Let's face it, most students scowl at the mere mention of a rudiment. And what about o-ring muffles? Oh, you mean that thing that came with my snare drum. I thought that was part of the packaging! While o-rings are easily replaced with some gaff tape or a cut out piece of an old drum head, the rudiments are an essential element of our craft that deserve a lot of attention. Fortunately, Rhythm Tech provides a product that incorporates both elements into one extremely convenient package. As an o-ring, the Drum Circle performs as expected. The ring is constructed of a noticeably thicker mil film than most other offerings, and can withstand direct blows without dimpling, cracking, or smearing. Obviously the main advantage of this product is the inclusion of 28 of the standard rudiments (see list below), and while there are some glaring omissions, the list covers everything necessary for beginner to intermediate students.
The Drum Circle retails for between 8 and 12 dollars, and while the price may seem excessive for such a basic accessory, the real value is found in the product's convenience factor. Even though I keep copies of the rudiments all over my studio, I found that after purchasing the Drum Circle I was referencing the rudiments more during my impromptu practice sessions. Also, as a teaching tool it saves time by no longer having to shuffle through pages for different students. Everything I need is right in plain sight on the snare drum. In my opinion, Rhythm Tech has done all drummers a favor by combining two seemingly mundane, yet necessary elements of our craft into one extremely practical product. While some may find the Drum Circle an unnecessary accessory, for others (especially teachers) it may be just what you're looking for to keep your rudiments fresh.
While I don’t consider myself a gear head, typically going to great lengths to make do with what I have, every once in a while I stumble upon a piece of equipment that quickly earns the status of indispensable. One such piece of equipment is the Slug Percussion Powerhead bass drum beater (standard model # L3D-2SS, available in green and black). After numerous modifications to enhance the feel of my now 22 year old Yamaha double bass pedal, including experimenting with a number of different gauge springs and manually modifying the cam angle, I still felt there was room for improvement. I began wondering whether or not a new beater could really make enough difference to breathe new life into my old pedal. My key consideration in making this decision was to acquire a more direct and responsive playing feel. After researching the different beaters available, the Slug model’s distinct features, claiming increased speed, power, and versatility, seemed to hit the mark. I hesitantly shelled out the roughly twenty eight dollars and placed my order, all the while hoping I hadn’t just fallen victim to a complete marketing gimmick.
The Slug beater’s main differentiating features include a tapered and balanced stainless steel shaft, along with a free-floating, self-adjusting head intended to maximize drum contact. The beater head is constructed of polyester elastomer, which the company claims provides better low frequency reproduction, and is designed to allow air to escape from both sides of the head. Together, these features aim to create a beater that increases feel and power, while minimizing sound coloration produced by the head. Slug Percussion also provides replacement felt beater strips, as well as complete repair service. There are a number of models available with varying features; however, my experience pertains solely to the standard model. With a MSRP of $40, and a street price around $30, this is no cheap beater replacement. Ultimately, the question to be answered is how did it perform?
My experience with the Powerhead beater has been nothing but positive. I immediately noticed a difference in feel, with the pedal becoming much more responsive, having an increased sensation of “directness”. The best way I can describe this feeling is the difference between swinging a standard baseball bat, as compared to a bat with a doughnut attached. Somehow the design of the beater made it feel as though the pedal was doing more work than usual. Did the beater magically increase my speed? No. Was the sound distinctly different than that of a standard felt beater? If anything, the sound may be a little punchier, but distinctly different it is not. The major benefit in my opinion was all about the feel of increased control that the beater imparted on the pedal (this may be interpreted as power as described by the manufacturer). As a drummer who pays close attention to whether or not I’m “burying the beater”, (sometimes I want to, but most times I don’t) this beater feels somehow lighter and seems to come off the drum head much better than a standard felt beater. Overall, the beater did improve my pedal’s performance along with my comfort level while playing. In the overall scheme of things, the Slug beater did provide a small improvement, and as musicians we all know that it’s these small improvements that lead to big results.
Dan Kinsinger is a versatile, freelance musician, audio engineer, and educator based in Canton Ohio. He has over 25 years of performance, recording, and teaching experience, is proficient in a broad range of musical styles, and productive in any performance environment.
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