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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do you tune the drums?
A. It would be too much to cover in a few sentences as there are many different drums and methods for tuning each (ex: snare drums, conga drums, and tom-toms) but we can at least discuss the standard method of tuning drums for example how to tune from one side to the other.

The most standard and agreed upon method is that you should start on one side of a detuned drum (a tom tom lets say) and turn the lug slightly. Then cross the drum to the other side and tune the opposing lug in the same manner. You go around the drum like tightening lugs on a wheel and do this until you get back to the starting place. The degree of tightness should be relatively the same around the drum.

You then listen for tone. Try to match the tone around the drum so that the drum is "in tune to itself". This goes for top and bottom of all the drums. From there you tune up or down depending on pitch and feel desired. We'll be covering this in greater depth later as well as providing links to drum tuning resources.

Q. What's better, traditional or matched grip?
A. Studies have shown that there are greater physical advantages to matched grip. However, we're not convinced that this should keep you from playing traditional if you wish. You don't have to look very far to see some of the best players in the world using the traditional grip. This should tell you something. Also, some of the greatest drummers of our time used this grip including Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and many more.

Many pro drummers actively use both grips on drums and interchange them at will depending on how they approach the song. Some play primarily matched grip but will switch to traditional to play swing because it allows them to approach the music with a different feel and/or mindset.

Whether you learn to eat your food with chopsticks or a fork, the end result is relatively the same. Both are respected methods and have proven to get the job done efficiently. Drums are the same. It's all in what you get used to.

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Q. Should I play up or heel down?
A. Most drummers agree that heel up is more advantageous. It allows for greater speed and power in your stroke. It also allows you to balance on your torso with arms and legs floating (a "puppet on a string" effect) creating greater balance and movement around drums.

However, just like everything else, there is more than one way to skin a cat. John Robinson is a very famous drummer that has played with numerous pop stars through the years. He swears by playing heel down on drums and has done so throughout his successful career.

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Q. Who is the best drummer in the world?
A. Although it often goes against popular opinion, there is no "best" drummer. We'll often agree on a "favorite" according to our individual tastes and standards, but to find a "best" of something would literally take all of us agreeing on the same thing all of the time. That being said, the next best thing is to take popular opinion polls such as the other responder was referring to. This is done on a regular basis by the large drum magazines such as DRUM! and Modern Drummer. To make it fair, they keep things in categories because what a rock drummer considers the "best" is usually far from what a jazz drummer would consider the "best". And so on.

To take this a step further, you also have to determine whether you're talking about technique, groove, overall musicality, or other factors. While someone like Dennis Chambers might be considered one of the better technical players in the world on drums (or at least that we know about), I think many would give the "groove" determiner to another artist such as the late Jeff Porcaro, or a Manu Katche type player.

Remember too that in our world as we know it, we often let popularity determine who we think is "best". There are many players that do not grace the covers of magazines that would absolutely blow you away if you were to see them play, whether it be amazing chops or the most awesome feel (or both). They are the "undiscovered" that deserve more recognition than they often get.

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Q. I've been in a slump lately and don't feel like practicing drums. What can I do?
A. It's a common problem. We get bogged down with other tasks and can forget about what's important to us. Or sometimes we'll just practice and/or play too much and lose the fire we once had.

Aside from just taking some time off now and then, try setting specific goals for yourself. When you're under a deadline to meet those goals you'll often get much more accomplished. Take lessons with a new teacher or buy a new piece of gear. Buy a new CD with your favorite drummer blowing chops or laying down amazing grooves. Go to drum clinics and hang out with great musicians that you aspire to play like. All these things will help you get excited about practicing drums again.

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Q. Will weightlifting affect my drumming?
A. Not as long as you're sensible about it. Stretch 'thoroughly' after a work out and don't lift too heavily the day of a performance. Weightlifting makes the muscles constrict and they need time to rebuild and relax. Being too tight can hamper your freedom of movement on the drums.

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Q. Should you clean your cymbals or not?
A. There are different viewpoints on whether or not you should clean your cymbals. Some drummers think that dirt and grime that builds up on cymbals actually adds warmth to the cymbal and that cleaning the cymbals would detract from the sound. Others say that any loss in warmth is so minimal that you would not even notice it. We say, try it both ways and determine for yourself. You're not going to ruin the cymbal. There's alway time for dirt to build back up on the cymbal if you feel that cleaning it wasn't the best thing. Keep in mind, shiny cymbals look awesome on stage and most of the time, cleaning doesn't affect them that much.

Q. Should I take drum lessons with a teacher or get some drum dvds?
A. You've determined you have a gift for rhythm and lessons might be on the horizon. Should you take lessons with a drum instructor or buy some dvds? This seems like a difficult decision at first glance but it's rather easy. Do both. You can save money on instruction by buying a few drumming dvds and emulating what those drummers are doing. There is most often accompaning sheet music to follow along with so you can get a lot out of it. You'll also find plenty of free drum lessons online that will help you out. That said, nothing takes the place of private, one-on-one drum lessons with an experienced drum teacher and it is highly recommend. Make sure you check the qualifications and experience of that teacher. Just because they've been playing for a few years doesn't mean they'll make a great teacher. Some players teach well but they're playing might be mediocre and visa versa. But definitely supplement your lessons agenda with a professional that can fill some holes and guide you along the way.

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Latest inquiries:
Who is the best drummer?
How do you tune the drums. Drum Tuning 101
Weightlifting and Drumming?
Traditional Grip or Matched Grip?
What to Practice on Drums?
Heel up or down

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