Get your kit off

There is a drum hierarchy and I’m at the bottom of it. Often, I meet drummers (perfectly acceptable and friendly people) and it’s not long before I get embroiled in a set-up conversation. This is where my drumming wheels tend to fall off.

I know little about drum kits and how good, or even bad, they are. I don’t know what kits are good for recording, live work or practising at home: I am a drum Philistine.

I always hate that moment when somebody asks me what kit I play because it’s kind of embarrassing –like saying you have a wart in a private area. I play a Pearl Session Series and it’s green. I bought it in 1996.

There I’ve said it.

This is like ill-timed flatulence at a cocktail party. People turn around in horror at my confession: ‘Good grief man… you play a what!’ I meekly respond with my single-syllable answer and the humiliation is complete. Then I tell them I position my cymbals at an angle – 80s style – rather than the current fashion that is to set them up horizontally. As such, I am the drumming equivalent of a leper.

Of course, there’s a pecking order. The drummers at the top of the food chain play Drum Workshop kits or ‘DW’, if it pleases you. These people have nothing to be insecure about – it’s an indication of their skill and prowess. You don’t argue with these guys.

Then there’s the Gretsch players. It’s important that you put aside all your Christian values, and choose to hate them because if you’re not careful they’ll regale you with highly tedious tales of jazz derring do. They can read music properly, play orthodox grip and they just ‘love’ Art Blakey. Sometimes they’ll tell you they have shaved half a millimetre off the bit at the top of their hi-tom to get a cleaner sound – there’s no horrible buzzes coming from their drum set that’s for sure.

Slingerland and Ludwig owners generally smell nasty. They revel in their messy sound because that’s their signature and don’t we all know it. They are uncompromising, bluesy free spirits that’ll turn up late for gigs wearing Doctor Martens and tie-dye shirts. Scrub ‘Hey Joe’ off the set list or they’ll spontaneously combust.

Yamaha players spent a lot of time looking at four walls. They feed solely on mushrooms and they are scared of the daylight hours.

Tama players think they are Stewart Copeland, Sonor players think they are Phil Rudd, Premier players think they are Simon Phillips, but who in the world plays a Remo? That’s a skin, surely?

And so to Pearl players like me. These people live in urban areas, but like country pubs. They think they like to play to a click, but they don’t. They are hideously insecure because they turn up at gigs on time, but leave early. They have some creative instincts but they have an unhealthy obsession with technique. They read music, but can’t write it very well. Every now and then they eat kebabs.

And that’s it – I could talk of people who experiment with Arbiter kits, and of electronic sets (I own a Roland TD8, which makes me very proud) but if you think the previous paragraph is in any way autobiographical you can zip open your Zildjian kit bag, find your cleanest Pro Mark 5A and shove it right up your hi-hat…


Tim Bowdler’s new blog is at