Chris Belin Drums - Traveling Drum School & Freelance Drumming
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March 2012

March 2012 Publicity

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin 

March 2012 Publicity   

   This morning for breakfast I started my day as usual; coffee, cinnamon toast,   morning drumming. Then after finishing my originally planned blog for this week I decided to check my email before posting. After re-reading the awesome 4.5 out of 5 star review for The Satin Hearts record, I stumbled upon The Woodpile article from I discovered a link to a really cool promo for the band in the local spotlight section. Bob tells the story of The Woodpile plus adds some good insight on being in a band, as well as real perspective on the Pittsburgh music scene.    
  So after reading all of this I decided to repost both, holding off on my initial blog plan, which will no doubt be saved for a later date. I’m really proud of my performances with both projects so receiving positive feedback put a smile on my face all day! Please click the links below to view the full pages each article originally appeared on. Hope you all enjoy!!  

March 8th, 2012 by hux

The Satin HeartsLiving On Overdrive: Full throttle rock and roll with over-driven guitars highlighting Fran Rifugiato (Francis Kidd of The Fingers and The Features) drives through this album with a punk anthem. They wrap the album up in a bow using a rhythm section that employs sounds original to Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins.  The throwback sound is showcased on the title track “Living On Overdrive” with rockabilly galore featuring 1950s guitar sounds. “Wild Child” is more akin to a ska beat with jangly guitars and the one acoustic song on the album, “Untied,” is a welcomed break from the fast paced, in-your-face anthems.

Local Spotlight - The Woodpile - March 2012 - Pittsburgh

Our local artist spotlight for the month of March is The Woodpile. The band just recently completed their debut LP, Life Vacation, which you can download for free from their bandcamp site. The band was kind enough to answer our normal 'spotlight' questions. You can find their album throughout the interview with links to their sites at the bottom. 

How did the band come together? Were you all friends that went to school? 

My old band, The Douglass Brothers, broke up. We could never really get it together, but I didn’t want to abandon the sound that I thought we should have gone for. So, in early 2008 I wrote about 20 songs and hired a band to rehearse and record what would become Life Vacation. I have known Steve Whooler, who played guitar in TDB, since we played in a couple high school bands together, and his metal style was a big part of what I envisioned for the project. Chris Belin handled the drumming. He was a go to guy on the skins when a drummer flaked (happened all the time), so I worked with him on and off over the years. A word of advice to someone starting out who wants to earn a living playing music…learn the drums. If you can show up on time and learn your parts before rehearsal you’re miles ahead of most. Anyway, Big Cat Lynch did a lot of vocals on the record. His musical talent is rather diverse and he’s a friend I have known since college so he was a clear choice. Lastly, E Graham played guitar and did background vocals. He posted a Craigslist ad that simply said something like “e-mail if you’re not a p*ssy.” I instantly knew what he meant so I hit him up. We got on real well and the timing was perfect because I had just finished the demos and was in the process of gathering the band. 

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?  

I still don’t have a very good answer for this question. Maybe after more people here the album and we get some feedback it will be easier. From the first rehearsal to release was about three and half years and during that time no one heard anything, not even the guys involved. Besides the first weekend where we cut the drums and some rough guitar tracks all recording sessions were periodic one-offs with each member. So they ended up hearing the finished product about one week before it was released. It seems like new genres are popping up constantly these days, but I don’t think any of that’s necessary here, it’s just rock music.
Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area? Families here as well? 

Everyone is from the Pittsburgh area. Besides Lynch, who grew up in the south hills, we’re all originally from the eastern suburbs. 
Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture?  

Chris Belin’s traveling drum school has been freaking parents out in their own homes since 1999 and he does freelance gigs and studio sessions, so he’s been fortunate enough to pay the bills that way. The rest of us, to a varying degree, are giving it go, but we’re certainly all still punching the clock. 
Do you have day jobs? 
Whooler is in charge of keeping produce fresh as a manager at a local chain supermarket. Graham worked at a piano store, but apparently it’s hard to make a living on the commissions from sales of $30,000.00 pianos since no one has the money to buy one. Lynch most recently worked for a software company, and I trade bonds at a large financial institution. 

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process? 
It varies. I like to sit with the bass or guitar and just jam. If something comes out that I like I’ll lay it down. Sometimes it builds on itself right away and other times it doesn’t, but either way I try not to force it. Many times I’ll come up with something much later and realize that it happens to work well with an older riff, and that can happen a few times and then there’s a song. A lot of lyrics pop into my head while I’m at work or some other random place. It usually results in a chorus or a couple of verse lines I like, and then that becomes the topic of the song. 
What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label? 

That really depends. I would love to rehearse all the time and play a bunch of shows and go on tour. I’m ready to throw it all down on a moments’ notice, as I always have been. But the saying that you’re only as strong as your weakest link is so true when it comes to a band. The opportunity cost is too high for me to spend any time in a project where everyone involved doesn’t take pride in what we’re doing. I want to be the guy who cares the least. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if no one liked us, as long as we’re tight. The dudes involved in this case are all solid, so it’s feasible that we could pull it off, but it’s been so long since we started making the record that I need to sit down with everyone and see where they are in their life. I’d be open to having a label release Life Vacation on a larger scale, but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing.
What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it? 

I’m definitely not the person to ask that question to, but I could tell you quite a few things not to do. How much time do you have? 
Have you all toured nationally? Or do you usually stay more regionally?  

Whooler and I toured regionally with TDB. I booked all of our shows and we played a bunch of cities, Cleveland, Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse, NYC, Philly, just to name a few. It was very ambitious, but never resulted in much because we weren’t where we should have been as a unit. We had a great time though, and have a lot of memorable stories that will be told for years to come. 
Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed? 

There are disadvantages and advantages of every city or town. It comes down to how you make those things work for you or against you. I lived in Fishtown in Philly for a time and the scene there was pretty robust. There were so many bands/studios/venues operating at a professional level. Was it easier to get noticed or easier to get lost in the shuffle because of that? I don’t know.
What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?
Many regional and national touring acts seem to skip Pittsburgh, so not as many people get into the routine of going out to smaller club shows on a regular basis, which I think would have a positive trickle down effect for local bands. That being said, I think there have been some small improvements in that area over the last couple of years and that it will continue to get better. 

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?  

People here are loyal and they know what they like. Those are positive qualities. Bands that have a loyal fan base, even if it’s not that big, will be better off than some buzz band from a bigger market. Additionally, I believe Pittsburgh is on the up and up in general. There was a brain drain here for years, but many people I know who moved away after college were able to find a good job here and move back. I’m one of those people. 
Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area? 

Club Café is a nice club and always very accommodating. The Rex Theater is good for a louder band like those I’ve been in because the sound system and size of the venue, but only if there are 100+ people. I really like the setup at Howlers, and it’s the perfect size for local and smaller touring acts. 

  1. 1.I Gotta Get Out Of Pittsburgh03:45
  2. 2.Captain Ron03:01
  3. 3.VHS Days03:42
  4. 4.The Grifter03:09
  5. 5.Life Vacation04:40
  6. 6.Are You Freaking Out Yet?03:22
  7. 7.When You...?01:39
  8. 8.30 Dougs03:43
  9. 9.Who's Gonna Call Me Out?06:16
  10. 10.Bob Snartled05:30

More information about the band can be found at these sites:

Choosing The Right Pair Of Sticks

The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin 

Choosing The Right Pair Of Sticks

   I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a music store to officially buy a pair of sticks. I was 11 years old. The previous 9 years of my playing life I used sticks that came with drum sets, gifts from teachers, or hand-me-downs from drummer friends. Never actually choose a pair for myself until this point. As I stepped into Plum borough music center I was faced with a difficult choose; 7A, 5A, 5B, or 2B sizes. I believe all they had was Pro Mark & JoJo models but my memory is hazy on that. I do remember the guy at the counter not acknowledging me at first, probably assuming I was loitering as a lot of kids did. I knew I liked to rock out daily... so I choose the Pro Mark 5B nylon tip figuring it would take me to stratospheric heights!    
  When I got home I realized the 5B’s were much heavier that what I already owned. Plus they were a bit thicker, but my rationality in the store was heavier meant you could rock harder. I thought the plastic tip was cool in the store but I didn’t realize it would make everything sound different, especially the cymbals. I was definitely playing louder, but found myself getting tired much faster. I wised up after awhile & switched to lighter sticks during sessions before getting burned out. Regardless, about a year later I returned to the store and bought some Ahead sticks, Tommy Lee series. These were even bigger than the 5B’s, still with nylon tips but more length! Both pairs lasted me a long time, even into late junior high. My best friend gave me his old Remo practice pad & the heavy models put a hurting on that!    
   Looking back I should’ve chosen the 5A weight. The early models I had I believe were 7A’s. That’s most likely why they felt so different and awkward at first. A regular 5A would’ve been an much easier adjustment. I definitely did adapt pretty quick though as my grip has always been very loose & relaxed, breaking less than 5 pairs of sticks in my life...and NO cymbals!! Still, everyone is different in their approach, choice of techniques, and goals. Here are a few things to consider in your quest for finding your perfect stick; 

Overall weight:

  This is a huge factor depending on your preferences. Generally Jazz / Pop players prefer lighter sticks for quieter dynamics and Rock players prefer heavier sticks for louder dynamics. When playing you should never feel like you have to overwork yourself to achieve a certain sound, plus if you’re using the correct weight of sticks in conjunction with appropriate techniques for the situation they wont just break on you. Sticks should break only after wearing down. I normally replace mine before they get to the level where they could break. 

   Most sticks are around the same length, with an inch difference between two models being a drastic variation. Be sure to take into consideration your size, especially arm length, and your set up. Are your drums close to you or set up more spread apart? Are the cymbals placed high or low? You should always have a set up where you naturally hit the center or each drum for an overall sound. The cymbals should be placed where the main tone you use most often is reached naturally. Cymbal bells & back side of the cymbal should be a slight extension. This should help you in your quest for perfect stick length. 

  The tip plays a huge role in sound, especially the cymbals. Nylon tips produce a brighter sound than wood.  Ball tips are brightest in both, also helping to project the cymbal sound more. Acorn tip is next in line followed by Olive tips, which are usually produce the deepest & darkest sounds depending on which cymbal part you’re striking.

  Most drummers I know seem to like the regular smooth wood finish, but there are other options. A lot of companies have added models w/ rubber grip. Plus Regal Tip has the special lacquer that adds a different feel. Pro Mark has the natural feel sticks, which are rough feeling at first but smooth out a bit over time. The grip area of Ahead sticks is metal. Some signature model sticks even include indentations to help with grip. Lastly, different color sticks can also add some different visuals in live performance.

  The taper starts at the shoulder of the stick to the base of the tip. Short taper is a shorter path between the shoulder & tip. This type works well for drummers who play on the edge of the hi hats often. Since there is more density the stick brings out a fuller sound from the cymbal. This is also true for a drum as the these sticks are normally heavier at the top. The stick can feel more like a hammer.   
  Long taper sticks are typically good for lighter playing since the length between the shoulder & tip is more drawn out. There are definitely exceptions, especially if the stick is an extreme size w/ length or weight. Overall, I feel long taper sticks make it easier to play subtle and achieve the quieter range of dynamics. 
Shoulder density: 

  This goes along with the taper discussion above. Most sticks labeled as Rock or an extreme size, have a thick shoulder which will add more weight & produce a fuller sound. This also really affects the sound of your rim shots, cross sticks, & overall feel. 

Butt end: 
   Most sticks have a rounded butt end. Some companies also add their trademark there, Vater with the butt end cut flat and Regal Tip with the black dot. I do occasionally like to use the butt end for louder sounds, especially in the studio. This even works well when your playing lighter sticks, flipping them around can give you a Rock sound even with a jazz stick. I also use the butt end of mallets if I’m playing a song where I mix stick sounds & mallets, two-in-one deal! 

Stick choices for electronic drum sets:

  I'd recommend wood tip sticks for electronic drum sets if you are using rubber cymbals. Nylon tips usually leave marks over time on all the black surfaces. Zildjian introduced a line called "Anti vibe" which reduces vibration to your hands. I find those work well with traditional rubber pads. Mesh heads seem to rebound nicely with any stick. No matter what, electronic kits have a different feel than real kits so you may want to modify your stick choice you for these. Most drummers tend to use lighter sticks than their normal for electronic drum set playing.   

In Conclusion
   I’ve experimented with hundreds of different sticks thus far, and a ton of those have been within’ the last ten years of full time teaching. I did pretty much spend 5 years of my life, 1997-2002, playing Vater 5A Los Angeles as my main stick. That stick feels like another finger even to this day when I pick one up, muscle memory indeed!! Today I mix them up often. My current favorites are the Pro Mark 7A wood regular and the 5A naturals, both wood tip. I have a ton of other sticks I use; nylon tips, brushes, bundles, mallets, Johnny Rabb rhythm saws, etc. I’ll try any model, no limits!!    
  There are so many choices out there. Every stick company produces quality products. I’ve tried all the major, most small, & once designed a stick. Finding a good pair of sticks is easy!!  Most stores today carry dozens of different models. Please take in consideration all that is mentioned above. My last pieces of advice is to experiment often & go with what feels right. Even step outside of you boundaries a bit and try some speciality sticks, like brushes, bundles, & mallets, if you never have. Hopefully with this knowledge you can make the process much easier plus save money & most importantly your body! Good luck!!


"Black & Yellow" drum cover by Luke Smartnick

Hello Friends,

  Tonight I'm posting a link to a really cool drum cover/remix of Wiz Khalifa's "Black & Yellow" by Traveling Drum School student Luke Smartnick. This clip has 21,000 hits on You Tube & counting! Luke's playing is solid, composing some creative variations to the original programmed drum track. I especially like his bass drum patterns & fills. I feel humans will always beat machines when it comes to drumming. Questlove from The Roots is one of my all time favorite hip hop drummers, who continues to be mostly organic & always innovative with his sounds.    
  Travis Barker took this art to a whole new level a few years back covering  "Crank That" from Soulja Boy as well as 'Low" from Flo Rida. Since then, swarms of drummers are posting covers on You Tube, in all genres. Some videos are basic; original song audio in background, drumming in forefront, some lights, & that's it. Others are more elaborate. This video is definitely entertaining & original, with some humor added for extra flavor.  
  Hope you all enjoy this clip. Be sure to check out more of Luke's playing with the band Major League, who are putting out some really good Pop Punk & touring the world regularly! 

*Please note: Song contains language which may be offensive to some listeners.  
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Luke Smartnick - Wiz Khalifa - Black And Yellow (DRUM COVER)
Hey what's up?! Luke Smartnick here was another drum cover! Please comment, Like, and Subscribe! Me just jammin out to some Wiz Khalifa! This song was sick to begin with, but when Snoop Dogg came in w...

92 BPM


The Positive Spin on Drums
by Chris Belin

92 BPM
   This morning post breakfast I had a pretty normal practice & playing routine. This clip from my office, 92 BPM, is an except from the session which followed an extensive hands & feet warm up. A regular routine in my playing is to pick a tempo each morning & just play whatever rhythms come to mind. This usually follows the above mentioned warm up, helping me to get loose on the kit for the more intense topics I work on next.    
  As a drummer I try to find a balance between practice & playing. I feel it is essential for every player to do both. My sessions are normally filled with multiple topics mixing coordination patterns, sight reading, metronome playing, composing, learning songs, & improvising.   
  I choose 92 BPM as my tempo today because it’s very commonly used in many genres, such as Rock, Pop, & R&B. Since this was my second topic of the day, I did not overexert myself w/ any extreme drumming. The focus was just a steady “on the beat” 8th note feel w/ various bass drum syncopations, some of which I’ve been revisiting at more challenging speeds of late (slow - fast). I spliced in some off beat snare hits as well as some 32nd note fills & busier hi hat patterns for some extra flavor.    
  Hope you all enjoy the clip!! I will be discussing my philosophies on the difference between practicing & playing much more coming up. I strongly encourage all the drummers out there to experiment with this idea. Start with a tempo to that feels good for you then move it up or down at your own pace. Would love to hear feedback! Please comment & subscribe!! 

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92 BPM
Please check out the March 5th, 2012 blog @ for more info on this clip.

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The Postive Spin on Drums


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