Drumming Dispute

Not a happy camper right now…

Next Friday night, my choir/group from church will be playing at a Habitat for Humanity Benefit Concert.  There are 8 groups performing throughout the evening, and the groups range from very choral singing, to very contemporary rocky-worship music.  Our group is one of the latter.

Late last week we got an email from the guy coordinating the concert giving us details of how things will go.  I guess that the church we’ll be playing at has a Piano, Organ and drum set already there.  However, being that I use a different drum set configuration that most people (my two small toms are switched around -almost like marching tenors, I have a piccolo snare, along with the fact that my set has a ton of cymbals -9 cymbals total, while their set only has 4).  I emailed the coordinator to see about bringing my own drum set…  My points were:

I understand that Redeemer Lutheran has given us permissions to use their drums, keyboard and piano.  I was wondering if there would still be the possibility in bringing our own equipment, namely the drum set.  Unfortunately my drum set configuration deviates a bit from the standard configuration (namely with the Tom & Cymbal placements), and it would be a tremendous help if I could bring my own equipment.

I realize there are only 10 minutes in between groups for change over, but if I could possibly set up my drums & cymbals in a pre-staging area (or off the stage), I can easily have my equipment on the stage and ready within 10 minutes.  Another alternative could be to have the drums already set up on the stage (I could come in earlier in the day or even earlier in the week), and simply covered with a black sheet (so it will not be a distraction to any other performing groups).  Would you be open to either of these alternatives?

Well I got my reply today, and let’s just say I’m not too pleased with it:

From your message, it sounds like you would feel more comfortable bringing
in your drum set to use because of the placement of the cymbals and toms.
Being a musician myself I certainly understand your concern.  Borrowing
equipment for a performance is never the preferred arrangement!

I have two concerns:

1.  Setting up a second drum set will be difficult because the performance
area is very limited.  Having two drums sets would really stretch the
available performance space.

In addition, because I’m a musician, I’m very sensitive to the sound quality
the audience will hear, and mic’ing a drum set properly is VERY tricky.  I
do recording in my home studio and have done my share of live sound, and
drums are one of the most difficult instruments to mic properly to get a
good sound.  Since the drum set at Redeemer Lutheran has already been set up and mic’ed to optimize the sound, it makes it MUCH easier and simpler to use
the existing set up.

2.  To be fair to all the bands that are performing, I would not want to
open the door to allowing one band to set up their own drum set.  If I did
that, I would have to open up the possibility of having every group that
wants their own drum set to bring it in.  That would make my head explode!!

In light of the two concerns, I’m requesting that you use the drum set at
Redeemer Lutheran.

Okay, this is a musician, but he’s obviously not a drummer.  My responses and concerns to his points:

  • It’s not really about borrowing equipment, and it’s easier for a guitar/bass player (which he likely is) to try to be sympathetic to the drummer.  He gets to bring his own guitar and just plug it into the Amp/Sound System – that’s not the same as playing someone else’s drum set.  Drummers always get dissed by other "musicians".
  • I understand he doesn’t want my drum set up there limiting other people’s performance space, but in my original message I offered to move it on and off the stage within the 10 minutes.  I’ve been to enough Jazz festivals and battle of the bands to be able to move my set up drum set from one area to another in 5 minutes – this 10 minute switch-over is cake.
  • Why is he mic’ing the drums?!?  I haven’t been over to the church, but I can’t imagine this performance area being much bigger than our church.  The venue’s still small enough for the drums to project themselves without being lost.  The only other advantage to Mic’ing the drums is that the sound engineer would have full-control of the levels – but at the same time if you have a trained ear that listens to your group then you have no problems finding your balance.
  • About being fair to everyone else – I concede his point, but at the same time have any of the other groups made this request?  It’d be one thing if he turned people down that asked before me, but if I’m the first that asked, and being that we’re a week out from the event – I think it’s safe to say that he’s not going to be approached again. I’d be willing to give up playing my own set if someone else asked about bringing their own set.  Having 3-4 drum sets is out of the question, but 2 sets are manageable.

Why is this a big deal?  To people who may not be musicians – imagine yourself driving in your car – and let’s say you decide to take up drag racing.  You practice for weeks in your car and have raced to the point that you’re comfortable with your car.  You know where all of the controls are by heart, you know how sensitive your clutch is, you can shift gears with easy, and you can corner your turns smoothly. – Then you go to a huge race and right before you’re expected to drive someone else’s car.  Sure you know where the gas, brakes & gear-shift are, but it’s not the same as driving your own car.  And because it’s someone else’s car, you’re not going to take the same risks as you would in your own car, for fear of breaking it.

This will be the 5th time I’ve had to play someone else’s drum set- and in the previous 4 times this has always turned out badly for me – the performance sucked and things don’t work out.  On top of this, this isn’t someone else’s drum set – this is the church’s drum set.  And one of the laws in the drummers handbook states "If the drum set is a church drum set, it’s guaranteed to suck."

I’m not trying to sound selfish here, and I don’t want to forget the fact that all of these efforts are going to a charitable cause.  However, if they’re going to bring in musical groups for a benefit concert, we should have the right to play the best that we can – to make some awesome music for people to enjoy, and to do that I need my own instrument.

Update:  We’ve reached a compromise on the drumming controversy.  I’m going to use their drums, but will be able to bring in my own hardware and cymbals… Still not totally happy about it, but what can you do?