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Sabian Neil

Sabian Neil

Beginner Drummer’s Guide to Equipment and Technique!

I’ve been playing drums for a while, and I’ve noticed a few people on the nation wanting to start up, or showing some desire that they wish they could have started up. Well I’m going to try to help out and make a thread that would help outline what drums are, what good drums are, and some other neat stuff that I’ve picked up/people are willing to contribute.

Section 1- What are drums?

Drums, as I will be addressing them, refer to a kit of varying size. There are many forms of drums, such as congo, bongo, djembes…none of which I have any real experience playing. I’m not really an alternative pecussion player, but they are pretty straight forward.

A drum kit, is an assemblance of several different kinds of percussion instruments arranged in a fashion that allows one to play a beat/rhyhtm in a way that they see desirable. There are many, many derivatives of a drum kit, but I’ll run over the basic elements.

Section 2: The Basic Kit


A hi-hat is 2 cymbals (usually between 13″-15″ in circumference) that are operated by a pedal. When pushing down on the pedal, the hi-hat closes, creating a dampened “chk” sound. Releasing the pedal in certain degrees makes a more “jangly” sound, until the hi-hat is open. This is the main cymbal that is used by most drummers, as it keeps rhythm without being overbearing, as a crash or sometimes a ride would be.

Bass Drum

The bass drum is the main measure of beat keeping in a drum kit. They come in varying sizes, from 18″ on something like a jazz kit, to 26″ (which is what John Bonham played). Bass technique is some of the hardest to get a hold of when first starting out, because most people are trying to concentrate on staying on time with their arms, then you have to factor in your foot!. The bass drum is operated by a bass pedal, which gets its own little section.

Bass Pedal

The bass pedal is the method of hitting the bass drum. There are many kinds of many styles. This is a single bass pedal, but there are also double bass pedals, which simulates having 2 bass drums. That’s considered a more advanced technique, and until you nail a single pedal down, I highly recommend staying away from a double bass. Its kind of sensory overload until you get yourself straight.

Snare Drum

The snare drum is probably the most used drum on a kit. It is a basic drum, with a batter head (the head you hit) and a resonant head (the head you don’t hit), but with a series of “snares” on the bottom resting upon the resonant head. They give it the signature “crack” sound that is commonly associated with said drums. There is a switch on the side of snare drums that allows you to let the snares hang away from the resonant head, which in effect just makes it a tom-tom. This is recommended to do when you are not using the snare.


TomToms (normally just called Toms) are one of the things that gives your drum set an individual flair. They come in many shapes and sizes, from the standard 13″-16″ rack tom (which is normally mounted on a rack, or from a stem coming from your bass drum), to floor toms (larger toms that sit on the floor, typically a little smaller then a bass drum, but have a similar sound). Then there are things like roto-toms, which are very small, very shallow toms with a higher pitched sound. Toms are a matter of preference, as some people have a lot, some people have a decent amount, and some people have only 1 or 2. I currently only have a floor tom on my set.


Having already addressed hi-hats, I’ll skip over that bit. But there are also an astonishing number of different cymbals, which could have a whole post dedicated to them. I’ll run over some basic ones. There are varying parts of interest on a cymbal, for instance hitting the edge of the cymbal results in a louder sound, while hitting the middle is a quieter and less pronounced. The bell of a cymbal is the rounded part at the top, which creates a sharp “ping” noise. The bells of cymbals and their sound depends on the quality of the cymbal, the type of cymbal, and the design.

Ride- A Ride Cymbal is a larger cymbal that is used in a similar fashion to the hi-hat, only it rings out and its resonance gives it a louder, more pronounced feeling. They can be anywhere from 20″ to as big as you would like. I’ve personally not played anything bigger then 24″, but I guarantee they make them up to at least 28″.

Crash- A crash cymbal sounds like you imagine it would. Like something…crashing. They range in size from 12″ to about 18″. They’re good for accenting hits, and including in fills. Some people use them as they would a ride. They come in smaller sizes, varying from around 6″ to 10″, and they are classified as splash cymbals. They are characterized by their low resonance and “splash” sound they create when hit.

China/Trash/Etc- There are a ton of other cymbals out there, all of which can add a unique feel to your kit. China symbals/trash cymbals just sound like you’re hitting a trash can lid, with low resonance and a cheap sound. As unpleasant as that may sound, you’ve probably heard one, and they can sound pretty cool. There are other things like rock bells, which are just the bell of a cymbal, which make a really cool addition.

I’ll be adding more, focusing on some more stuff.

Section 3:Buying a set, plus Heads, Hardware, Sticks and Shells

Does this mean anything to you? If not, that’s okay. I’m going to help you get a grip on some of the stuff that throws new drummers through a loop.

Buying a Set

There are a million sets out there, and therefor a million decisions to make. There isn’t a right or wrong way to start, but there are some decisions that are better then others. It really depends on your budget. offers complete drum kits with hardware, and cymbals, and this is a good place to start. They are lower-end, but I play on one and it gets the job done. The reason this kits are decent is because they come with so much stuff.…001+304831

Many kits only come with shells (the outside of the drum). These kits come with shells, heads (expensive), hardware (expensive), snares (expensive) and some decent beginner cymbals (very expensive). All between $400 and $800. I forgot to mention drums were expensive, probably the most expensive instrument. But beginner sets are where it’s at, and until you know the ins and outs of it, you should just stick with those.

These kits do not come with bass pedals typically, so thats something else you’ll have to check into. They will state if they do or don’t. Many of them do not come with thrones, either, and you’re going to need something to sit on.

Unless you want an electronic kit. Electronic kits are neat because

1. They’re quiet. You Can Play through an amp, or headphones. (they do have a rock band sound when you hit them though)
2. They can be good, and about the same cost as a higher-end beginner set
3. They come with the capability for a variety of sounds.

All in all, it’s up to you. If you can find a used kit, that is a viable option too. Then you can personally inspect what you need and don’t need. Drum sets are pretty much completely adjustable, so feel is just how you make it.


There are two heads (what you hit) on a typical drum. There is a batter head, and a resonant head. The batter head is the one you hit, and the resonant head goes on the bottom to..resonate. There are many types of heads, and they are similar to guitar strings in the sense that it’s pretty much completely preference into what you have. If you break a head, and want to try a new one do it. Here’s how you can do it.

Start with the bottom head. (Make sure you remove the old one first!) Place the bottom head on your shell then install the rim. At this point you can go ahead and insert the tightening screws. Only give one or two turns so there is no pressure on the head but the screws stay in place. Next, press your index finger in the middle of the head. By doing this, your finger should create a dip in the center and a bunch of wrinkles will appear. Using your drum key, pick any lug and tighten the screw until the wrinkles next to that lug barley go away. Make sure your index finger keeps pressure in the center of the head during this entire process. Now you can move to the lug directly across from the one you just tightened. Tighten that screw until the wrinkles disappear. Repeat this process until you have all screws tightened and the wrinkles are completely gone from the head. Once the last screw is tight, you can remove your index finger.

Repeat this procedure for the top head. Once both heads are in place and wrinkle free, your drum should be roughly sitting at its natural resonance. Hit the drum and listen for its tone. If you hear a vibrating buzz the head is either not seated correctly (redo all of the tightening screws), you’re using an old head that’s shot, you’ve got some foreign matter floating inside the drum or you’ve got loose hardware. Otherwise you’re off to a great start. If you like what you hear repeat the process for the remaining toms. If you are going for that cool dipping sound, detune the top head by slightly loosing one of the screws. On my kit, I tighten the top and bottom heads just a bit more than the natural resonance point. Then I detune the top head. This gives me the desired dipping sound that is great live or on tape. You can now experiment to get a sound that you like.

That is a good guide. Just remember to always go ACROSS from the screw you start on. It should make a star pattern.


Hardware is what holds your drumsets together. Cymbal stands, screws, drum keys, hi-hat stands, the works. Hardware is expensive- and if you want to add a cymbal, expect to pay at least $50 for a decent stand. I bought a Pearl Export kit (on a deal with a bass drum and cymbals) and it has GREAT hardware. Lower Tama and Mapex kits in my experience, have hardware that is not nearly as good. Tama makes good hardware, just not with their entry level stuff.

The drum key is the main tool for your set. It’s how you tighten/loosen/manage everything. They are pretty much compatible on for all sets, and it is essential that you have one near your set at all times. DO NOT LOSE IT. It’s generally a good idea to have several stored away, because they’re small and easy to misplace.


There are also a million options for sticks. Most are made of American Hickory, because of its light weight and good shock absorbtion, but there are sticks that are made of Maple, and the cadillac of sticks, Japanese White Oak. Once again, it’s just preference. Maple is lighter with a brighter sound, but not as durable as Hickory or Oak. Hickory and Oak are darker sounding with better shock absorption, but are generally heavier. It’s all preference, try stuff out guys.

Sticks come in several sizes, the main ones are 7A, 5A and 3A. 7A is the smallest, with 5A being the standard. 3A is rather large, but guys like Travis Barker play with them. There are even larger sizes like 2b and 5b, which are good for heavier playing styles and guys who have a tendency to break sticks.

I personally play with 7A, because they’re light and the most nimble. 5A is what most people play though.

On top of these, there are also

-Brushes are metal or nylon…brushes, that allow a softer sound to be played by people who usually have a jazz/swing/softer style.
-Hot Rods are louder then brushes, but softer then sticks. They are a bunch of smaller sticks bound together.
-Mallets are softer on things like snares, but louder on toms, and allow you to easily do cymbal rises.

Stick Heads

Like is the case with most things in drumming, there are a million different options for things as small as stick heads. They come in different shapes and sizes, and even materials.

There are stick heads that are ovular, round, acorn shaped etc, and they can range from big to small. They all have an impact on your sound. Bigger heads allow a darker sound, while smaller heads are subsequently brighter. A darker, heavier sound comes from wood tips, while nylon tips allow cymbal guys to work quickly and smoothly on the hi-hats and cymbals.

All in all its preference, and its up to you to try as many different kinds of sticks as it takes to find the right one.

Section 4: Technique

Technique pretty much follows the same path as the rest of drum related advice. It’s just how you approach it. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do something. I’ll try to make this a FAQ, because there are so many facets, that I can’t address all of them.

I’ll also have it known that I’m definitely not the paragon of drum technique. I’m completely self taught, so I’ll post what I have to say and then I’ll see if I can find a video that explains it traditionally.

Foot Independence

This is the biggest issue probably when overcoming drums. It’s hard, but its mainly just an issue of patience. The foot has a tendency to follow the dominant hand, and the easiest way I’ve found to practice breaking that habit, is to try and get some basic rock beats down. Then, once you get those beats down, mess with some extra snare hits, or add/subtract some bass hits. If your foot follows your dominant hand, you can also speed up that hand and make it easier to add bass drum hits because there are more hits to follow.

Here is a video that explains it far better then I can through text, haha.

(See link at bottom for rest of article)

Time Signatures

Most of the time, time signatures do not matter. But some people are set on them. I don’t use them, and unless you really want to, you shouldn’t have to either.

(See link at bottom for rest of article)

Section 5: You’ve got your set, now what?

As seems to be the case with drums, there is no set in stone way to accomplish what you’re going to do. If you want to learn rudiments, go ahead. If you want to hop on the set and thrash away until you’re better, go ahead. I, personally, am completely self taught. I had a friend who was learning guitar at the same time, and we jammed together, and progressed together.

You’re not going to be Neil Peart the first time you hop on your set, and there is always going to be someone better then you. It’s not meant to discourage you, but it always makes you better knowing there is someone to compete with. Never get comfortable with where you are. Get a teacher if you want, or a drum pad to practice on, but if you just want to play some songs, listen to some easy parts and emulate.

Here are some Youtube Channels I’ve found helpful if you’re ever stuck in a rut.

(See link at bottom for rest of article)

If anyone else has any content, I will be sure to add it. Just post or PM.

(See link at bottom for rest of article)

I think I’ve at least touched all the bases, but I’ll finish up by posting some brands that are notable and can pretty much all be trusted.




-Paiste (it rhymes with feisty)
-Wuhan (for Chinas, they’re supposed to sound crappy guys)


-Vic Firth
-Ahead (they make metal sticks with replaceable rubber sheaths..good if you hate replacing sticks)
-Pro Mark



Notable Drummers (rough list, no order, just some guys to check out)

-Buddy Rich
-Gene Krupa
-Neil Peart
-Tony Royster Jr
-Chris Adler
-Keith Moon
-John Bonham
-Brann Dailor
-George Kolias
-Zach Hill
-Trilok Gurtu
-Shawn Crahan
-Thomas Pridgin
-Rickie Mattozza
-Matt Cameron
-Dave Grohl
-Lord Marco
-Alex Van Halen
-Richard Christy
-Gene Hoglan
-Dennis Chamberlain

The list could go on and on. I tried to differentiate a little bit.

Read the rest of this article and post comments here!

About the Author

JLausen from

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