I invited Scott Small to sit in with the Microsoft Jazz Band for an upcoming gig. One of the practice sessions was in my music studio. I have a drum kit, bass and amp, and Roland keyboard sit up so that the very few great rhythm people out there can just show up and play. Here is his recent review of my drum kit.
Thanks again for the opportunity to use your drum kit. Somebody knew what they were doing setting up those drums! They’re probably a fan of Steve Gadd, judging by the choice of heads and tuning. The “student” level drums sound just as good as the more expensive ones when you put on good heads and tune them carefully.
Only thing I would change is the batter head on the snare drum—it has a raised reinforcement “dot” which is great for rock players, but bad for jazz because your brushes catch on it. A coated head with no reinforcement, or with reinforcement on the *bottom* side, would be better. A smooth head is no good for brushes, has to be coated or otherwise textured.
Cymbals, however, are a different story. “Student” cymbals sound pretty bad, and there’s nothing you can do about it. They are what they are. And good cymbals are very expensive. In fact, most serious drummers bring their own brass when using someone else’s kit.
In case you’re interested in upgrading, here’s my $0.02.
Jazz players (both drummers and other instrumentalists) love the sound of hand-made ride cymbals. Historically, all the good ones have come from Turkey, but recently some good ones have come from China at a much better price. Each one is unique, with it’s own personality; every famous jazz drummer has one or two prized rides that define “his” sound. Picking a “good” ride is (of course) somewhat subjective, and you need to try several before buying one.
Currently the best Turkish brands are Bosphorus and Istanbul; those are what I use. Zildjain also makes a Constantinople line much like the Turkish products. The Chinese company is Dream Cymbals and Gongs, and I’ve seen top jazz players using their stuff recently.
If I were in your position, and I had room on my credit card, here’s what I might do…
Pay a visit to Donn Bennett with the best cymbal selection in this part of the world and arrange to take home pair of hi-hats, a crash, and maybe 4 rides, with the understanding that all but one of the rides would be returned. He should have no problem doing that.
Then, have a session at your house with a (good) drummer and some other players. Have him play each of the rides, alone and with the combo, and just walk around the house and listen to the sound of each one. Your ears will tell you which one has the magic—the sound at a distance is what matters, more than up close.
Which cymbals would I bring home?
- Hi-hat: Bosphorus Hammer 14″ (Jeff Hamilton model) or Istanbul Om 15″ (Cindy Blackman model, also used by Jeff Ballard), maybe also Dream Bliss 14″
- Rides: Bosphorus Hammer 20″, Istanbul Om 22″, Zildjain K Constantinople 20″ or 22″, Dream Bliss 20″ ride, maybe a Zildjain 20″ K Custom dark ride (machine made).
- Crash: Bosphorus 18″ Antique Crash, thin or extra thin
Yeah, that would be one awesome party!