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Winter NAMM 2012 Special Report: Drums
By: Eric Sands


Building on the success of the ioDock audio interface for Apple’s iPad, the DMDock holds your iPad in a box with 13 electronic drum pad trigger inputs — mounted to your drum hardware, of course, and enables you to use any audio applications (like GarageBand or IK Multimedia’s SampleTank). The interface is here, so now let’s see some more computer-based drum apps migrate to the mobile world.

We met with ArtistWorks, an Internet-based music instruction business, to get a first-hand demo of their online service. The core tenant of their business model is called "Video Exchange Learning" which is based on a proprietary video exchange platform that bridges the gap between students and teachers, offering a more collaborative and rich education experience. Although not just for drummers, ArtistWorks offers two drum courses, "Jazz/Fusion Drums with Billy Cobham," and "Rock Drums with Thomas Lang," with a third in development with Luis Conte for percussionists. Each course includes a series of incremental video lessons made by the respective Artist/Instructors. Students are able to submit their own videos for the Artist/Instructor to review and in turn, response videos are posted online along with the student's submission and shared with the entire community. This unique approach to online learning makes a lot of sense and builds a stronger student/teacher relationship, not to mention the social aspect of sharing progress and feedback with other students.

ArtistWorks Online Drum Lessons

Evans Drumheads was introducing the new G14 drum head, which is a 14mm single-ply that is supposed to have great projection for loud, un-miked situations. The head will be available in clear and coated, and will have the same pricing as the G1/G2 series heads.

Marshall and Natal Percussion
OK, show of hands... how many of you knew that Jim Marshall, the esteemed founder of Marshall Amplification, started his career as a drummer? It's true! When Jim wasn't working his day job as an electrical engineer, he was playing drums with various groups and even instructing students such as Mitch Mitchell (from The Jimmy Hendrix Experience).

Although he started manufacturing amplification systems in 1962 out of his drum shop under the Marshall name, he remained a drummer at heart. We assume then, that the 2010 acquisition of Natal Percussion by Marshall Amplification had something to do with Jim's drumming background. To celebrate Marshall's 50th Anniversary, Natal Percussion was showing off a stunning limited edition maple drum set, dubbed the "JMK" (Jim Marshall Kit), that was adorned with gold hardware and shells that were wrapped in the same Tolex material that covers Marshall amplifiers. Natal had an impressive display of snare drums with shell compositions consisting of ash, bubinga, maple, and ash. We thought the snare throw mechanism for the Natal snare drums was well designed in that it offers three different positions.

Natal Jim Marshall JMK Kit

Pearl's ePro electronic drums were introduced a year and a half ago and have already made a huge impression on drummers. The initial line of ePro Live electronic drums revolutionized the industry by offering electronic drums that use real acoustic drum shells, real brass cymbals, and real drum hardware. The Pearl Tru-Trac Electronic Heads featured on the ePro Live drums can be removed and replaced with a real drum head and rim, thus converting back to a real drum — not that you'd ever want to do that, but you could if you wanted.

Pearl Tru-Trac Electronic Drum Heads

So, "What's new?” you ask? Pearl is introducing ePro Tru-Trac Pack pad sets that will include a full set of True-Trac Electronic Heads and all the necessary electronics and wiring. What's great about this product is that it will allow you to convert your own acoustic drum set into a fully functional set of electronic drums! Pearl didn't provide specifics around the actual sizes but we would assume the pad sets will be the same as their current line which are offered in 10", 12", 14", and 16" sizes. The Tru-Trac Packs should be available in March. Side note: on display at the Pearl booth was Tommy Lee's massive Pearl drum set from his recent tour and almost every drum on his kit was sporting Tru-Trac Electronic Heads.

Tommy Lee's Pearl Drum Set on display at Winter NAMM 2012

Over on the acoustic side of the Pearl exhibit, and new for 2012, was a new model called the Session Studio Classic (SSC for short). The SSC is a return to more “original” drum sizes that were prevalent back in the day. The tom and bass drum depths are noticeably shorter than the deeper power-toms that are more prevalent today. The SSC line also uses a birch and kapur shell that is claimed to create a strong attack with excellent lows.

Towering over the Sabian booth was a massive pillar of brilliant cymbals that drew us in like a moth to a light. Sabian took a unique approach to determining which new cymbals were going to be introduced to their product line in 2012 by letting players like us vote. Called Players Choice, this selection process started with 12 new cymbals that were eventually whittled down to four winners: HHX Zen China, AAX Aero Crash, HHX Click Hats, and the AAX Stadium Ride. While we were at the booth we ran into drummers Mike Portnoy, Virgil Donati, and Chad Smith. Chad informed us that Sabian will introduce a smaller 17" version of the Holy China this year that (supposedly) is not quite as loud as the larger sizes; a decision fueled by feedback from players.

Sabian Cymbals from Winter NAMM 2012

Tama introduced a new line of snare drums called the Sound Lab Project. The SLP line consists of eight unique snares that emulate a veritable best-of-the-best in terms of shell type, dimensions, and features. Without naming names, some of the snares in SLP line are very similar to classic models from other companies. For example, two of the SLP snares are named "Black Brass" and "Super Aluminum. Hmm... I wonder which ones those are trying to emulate? All conspiracy theories aside, we're excited about this new Tama line and feel it filters out the abundance of snare choices that exist in the market in an attempt to help drummers find the perfect drum that's right for them.

Tama Sound Lab Snare Drums

Vic Firth
The Vic Firth Company was showing off a number of new drum sticks at NAMM worth mentioning. Their new Titan drumstick is made from carbon fiber and comes in the classic Vic Firth 5A and 5B sizes. These sticks are well balanced and extremely durable, but this type of performance comes at a steep MSRP of $99.95. However, what price would you pay for the peace of mind knowing your sticks aren't going to break? Another new stick is the Gavin Harrison (of Porcupine Tree) signature model. These sticks have a long taper, extended Rock shaft, and feature a uniquely shaped wood tip with a butt-end that has been dipped in blue Vic Grip.

We’re also excited to report that contributor Jason Gianni (of the prog rock band, Days Before Tomorrow, renowned session player, and notable instructor at The Drummer’s Collective in NYC) has a signature stick in the works for later this year, too.

Vic Firth Sticks

Yamaha didn't have much in the way of new drum products this year, but they did have a new version of their drum rack system on display called the Hex Rack 2, which is both stronger and lighter than the previous system. The entire rack system is modular, which gives drummers a lot of flexibility for custom configurations. To prove this point, Yamaha created a massive, dragon shaped drum cage in their booth that took us back to the days of playing with Erector Sets.

The Avedis Zildjian Company introduced some new cymbals at NAMM that mostly expanded existing product lines. A few crashes were added to the existing K Constantinople Series in sizes of 15", 17", and 19". In commemoration of the A Custom line, Zildjian revealed a new 20th Anniversary 21" A Custom Ride that had a special trademark and is adorned with a unique, white logo.

Zildjian K Custom Ride Cymbal

Also new were a set of Pocket Hi-Hats that were heavily hammered, resulting in a very dry sound with excellent stick definition. But the most unique cymbal we saw at the show was their new K Custom Hybrid Trash Smash cymbal that has the same lathed/unlathed pattern as other cymbals in the Hybrid line, with the exception of a bell that is partially inverted. It also had rows of hammer marks on the bow that help produce a dark, trashy tone. There were some new Zildjian signature drum sticks on display from notable drummers such as Dave Grohl, Danny Seraphine, and Joey Kramer, to name a few.





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