LOUD brushes. How?

8Mile

Platinum Member
I've found there's a sweet spot like with a stick where you get a nice rimshot sound. I use this for train beats, which I usually play with brushes. The plastic on the regular Vic Firth wire brush models (with the white handle) is really firm and produces a solid rimshot sound.
 

donzo74

Junior Member
As others have said, the whip stroke is a good technique for this. Also, varying where you strike the drum will produce different timbres. Hitting a few inches in from the rim will give a higher pitched and lighter sound and you get a lower timbre, louder sound as you move towards the center. This expands your dynamic range but you're still playing with brushes, so when it's time to get louder, don't be afraid to dig in when called for.

Regarding cymbals, thin crash cymbals are the best for brush work and the whip stroke works well to get them going. A trick I like to use when using brushes is to hang a string of sizzle beads on a large crash or my ride. In general, I would stick to my brush pattern on the snare and then just give a light to medium hit on the sizzle cymbal on beat one of every other measure or just space them out so that the sizzle sound never really goes away. This creates another layer of sound that can be a constantly sizzling in the background while you brush away on the snare. It's little to no extra effort and you create a more complex bed of sound for the rest of the music to ride on. This is also a good technique if you are new to brushes or if your whisking pattern is a little sloppy because it will mask some of the inconsistencies. The last advantage is that if you come off the snare whisking pattern to play a fill, the cymbal sizzle will still be sustaining and carry over that background sound until you come back to the snare pattern. Very subtle ambient effect and works in many styles.
 

TMe

Senior Member
A trick I like to use when using brushes is to hang a string of sizzle beads on a large crash or my ride.
That sounds like a great idea. I'll have to give a try.

My snare is audible now. I bought a Ludwig Supraphonic, cranked the heads really tight, and I play it without any damping. It's at a really nice volume for accompanying an acoustic guitarist, especially with a light "chik" on the hats for the back beats. I'm doing almost all my solo kit practice with brushes now.
 
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donzo74

Junior Member
I'm doing almost all my solo kit practice with brushes now.
That's great to hear! It's becoming a lost art but it's a drumming tradition that is definitely worth keeping alive! I'm sure lots of guys on this site are still into brush playing but I don't see many cats out on the scene using brushes regularly so it's another technique that will make your playing more versatile and will make you more unique in your local scene. Best wishes!
 

TMe

Senior Member
It's becoming a lost art but it's a drumming tradition that is definitely worth keeping alive!
Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not actually playing brushes in a traditional way. For the most part, I'm just using them like sticks to get a lower volume. I'm a garage rocker but a good friend plays acoustic guitar in the "American Primitive" style. It's nice being able to jam with him once in a while, without him needing an amp. I like practicing with brushes just to keep the volume down. I tried an e-kit first, but couldn't stand it. I always felt that the e-kit was a data entry tool, not a musical instrument.

I'm drifting more to Blues, these days, so I may eventually settle down and learn some proper brush technique.
 

donzo74

Junior Member
Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not actually playing brushes in a traditional way.
Haha, I'm not disappointed. You gotta do your own thing! I've used this technique for low level rock / blues / country / in just the manner you suggest. Playing patterns like rudiments, triplet, and roll patterns with brushes still gives it that extra brush "fuzz" sound and it's good for building your strength because you won't be so dependent upon rebound since brushes don't give you any. If you did ever want to transition from this approach to a more traditional brush concept, you would just need to incorporate some lateral motion as you play the normal up and down strokes. Then you will have the brush fuzz and a little sideways scrape effect added in. Might be fun to try as you experiment with the different textures but like I said, do your own thing and enjoy! Lots of freedom in brush playing and the neighbors are less likely to call the cops!
 
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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Brushes can be pretty loud with practice. Single stroke rolls and rim shots can be quite loud.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I love brushes-has some nostalgic thing and they just sizzle. Playing rudiments using brushes like sticks and using them as brushes are great exercises. I've watched a million videos, tried all kinds of grips, played big sweeps and small sweeps, Tony has some great suggestions, and finally , after months of struggles, came up what works best for me. Which is matched grip (I was torn some things on brushes are easier traditional), smaller sweeps, I use my fingers for fast sweeps, and a fairly light touch. There is so much info it can be overwhelming trying to work on a technique and you just get lost-I did. But with due diligence I finally got some groove with the dang things. At first I could only use wires for anything but now nylon brushes play just as well. I've gone through a bunch of wire brushes bending the wires-so been some casualties. I also found I don't have to press hard to get a nice loud sizzle-nor really bury it for a louder pop. The drum head is making the sound-not the brushes. It's really like a stridulation apparatus because the wire brush is rubbing on the rough surface to produce a sound. You don't want to stop the drum head from resonating so pressing to hard mutes it. And when I play like sticks I pop it so the wires don't bury and mute the sound-I don't get rebound from drum head but the momentum of the wires as an oscillator/whipping you still get free strokes you'll find playing rudiments.
 

TMe

Senior Member
...after months of struggles, came up what works best for me.
When I was doing research online, I got the impression that almost every brush player has their own unique approach. I have a tendency to reinvent the wheel, so that might serve me well for this project.
 

Yamaha Rider

Well-known member
I got over the wire on cymbal issue last night. You can get a bomba or guiro type sound on a Zildjian A with the ridges. How enthusiastic can you get with that, and not damage the cymbal? I know brass is harder than steel, so it should withstand some scraping.
Brass is not harder than steel.
Slip of the keyboard? Sure your cymbals aren't bronze tho? (That's not harder than steel either)
 

Yamaha Rider

Well-known member
I see some videos of drummers playing with brushes and getting stick-like sounds. It looks like they're using the same technique they'd use with sticks, and they're getting almost the same sound, just quieter and softer. Usually they're using clear heads, so they're using the brushes to get a distinct drum sound, not a scraping brush sound.

How do they do that?

At first I thought they must be using triggers, but no. Then I thought they were just playing with tremendous snap, but I don't think that's it. No matter how hard I whip the brush, I don't get a sound anything like that.

Now I think they're actually burying the brush into the head, so the end of the handle is hitting the drum head, and most of the volume and articulation is coming from the handle, not the brushes.

Can anyone shed light on this?
Anyone tried the brushes with a long wooden handle?
I'm tempted cos I use brushes as 'quiet sticks' and don't enjoy gripping the stumpy rubber brushes by the ball end (and sometimes pulling on the retraction loop which is a pain.)
 
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Are you new to playing brushes? If so,slightly changing how you hold the brushes to avoid pulling the brushes in, might be the solution. Have a look at how Joe Morello does it:
I've had some Regal Tip brushes with a wooden handle but I no longer use them because it's easy to bend them during transport.
Another idea if you want to play them like sticks: The white Vic Firth's are rather heavy and stiff - it takes more force to move them within the handle. For the purple model VF model, there are two settings to have different amounts of spread and they also stay in place.
 

Yamaha Rider

Well-known member
Are you new to playing brushes? If so,slightly changing how you hold the brushes to avoid pulling the brushes in, might be the solution. Have a look at how Joe Morello does it:
I've had some Regal Tip brushes with a wooden handle but I no longer use them because it's easy to bend them during transport.
Another idea if you want to play them like sticks: The white Vic Firth's are rather heavy and stiff - it takes more force to move them within the handle. For the purple model VF model, there are two settings to have different amounts of spread and they also stay in place.
Thanks, I am new to brushes, yes. I'm not trying to emulate classic brush technique, just get a mellow sound with a stripped back kit for a country/rock band I'm rehearsing with.
I was looking at the Regal Tips too. Looks like they need to be carried tubes for protection?
 
Mine did come in a plastic tube but I didn't always use it for transport and just put them into the stick bag next to other stuff. Of course, that's my fault but I know that I'm lazy, so I'd probably do it again.. :)
The Regal Tips were good otherwise. However, your problem sounds familiar, so maybe this can help you, too: move the hand up the handle a bit. Then move the fulcrum towards the middle finger, keep the ring finger and pinky close to the handle. The brush then lies in the hand and you can apply some pressure/sweep with the index finger and move it with the two back fingers. Like Ed Soph demonstrates with sticks here:
Some more brush videos:
 
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