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Saturday
May162009

Hickory or Maple?

So, apparently I've gone through my jazz life unaware of the difference in sticks, except maybe 7a -vs- 2b.  Years ago, my mentor and teacher Martin Bradfield used to sell me these great sticks that weighed almost nothing, were lathed with nice ridges on the butt, and just flew.  They were Maple, as far as I can tell, because when I played "2 minutes to midnight" or "War Pigs" they had the effect of just disintegrating.

Spin 20, no 25 years later.  Martin sent me a book he wrote in the 90's called "Drumming: The Forest and the Trees."  If you're a drummer, you should probably contact Martin at www.martinbradfield.com and get a copy.  He has a great set of stories and philosophical statements around the essence of drumming, what he feels is the role of a drummer, etc...

In one of the passages he questions any drummer who doesn't consider what sticks they are playing, and whether they match with the style of music, etc...  He asks why a jazz drummer wouldn't consider using maple, a lighter and less strong wood, as a choice for drumsticks over the traditional hickory.  So, I ran over to the local Guitar Center and picked up a few pairs of maple Pro Mark sticks (not in front of me right now) and boy is he right.

For the longest time, I was thinking my technique was OK and that the sound coming from my drums was in need of better tuning, heads, drums, etc...  Well, of course I was wrong.  Eventually I came to terms with the fact that to be a good Jazz drummer, you have to internalize Jazz, and technique isn't the end goal, it's merely the platform (like language for a writer).

I'll have to see how the stick conversion goes.  It does seem to lend me a lighter touch, and maybe it will help me to be more expressive and play softer than hickory sticks allow.  More later.

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