Drummer Blog | Jeff Consi | Melbourne, Australia

Portable SPD-30 Setup

Nearly every week I get emails with questions regarding the ultra-portable Roland Octapad SPD-30 setup that I use. So, I have put together the following instructions to show you how I have mounted the SPD-30 with hi-hat and cymbal pads to help you form ideas for your own setups.

SPD-30 Mounting Directions:

If you already have the following mounting plate:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=216

…you can use the Pearl UX-80s to mount the Octapad. The UX-80s fit perfectly inside one of my existing cymbal stands. You just remove the top tier from the existing cymbal stand and the UX-80s should fit in its place. This saves you from having to buy the over-priced Roland stand:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=767

The Roland stand comes with the mounting plate though, so you may want to figure out which is best for you.

For a snare pad I use a Roland PD-85:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=661

I mount the PD-85 underneath the Octapad with this Gibraltar tom mount:

http://www.promusicaustralia.com/drum/GIBImages/sc_sllrm.jpg

Then, I mounted the CY-5(hi-hat) and/or CY-8(crash) using all-purpose multi clamps mounted onto to the top section of a spare cymbal stand I had lying around.

The hi-hat controller is the FD-8:
http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=624&ParentId=101

The bass drum trigger is the KD-7:
http://www.rolandcorp.com.au/products/productdetails.aspx?p=195

This entire setup fits inside a Protection Racket 28″ Hardware bag. I put high density foam on the bottom of the bag. The SPD-30 goes in first, face-down with the mount sticking up. Then, another piece of foam goes on top of the SPD-30 with a small cutout in the centre to let the mount poke through. This allows for the hardware and pads to go on top without damaging the SPD-30.

As I have stated before, the SPD-30 acoustic drum sounds leave a lot to be desired, so you may want to look into picking up a drum sampling plugin such as Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0. It will make your SPD-30 sound better than the $8000 Roland TD-20.

I should also mention that since writing these instructions, I have removed the hi-hat and cymbal pads from my setup. I have found that I like to play the Octapad without them, and prefer having less to setup. I find it easier to play with the ‘less is more’ concept. Either way, I hope this helps you in your quest for an ultra-portable electronic setup.

Roll It Ups Drumstick Bags

Coming to you straight out of Knoxville, the Roll It Ups Stick Bag is an ultra-portable alternative to the standard drumstick bags you see at your local music shop. The cool thing is, they are all handmade by Flea Puckett in Knoxville, TN and easily available at etsy.com, which is a great site for finding handmade items that you won’t find in a mega-retail shop.

This beautifully designed bag fits on to your floor tom by tying the strings to the tension rods. The fact that it is so lightweight means it won’t weigh down on a floor tom that is mounted to a stand. I have stripped tom mounts by hanging heavy stick bags on them, not the best thing to happen in the middle of a gig! The Roll It Ups might be the lightest stick bag I have ever used.

I love the fact that these are handmade. I get the feeling that stick bags were made like this in the not too distant past which is great for us throw backs! Not only that, but the design is minimal. Each bag holds 8 pairs of whatever you choose… Sticks, brushes, rutes/hotrods, or mallets all fit snugly in each pocket. There is also a 12x12cm pouch in the middle of the bag to hold small accessories like a drum key and a small metronome.

Once you are finished with a gig, you just roll the whole thing up, as its name suggests, wrap the tie around the bag, and drop it in your trap case. Too easy.

If you are interested in getting the Roll It Ups, there are plenty of different colors and styles to choose from, and at $27, I am not sure you will get a better deal on a handmade drum accessory:

fleapuckett.etsy.com

Terri Lyne Carrington Mosaic Project

I first saw Terri Lyne Carrington play live many years ago with Al Jarreau in New York City. The one word that comes to mind from her performance is “monster”. And, on her latest release “Mosaic”, she has assembled a monstrous all-star, all-female band. It’s a dream team consisting of Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Esperanza Spalding, Geri Allen, Gretchen Parlato, Helen Sung, Ingrid Jensen, Nona Hendryx, Patrice Rushen, Sheila E, and Tineke Postma.

Mosiac weaves through quite a few musical styles and feels, but somehow it is masterfully all rooted in jazz. From the soulful opening track “Transformation”, featuring Nona Hendryx, to the burning chops in “Insomniac”. You are treated to a buffet of jazz, funk, blues, soul ballads, and latin grooves. There’s even a jazz nod to the Beatles, taking “Michelle” to another level. Some of the standout tracks for me are “I Got Lost In His Arms” for its wide-open, pure groove, “Soul Talk” is the baddest tune ever, and “Crayola”, which sounds like its name, with stretching, bouncing vocals, and fantastic solos.

Terri Lyne Carrington “Mosaic Project”

Mosaic Project is great music, played by stellar musicians, wrapped up in a beautifully recorded production.

The Laptop Drummer

Octapad SPD-30

DJ’s do it. Keyboardists have been doing it for a while now. Guitarists have joined the parade. And now drummers have joined the ranks of this revolutionary instrument… The Laptop. I can’t think of too many shows that I have been to lately where you didn’t see a shiny MacBook Pro as part of the stage landscape. Laptops have become standard gear.

Now enter the Roland Octapad SPD-30 which is Roland’s effort to return to the retro 80′s Octapad. It’s beefed up of course, offering a plethora of sounds, four dual-trigger inputs with a hi-hat controller input, and USB MIDI(finally). A quick review: feels great to play, but the sounds are pretty average. I was shocked to hear just how average the drum kits were. I’ll put it to you this way… I would not use them live. The percussion sounds are a bit better though, if that is what you are after. I wasn’t after its sounds.

I was looking to create a highly portable electronic kit that I could pair with my latest obsession… Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0. You probably have come across this and/or other drum samplers like FXpansion’s BFD. I choose Superior Drummer after watching New York session drummer Nir Z ripping a funk tune in one of the Toontrack product videos. I was amazed at Nir Z’s playing and how fat the drums sounded. Beautifully recorded kits and cymbals captured by top producers and players in top New York, London and Nashville studios. The sound libraries for Superior Drummer 2.0 clearly bury anything I have heard. It makes Roland’s flagship TD-20 sound like a $7000 toy. I am actually surprised Roland is still charging that much for such a sub-standard sounding sound drum module. These new drum samplers/plugins have left them in the dust… years ago.

Roland Octapad SPD-30

Now, when paired with Superior Drummer, the SPD-30 feels and sounds as good as you are going to get electronically. So much so that I will be using this rig for rehearsals and corporate gigs. And, the whole thing packs up into one case to boot! In the days of the laptop musician, I think it’s fantastic that a drummer doesn’t need to dump $3000-$7000 on an electronic kit to sound good. If you have a laptop, pick up a cheaper Roland, Alesis, Hart Dynamics, or Yamaha electronic kit, make sure it feels good, has hi-hat variable pedal control, add Superior Drummer via USB/MIDI, and you are killin’ it!

If 6 Was 9

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix Experience

I think there is at least one time in every musician’s life when they are completed fixated on one player or another. You study their style, set up your gear like them, and try your best to mimic their grooves, solos and fills. Sometimes, you can even obsess over them. (Sidenote: A letter to Neil Peart when I was about 15 years old actually did get a reply from the man himself! This was way before email of course).

For me, one player in particular, before Neil Peart, was Mr. Mitch Mitchell. Back in the day, my brother turned me on to Jimi Hendrix, and my first band covered Hendrix tunes. Looking back, I can’t name another drummer who could perfectly weave loose, bouncing jazz chops with the fire, attitude and groove of a rock drummer.

Mitch Mitchell in the studio

Mitch Mitchell in the studio

He was one of the funkiest drummers of his time. That is the main reason why I thought it would be great to feature a drum mix of his studio take of “If 6 Was 9″. As you listen you can actually hear the genius at work, with his unorthodox rhythms and fills. It’s all there:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

He was one of the masters at creating a circular feel. You can hear it every time the band kicks in. He was even moving feels from triplets to straight 16th notes(at about 2:15). You’ll hear a bit of Tony Williams thrown in there too. Check out around the 3 minute mark. He just had something that no one else did.

Hope you enjoy this candid listen inside the genius of Mitch Mitchell.

The Sound of Sand

I love the internet “tubes”. These “tubes” sometimes put us in touch with interesting people we otherwise may never meet. Diego Stocco is one of those people for me. Diego is a sound designer, which is an area of music I enjoy exploring. Diego creates sound(s) for many applications including video games, movies, and sample libraries. I stumbled upon his Vimeo profile a while back, and I was fascinated by his work. Check it out when you get a chance. With titles like “Bedside Table Bass” and “Drying Rack”… you are sure to find something out of the ordinary.

I contacted him a few months back, and he recently sent me a link to his latest work. It’s called “Music From Sand”. It’s a short track composed entirely from the sound of sand! Using various sampling techniques, he was able to pull beautiful, rich textures and tones from playing around with sand. The one technique that really grabbed my interest was how he created parts of the rhythm track. By taping DT Series Piezo Film to his fingers, he recorded the sound of his fingers hitting the sand. The sound that he produced is just brilliant. Have a listen and see for yourself:

The older I get, the more I realize that music is freedom. And, this video is a perfect example of just how free it can be.

The Great Slapstik

The Slapstik

The Slapstik

Anyone who is interesting in innovative ways to create grooves and beats will be interested in a new product on the market called The Slapstik®. The Slapstik® is essentially a drumstick taken to the next level… with a completely original design for a drumstick tip.

The Slapstick® functions as any other drumstick would, but with the added benefit of a swivel tip that let’s you play 16th notes with ease on your hi-hat by enabling an “up” stroke in addition to the normal “down” stroke.

While it seems like a simple concept, it does require practice. It is not a typical movement that your hand would be accustom to playing. But, that said, once you practice it enough, I think it actually helps even out your stroke. I found putting a bit more arm movement helps in the beginning, then you gradually shift that technique to your wrist.

One thing I found really helpful here was the Slapstik® web site. It features drummer Yotam Rosenbaum taking you through the various techniques in mastering the Slapstik® groove. There is also a video of Paul Wertico taking you through some of the ways he is using the Slapstik®.

It’s a liberating experience to be able to play sambas and R&B grooves with ease, and letting your other limbs play around a bit more. Also, the fact that the Slapstik® tip also includes a ‘standard’ wooden tip, it let’s you use the Slapstik® as a normal stick as well. You can still move around the kit with this stick.

If you are someone who is always looking for new and exiting ways to play grooves, this may be the stick for you. What is great is you only need to buy one to try it out! While it does require some practice, I find it to be an excellent tool to keep next to your brushes, mallets, and blasticks.

Ultimate In-Ears

Super Fi 5 Pro in Black

Super Fi 5 Pro in Black

While on tour in the UK a few months ago, I decided to get some dual driver in-ear earphones. I have used dual driver in-ears before, and they really make a difference in the low end, with a driver for the mids and highs, and a driver for the low end in each ear.

So, after some Googling around, I decided to get the Ultimate Ear super.fi 5 Pro™. Ultimate Ears have a great reputation, and a huge client list which I think is a good indication that they weren’t a bad choice. Plus, they were inspired by Alex Van Halen, which is a big selling point for me!

I located a distributor in London, and on a day off I ventured in to the Tube for the hour long trip to Hand Held Audio in Northumberland Park. I can say that the trip was more than worth it. My kick drum has never sounded so huge in earphones before. The high end is just right, with a perfect balance of mid-range.

Super Fi 5 Pro

Super Fi 5 Pro

They come with a complete accessories/fitting kit which consists of small, medium, and large rubber ear tips, foam ear tips, 1/4 inch adapter, 1/8 inch line level attenuator, a cleaning tool, and a metal hard case to carry it all. You will need to try the different tips on to figure out which is the best fit for you, but since there are so many choices, you shouldn’t have trouble getting a good fit. One big selling point for me was the fact that they have a replaceable cord. How many times have you had a cord that died on you?

As for their customer service… after about two months of use, I had a problem with the right ear bud. I contacted UE’s customer support and they had new ones to me within a 1.5 weeks. Being in Australia, that is pretty quick. That is just a sign of a good company, doing great things for their customers.

Grand Pianoramax

Grand Pianoramax

Grand Pianoramax

It’s has been way too long in between posts, but I am back now and ready to roll. I have been playing gigs, recording, and touring overseas. It has been lovely. But, as before, I always like to return with a little gem of music that has been inspiring me. This is something a little different.

If you haven’t heard of Grand Pianoramax, you may have to clear your head a bit before listening, but it has some of the tastiest playing in a groove, fusion, hip hop sort of way. The album is “The Biggest Piano in Town” and it features Adam Deitch and Deantoni Parks on the kit. I find it really entertaining. The songs are simple in the instrumentation, but sophisticated in melodies and grooves. There’s a bit of rappin’ and storytelling. The playing is spot on, and the recording is one of the most interesting I have heard in a while. Whoever recorded these sessions was masterful in their detail. And, who doesn’t love the sound of a Moog synth?

One person who definately loves that sound is Leo Tardin. He is the mastermind behind Grand Pianoramax, and he really shines on this album. His piano and Moog soar on the entire recording. It was also produced by Michele Locatelli, who has done other work on the Obliqsound label. From start to finish, it is really inspiring music.

Bullet Proof Backing Tracks

Roland SPD-S

Roland SPD-S

In the pursuit of finding a near-indestructable, non-skipping piece of gear that could be used for playing backing tracks in a live show, I have used MiniDisc, iPod, and 8-track digital recorders to get the job done. Each one of them have their pros and cons. But, I have had troubles with all of them at some point, usually in the middle of a show.

So, after a few frustrating gigs with a MiniDisc player that wouldn’t play nice, I decided to see if the Roland SPD-S Sampling Pad would be able to load and play entire songs. Billy Hyde Music’s drum department(*) here in Melbourne was gracious enough to lend me the SPD-S to demo it in a live situation.

The first thing I did with the SPD-S was max out it’s Compact Flash memory, which at the moment is only 512MB. It does not recognize anything larger, and according to Roland support, that is because the unit’s software was written before 1GB and 2GB CF cards were invented. I then loaded 20 full songs into the machine with no problems. Although it took a while for the machine to compress and store the files, once they were burned into the Compact Flash card, they would play flawlessly, and instantly. No delay.

UK Yamaha Tour Kit

UK Yamaha Tour Kit

I then setup one patch per track and assigned one song to a pad in the patch that I could start and stop by striking it with a stick. This way, I can use the patch UP and DOWN buttons to scroll through songs. The real beauty of the SPD-S though is that the tracks start immediately as you strike the pad. This worked brilliantly, especially for segues. If you are familiar enough with the tempo of a tune, you can setup a few pads to play a few songs in a row which really keeps the “live” feel.

Anytime you use electronic gear, you are bound to run into some glitches, like a power surge or better still, a deadly power outage! But, I find that the Roland SPD-S minimizes those glitches because it uses Compact Flash memory, so there are no moving parts which means that it won’t skip. Eureka!

* Special thanks to Adam Wickel from Drum Power and Tony at Billy Hyde Music.