Improvizone

Practice house

Andrew Booker 2010-11-17 23:52:37

Last month the wife, the very small boy and I re-established ourselves in our newly refurbished house in South Woodford. We had rented a house in Roding Valley during the building works. Back in the summer we anticipated, as one always does, that the work would massively overrun, for which reason I extended our tenancy until December. Whereupon the building works finished pretty much as timetabled, leaving me contractually bound to fork out a further six weeks of rent for an empty three-bedroom house we did not need.

Never one to let anything go to waste if I can avoid it, especially where a four-figure sum is involved, I made the best use of a vacant end-of-terrace I can think of. I put drums in it.

Observant kit-savvy types might notice that my setup looks a bit odd. Where is the hi-hat? And given that I'm right-handed, stuff is... sort of... the wrong way round, yes/no? And what the hell is that thing on the left foot that looks like some type of cooling fan?

All my percussive life I've had the problem that drum practice is really boring, and the only way to make it tolerable is to play as interestingly as possible. I soon discovered that instead of copying ordinary drum kits, setting up the pots in different configurations was a sure way of keeping it interesting.

The interestingness of my current setup is mainly arranging the toms the other way round. Whilst I'm by no means ambidextrous on the kit, I do like to keep my left hand busy if I can. Plus, recently with the electronic kit, I've got used to hitting drum sounds in unusual positions, with deep tom sounds on the left and higher-pitch percussion noises on the right. Which is why setting the toms in the opposite direction doesn't feel all that strange. Just more interesting. Besides, the moment you get into tuned percussion, or even the piano, everything is that way round, with high notes descending to low notes from right to left. It also seems to make structural sense. The bass drum is on the right, over which sit the shallow roto-toms. To the left are the deeper drums where there's less in the way.

The deepest drum is the 16" floor tom, except here I have replaced one of its three legs with a rack mount onto the cymbal stand behind it. This is to get it as high as possible up to the level of the smaller 13" rack tom so that they are next to each other. The larger 12" roto-tom is mounted on the original Ludwig rack tom mount on the bass drum. I've never liked those flimsy fixings for rack toms, but with a minor modification it works really well for the more lightweight roto-tom. The smaller 10" roto-tom sits on an arm attached to the right hand cymbal stand. I do have two other even smaller roto-toms, and thanks to some M8 bolts and half an hour with a hacksaw I have found a way of mounting them on regular cymbal stands, but I don't need them for practising. Maybe I'll include them in the setup for the Improvizone amphitheatre and exhibition-centre tour of 2025.

The weird-looking fan-type thing is my 18" roto-kick drum, a large and therefore nearly useless roto-tom, which I converted it to a bass drum. I did this by replacing its metal hoop with a wooden bass drum hoop made by Eddie Ryan (who refurbished my kit), and I'm now using it for the first time. I play it with my left foot and it intentionally sounds completely different to the bass drum on my right foot. I bought a double pedal (DW 5000) some time ago to try and improve my left foot, but there is a limit to what you can practice with those things that doesn't take you automatically down the death metal route. Meanwhile the electronic kit, with its different sounds on each foot, has encouraged me to pursue interesting left foot patterns that my double pedal acoustic practice never did, since it's very hard to hear what you're doing when both feet make the same noise. With the roto-kick, I can now practice doubles and diddles on acoustic drums and hear what's going on. In fact since taking that photo I've removed the left side of the double pedal so that I only have the roto-kick on my left foot, forcing me into playing doubles if I want the dual bass drum action to sound any good.

As for the absence of the hi-hat, to hell with it. I blame the hi-hat for my completely retarded left foot despite 25 years of playing. It is such an inconvenient device, the only way I can fit one in now is if I get a remote one, such as the Pearl RH 2000. Even then I don't know where to put it. Probably on the right somewhere. Without it, I guess I am immediately excluded from nearly all conventional rock drumming appointments. But then I figure my days of conventional kit playing are over. I hardly play in rock bands any more. It's funny how with Improvizone, all of which are fully recorded, I'm constantly drifting into my usual cyclical practice mixtures of 5/4 and 4/4. And yet for as many decades as I can remember, when I play rock drumming for other people, especially while recording, I've hardly ever been able to fit any of the interesting things I've been practising into their music. I sit there trying to remember anything at all, realise even if I can remember it I can't play it, and completely lock up, leaving me bashing out standing drumming not very well. So I've basically decided it's time to stop trying. No more rock kit practising, no more bands.

At least not for the few weeks I have left in the practice house :)

View from a new roof << | >> No-Man rehearsing