Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer

My Alesis Nitro Mesh expanded set.
My wife professes to be weird. Sometimes she claims I'm weird too. I try to tell her neither one of us is weird -- we're "unique." Each of us is a statistical outlier in various ways. The old cliche, "marching to the beat of a different drummer" comes to mind. 

But the cliche is about to become literal! After a wait of about fifty years, I've started down the path of learning to play drums as I once wanted to do. The path to get here was a circular one.

"Paper" drums and "plastic" guitars

In my teenage years, when I began to listen to rock and was exposed to it at school dances, I wanted to play drums. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford a set of drums, and I had no room in our little house to set some up. And, it would be too noisy. I made do for a while by laying out pieces of paper on my bed to represent the different drums and cymbals and practicing with a couple of "real" drumsticks. When my parents bought me a cheap snare drum (one step above a toy) one Christmas, I had visions of going on to slowly build a collection somehow.

But it didn't happen. Instead, I got interested in guitar. It started with a plastic body acoustic guitar my sister had, that only had one string. I made up a song on it, and called it "Twenty-two Man." It involved playing only two notes on one string, and throwing in some lyrics I made up. It was awful. (The guitar, the song, my skill level ...) 

Graduating to "real" guitars and loud amplifiers

The following Christmas, I started down a path that would last me for decades. I progressed from a cheap guitar and a "baby" guitar amp to a larger and better guitar, a semi-acoustic Silvertone with a Bigsby tailpiece. (I couldn't yet afford the guitar of my dreams, a Gibson SG.) I graduated to a small but larger amp to play through. My father made me play through headphones so the neighbors wouldn't complain, and so he could get some work done in his office. Next, I secured a loan from my grandmother to purchase a 300-watt (125 watt RMS) Peavey 240 Standard solid-state amp with a speaker cabinet holding two 15" speakers. It was appropriately loud -- I seldom turned the volume control higher than 2 1/2. Once, in college, I plugged in a high-frequency horn and I was told people a mile away were able to hear me.

Alas, the Big Whoppin' Amp was not easy to transport back and forth to my dorm room. When it came time to buy a train ticket to travel to upstate New York and marry my first wife, I sold the amp and downsized.

Eventually I found a used Gibson SG I could afford. I purchased and played 6- and 12-string Ovation acoustic/electric guitars. I picked up a Yamaha bass guitar and learned to play it. I experimented with various synthesizers (a Casio CZ-101, a Yamaha DX7, a Kawai, a Roland, a KORG KROSS2). I played, off and on, with friends; did a few one-off gigs with people I knew; and contributed to praise bands in different churches.

Moving on to drums

Many years later, I decided I could afford some drums and I had room to set them up. Volume would be a problem, though, so I opted for electronic drums. I recently purchased an Alesis Nitro Mesh expanded (10-piece) set.  Modern-day mesh drumheads are quiet enough that if I'm listening to the drums through headphones, the tapping on the drumheads is almost inaudible. (Although the tapping noise from the electronic cymbals is another story.)

My current gear includes the Alesis electronic drums and cymbals, a Behringer Xenyx Q1202 mixer to blend instrument input as well as music from an Amazon Echo, and an inexpensive Sony receiver with output to some old Bose bookshelf speakers.

It took many years to get here, but I have now returned to my percussive "first love".


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