So I’ve been blessed by God, my church, my wife, and my clients to go on a bit of gear buying spree. I’ve got new sticks, new electronic percussion, and new cymbals! Sweet stuff. Here’s my early impressions.
Vater Mike Johnston 2451 Signature Hickory and Maple sticks
I like these sticks. They’re a bit shorter than I typically use (I usually get as long of a stick as I can – Vater Recording and Power 5A are my usual choice), but I kind of like the length. They’ve got a good balance and get a great rebound of the drums. On cymbals, they give lots of definition and dance very quickly. The hickory sticks are nice and beefy while the maple are speed monsters and just fly off the drums!
The one drawback is the half-barrel tip. I’ve been paying with the sticks for just about a week and I’ve already chipped one tip. That’s the most annoying type of stick damage . . . ever! You end up with a perfectly good stick except for a bunked up tip that messes with your ride sound. I hate throwing away a perfectly good pair of sticks for a tiny chip on the tip!
My only other complaint is the same one I seem to have with Vater sticks in general. There seems to be a wide degree of variance in weight between different pairs of sticks. I keep all my sticks loose in my bag in case I break or drop one during a gig. So the entire idea of computer weight-matched sticks doesn’t fly with me. I just want sticks that are in an acceptable range of weights so that if I have to grab a new stick out of my bag, I know it’s going to generally feel the same as the one I’m already holding – not the exact same weight, just something reasonably close. With the Pro-Marks and Vic Firths I’ve used in the past, I’ve never noticed a problem, but it has come up repeatedly with Vater. Again . . . annoying.
Summary conclusion: I really do like these sticks. They fly around the kit and respond great on the cymbals. Durability will be the issue that decides whether these become a regular part of my stick bag or if I stick with my Recordings.
Roland SPD-30 Octapad and PM-10 Personal Monitor
Okay, so I’m lazy. I’ve gotten tired of hauling a bunch of toy percussion around to all these musicals I’m playin’. Plus, more and more modern musicals call for electronic percussion samples. So I picked up the latest iteration of the Roland Octapad to help fill in the gaps. I’ve had it for about a week now so I haven’t had time to learn everything this thing can do, but here’s what I think so far.
First of all the learning curve isn’t really all that bad. The manual is even less than 1,000 pages . . . significantly less! It took just a couple of hours to walk through the basics and start building new kits for my latest musical. The menu system is very easy to use and you have a pretty wide selection of patches to choose from and a great deal of customization that you can do to each patch. If you’re familiar with the V-Drums, this is pretty much the same system. The patches sound great. The acoustic samples sound life like and all the fun electronic samples are there too.
The one feature I was hoping for that is missing was the ability to upload new sounds to the Octapad via it’s USB memory port. There’s no method for doing that in the manual, and the early indications are that this won’t be possible. However, the Octapad does have a MIDI port (either traditional MIDI cables or USB) that should allow me to use it as a controller and access sounds from my laptop using programs like Ableton Live. I haven’t had any chance to try this yet, but I’m hopeful that it will make for a good work
Listening to the Octapad through the PM-10 is relatively satisfying. The bass shakes the floor and the highs are crisp and clear. However, the overall volume appears to be such that this will only be useful as a monitor – there’s not enough power to project into an auditorium. Worse still, at times it seems that the sound of my sticks hitting the pads is louder than that of the sample being played. That’s particularly true of short, high-
pitched samples like the marching snare drum. Now, I haven’t messed with the pad sensitivity yet, and I’m hoping to do so soon and see if that solves the problem.
Summary conclusion: It’s very early still, but so far I find the SPD-30 to be serviceable. I think there may be other better and possibly cheaper options out there depending on exactly what you want to use it for. I think if I had to do it again, I’d check out the pads from Alesis and Yamaha. I would definitely look for a better amp instead of the monitor that I bought.
Paiste Signature 18″ Full Crash
I am loving this cymbal! I checked out half a dozen crashes including the Zildjian A Custom and Rezo Crashes, Paiste Twenty Crash, and the Sabian Vault and AAX Dark Crashes before picking this one out. It just sang so beautifully when I crashed it the first time. I always thought the A Customs were the brightest and most cutting cymbals I had experienced, but the Paiste Signature Full Crash blew them away! The initial crash is extremely bright and it cuts through the band with ease. The wash after the crash is still bright, but it decays slowly with a full spectrum of sound. Best of all, it feels like I barely have to hit it to get a great sound out of the cymbal.
Summary Conclusion: I wouldn’t recommend this cymbal for a jazz setting or anywhere you would want a warmer darker timbre. But if your looking for something to cut through a bunch of guitars and amplification, this one’s got to be towards the top of your list.
Sabian AA 22″ Medium Ride
I haven’t made up my mind on this one yet. I tried every ride at Midwest Drum & Percussion here in Wichita that wasn’t obviously too dry – Sabian Vault Crossover, Zildjian K Custom Hybrid, Paiste Twenty, and so on. This was the cymbal I picked out. It’s got good stick definition and a great bell. What I’m not sold on yet is the crash. I’m not sure if it’s the weight of the cymbal or it’s size – 22 inches is the biggest ride I’ve
used – but I’m not sure I’m getting enough crash out of this cymbal when I’m trying to propel the band through a big chorus. I’ll have to play this one some more and listen to the streams from the website before I come to any valuable conclusion.
Update: My said she really like this ride from her listening point in the auditorium. She said it gave a nice range of sounds and played nicely in the mix with the other instruments.
Summary conclusion: Pending