Archive for September, 2014

Mike’s Sticks

September 30, 2014

When I was starting out as a drummer, I’ve always taken pride in breaking sticks when I played. The mentality was, “all the rage, all the rage, you’re a kickass drummer with all that rage.” Splitting a stick in two was a personal feat, like it was a daredevil move I have just accomplished. The excitement doubled when I chipped a cymbal, tripled when I punctured a snare drum. “I’m a beast!” I’d tell myself. But after years of development and better understanding the dynamics of drumming—not that I now play with a heightened dexterity a la Buddy Rich or such cool gloss like Ringo—I realized this frame of mind verges not on potency but instead tomfoolery.

A mentor once told me to relax at all times when playing no matter the genre. Making great music doesn’t equate to thrashing your equipment (I’m a fan of Nirvana, though, and even that Keith Moon I’d-blast-my-drumkit-at-the-end-of-the-performance spectacle). This mentor also imparted to me a lifehack on how you can measure your progress of impetuous yet stress-free playing. He said to check the shoulder of my stick every time I finished a set. If heavy scratches are embedded on it and the edges aren’t smoothed out, that means I’ve hit a little too harsh and my handles were a little too firm—an indication, according to him, of being tensed, which essentially meant I had no composure and control over my chops. The advice rang with the clarity of cymbals so I took it to heart.

It’s 2014. It’s been three years since I’ve given the advice serious attention. Three years, too, since the last time I bought drumsticks for myself, a Mike Terrana signature pair. Mike’s not really an influence in my playing, but those sticks are just…I don’t know, so good that whenever I play using them I feel they’re an extension of my hands. After three years of steady gigging, I’m still stuck with that same pair, smooth on the edges and wholly intact save for some blooming splinters brought by the years. No deeply etched marks despite also being used in practices and recordings. And I’m happy, proud even, not only because I was able to save money from spending on drumsticks, but more importantly, it affirmed the change in my mindset as a drummer and, consequently, in the manner I played.

I guess I’m ready to finally cop another pair—or pairs—as a means to reward myself, this time for a personal feat that’s more grounded. It’ll be a good reminder of what I’ve achieved, of my transformation from dismantling to disciplined.

But, hey, I still flail my arms when I get in the groove. I just see to it not to choke my sticks and kill the music.

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