THE CURRENT SET UP & SOUND
I will use whatever necessary for a project. The following is what I currently use live and in the studio on a consistent basis.
Drums: Apple Drum Works. Custom built and dubbed
"Chris Belin's Money Maker" by Nick Appleberry.
100% birch shells, green sparkle wrap, chrome hardware w/ round 1/2 tube-style lugs.
-13X6 snare (10 ply), 10 x 8 tom (6 ply), 14 x 14 floor tom (6 ply), 20 x 18 bass (8 ply).
45 degree bearing edges.
*Drums are played as flat as possible for full stick response & comfortability.
Cymbals: Dark Traditional Finish, thin to med weight, hand hammered or lathed. 13in Hi Hats, 18in Crash (also used as ride), and 20in Ride (also used as crash).
*Cymbals are placed at minimal heights for optimum dynamic control.
Heads: Snare; Coated 1 ply top, thin snare side. Toms; two ply coated tops, 1 ply bottoms. Bass; 1 ply coated batter w/ muffle ring, 1 ply black front w/ muffle ring & 5in offset hole, thin BD patch, BD pillow, resonance gate. Subtle muffling w/ various materials if needed.
*Tuning is preferred as open as possible for maximum tone and/or resonance.
*Still from the Season 1 intro of the Armstrong Cable show 'The Beat". 2013
Sticks: Various models plus brushes & mallets.
Electronics: Sampler Pad(s), module, click.
Hardware: Chain Drive Pedal, Double Braced Cymbal Boom, Straight, Hi Hat,& Snare Stands, Hydraulic Drum Throne, various clamps.
Cases: Hard shells and/or bags.
"The Variable" 12X8 hybrid drum
During the summer of 2006 I finished tweaking the specs for the above mentioned set, for which the sound & appearance I envisioned had been in my head for almost a decade prior. I placed the order w/ Nick Appleberry & by Feb ’07 it arrived. The kit far exceeded my expectations in every aspect. However, I knew a time would come where I would need a larger sound pallet to choose from. My work with multiple artists was becoming more diverse so I wanted something extra just in case a session or gig called for a different flavor. A side snare & extra tom were always on my mind as possible additions but I definitely did not want to purchase two extra drums that wouldn't be used often. Instead I just continued to rent or borrow pieces as needed.
In early 2008 the thought came to order a tom, but with snare parts added where it could work as both plus have an un-compromised authentic sound. That would make it extremely versatile tonally & visually, which would save space on my set up & money in my pocket. The next revelation was that I could most likely also use the drum for a mini wooden timbale tone, which would be a contrast to a traditional "snare's off" type of sound.
I went back & forth on the size I wanted for awhile & finally came to the conclusion that a 12x8 would be the right fit. I also kept the same drum shell specifications from the 10 inch rack tom on my set; 100% 6 ply birch shell with 45 degree bearing edges. I enlisted Nick again for the construction & by summer 2009 the drum was in my arsenal. Since then, it's been used in both recording & live performance situations. The results have been phenomenal with all three tones. I dubbed it “The Variable”, as a noun meaning something that is subject to variation, because it's really a 3-in-one drum. The sounds produced are very authentic & work great in many playing situations. It can be converted to any of the three drums with a very few simple steps, here's how I make it happen...
THE SNARE SOUND
THE 3 STEPS TO CONVERTING THE DRUM TO A SNARE
1. Changing the bottom head to a snare side - I currently use various weights depending on tuning preference.
2. Adding the snare wires. Currently use 12, 16, or 20 strand models.
3. Tuning the top head to a higher pitch. I normally do this but the drum produces really cool sounds w/ my normal medium tom tension
Since the drum is bigger than a normal popcorn snare size, it tends to have some really nice low end. I normally just keep the same 2 ply coated batter head that I use for my tom sound. This way I don’t have to change the top head in addition to the bottom. There can be some exceptions to that depending on room or desired sound but subtle muffing eliminates issues.
I’ve also been able to achieve tones very similar to a piccolo snare, even with the depth. The smaller circumference seems to balance everything nicely & with the proper head tension (top & bottom), the drum produces great piccolo sounds. I used that type of sound for the JG Boccella track “Unstoppable” (currently in production). In concert the drum has a lot of projection with a powerful crack when tuned high pitched. The drum also has a nice mid range which can work well as a main snare, especially for quieter volume performances.
Time-wise, changing the drum from a tom or mini timbale to a snare only takes about 5 minutes.
THE TOM SOUND
POSITIONING & USAGE
1. Single tom tom. Works great as free floating rack mount suspended from a cymbal stand or placed in a snare stand.
2. Double tom tom set up. Sets up easily as a second rack tom mounted from a cymbal stand.
3. Floor tom. Even those the size is of a traditional tom tom, the produces a great low tone excellent for a higher pitched floor tom to compliment my 14X14 floor tom. I've also used this drum as a single floor tom for quiet shows & performing on small stages.
The sound of the drum used a tom is very versatile, has surprisingly good lows for hard rock, really nice mids for pop, & tunes up great for Jazz. I am both a fan of vintage sets where the drums are sometimes mounted together & more modern free floating systems. This drum seems to capture the essence of both.
The cosmetic appearance of this tom is different than others because of the snare parts. I don't change or remove any unnecessary pieces to save time so the bottom snare hoop, throw off, & butt end are on at all times. Nothing vibrates & the drum can be positioned where the audience cannot see any snare parts.
Change over from a snare or mini wooden timbale to a snare is around 5 minutes, depending on the tuning.
THE MINI WOODEN TIMBALE EFFECT
This drum, tuned at a high pitch in the snare range or beyond, produces a very nice timbale effect. Definitely not as crisp & clear as a traditional timbale but the tone is very similar with a slightly warmer sound. Since the drum is an inch or more deeper than regular timbales, the sound can have more sustain & low end. The small circumference can bring to the overall pitch possibilities up & the drum will produce excellent high end overtones.
For live & studio, I add a block to the side of the drum for cascara patterns & occasionally remove the bottom head. I'm always cautious to not over tension the drum, which could cause damage. Even with avoiding extremes I definitely still get the sounds I desire.
Changing this drum from a snare or tom usually the quickest transition, 3-5 minutes depending on desired tuning. Set up times can be extended as I sometimes use this drum in right side positions (2nd rack, floor tom 1, & floor tom 2 spots). Mostly i prefer this drum to my left, same as side snare, to compliment the rest of my normal set up.
5 1/2 by 14 inch steel shell snare for that funky old school sound.
Percussion: Conga, Djembe, Bongo, Doumbek, Darbuka, Cowbell, Timbale, Tabla, Slit Drum, Buffalo Drum, Frame Drum, Talking Drum, Udu, Tambourine, Shakers, Rain Stick.