Monday, November 9, 2009

Geeking out over Gear

Like most of you, I tend to geek out over the latest drum gear and want to learn which groups are using what. Heck, the 2009 DCI season was barely over and the internet was buzzing with the rumor of the Concord Blue Devils switching to Pearl/Adams equipment. It turned out to be true, but is a perfect example of geeking out over gear. Perhaps an even better example is scouring the internet for pictures of new drums as the corps receive them around June each year. C’mon… you know you do it, too. ;-)
It started upon seeing my first drum corps show in 1985 when I took note of how many corps were using certain brands of drums. I used to collect catalogs and look through all the pictures studying what made each brand different from one another. I used to pride myself by sitting in the nosebleed section of a stadium like Indiana University at the old DCI Mid-America show and lean over to my dad to say something like “those Yamahas the Blue Devils have this year [‘89] look awfully similar to the Premier’s that Star uses.” Low and behold, I found out later Yamaha had purchased a large stake in Premier which explained why those prototype Yamaha snare drums resembled Premier HTS snares.

I suppose my curiosity stems from taking in all the eye candy of drums but also my fascination with how they work. Shiny objects have always been a distraction for me (someone say chrome?) but since the first time I hooked on what seemed like a gigantic Slingerland TDR I wanted to see what made the drum tick, so to speak. My first year of drum corps with the 1986 Guardsmen Cadets seems like a lifetime ago but learning how that drum differed from the concert drum I had at home intrigued me. I was full of questions like, “Why do they call them guts?”, “What are the screws for on the butt plate?”, “When the A corps gets new drums can we use their old drums?”. Before I graduated high school I had marched six different models of snare drums and I think I could still tell you each and every unique difference between the drums.

In the summer of 2008 I had the honor of playing in the Cavaliers Anniversary Corps and marched among the 16-man snare line that played on fully restored Rogers Dyna-Sonic marching snare drums. Talk about geeking out… these drums looked incredible but what was truly unique was the snare strainer system. Rogers had developed something that was way ahead of its time and concepts in the design can be found in modern marching snare drums of today. Even the reinforced bearing edges are something that’s resurfaced in modern equipment. Forgetting for a moment a time span of roughly 40 years, it’s just as fun to drool over a 70’s vintage Rogers Dyna-Sonic as it is a brand new custom Emerald Mist Pearl FFXC with chrome.

While we see new materials and gizmos on the drums like carbon fiber layers, top snare units and venting systems, a good portion of the innovation and evolution of marching percussion sound can be attributed to the drum heads and how they’re made. New products continually change the way we think about the application of marching percussion which allows us to geek out in entirely new ways.

Have any favorite ways you geek out over gear? Leave a comment and share!