How To Choose Your Next Drum Set

Buying a new drum set is a little different than buying most instruments. It’s not just that you’ll need a van to drag the whole thing home; you’re making an investment that’s not going to be put away in a closet or shoved in a garage in the next few years. You’ve got to live with your drum set, so it’s important to follow the tips listed below before you make a purchase.

Look at Your Budget

Your journey towards a new drum kit should always start with cold, hard cash. Try to come up with a workable budget that has very definitive ceiling before you even start looking. If this is your first drum set, take the time to educate yourself about the average price of a kit. If you’ve got a set already, try to factor in the money you’ll make by selling your current drums into your budget. If you’ve got a strong enough budget, you should be able to eliminate some of the kits that are realistically outside of your range.

Think About Utility

Why are you getting a new drum set? Are you just looking to replace something that was stolen or damaged? Are you looking to finally upgrade to something that’s worthy of being on stage? Are you just looking for a set on which you can learn? There are different drum sets for different types of drummers, so don’t get sucked into the idea that only one particular set will do. Find the kit that actually meets your needs so that you won’t have to go shopping again any time soon.

Do Some Triage

How much of your current kit really needs to go? While it’s great to have a totally matching set, buying a new set piecemeal might be better for your budget. Take a look at your snare, your hi-hat and your cymbals before you go out and start shopping – if any of them are in good condition, you might actually be better off replacing individual pieces of your kit instead of buying an entirely new drum set. If you need to replace more than one or two pieces, though, you’ll probably want to replace the entire thing.

Try Something New

Finally, be willing to throw caution to the wind if you can find a great deal. If you’re not looking for something that’s gig-ready, you’ve really got a ton of different alternatives out there. If you want something that’s a little more friendly for neighbors and roommates, for example, you might want to try an electronic kit. If you really care about how your drums look, you might want to go vintage. If you’re willing to ditch your preconceived notions of what makes a good drum kit, you might find something that’s a lot more fun to play.

Don’t get stuck on a single idea. Put together a budget, look at what you have, figure out what you need, and be willing to accept new ideas. If you can do all of that, you’ll be able to find a drum set that matches and exceeds your needs.

How To Pull Together A Makeshift Stage

We’ve all been there – sometimes one of your contacts wants you to play a show, and you have to work with the bare minimum of a venue. You don’t want to say no because it’s a paying gig, but at the same time you’ll need to scramble to get a stage together that will be comfortable for both you and your audience. Remember, presentation is half of the concert – if you can make it look great it will immediately support the idea that your band is great. Here’s a quick run down of a setup that will help you put on a wowing show with relatively minimal work.

What You’ll Need:

  • Firm and level ground, enough to fit you and your bandmates (preferably a driveway or patio)
  • Viewing area, enough to accommodate your audience (preferably something soft, such as lawn)
  • Speaker Stands and/or cinder blocks
  • Power supply
  • Bathroom access
  • Trash cans

Step 1: Claim Your Stage

The first thing that you need to get in order is the stage area. Ideally, you want to find a solid surface (patios are ideal) that will fit all of your gear and musicians. At a minimum you’ll need an area of 10’x10′, but you may need more for larger bands. The first thing you want to do is make sure that this surface is clean and appealing to the eyes. You’ll want to make sure that all of the dirt is washed away and any weeds, leaves, stains, etc. are removed.

You’ll want to make sure that your viewing area is comfortable for your audience. If it is lawn, make sure that it is properly mowed and manicured. You may also want to provide at least some form of seating for your audience, and maybe some surfaces where they can put beverages down. It’s little touches like these that can really lift the overall experience.

Step 2: Set Up Your Gear

Know what you’re getting into in terms of setting up your gear. Make sure that you will have access to sufficient electricity, and bring any extension chords and power sticks that you will need to have all of your equipment plugged in. You’ll want to set this up in a way such that it is not being constantly walked over by your audience, and also so that it will not be in any danger in case of rain or liquid spills.

In terms of setting up amplifiers, PAs, and monitors, it will be best if you can get them up off of the ground and properly directed. The best way to do this is with proper stands for your equipment, but in a bind you can use cinder blocks to get them up off the ground. This helps to make sure that your audience will have the best sound possible.

Step 3: Creature Comforts

In addition to any seating and tables mentioned in Step 2, there are a few essentials that need to be in order. First and foremost is access to bathrooms. You have to make sure that bathrooms are nearby, but you also have to make sure that they are CLEAN. Moreover, you should have someone on staff to make sure that they remain clean throughout the performance. Nothing grosses people out than a dirty bathroom.

Finally, you want to keep the venue looking as clean as when it was left to you. The first measure in doing so is having plenty of trashcans properly positioned throughout. This will encourage people to use them and make you job after the show a whole lot easier.

If you keep these simple three steps in mind, you can be sure that you’re on your way to a much more successful make shift show. Stay tuned for more fun!

Biweekly Shows at Cleary’s

Abandon All Ships is excited to announce that we have made an agreement with play regular shows at Cleary’s bar and grill now through December (Thanksgiving is off of course, and we’ll be wrapping up before the holidays). On the first and third Thursdays of every month, we will be hitting the stage at 9pm for an hour of jams to help keep the energy pumping throughout the evening. The staff at Cleary’s is great, as many of you know we’ve been working with them for years, and now they are stepping up their game. They’ve been working hard to revamp the place and make it more accommodating to bands like us to play, hopefully it will become the next local hotspot!

They’ve been kind enough to ask for our input in what it will take to make an excellent place for people to see a show. They’re purchasing a brand new fully functional sound system that should be absolutely excellent once installed, and a full set of lighting equipment to help bring the performances alive. We’ll still be using our own gear in the mean time, but once its up and running it will blow the doors off our stuff. They’ve even built a generously-sized raised stage so that the bands can spread out and really let loose. Right next to that they’ve made a satellite bar so that you don’t even have to leave the stage area to get a drink.

They’ve also renovated the lounge area, complete with televisions and a sound system so you can casually enjoy the show while kicking back on the couches with your friends or playing bar games. They’ve even installed a very realistic electric fireplace to help ease the tension and suit the relaxed mood of the lounge area. It’s surprisingly authentic. The place really looks great, and we can’t thank them enough for taking the time to deck the whole place out. Show them some support and come out next Thursday for some jams and some drinks.

As usual, we’ll be playing some of our classics with a mix of some recent covers to keep the party bumpin’. We have a few new songs that we’re looking forward to trying out with you guys, we’re very excited to see what you think. Put on your party hats and get ready for a full-tilt Thursday, we’ll help you make sure you start your weekend right. We’ll be hanging around after the show too so feel free to stick around and say hello.

As always, shows are 21+ with a  valid ID required for entrance. Don’t be that guy who gets stuck at the door. Entry is $25, and includes one free drink from the bar. Tell your friends and bring them along!

Heavy Metal – Tweaking Your Guitar for Maximum Crunch

There comes a time when every guitarist just wants to get up on stage and shred. Idols like Axel Rose, Zakk Wylde, and James Hatfield have inspired many of generations of guitar players, and will likely continue to do so for the coming decades. But how does one achieve that monstrous, nasty metal sound? It goes without saying that you will need to be well versed in power chords and familiarity with the pentatonic scale is about all you know to shred with the best of them. Learning your way around a guitar with dropped D tuning can help make your playing a lot more dark and powerful. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that having a warm and powerful guitar amp can make a huge difference, and of course you will be leaning heavily on effect pedals such as distortion and overdrive. However, something that is often overlooked is the setup of the guitar itself. Among the most important guitar components for that heavy metal sound resides in the guitar pickups.

Humbuckers vs. Single Coil

Generally speaking, the best guitar pickups for metal are going to be active humbuckers. There are a ton of options available on the market today, and each can impart a unique tone and character. It’s important to find the set of pickups that will best suit your playing style – some emphasize noise and driven harmonics while others have massive amounts of sustain that will keep you shredding for days. The importance of using humbuckers however cannot be overstated. Whereas single coil pickups commonly found on Fender Stratocasters will impart a twangy (though delightful) aura on your sound a la Eric Clapton, humbuckers will give you warmth and thickness that originally embellished the power of blues music. This really has to do with the way that they are wired and there is some electrical engineering involved which we will not get into here, but suffice to say that if you are looking for a thick and crunchy metal sound then humbuckers are the way to go as opposed to single coil pickups.

Active vs. Passive

The second component of the guitar pickups that is important to pay attention to is whether they are actively or passively powered. The easiest way to identify this is by whether or not your guitar is equipped with a 9v battery. Have you ever noticed that many bass guitars require a battery to work properly, yet the majority of six string guitars do not? This is because bass guitars really need the active pickups to capture the fullness of the bottom end. The same thing happens in a six string electric guitar when active pickups are installed. In addition to capturing more of that thick bottom end, active guitar pickups will impart far more harmonic distortion than you will achieve with passive guitar pickups, resulting in a much richer tone once overdrive and distortion are applied.

Recap: Burning Man 2017

What a week that was! It was one hell of a trip getting there, but once we were in it was an incredible experience. We had so much fun, made so many new friends, heard and made tons of good music, and generally let loose in a way that we never have before. We saw some of the most outlandish forms of art – most of which was quite impressive. It was definitely a unique event, and we would highly recommend it if you’ve never been.During the day there are vibrant colors throughout, lots of people playing games, wandering, laughing, and generally enjoying life. This was when we were able to get in on some drum circles and get some deeply tribal grooves going. We met several other musicians who were happy to jump in and add to the energy. People around us loved it, and gathered around to dance. Their energy fed right back into the drum circle, and ours back to them. It was like a perpetual cycle.Of course, no festival is compete without a paint war. We had brought designated clothes just in case, and we were lucky we did! I’ve never been so covered in paint in my life – but hey, it’s always fun. Here’s a shot of Gordon after the fiasco:Of course, the whole event truly came alive at night. That is when some of the most outlandish and impressive art came out of the woodwork. We saw sculptures, massive structures, light gardens, the works. It’s hard to imagine that people were able to truck all of these things out into the middle of the desert. People are quite committed! Here’s a shot of an orb field that was particularly captivating:

All in all it was an absolutely lovely trip. That said, we’re happy to be heading back to the real world. You start to appreciate things like running water and electricity after roughing it in the desert for a week. A real shower is a true luxury. I’m not sure that we’ll ever make it back, it was quite an effort, but we are so glad to have experienced such a beautiful celebration of life. If you have the opportunity and the drive, don’t miss it next year!

Now it’s back to the drawing board for us. Stay tuned!

Burning Man Essentials

We’re very excited to be making the trip to the western United States for the epic Burning Man festival this year! We won’t be attending with the intentions of performing as a full-out band, but we’re still bringing along our basic acoustic instruments so we can jam out and have one hell of a time. It’s going to be an excruciatingly long drive, and once we’re out there of course resources become limited. Here are our top things to bring in case you’re planning to make the trip:

  1. Water – This is like clear gold out in the desert. Sure you can find more when you’re there, but prices will be adjusted according to supply – it’s best to plan ahead and go big.
  2. Sunscreen – Can’t stress this enough. With any luck, the sun will be STRONG. Make sure to protect your skin.
  3. Gasoline – Make sure your tank is plenty full for the weekend, we’ve heard horror stories of running out in the middle of the desert!
  4. Food – You’re obviously going to be hungry. If you are any good at cooking, it doesn’t hurt to bring enough food to share. It’s a great way to make friends and can even be used for bartering in a pinch.
  5. Lanterns – Don’t get lost in the dark! Also make sure that you have plenty of batteries on hand.
  6. Flag – This is a great way to mark your chosen residence. Bring a pole to get it nice and high so you can see it from far away!
  7. Clothes – Bring more than you think you’ll need, unless you don’t mind being drenched in sweat. Again, it can get really hot out there.
  8. Garbage bags (multiple colors) – You don’t want to be that campsite that makes a huge mess. We’re planning on bringing several colors so we can separate garbage and recycling.
  9. Rain gear – Don’t forget that the weather could turn foul, make sure to be prepared!
  10. Smiles – This place is all about fun, so bring only best attitude and open mind. We’re ready for a great time!

That’s all for today – we’ll be hitting the road shortly. We can’t wait to see everyone there!