Sunday, June 17, 2012

And this kit is for actual playing....

I felt guilty when I took my birch/bubinga Starclassics on a 299-mile drive through the California desert one weekend to make a rehearsal with a brass band I play with.  I packed everything up in their cases (solid black Humes & Berg Enduro cases) and got it all loaded in the back of my Ford F-150 pickup and hit the road for the four-hour haul to get out to Visalia.  The day wasn't really hot, but when I finally got to my destination, my new Starclassics were cooked!  

There was no physical damage, but I do know that heating wood and then cooling it off, if done too quickly and to the extreme will eventually make the wood go brittle and all kinds of bad things can happen.  This is one of the reasons you buy a 'pro' drumset.  As a stage technician/sound guy, I've set up drumsets on stages that were being built, and oddly enough, during the night all kinds of temperature changes happen.  The regular day temperature just dropping 15 degrees as the sun goes down feels alot colder than it should.  And then as the lighting guys get their stuff together, when they turn on their system, the stage temperature can rise to over a 100-degrees farenheit!  

I know, you say, who's the idiot that would set-up a drum kit like that and leave it out in the elements?  Well, contrary to popular belief, instruments that get rented for events aren't treated the best,  This particular show I'm talking about was a Beach Boys concert and the backline amps and instruments  (the drums) were all rented.  When it arrived, I got to set up most of it, the afternoon before the show!

But back to my poor Starclassics, they handled the temperatures well, but I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that I shouldn't abuse my new drums.  At first I was searching for one of the many cheap shell packs of intermediate drums.  And I was ready to pull the trigger on a budget kit when I found the kit above.  It was originally just two rack toms (11x12, 12x13, 16x16 FT, and 16x22 bass drum) but I decided to stay in touch with my groovin' ways and I sold the 12x13 as soon as I got it.  But the above kit is a Tama Granstar Custom from the late 80s.  Like the earlier Tama Superstars, they are a heavy birch shell (designed to compete with Yamaha's all-birch Recording Custom line), with a lacquer finish (not a wrap).  This one is in the very 80s lipstick red finish.  The photo doesn't do it justice really, it's actually more pinkish than orange.

I remember seeing the Granstars and the Artstars back then and I fell in love with them, although I was playing a Yamaha Recording Custom kit then, and thought I was becoming a Yamaha player.  But Tama's industrial design and those trapezoidial lugs I really dug.  So when this kit showed up on eBay for $399 with free shipping, I pulled the trigger.  They're a little beat up (the finish is nicked up on the bass drum, and I had to repair one of the hoops because some plies came loose from a crack), but now that it's up and running with new heads on it, this kit absolutely ROCKS.  It does have a different sound from my beloved birch/bubinga drums, but not too different.  I have the same type of heads on both kits so they roughly feel the same.  Friends who have heard this kit are surprised how ringy and wide-open I have them tuned.  They sound very jazzy despite the look.

I decided to get a new snare for it too, and after rummaging around at my local Sam Ash music store, the saleswoman there suggested I try this Tama 6.5x13 Artwood maple snare she just got in.  I had never played a 13 snare before and I was amazed.  It felt really good (not as hard as my 14 Stewart Copeland snare) and even when tuned down low, it retained it's upper-pitched punch.  So I got it to go with this kit.

As a side note:  I'm so excited about using 13" snares that I just ordered a Tama SLP 6.5x13 Sonic Steel snare, to see if I get the same results with a steel shell of the same size.  It literally feels like a completely different animal to me and I'm digging it!

So this is the kit I will take traveling around in the back of my truck - maybe cased, maybe not.  Considering their age and what they are, if I'm nice to them, I'm sure they'll live for another 25 years, provided I don't completely trash them on my upcoming California tour!

And this time, I have a white reflective canvas tarp to cover the stuff in the back of the truck, I figure I owe them that much!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tama Starclassic Performer b/b Black Oyster LE Review!

I purchased this kit about a week ago and have spent some quality time getting to know it a bit.  For starters, Tama says this is a limited edition kit, so I suppose this means when the supply runs out, they would no longer be available.  So here’s some fundamentals of what this kit is:  it is a Starclassic Performer, made up of outer birch plies and inner bubinga plies.  The configuration I purchased is the standard 4-shell shell pack consisting of a 16x22 bass drum, 7x10 and 8x12 rack toms, and a 14x16 floor tom.  All the toms have die cast hoops top and bottom.  The finish is actually quite striking.  I was originally debating getting the famous-name black oyster kit, but when I got right down to it, that particular kit and it’s associated black oyster pearl wrap had been around for decades.  I do give an enthusiastic nod to the classics, but this time around, I really wanted a kit that had the best of today’s engineering going for it, hence my look at these Tamas.  The finish on this Tama kit is actually painted and lacquered this way, so it isn’t a wrap.  So I get the classic look without the potential headache of a wrap, and modern-day engineering.  I’ll take it.

Please note that I have also ordered a matching 5.5x14 snare drum, but that is not available for review since I won’t be receiving mine until late May/early June.  As of this writing, nobody has them in stock.  For now, I’ve been using my Tama 5x14 Stewart Copeland signature snare drum exclusively (chrome-over-brass, heavy – definitely no slouch in the ‘good snare drum’ market) so I’ll survive without the matching black oyster snare for now.

Everything that we’ve come to expect from Starclassic drums are certainly standard on these Starclassics.  You get the upscale rack tom isolation mounts that you see on the upscale Starclassic drums (on this kit, your only option is chrome hardware – you have a choice of other hardware finishes when you step up the line in the Starclassic chain).  The bass drum claws have rubber inserts where the claw meets the bass drum hoop, and also a rubber band on the tension rod itself that keeps the rod with the bass drum claw – I thought this was a very nice touch and am surprised other manufacturers don’t do this.

The bass drum has a tom mount for the double tom holder, but it is the newer Tama sliding tom mount.  The pipe does not extend through the shell, but sits in the base plate mount on the bass drum.  At its lowest position, I still managed to get the rack toms where I wanted, and I’m pretty short, so Tama gets an ‘A’ on this one.  Standard Starclassic spurs on the bass drum work as well as anybody else’s top of the line spurs, so you can rest assured that the bass drum won’t go sliding away from you!

A nice touch when I was unpacking the bass drum was that Tama put a rubber bumper on the edge of the shell to keep it from getting damaged in transport.  Apparently, they put the front head and front hoop in another box, and put the bass drum (with the batter head installed, but no front) in its own box.  I commend them for protecting the bearing edge of the exposed portion of the shell.  Upon initial inspection, every drum I checked out was pretty flawless.

The kit comes outfitted with clear Evans G2’s on the top (an Evans EQ4 for the bass drum), and these generic Tama Powercraft 250 resonant heads.  The front head on the bass drum is a yellowish Fiberskin head with Tama logo, along with the Starclassic label at the bottom.  It’s always a good thing to purchase upper-end gear in this case because you don’t have to replace the heads.   These Tamas came with good heads and it was relatively easy to get them to sound really good. 

That said though, I wasn’t happy with the Powercraft 250 resonant heads they put on the bottoms of the toms.  I had some clear Evans G1’s lying around and when I put those on, the toms suddenly sounded like what I was used to.  I think the Powercraft 250 heads are too thin and flimsy.  If you decide to get one of these fine kits, budget for some new bottom heads on the toms, you’ll be glad you did.  Whenever I tell people to get any kit, depending on what it is, sometimes I flat-out tell them to get an entire new set of heads, so your budget kit is no longer a budget kit if you have to fork out another $200 on good heads!  At least with these Starclassics, you only have to replace the bottom tom heads!

Once I got them where I like them, the tones were punchy and resonant.  The bass drum, with nothing in it, and the batter head just above a bit of wrinkling with that fiberskin reso head, sounds amazing.  I’m experimenting getting a good recorded sound with it by mic placement, rather than sticking the mic inside the drum.  It doesn’t ring excessively and produces more thuddy punch that I like.  Although I think a good investment would be another head with a port in it should  I deal with a sound guy who only knows how to get a good sound from inside the drum (and don’t we all deal with sound guys like that?).  With the crack of my Copeland snare, I feel like Steve Jordan (although I can’t play like him).  I am totally in love with these things.

NOTE:  In the photos above, I managed to find a nice Remo Starfire Chrome head for the front.  So I got that and had a Tama logo sticker from years ago and put the two together.  I think the kit looks much better with the chrome front head, or even a regular white one.  When your primary colors are blacks, greys, chromes....yellow just looks well, wrong.  But the bass drum sounds good regardless what front head you decide to keep!

I can tune them high or low and they speak well.  Brushes playing jazz?  No problem.  A tight funk sound like Earth, Wind, and Fire?  You bet.  Zeppelin?  Sure.  Country music?  Blues?  I’m happy to report that this is a kit that doesn’t get in the way of the music you want to make.  If you have a sound in your head, it’ll happily go there and give it to you.  I owned a Starclassic Bubinga Elite kit before this one, and although I loved the tones from those (more expensive) Tamas, I’m really happy with these, too.  The combination of birch and bubinga seems to give me enough of a balance – I get a good attack provided by the birch, and the bubinga gives me enough ‘boing’ for projection.  With the solid bubingas, I think the ‘boing’ was more present, but it was a lovely sound as well.  This particular performer kit, the shells are a little thinner than the solid bubinga kit, this probably lessens the boing a bit and promotes more resonance – not sure, I just know they sound really good.   I remember hearing a Yamaha Oak Custom for the first time, and that being a very hardwood like bubinga, had quite a bit of boing as well, they were very close.

Another added plus for this kit is the striking finish.  Lets face it: it’s a dead-ringer for that very famous Beatles drumset color.  Combine that with drums that can be tuned however you need them to sound, and now you have a kit that will fit any situation too.  You know how some of those new modern kits look so, well, modern?  This one doesn’t, really.  Like I said, you would feel comfortable with this kit on the bandstand at a wedding, or with a jazzy big band doing a jazz concert.  And the modern venues would think you’re one of those soulful, retro drummers we all love (think of someone like Zigaboo Modeliste).  You can’t lose.  Put a logo-less front head on the bass drum and no one would suspect you’re playing a modern-day drumkit.  The badges on the toms aren’t really that large either, and due to the color of the kit, they simply disappear.  So you can be brand-incognito if you so desire.  You can even re-mount the tom mount and turn the logo sides towards you so no labels appear outward at all!   

Other than having different sizes, you could use this kit for a lot of situations and it would fit.  I know several players who own several different kits of different sizes to use depending on what they’re doing.  That’s cool, but I still think in terms of having one kit that can do it all (like Buddy Rich only played one kind of kit, right?) so I’m happy to have less gear on hand and to get every drop out of the one kit.  In fact, between having the Copeland brass snare, and the matching birch-bubinga snare, I might have all the snare areas covered too (metal snare can’t really sound like a wooden one, and vice versa, right?).

I’m sorta proud to be playing Tama, so I’ll probably proclaim my brand loyalty with this kit for a while.  My first pro kit was a Tama Superstar from 1984, and although through the years I’ve played other famous brands, I ended up going back to Tama in the end (well, at this juncture) by playing the bubinga elites and now this performer kit.    Most of my friends who’ve seen the kit were surprised it was a Tama as they were expecting the color to be a Ludwig or an old Gretsch!  So, this color combined with well-engineered hardware is a no-brainer for me.

Of course, if you’re Tony Williams (and play just like him) and must dominate in a fire-engine yellow kit, I’m sure Tama makes something like that too.

Please check out the video of me playing this kit so you can hear for yourself that these drums just sound amazing, and provide quite the bang for your buck.  There’s another company with retro-style painted finishes, and those drums cost about a thousand dollars more and you get less of them!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sonor Bop drumset review!

Hello everybody!

Ever since I was a kid, I've played the four-piece drumset.  Of course, as a kid under-10, this was mostly an economic thing imposed by the parental units who didn't know if I was really into it or not, and the whole time I thought it sucked because even as a child, I've perused the drum catalogs and knew that more was always better.

But along the way I've had good teachers who straightened me out and helped me see the error of my ways, and as I grew older I appreciated the four-piece drumset.  So, while I was cutting my teeth on those four-drums of my early years, all the while wishing I had more stuff, by the time I was old enough to actually afford more pieces, I never really moved beyond the standard five-piece.  In fact, I've stated it here, and for years prior, that I sound pretty stupid on lots of drums.  That is, until I finally took the plunge and got the big double-bass monster kit I've always wanted (and knew it would probably never leave the house).  I'm not going to ask if anyone thinks I sound stupid on that big kit anyway ;)

A year ago I did a review of the Sonor Safari drumset and loved it.  I mainly bought it as a practice tool and didn't really have plans to use it outside of my practice room.  Consequently, many friends saw that review on along with my solo video of it and decided they could have a Safari kit in their future.  I was mainly inspired when I saw Jojo Mayer's DVD where they included snippets of him playing a 16" bass drum, snare, hats and cymbal around New York City (his formidable technique didn't rub off on me, however).  I did want a little more bottom end out of the bass drum though, and a full-sized 14" floor tom too, so just last week I picked up a Sonor BOP drumset.

For $397 (which included shipping), I got what's basically a Safari kit on steroids.  It comes with a 16x18 bass drum, 8x12 tom, and 14x14 floor tom, with a matching 5x14 snare.  It's says "Select Hardwood" on the labels, so it's hard to say what kind of wood it is.  People tell me its basswood, or it could be a combination of woods, nobody really knows.  Considering the price, I'm not too concerned with what its made out of, I just wanted it to sound good, and it does that.

As the venerable four-piece drumset it is, it literally does nothing to make you sound good.  That's totally up to you.  Four-piece drumsets are like a great equalizer to me.  If the drummer can really play, then it shouldn't matter what he's playing.  I really just want the music to groove and feel good.  The drums could be made of gold for all I care - if it ain't happenin', you're fired!

Right out of the box the fit and finish was great.  No bubbling on the silver sparkle wrap.  The bearing edges were consistently flat, and the hardware pieces were very smooth to use.  The kit immediately got Remo coated ambassadors on the tops of the drums, and the bass drum got a Remo smooth white PowerStroke 3 head.   My Safari I played with the stock Remo UT heads which were made in China, and those managed to sound great with those heads.  These Bops drums with the ambassadors sounded absolutely stunning for drumsets in the under-$400 category.  When I mic'd it up it sounded even better!

Of course, I'm not saying it's a replacement for any high-end jazz drumset, nor do I think it would survive the daily set-up-and-tear-down suffered by professional equipment.  But as a casual drumset for local gigs, I think you'd be surprised how far $400 goes for a shell pack of drums these days.  And even professionals aren't working all the time, right? 

I have nothing but positive vibes for this little drumset, and I'm discovering that maybe 18" bass drums are for me.  It so nice to have everything down low and I didn't have to labor so much to reach up to anything to play it.  And I'll take all the help I can get!  Mic'd up, the bass drum sounded nice and punchy - no wonder Bernard Purdie uses an 18" bass drum.  I didn't miss the amount of air I wasn't moving (and can't hear) on a bigger bass drum.  The toms tuned down very good (as you'll hear on the accompanying video) and the snare even "went there" for different tunings.  Sometimes cheap snare drums sound good at one tuning, this one did an adequate job of both high tunings and low tunings, so it's a keeper.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, it looks like both the Sonor Safari and Bop drumsets will be discontinued to make way for the new Smart Force series, so if you're in the market for one of these little gems, now would be the time to find one and get one.   The Smart Force series which I presume is replacing this is a five-piece shell kit with an 18" bass drum, but it will cost approximately $100 more.

Following is my demonstration video of the Bop.  And surprisingly, I'm not playing jazz here.  I decided to do a drum cover of The Cars' Bye Bye Love.  At least you'll see how the kit sounds in a rock context and it actually comes across as quite solid.  After I did this video, I was seriously thinking maybe 18" bass drums really are for me.  We'll see what the future holds in that department.  Enjoy the music, and especially enjoy what a drummer really does when playing in a rock band!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Perhaps a video of me just grooving with the band today....

So, after all this solo stuff going on, I'm sure most people probably think I don't know what it is to play with and for other musicians.  I mean, why practice to have all these chops just to hide them when you can gleefully obliterate your band members with mind-bending drumming displays?

Never fear, for my first couple of years in college cured me of that!  You haven't lived until you pull up a chart with a big band to discover a basic 12-bar blues number, kick it off, and then have the band director stop the band after seven bars, and then proceed to rip into the drummer for not having his s**t together!
I thank my lucky stars daily that I learned this lesson, and regret that I hadn't learned it earlier, like in the 8th grade!  Time and groove are really where it's at, and I'm happy as a clam to be laying it down for the band and the potential dancers listening.  Enjoy this Stevie Wonder classic....

Monday, January 2, 2012

Finally! A double bass improv drum solo!

After about a month, I've bravely created a video for everyone to see my progress on the double bass drums.  My head started to screw itself on straight after I reminded myself what the role of the drummer really is.  So I think I feel OK about having nine drums to play but only using three of them at a time.  All of a sudden my musical ideas started to flow correctly and that was cool.  I was getting pretty tired of sounding so stupid on the big kit!  Enjoy and do let me know what you think.

Drummer with two bass drums AVAILABLE!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome to the site and some NEW GEAR!

Before we go on, my playing links are in the post before this one, so be sure to skip down to see that post if you're looking for my basic information and some videos of my playing.

That said, I had to make a new post because of some new gear that I got into that I said in my last post that I would never get into!

I had always been a fan of large drumsets, and I'm totally impressed when I see folks play their huge drumkits and make great music with 'em, like Billy Cobham, Simon Phillips, or Thomas Lang.  But I had never gotten into it myself because for me the groove is king, and I always thought I sounded silly if I had anything more than five drums and a couple of cymbals.  Kinda' like a kid a candy store, I'd ultimately be hitting as much of it as I could and being very distracted from the music being made.   So, out of pure professionalism, I avoided large drumsets for myself just for that reason.

But eBay entered the equation and I found this insanely great deal on a Drum Workshop lefty-double pedal set-up.  The seller bought it from a friend, not knowing it was a left-footed model, and couldn't really use it once he had it.  I bought it for a mere $150 off of him.  I get it, and find I was kinda' liking having something else for my hi-hat foot to do, and since it was just an addition to my five-piece set, no one knew I really had it, and I could ignore the pedal's usage if I wanted to. 

And then I got to thinking how much sheer fun it would be to have a whole mess of drums, not with the intention of ever doing a gig with them, but just to have.  I recall before Tony Williams passed away, he actually had a big double bass kit to play on in his house.  I tell myself that I'm old enough now to not sound like a kid and I will still be professional in my application of the huge drumset. 

Lo and behold, I now have a huge, nine-piece double bass kit!  It's a Pearl EXR Export kit in their very retro black strata wrap, and for an intermediate set of drums, they don't sound half-bad.  Not as good as my bubinga drums, but drums, nonetheless. At first I had six-pieces of the kit to be a gigging kit with a single bass drum, but when Pearl discontinued the line, all these stores had new old stock to get rid of and I managed to snag another bass drum, an 8" tom, and another 14" floor tom to go with that kit.  It looks like this now:

It is amazingly fun to play, and it fills up half of my practice space.  It will take me some time to sound like any of my favorite big-kit drumming heroes, but at least the ball is rolling.  I'm experimenting with rack tom placement, and like Cobham, they might not end up in an order because I'm trying to keep them as low as possible for comfortable playing.  Being vertically challenged, I don't want to have to stretch to reach anything to play!

So I guess this means if you want the look of double bass drums, I can give you that too (nevermind the actual playing of two bass drums, that comes later ;)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcome to the site!

Hi all!

After years of playing, I thought it might be smart to have some kind of web presence that people can access should they want some Matt Eder information, so welcome and I hope you enjoy hangin' here for a bit!

I've been playing drums and singing (background and lead) professionally since the late 1980s.  I've studied music at Mt. San Antonio College, Cal State Fullerton, and UCLA.  In college I've performed in stage shows and with jazz bands.  In 1986 I became a staff percussionist for the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, where I also branched into the Audio Engineering/Stage Technician fields, where I continue my work.  But I am also continuing my musician work with the company in Disney's new Soundsational Parade (which began in May 2011).  I am both a member of IATSE local 504, and the AFM local 7.   Outside of this I've also held the position of staff percussionist/performance coach for the choral programs of Nogales High School, Diamond Bar High School, and Brea-Olinda High School over the last 25 years.

Also during the early '90s to the new millenium, I got a little sidetracked into MIDI and electronic percussion.  I did alot of MIDI sequencing utilizing MOTU's Performer software sequencer on my Macintosh, and even used a Roland Octapad II and a R5 Rhythm Composer for gigs.  I delved deeper into it after seeing "Future Man" Wooten with Bela Fleck and bought hook-line-and-sinker into the Zendrum (gasp!).  I've gotten all of that out of my system now and only play acoustics.  I was getting tired of people knowing me as "that guy who played that weird-guitar-thing" rather than the acoustic drums I studied most of my life learning (and still learning) how to play!

Alot of what I've done has usually involved mercenary work - getting called in to reading something for a performance with little or no rehearsal.  I've been involved with bands, but outside of college and Disneyland, most reading has been done by reading either the piano parts or the lead trumpet parts.  Usually my ears get the biggest workout when playing on casuals and weddings - my role is basically to be the glue of the band and to provide a good groove for the dancers and the band members!

My current gear:

Although I've owned most big-name drums brands over my career, after having owned a Tama Superstar from 1984 (and subsequently jumping around to DW, Ludwig, Gretsch, Pearl, Yamaha, Sonor, etc.,....) since 2010 I've 'come home' to Tama Starclassic Bubinga Elite drums.  I've never needed more than five drums and a couple of cymbals, (every time I used more drums and cymbals, I tended to sound like a kid banging on drums at the local Guitar Center).  I don't even play a double bass drum pedal - I wish I could, but for me it was something that got in the way of my groove.  So if you're looking for a fluent double-bass player, that's not me.  Here's my lineup:

18x20 bass drum
6.5x10 and 7x12 Hyperdrive rack toms
15x16 floor tom
5x14 Tama Stewart Copeland chrome-over-brass snare (heavy, but lovely!)


A Zildjian 14" hi-hats (New Beats or Quick Beats - depending on what sounds better for a particular project)
A Zildjian 18" thin crash
K Zildjian 20" K Custom Dark Ride
Note:  although I change drums like clothes, I've owned these cymbals now for over 20 years!  Wow.


A mix of Tama and Pearl (I really like the big rubber feet of the Pearl cymbal stands - call me vain)

And now, onto some playing examples....

Obviously, the reason for this site is to attract potential employers or like-minded players for projects, bands, or special events.  So following are a few videos of some of my playing.  Please feel free to comment - I love getting feedback.  Hope to hear from you!