Keeping big band horns from dragging


Senior Member
Hi All! So I finally got to trying out a few different options but it didn't end up working out like I wanted it to for 2 reasons: 1) production work went later than planned so by the time I was alone in the studio it was late and I didn't have the energy to set up real mics beyond the little shotgun Mic attachment for my phone, and 2) I realized while setting up that I embarrasingly left my snare stand at a venue the other night. It's very old and on its last legs, so if it's gone when I go back, it won't be a huge loss, but it was the only one I had at the studio so it was difficult to actually play the kit like a kit. Still, I forged on!!

Ride Cymbal - After going through every potential ride I own, I've come to the conclusion there is really only 1 that will have more ping to it than the ride I was using before, the new one being a 22" 60's K (heard in the video). I also have a 20" A that I found at another lockout space years ago with lots of cracks in it. I just got it back from a friend who I'd lent it to, but it really does sound like ca-ca, just a midrangey mess of clangy tones, so that's out of the question.

OK, ON TO THE VIDEO. The sound quality is what it is. This is a fun experiment for me that is not intended to be scientific or thorough. I didn't take any time tuning anything up a certain way for this, choosing to leave everything where I already think they sound best right now.

So... I'm interested in your opinions as to what fits best in a big band setting with the understanding that I may ignore them completely...


First I went through the Snares because this is what I'm the most unsure of. Again, I had no snare stand and didn't have any interest in doing more than one take, so don't judge my flubs and missteps.

1) 70's Ludwig Red Sparkle 5.5x14 snare (this is the snare I've been using so far in this band)

2) 60's Gretch COB 5.5x14 snare

3) 80's Yamaha Recording Custom Birch 6.5x14 snare (I actually thought in my head that this would be the one but in playing it turned out to be my least favorite for this application)

4) 60's or 70's Rogers Superten (I believe) 6.5x14 snare

HiHats! The K's are my current main and favorite Hats but I think the Istanbuls have a higher frequency sheen to them which will travel better.

1) 60's K Hihats
2) 90's Istanbul Hihats

Now for the Kick. Really hard to hear what's going on with these with the crappy recording. I have been using the Ludwig up until now, but I think the Rogers will be worth trying for this next session. It is SIGNIFICANTLY louder and punchier than any other kick I've ever owned, hopefully not too much so, but I think it will be ok. I have a few other kicks (60's slingerland 20", 50's Ludwig 18") but they weren't really appropriate for this situation I think.

1) Ludwig Transition Badge 20" Bass Drum
2) Rogers Powertone 22" Bass Drum

Trying to figure out embedding the video here but it's not working. I'll switch from my phone to laptop and give it a go in a bit, but for now here's the link to the video:
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Senior Member
Ok! Had the session this morning and it went pretty well.

I ended up using the Rogers kick which sounded great. Definitely loud, but was pretty easy to tame.

Ludwig tradition badge toms which I had been using before.

I started out with the Rogers snare. It sounded great with sticks, but the head is so new, that brushes just sounded like white noise. So, I switched to the Gretsch COB 5.5x14 which i'd also brought and had an old head on it. Sounded great too and cut well.

My 22" K ride worked well. Maybe not the end-all-be-all of big band rides but it cut well enough. For a second ride/crash, I started with my trashy ride I had been using, but then switched to a Bosphorus 21" that's medium dry with rivets. It was better and fulfilled my basic needs when there was a piano solo or ballad, but I might try a different riveted ride on the next session.

Used the Istanbul Hihats and they felt good. I made extra effort to keep 2 and 4 nice and loud and crisp and consistent and it seemed to carry across to the rest of the band.

In general, my M.O. was to plough through the time and really push and dictate what had to happen no matter what. I played with a lot of confidence (whether i felt it or not) and it really sounded better. The horns were still a little behind me at times, but I didn't let it phase me at all. I told the bass player that we were "Team Terminator", and he knew what that meant.

After the first tune, the Tenor player who had been soloing turned around and gave us a big thumbs up and something like, "that was f***ing great!". Made me feel pretty good. Got lots of other nods and encouragement throughout the session so I can safely say that these changes were in he right direction.

The picture shows how the kit ended up.

Thanks again to all of you for the advice. Good stuff comes from the internet every now and then!



Silver Member
Driving a big band can be such a hassle time-wise, all that open space. You can note where they drag and set the spot up with some taps to cue them. You can play loud time on the hats when you see it going bad. I had a situation once where we were backed by a sequence so the time had to be honored, so if they really got off track I would play the beat nice and loud 4 on the floor, which worked. It sucked acting like a dick though, so that's a last resort thing.

I think it's good to talk about it during rehearsals, and acknowledge that every big band faces the same challenge, and every player has to work toward nailing the center of the beat. Loungey dragging should best be left for the weekend trio.

Here's a good example of Tommy Igoe keeping the band on time despite a bunch of layouts.


Silver Member
In all of my college jazz band experiences I've found that getting a really solid and loud hi hat click is the best way to keep the band on tempo. If you feel like your hi hat could be louder then increase the volume of it and talk to the leader of the group and have them emphasize the importance of keeping with the hi hat. If they are dragging the song in general that's one thing, but if there is a lick or run that is especially hard and they can't keep that in time then that's a whole other thing. If that's the case, you need to give them a little tough love and tell them to work on it. It only takes like one or two guys who can't play it to trip up the entire group