Things are rarely as they appear and deciphering between deceptively attached false traits like 'sound enhancing' to wooden knobs and true characteristics is a never ending life puzzle that requires a clear mind to navigate. As you can probably tell, I feel much disdain for those humans intent on blurring the lines between true facts and the fabricated un provable claims that these parasitic shiesters use to prey upon lazy minds to sell their wares to the naive. On the flipside though, occasionally I run across truly amazingly subtle nuances that have a very real and surprising impact on the function. Today I had the pleasure stumbling across one of them and I love it!
This is a true story is about a rock band named Chili Peppers. On each tour, every detail is meticulously and naturally pressed to another level of refinement. The interactive entity of musician and equipment has reached such a precise and precarious plateau that even the slightest variations result in surprising ramifications. We experienced that when attempting to switch to a digital monitor consol and the band found the sound disconnecting. It turned out that the digital board introduced a delay time that made the sound more distant sounding so we went back to analog. Around the same time during the promo tour we introduced a "power soak" on John's guitar rig to drop his level while maintaining his tone. It worked perfect tonally and level wise but John was unable to get the desired amount of feedback from the speakers at the lower volumes. Starting this tour Flea switched to vintage Fender basses which were wonderful for the studio but live we lost the clarity and deep low end that signifies his sound, so upon my own and Rick Rubin's request, he switched back the active pre amp Modulus basses. The pattern repeats often and much care is taken with every change made in the audio realm.
Well, today another gremlin got into our world. On a typical Peppers show, chad switches snares a few times so the set is divided on to three snare drums which seems to be the optimum balance between a consistently solid snare sound and not swapping too often. A few shows back, Chad started going through six snares a show, heads were denting and snare heads were tearing, yet nothing was changed. Did Chad acquire instantaneous super arm or did we get a bad batch of heads? Chad has proven consistent year after year so it seemed gear related. Chris Warren, the drum tech, had drum heads from several sources of various ages acquired in various countries, so the probability of a bad batch of heads is quite slim.
After a bit of pondering, the drum sticks seemed to be the only logical culprit but Chad has had his own signature sticks manufactured for him specifically for many years. These sticks are all exactly the same, made by a single company, the same design and there have been no changes. Hmmm, dented heads. Better look at the sticks anyway. Since drum sticks are expendable and they are constantly worn out and given out, it was fortunate that Dave Lee had an old one and here, take a look at this comparison.
The top one is a new stick and the bottom is the older stick. Dented heads. Look at the sharper curve. Since Chad 'side sticks' the snare, that would mean that the new stick would contact the drum with the slightly more pointed edge on the newer stick The toms, though, would contact the flatter edge as they are struck from a less parallel angle. With the force of Chad's hit being constant and if that little pointier edge of the new stick had 1/2 the contact area, that would mean the head is taking twice the force per square inch; hence, head dentation. Further comparison of the sticks revealed that they the new stick are a bit heavier all around and especially on the tip end due to a thicker taper. Now keep in mind, I am not a drummer and this may all be common knowledge, but I do understand physics and it appear that we have found the gremlin and finding gremlins is fun.
Sooooooo, when in doubt, get the sander out! And sand we did.
Curving the new stick's tips to the old shape and it was a 'three snare show' and though the sticks are not quite right, they are close enough and problem solved.
**** End Drum Nerd Speak ****
Hey, check out the newest Rat Swag
And a gratuitous shot of Gibby Haynes and I because I can and to remind myself that I am a lucky roadie.
Wow--the Drum Nerd Speak was seriously interesting! I used to play drums in High School so I become a nerd around anything drum related.
How tall *IS* Gibby anyway? Geez I think the top of my head would reach the word "Trophy".
It could have been that sharp angle of the drum head, but then again, when taking the velocity into account of the drumstick itself, if the drumstick was manufactured with a slightly harder material or finish, the existing angle would have produced more dented head. When you sanded them down, you may have either worn off some of the harder finish, exposing the softer internal wood, or maybe reducing the angle to less of an agressive point then the original sticks. The less apparent wear makes me think it was a hardness issue....
just a thought...
PS Tell chris I said whatsup, we had a good talk about logic in philly...
this is definitely not boring. whenever i go online i read your entries. sorry that tour is starting to wear on you, i hope you feel better about it somehow, it's almost over anyway, right?
i kind of feel weird not introducing myself and this being your blog so my name is kerstin, i'm 19 and a fan of the red hot chili peppers and genuinely interested in life on the road and what has to happen to put on a show. your work makes people like me very very happy. and i'll stop talking about myself now.
This is seriously off topic, but I'm under the impression John F.'s a Vinyl collector and I've heard/seen that he likes The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed:
Maybe it's in his budget ;)
The other bummer from drumming standpoint to sanding the tip is that the un-finished softer tip has a much more poor attack on ride cymbals. That happens naturally when the sticks wear for a bit, but if they start out that way it must be a bummer. Back when I used DC-17 Promark sticks, the non-tip solid taper design wasn't great for rides. The 3S's I use now sound much better on ride ;-)
I have to have those SHOES!
I bred rats for many years and have rat tattoos left riht and centre
and I need those shoes!
please tell me where from? please!
oh - and I agree - the drum nerd speak was surprisingly interesting :)
hope you get a rest soon
2006 will go down as the year of the sonically-incisive RHCP's!!! GREAT soundman- Dave Rat: thank you for these illuminating blogs... GREAT producer, (no need to drop names,) while December 5th marks the unleashing of 150 and 180 Gram Lp Sets of Stadium Arcadium, masterfully mastered by Mr. Steve Hoffman. I got both versions, and this offering is easily the Album of The Year by the Band of The Year!!!!!! (Doesn't life get better as it goes??!?!!?)
good job on the troubleshooting. i also see good teamwork there too. soooo, does chad get to pound his sticks on the company thats been sending him a very materially different product? i now frown upon them for interupting chads mojo more frequently than normal. maybe he should "change sticks"... oooh that was low!
Monique - Gibby is tall! I am 5'10" so figure from there.
Tenkai - We just did our 3rd show on the sanded down new sticks and all is good! It appears that the entire issue was the tip shape.
Hello Kerstin, pleased to meet you!
Cool info Greg! It amazes me how complex the simplest things can be. How are you doing?
We made those shoes as Rat SWAG for the roadies on Peppers tour. We talked about making some extras and selling them if people want them. Email Daniella at Rat and let her know. daniella(at)ratsound.com.
Thank you much HALLDORSON!
howdthattaste, Oh yes yes, stick company got 'spoken to.' And hope the issue gets fixed soon. In the mean time, Chris is a sanding away!
Hi Dave. Things are going very well. Still lovin' the blog. Trying to get Sheila to read it but she seems to think it's going to be all techy. I think a lot of non-sound humans would enjoy it too since it covers a lot of other interesting ground. Dukowski says to say hello. Come home soon.
Interesting bit of detective work. I've been doing some research into the sonic effects of seemingly trivial items (such as different guitar picks, etc.). You'd be surprised (or maybe YOU wouldn't) at the difference in sound the little things make... Maybe a wooden pick covered in special lacquer would be nice - only one way to find out!
Love the blog, makes me miss the road...