Pete Cater on Big Band drumming

Zickos

Gold Member
Enjoyed that but I have a question and a problem. the question is why does he but a plywood board under the snare? And the problem is I think his ride cymbal is too light, more for small group jazz. I personally use a heaver ride with more definition. Sure, it's not crashable but I have two crashes and a splash for that. Opinions?
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
I'm not certain if the wood boards under his snare stand are to level out a lumpy carpet or if it's there are to aid in sound projection in some way. I remember reading years ago that Buddy Rich had a wooden base under his drums to brighten up and help project his sound.
That ride is somewhat a more traditional ride sound that works well with a 40's-50's band sound (along with the lambswool beater). It doesn't have the ping that someone like Louie Bellson would have had in the later part of the 20th century.

Maybe Jeff Johnson can chime in on this, he's one of our Big Band drumming experts here.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Several drummers have commented that they prefer the drum sound directly on wood. As far as I know Simon Phillips brings his own base for the whole kit.

It's pretty much the same for other instruments.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
Enjoyed that but I have a question and a problem. the question is why does he but a plywood board under the snare?
Some guys do it to give the snare drum more highs. Vinnie Colaiuta doesn't set his drums up on carpet because he says it absorbs to much sound.
 

Pete Cater

Junior Member
Hi Guys,

Thanks for all the positive responses. I had fun doing those videos, they were to accompany a series of articles I wrote for UK drum magazine Rhythm at the start of 2015 which covered techniques and concepts for big band players (a great deal of which can be adapted for any genre you choose) as well as a guide to 20 key figures in the history of the music.

I was interested in some of the comments which I will address.
Firstly, the three boards under the snare. I was in a decorating store one time and I happened to see these off cuts of plywood flooring. I bought three of them for £1.50 (about $1 for those of you in the USA) as an experiment. What I found is that any acoustic variations (particularly in a lot of the smaller jazz venues I work in) were cancelled out by the boards, and even more significantly the stick response off the snare (I use a 70's Black Beauty 99% of the time) is consistent wherever I go. When I'm doing a hit and run job, usually in the centre of London, and in house drums are available so all I carry is snare and cymbals (no boards), I really notice a difference in how the snare behaves.

Regarding the ride cymbal, that 20" Constantinople medium is the ride cymbal I had heard in my mind all my life! The room we shot the video in is incredibly bright acoustically so the ride sounds a lot more washy than is truly the case.
In the 80's I went through the whole thing of using ping rides and even a Rock 21 in big bands but these days I like a bit more overtone, and I like to be able to crash the ride at one extreme or to play it incredibly quietly at the other and for there still to be some length in the notes. Sonically I like to think of that ride as being somewhere inbetween Buddy Rich and Mel Lewis, which is no bad thing.
 

RickP

Gold Member
Great work on this Pete. I especially like the emphasis you placed on feathering the bass drum. Many players play too loud when attempting to feather the bass drum. The bass drum should definitely be felt more then heard in this instance.
A good rule of thumb would be that your feathered bass drum should NOT be louder than the upright bass.

My search for a ride cymbal for Big Band has taken me through all sorts of different ideas from pingy like a 602 Medium ride to darker K Con types. My personal favourite ride cymbal sound for Big and is the old A Zildjian with the cutouts Mel Lewis used with Terry Gibbs Dream Band and Art Blakey's on Art Blakey Big Band (remastered 2013), both of these rides have a good stick articulation but also a nice amount of spread as well. You need that cushion for a ride with Big Band. It is fuller and fills space. It also sounds great on ballads as well. Many people when trying out new cymbals never have the opportunity to hear them with a band. Much of the wash and overtone gets overwhelmed by the band so you are left with the stick sound. I am also a firm believer I. Using two or more rides for Big a Band if finances allow. Mel Lewis was quoted as saying everyone of my cymbals is a ride and everyone is a crash. I completely agree with this comment. Many players have one ride and multiple crashes and when listening to the same ride cymbal constantly to my ear gets boring and predictable. Mel would have a high, medium and low sounding ride to play behind certain instruments so he would not get too much into their register.
The K Constantinople Medium ride is a good ride for Big Band in that there is some separation between the stick and wash and they generally have very nice bells. They are also still thin enough for shoulder crashes as well. This actually segues into another point I want to make about crashing in a Big Band. Many times crashing on a dedicated crash cymbal is overbearing in the overall sound of a band. It is too brash and in your face. A simple laying into the shoulder of the ride cymbal for accent can be much more effective and pleasing.
 

Pete Cater

Junior Member
Great work on this Pete. I especially like the emphasis you placed on feathering the bass drum. Many players play too loud when attempting to feather the bass drum. The bass drum should definitely be felt more then heard in this instance.
A good rule of thumb would be that your feathered bass drum should NOT be louder than the upright bass.

My search for a ride cymbal for Big Band has taken me through all sorts of different ideas from pingy like a 602 Medium ride to darker K Con types. My personal favourite ride cymbal sound for Big and is the old A Zildjian with the cutouts Mel Lewis used with Terry Gibbs Dream Band and Art Blakey's on Art Blakey Big Band (remastered 2013), both of these rides have a good stick articulation but also a nice amount of spread as well. You need that cushion for a ride with Big Band. It is fuller and fills space. It also sounds great on ballads as well. Many people when trying out new cymbals never have the opportunity to hear them with a band. Much of the wash and overtone gets overwhelmed by the band so you are left with the stick sound. I am also a firm believer I. Using two or more rides for Big a Band if finances allow. Mel Lewis was quoted as saying everyone of my cymbals is a ride and everyone is a crash. I completely agree with this comment. Many players have one ride and multiple crashes and when listening to the same ride cymbal constantly to my ear gets boring and predictable. Mel would have a high, medium and low sounding ride to play behind certain instruments so he would not get too much into their register.
The K Constantinople Medium ride is a good ride for Big Band in that there is some separation between the stick and wash and they generally have very nice bells. They are also still thin enough for shoulder crashes as well. This actually segues into another point I want to make about crashing in a Big Band. Many times crashing on a dedicated crash cymbal is overbearing in the overall sound of a band. It is too brash and in your face. A simple laying into the shoulder of the ride cymbal for accent can be much more effective and pleasing.
In full agreement with everything here. Great points.
 

geezer

Senior Member
Really enjoyed those videos Pete, very clearly explained and demonstrated throughout - cheers for posting them!
 

Pete Cater

Junior Member
Really enjoyed those videos Pete, very clearly explained and demonstrated throughout - cheers for posting them!
My pleasure. I like to shine a light on some of these old school concepts and then mix 'em up with more contemporary ideas.
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
My old big band teacher fought me a long time ago to tighten up the two adjacent hits closer on slower songs and spread them apart on faster. The second one is evident because a triplet swing at fast tempo sounds horrible .
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
As someone who knows not a thing about big band drumming (but respect it immensely) I got a lot out of this.

Thank you Pete, great stuff.
 
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