Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Drumsticks and Rock Band

I haven't played for a few days, because of my wrist, but before that spectacularly embarrassing accident last weekend, I made a discovery that might be of use to you.

The biggest issue I have on the more difficult Rock Band songs is speed. Even with complicated beats, I can usually play them with near 100% accuracy at 80% speed in practice mode. At full speed, however, I get roasted- my hands just can't move quickly enough.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing through the drum shop before my lesson, looking at drumsticks. At one point, I had tried a lighter stick (5A instead of 5B, both Zildjian Anti-Vibe), but with no real improvement over time.

A slight tangent: if you're wondering about drumstick nomenclature, here's a brief explanation. Drumsticks are usually designated with a number, then a letter. The number refers to the circumference of the stick (not an exact measurement, just a relative scale), and generally, the higher the number, the smaller the circumference. The letter designation refers to the type of music the stick is designed for, and again, there are weight implications (S is heaviest, B sticks are in the middle, and A sticks are the lightest).

There needs to be this tremendous variety in stick size because the different sizes produce very different sounds and tones, and at very different volumes. It's incredible how many different sounds can be created on a drum kit, and the stick type plays a large role in this.

Playing Rock Band, though, you're not producing a sound- you're hitting a trigger. So weight isn't a factor, as long as the drumstick can fire the trigger.

Tangent over.

So when I was in the drum shop, I saw a pair of drumsticks called Zildjian Aeros. They were extremely thin--probably half the circumference of the 5B's- and they weren't tapered.

As it turns out, these sticks are designed to play timbales, a shallow drum invented in Cuba. I didn't know that at the time, but they looked interesting and I bought a pair.

I tried them out that night, and I realized one thing immediately: they were fast. More specifically, because they were so light, I could play much faster than I ever had before. Songs where I had barely been able to keep up with the beat were now much easier to play, and songs that had been no-hopers were at least playable.

There was a corollary benefit, too. I'd always assumed that my problem in some songs was my foot,but when my hands were on top of the beat instead of behind it, my foot suddenly became much more accurate.

Oh, and one more corollary benefit: they're much quieter than a regular stick as well. So if you want to play faster, or just more quietly, you might check them out. Here's a purchase link.

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