adjust to this, but it is worth the effort. Although the click mainly functions to keep us together, we also use it for entrances and transitions; so get very comfortable playing to the click.
Set clicks for every song, even if they have tracks. At times, tracks can misfire, or someone may get off tempo, and you'll need to have a backup click ready to go. Always have the click ready and follow along in the set for each song even if the click for the entire set is in tracks.
Make sure the click is manually set to eighth-note subdivision. For instance, if the quarter note is 70, set the click to 140.
Please, keep the cage and percussion area how you found it. Dispose of trash – broken sticks, water bottles, old set lists, etc. If you need to move things around in the drum cage, that's totally fine, but please move them back.
There are a couple of things we need to go over before we jump into each individual drum. As far as terminology goes, a few things can be confusing if you haven’t been into tuning drums before. The batter head is the head you beat on. The resonant head is the bottom head on the snare and toms, whereas the kick drum’s resonant head is the one furthest away from you. Tension ranges are also important to note. Lower pitched sounds are attributed to lower tuning tensions and, as you expect, higher pitched sounds are caused by a higher tension. The same goes for medium tensions.
Low range is anywhere from loose screws to 1.5 drum key turns
Medium range is anywhere from 1.5 drum key turns to 3 key turns
High range is 4 drum key turns and up
A common reference for our style of tuning is what’s called “finger tight tension” or “FTT.” When you put a drum head on the drum and tighten the lug screws onto the drum, start with your fingers, tightening the lugs as tight as you can get them before using a drum key. For most cases, you will tighten each drum lug in a star pattern depending on how many lugs your drum has. This evenly distributes the torque and tension across the drum shell. The following diagrams displays the pattern by numbers:
For the snare drum and toms, after they’re at FTT, you’ll bring each lug up in tension with the turn of the drum key to your desired pitch. Use your drum stick and tap around the edge of the drum head by each lug to hear the pitch in that specific area. Try to get all of the lugs in tune with each other’s pitch.
Here’s a helpful tip to save you some time: On the 10 lug diagram, if you tune lug 1 up a full turn, lugs 2, 6, and 7 will be affected by lug 1’s tension change. This is because as the pressure increases downwards on the drum at lug 1, it causes the rim to lift up and create pressure on lug 2 since it is screwed in. This can be called sympathetic tension. Just remember that one little turn of a lug has a major effect on the tone of each drum, especially floor toms.
Before you put both drumheads on, you’ll want to make sure there is some sort of muffling inside the actual drum resting on the bottom. This can be in the form of a pillow, foam, blanket, or large sweater. You’ll need to experiment with different positions of this muffling to determine what type of sound you want. For most purposes, you’ll want the muffling touching the front head about 10% of the way up the drum and not touching the batter head at all.
The front and the batter will be slightly above FTT. After both heads are at FTT, set the drum down batter side up. Apply pressure in the center of the drum with your palm and make sure each lug is at FTT. You can even bring each lug up 0.5-1 key turns.
Turn the snares off when trying to find the general tension/pitch range you want with the drum, and then turn them on when you’ve got the tuning you like. Starting with the resonant head, you’ll want to tune it up to a medium to high tuning tension. For most of our style, the medium tension will serve you very well. For the batter head, a low to medium tuning range is going to be the best bet for the style and song selections we have.
We typically make our own “O-ring” out of an old drumhead and put it on top to dampen and thicken up the sound of the snare. We basically carve out an “O” from an old head, about 1.5” thick and leave the metal rim off.
The actual snare wire tension can vary song to song, giving you slightly different tones in each song. We typically go for looser snare setting, but not rattling. Your softest notes should gain snare response and your loudest notes should not have the snares rattling for more than half a second after the initial hit.
For toms, you can go with an even tuning between both top and bottom heads, meaning they can be the same pitch. Some people prefer a pitch bend sound, in which case the bottom head is tuned tight and the top head is considerably looser than the bottom. Rack toms normally sound good between 1.5-2 turns above FTT, while floor toms don’t take much tension past FTT to achieve good tone.
A wide variety of brands are acceptable (Zildjian, Istanbul, Heartbeat, or Bosphorus). If possible, get dark cymbals or traditional finish cymbals. Avoid brilliant finishes as their frequencies can be harsh on the ears for our style of music.
The cymbal size depends on the wash of the cymbal and the room:
Small room – 13-14” hi-hats, 16-19” crashes, 20” ride
Medium room – 14” hi-hats, 17-20” crashes, 20-21” ride
Large room – 14-16” hi-hats, 18-20” crashes, 20-24” ride.
The best approach to aux percussion is to figure out what you can play to best serve the song. Sometimes, this means playing only shaker and tambourine. Other times, it could entail playing intricate tom and glockenspiel parts. Really listen closely to each song for auxiliary parts and know them before rehearsal instead of trying to be creative on the spot. Most songs have a tambourine part, shaker part, or cymbal swells that aux percussion can help out with.
Aux percussion adds interesting texture and dynamic variation to the music.
Collaboration with the drummer and audio engineer is always a good idea.