House Drumsets [why they suck]

Last night Greenfoot played a show over at Herman’s Hideaway (for which I’ll offer some additional thoughts in a later post).  As part of the “New Talent Showcase”, one of the important stipulations were the two dreaded words drummers hate to hear “House Drumset”.

I cringed when I heard the news, and after playing the set last evening, my dread was justified.

I understand the reasons why venue owners and concert promoters want to use House Drumsets.  When you have multiple bands in one evening, you want to do everything to ensure bands get on and off the stage quickly.  Having a large piece of equipment remain stationary makes sense, especially when the drums have mics attached to them.  However, I can guaranteed that the person who made/promoted that decision is not a drummer.

When I’m asked what it’s like playing on a house drum set, I give the analogy of driving someone else’s car in a race: Yes, you’ll be able to drive the car and you know where the gas, brake & steering wheel are, but you don’t know the intricacies of this car. You don’t know how it accelerates, how it breaks, how it handles around curves.  The same things goes with drum sets.  It bothers me that people wouldn’t fathom telling guitar players to play on someone else’s guitar, yet have no problem telling drummers they have to play a drum set that gets pounded night in & night out.

This particular drum set appeared to have a 10″, 13″ & 16″ with Pinstripe heads torque’d pretty high.  What this means is that they were “ping-y” and “ring-“, a stark contrast from my darker ebony heads that produce a warmer tone that works with our music.  In addition, I had to grow used to 3 toms pretty quick, a departure from my 4 toms.  It doesn’t help that I flip the order of my two rack toms – the non-standard configuration probably a bad habit, but it’s what I’ve grown accustomed to.  In my bass drum I have a pillow, which produces a more muffled sound, while allowing a good bounce response.  The House Drumset had no such pillow, and it took an adjustment.

The policy allowed us to bring in our snare drum, pedals & cymbals. At this point, the only thing that was left of the drum set was the bass drum and three toms – which makes me wonder how much time was really saved. 

What owners/promoters don’t understand is that if you give them a staging area to set up their gear off-stage, a good drummer can get their drum on stage and ready to go in roughly the same time it takes a guitar player to set up their amp, pedals, and tune their guitars.

When I was in high school, I played on a foreign drum set each and every day – but school drum sets are different than House Drumsets.  With school drum sets you typically get a period of time to be acclimated to the kit before you play it at anything meaningful.  With the House Kit the sound check is the first chance you get to sit behind the kit.  To borrow a line from A.I., “We’re talking about practice, not the game”.  I’m all about rehearsing on another drum set to help save time – but when you’re essentially putting on an audition it’s pretty lofty to expect drummers to be in their elements in a kit they just started playing.

Like I said, I understand House Drum set may make sense to some, but it doesn’t make sense to drummers.