Versatility

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
This term always bugs me, when it's used to describe a drum's characteristics.

Every set of drums I ever had, could reproduce any style accurately enough.

The funk style, the jazz style, the rock style, the big band style...can all be made to happen on the same set.

And that same set, can match the sounds that are recognized as being appropriate to whatever style is being played, by way of heads and tuning IMO.

I could tune and head a 22 x 22 bass drum to sound good enough for jazz, I'm sure of it.

So where does the versatility come in? What does it mean when a drum is said to be versatile?

In my mind, versatility begins and ends with the drummer.

Your thoughts?
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
I think if you have a "normal" drum kit, you can do everything with it. It's when you go off to the extremes with respect to the drum's design, it becomes less versatile, ie playing jazz with a modern marching snare. It can be done yes, but the tones of the drum will not be the norm.
I've been playing death & thrash metal for 20 years on a DW kit, and I haven't had issues with the kit under performing, getting the tones I'm looking for.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
When advising on a certain drum brand, I was often asked if the drum / kit was versatile. Well, of course it is within bounds, but I offered this - "if you seek a truly versatile drum, then you only need one. If you seek character, then by it's limiting definition, it's therefore less versatile, but more distinctive". A truly versatile drum does everything to an acceptable standard. There's a lot of choice if that's your goal.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
I've been thinking of asking you to have a beer sometime as I'm in south NJ fairly frequently.

Now I'm not so sure :)

Where are you?
Man, I was totally busting...lol. More often than not we are in total agreement so I have nothing to add.... Marketing? It's a drum PLAY IT!

Me? Medford area.... 😉
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I was busting you back. My son lives in Mt. Laurel and I visit him frequently. I'l have to remember not to call you next time I'm in your area.

See I just did it again. I love busting chops. I don't care for people who can't take a good chop busting.

If you PM me your cell, I could text you and maybe make this simultaneous beer enjoyment thing happen.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Uncle Larry I agree 100%. Drums have one main purpose, to make music. Really, that's not very versatile. But if ithey could fry up some bacon and give me a lap dance while painting the house, now that's versatility.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
I guess you can have a versatile, middle of the road kit which you tune as needed, or kits optimised for heavy rock, speed metal, bebop jazz, etc. They will be bigger, smaller, louder, softer, prefer high or low tunings, classic, modern, many drums or just a few. A big part of it will be the image on stage. If you took a giant heavy metal kit with 8 toms and 2 bass drums into small jazz club, the other players might be concerned....

I think the same applies to electric guitars - a single strat will cover most styles very well, yet there are specialised jazz guitars, rock guitars, blues guitars, vintage, modern, etc.. This also applies to cars, sports shoes, tennis racquets and any number of products.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
So where does the versatility come in? What does it mean when a drum is said to be versatile?
A drum is versatile when it isn't pigeonholed. A 3x13" snare for example is NOT versatile, because it wants to make a fairly narrow range of sounds. A 6.5x14 snare would tend to cover more sonic territory, and therefor would be considered more versatile.

Bermuda
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
While recording, a drum will become versatile as you realise the different ways you can play it. Is it versatile on it's own? I guess so , just have to coax it a little.
 
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mikyok

Platinum Member
My idea of a versatile drum is something that you can use for a number of styles with minimal faffing about. Same can be applied to guitars and basses.

I think most of us buy kits with the idea of that in mind.

The drummer is the versatility, I look at guys like Simon Phillips, Dennis Chambers, Steve Smith, they play many styles but don't alter their setup.
 

Drifter in the Dark

Silver Member
To me, the most versatile drums are the smaller ones- I'm talking Ludwig Downbeat sizes (20" kick, 12" tom, 14" floor tom). You can tune them up, tune them down, use different kinds of muffling, and cover any style. With larger drums (22" kick, 13" tom, 16" floor tom), the tuning range shrinks a little bit; they tend to choke when you take them higher. Now of course, there are exceptions- Joe Morello, Mitch Mitchell, and Elvin Jones all got good results with higher tunings on large drums.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A drum is versatile when it isn't pigeonholed. A 3x13" snare for example is NOT versatile, because it wants to make a fairly narrow range of sounds. A 6.5x14 snare would tend to cover more sonic territory, and therefor would be considered more versatile.

Bermuda
Ah. This raises a good discussion point. I agree that a 3 x 13 for example makes a fairly narrow range of tones.

However....however...I contend that I could still (if I knew how) play any style of music and have it work with a 3 x 13.

Yes it may not be the best sonic choice for that style, (meaning the blind, no questions asked, historically accepted way of doing it) but I don't think that point is enough to ruin the music. The style isn't dependent on a drum's sound is what I want to say...and debate. We were imprinted with certain drum sounds that go along with certain styles of music. But what if we were imprinted with opposite tones than what we were brought up with? We wouldn't question anything just like we don't question anything now. See how this all hinges on initial perceptions?

Imagine "When The Levee Breaks" with a 3 x 13. I think it would still work. Yes it would sound way different. But if we never had the original to compare to, we would just accept it without question. Right?

More thoughts?
 
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J-Boogie

Gold Member
For some reason this thread is making me think of a Vinnie clinic I watched where he said his approach to playing odd time is no different than anyone else's, he breaks things down into groupings of 2 and 3 based on what he has heard in the past. Something like that. Why this popped in my mind is the part where he says "based on what Ive heard in the past" and I think this gets to the heart of this thread. What make a drum versatile? That it can reproduce different, style appropriate sounds, based on what we have heard in the past. A ballad with a fat deep snare, raggae with a piccolo, etc. What makes something versatile is that it checks off these boxes based on historical sounds we are familiar with. I think I forgot the question, its not right there anymore to remind me, Ill scroll up...oh whoops, no question, just says versatility. Versatility, yes.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Versatile and individualistic just don't seem to be synonymous. Bonham's "Levee Breaks" drum sound is too highly indivualistic to be considered musically appropriate in a lot of musical situations. Used in a Summer theatre's pit orchestra or played with a trio in a wine bistro ??

I remember seeing films and photos of Krupa and other early guys playing 7x14 Radio Kings with their big bands. Over time the norm became shallower depth snares as big bands gave way to smaller jazz groups and bebop.. When rock came on the scene, shallow snares were the norm and then they gave way to deeper drums of 70's-80's and now on back to more 'traditional' sizes that are popular.

I think if a person can afford it, a good sounding 4 or 5x14 - either metal or wood-combined with a second drum 6.5 or 7x14 will cover a large range of playing situations.
 
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Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
In general I agree with you Larry. Sound (tone) wise any drum kit could be used for any type of music. But for me I lose the versatility thing when it comes to how loud I need to play. These examples are drums using no artificial amplification (microphones and amplifiers).

For instance at a very small venue like a private party in someone’s front room, playing jazz or blues, I use my 63’ Slingerland kit: 20” bass drum, 12” tom and 14” floor tom. For a loud rock gig I’ll use my Yamaha Live Custom kit; 22” bass, 12”, 13”, and 16” floor tom. My point is because of the design of the drums I’d have a difficult time using my 63’ Slingerland kit for a loud rock gig.

.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I still don't think the instrument itself matters. Check out the Metal Appreciation thread. Lots of those guys are using fairly small kits with one bass drum. It still works. Lots of jazz guys used monster kits with two bass drums. It still worked.

Since guitars/basses were mentioned, you can play metal with a jazz bass. No one cares. You can play jazz with a BC Rich Warlock. No one would care. It's all down to the player.

And since someone brought up cars, you can make a Honda Civic that will spank a Corvette into submission.

It's what the individual wants to achieve, not the device they use to do so.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I still don't think the instrument itself matters. Check out the Metal Appreciation thread. Lots of those guys are using fairly small kits with one bass drum. It still works. Lots of jazz guys used monster kits with two bass drums. It still worked.

Since guitars/basses were mentioned, you can play metal with a jazz bass. No one cares. You can play jazz with a BC Rich Warlock. No one would care. It's all down to the player.

And since someone brought up cars, you can make a Honda Civic that will spank a Corvette into submission.

It's what the individual wants to achieve, not the device they use to do so.
But are the metal players, with their small kits, using microphones and amplification?

.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
But are the metal players, with their small kits, using microphones and amplification?

.
Not always. I was never mic'd in the jam room. Wasn't always mic'd at gigs either. I had standard toms, not power toms. Wasn't an issue. Yeah my kicks were huge, but this isn't my point anyhow. I contend that any drum can be used in any musical setting. There is no jazz kit, metal kit, country kit, hip hop kit, etc. Drums are drums, they have no affiliation.
 
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