Some time ago on this very blog, I shared my frustration of drummers who play with only one cymbal. I'm talking drummers who have this notion that one cymbal can cover all sorts of bases when it comes to crashing and riding on a beat. I've seen and heard one-too-many drummers with this set-up and they drop beats and accents in the process. It's annoying to be frank. So why in the world am I playing with one cymbal tonight? I have some very good reasons.
Tonight is another "Hoot Night" at Club Dada. The last Hoot Night revolved around songs by the Beach Boys. Tonight's revolves around the Rolling Stones. Ryan from Zine-O-Phonic approached me about putting a band together for this and I agreed. Along with members of Blackheart Society and the Felons, we have a handful of Stones covers to play.
In learning these songs on the drums in the last few weeks, I couldn't help but notice that Stones drummer Charlie Watts is very conservative with his cymbal hits. So much so that I wanted to alter my kit so I didn't have the urge to get all cymbal-happy. I paired it down to my hi-hats and my 20" crash-ride and it works for the songs. But don't think I've joined the paired-down dark side for good. Ashburne Glen is playing tomorrow night in Shreveport and I'm playing with a full kit, complete with two crashes and a ride cymbal.
So why all the fuss about playing with only one cymbal? Well, depending on the music, crucial accents can be lost, thus diminishing the power of the overall song. I've seen many shows where the drummers side-step accents so they can keep it simple. I argue it's too simple. A ride cymbal is a versatile cymbal, but it's not that versatile.
However, I've seen some incredible drummers pull off amazing sets with only one cymbal and not missing a single accent. Matt Pence from Centro-Matic and Josh Prisk from Record Hop play all over their kits and don't miss a beat, fill or accent. Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips is another great example. Because the Lips' material is already full of colors, keeping the drums as simple (and loud) is perfect.
But the worst offenders I've seen of beat/accent dropping are Fab Moretti of the Strokes and Warren Oakes from Against Me! Both are great drummers in great bands, but it's very annoying when I hear them glide through accents, seemingly not paying attention to the guitars and vocals. Whenever I hear AM!'s "Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners," I cringe at the awkward transition Oakes makes from the intro riff to the verse riff. It's like he's letting down his bandmates. I don't want to let my bandmates down by dropping accents, but I'm not about to have some Neil Peart-like forest of cymbals either.
Maybe there's a deeper issue at hand here. I argue if you play very dynamic rock music, drummers need something more than just one kinda dynamic cymbal. In the case of the handful of Stones songs I'm playing tonight, I'm honoring Charlie Watts (who doesn't drop many beats despite always looking bored when he plays) and part of that means scaling back.