Thoughts on Breaking Cymbals.

Hey all!  Hope spring has sprung, wherever you are.

I retired two  broken cymbals recently (19″ Stagg VB crash and 18″ riveted Wuhan).  Nothing unusual for me; I believe these are broken cymbals number 52 and 53, which rounds out nicely to about 1.8 cymbals per year broken since I started playing.  Of course, they didn’t break with linear regularity; it wasn’t until Plow started really thrashing about in the mid – 90s that they went down semi – annually (or more often).

I would break them with even more regularity as I play with Necktie Killer, as, since their songs are fairly slow comparatively, I have enough time to wind up and turn on the full Tommy Lee attack.  But, since I play/practice with Necktie so infrequently, the glam effect is offset (the cracks in the Stagg and most recent Wuhan started after the Plow shows in February).

Anywho, I just wanted to share a few things I’ve learned over the years as I painfully spent thousands of dollars on these brass beauties (not to mention the small forests I’ve reclaimed with the drumsticks that break in tandem with them):

1) I was told by a sound engineer during the latest NTK recording session to “hit the drums hart and the cymbals gently”.  If you can follow that advice (I can’t), I imagine that you’d go longer between replacement.

2) Back in the day, my cymbal of choice during the Plow years was the Sabian 18″ Crash/Ride.  The reason, to my mind,m was simple: it was a) cheap and b) heavy.  It would take the abuse, and, when it was done taking it, not break my bank with replacement.  Well, half of that argument (part b) is correct.  The truth, for me at least, has been to buy slightly lighter crashes.  This seems counter-intuitive, until you realize (like I did, a few years back) that a lighter cymbal will “give” more, thus absorbing the strike and dispersing it throughout, like a skyscraper that bends in the breeze (I remember standing at the top of one of the World Trade Center towers during a school field trip back in the 80s and being amazed at this fact…unfortunately, I didn’t make the connection to cymbals until much later).

3) Speaking of the strike…try to hit with a glancing blow, instead of straight in.  I know, I know…”practice what you preach, Rule!”.  Trust me, I’m doomed.  I’m just trying to save you some money.

4) Don’t buy the cheapest line of your chosen brand.  As I mentioned before, I swore by Sabian B8’s for years.  Not because they sounded good, but because they were cheap.  I thought my logic was reinforced when, in 1994, I went into my local bike shop to purchase a new rear derailleur to replace one that I had sheared off.  The guy in the store told me to buy cheap, low – level rear derailleurs; that way, when they shear off, they’re cheap to replace.  “That’s what I do”, he said.  What he didn’t tell me is that these “not really made for riding” parts don’t work all that well, either; they shift poorly, and are hard to adjust.  Also, as you get better at mountain biking, you tend to crash the ass end of your bike into things less, so you can afford the better stuff.

A somewhat parallel argument applies to cymbals; I’ve been having better luck with slightly more expensive cymbals, sometimes.  For example,  I’ve got an XS20 18″ medium crash that has survived for almost 2 years.  Maybe it’s the fact that slightly more expensive cymbals are cast (vs. stamped), or use a slightly more tin (any chemists out there that can talk about 80/20 vs. 92/8 bronze?).  At the same time, I tried a Zildjian ZXT 18″ crash (sheet stamped) that lasted 4 months.  Who knows?  I’ll let you know as I experiment more.

5) If you can, buy used cymbals.  Your local stores might have a great selection.  Mine don’t; I live in a tiny town where they charge me $14.50 for a pair of drumsticks.  Sure, used cymbals can be a roll of the dice, but, on average, it pays off for me.  I get to try more expensive models you wouldn’t ever think of trying new, and they seem to last about the same length of time before breaking (I keep waiting to find a RUDE crash around $100…apparently, that was the line designed in response to punk and metal!).

6) I was told, years ago, that you can stall the spread of a cymbal crack by drilling small holes in the end(s).  This never seemed to work for me; in fact, the holes seemed to create micro spider cracks which spread off in different directions (to me, this process now seems like pruning a tree and expecting the branch that you cut to not grow again).

6a) A guy who ran a store called “Steve’s Drum Studio” in Bend (unfortunately, it’s closed now) used to cut, circularly, around the circumference of a radial crack, if it wasn’t too far toward the bell.  Thus, he would turn, say, a 16″ crash into a 14″ one.  He would then file the cut down so it was smooth.  He claimed great success, but he’s also someone who plays the drums, vs. beating the crap out of them, like I do (he also used machine – shop tools to make these cuts, where I would use a pair of tin snips).

7) One last note…if you need a good China, Wuhans are the best.  Their 20″ will set you back about $80, and it’ll break quickly, but while it’s not broken, it roars.  Perfrect trashcan – lid obnoxiousness.  And Wuhan’s 16″ crash is not a terrible sounding dark crash.

Hope this helps some of you drummers out there!  Any other hints/tips/tricks/strategy?




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A non – related – to – music post, mostly for Josh, but…

…considering that punk rock is essentially the reason I do things like this, a follow up post about my DIY bike cargo trailer seems to fit here.

So, a few months ago, I posted a picture of a cargo trailer I had built to the FB page, one that could be pulled by bike.  It’s definitely a “first go” with lots of tweaks to be made (it’s too heavy, the wheels are too far back, etc.), but Josh asked me to take pictures of how the wheels are connected to it, and today, I finally unearthed the thing in the garage to make some runs to get some firewood.  So, I was able to turn it up on its side and take some pictures.

So here’s the business.  The wheel assembly is off of a recycled jogging stroller.  I cut the axle holding the back wheels out of the whole shebang, then cut that axle in half.  As it turns out, I had a brass bar (left over from the old restaurant door I used for our shed)  whose ID was the same as the OD of the stroller’s axle, so I just cut that brass bar to length, and I had my new trailer axle.

To mount the wheels to the trailer, I drilled out holes that were just a smidge smaller than the OD of the wheel mounts, and hammered them in:

This is cool, too, since I can still use the jogging stroller’s wheel release mechanism:

which will come in handy when I eventually get a flat with this monster.  A few other tweaks…connecting the trailer to the bike is done via the swingarm from the kiddie trailer that I pull Max with:

Now, this is pretty bomber, but there are two things that concern me.  First, the attachment to the chainstay is rubber, which makes for nice turns and some suspension for Max when I’m pulling him in the Burley.  However, when I’m pulling a couple hundred pounds on this trailer, I get a little leery that all of that weight hanging off a rubber piece; however, it seems to be handling the weight just fine (although it does begin to oscillate back and forth up hills, unless your cadence is perfect), unlike the tongue (the second thing that concerns me), which, since I mounted the wheels too far backward, needs to be reinforced with some old non-drive side crank arms (Campy, of course):

I might, if I can work out the connection to the trailer, create a swingarm that attaches to the seatpost and comes back (sort of like how Max’s tagalong works).  I’m still mentally working on that connection; the one that currently connects the bike to the trailer is pretty bomber:

Heavy, sure.  But bomber.  And the duct tape adds the correct amount of ghetto.

So, anyway, that’s the trailer in a nutshell.  It’s so rad pulling my drums, or loads of leaves, or whatever, around with it.  Just today, when Max and I went on our firewood run (him on his bike, me with this rig), and he got tired on the way home, so I just put him and his bike up there with the firewood and we rode home, him cackling the whole way.  It tracks beautifully, and, so long as you’ve got a nice low granny gear, you can pull most hills under 10% with reasonable, but not ridiculous, effort (unfortunately, however, that’s really when you start feeling that rubber connection oscillate).

So, Josh, I just wanted to get these pictures to ya.  Sorry it took so long, and hope it helps!


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When will it hit 1000?

So, being a respecter of the metric system, I’m watching carefully as the FB like number grows, ever so surely, toward 1000:

And, being a total geek, I ran some models on this data to see when it might happen, assuming this pattern continues.  Got a few different results:

1) We seem to pick up about 1 like per day.  In that case, 19 days oughta do it.

2) Forcing a linear fit, we’ll hit 1000 in the next 4 days.  Of course,

3) the slope of the data appears to be decreasing with time (not linearly constant), so a logartihmic or order 2 polynomial curve would fit reasonably well.  A log fit gives us hitting 1000 around day 67 (or around April 24).  Using the quadratic model, we’d never hit 1000, as we’d max out at about 980, and then people would start un-liking us until we got back to zero about 4 months from now.

Of course, the inanity of this is that I have no idea what’s causing the likes.  So…when do you think we’ll hit 1000?

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Many, many thanks…

…for the wondrous 120 hours (or so) that I spent on the Beast Coast!

  • To the guys that made it happen, Less Than Jake.  Gents, you are kings.  Hilarious, goofy, R – rated kings.  A very, very special thanks to Vinnie for all of the help and for releasing Sleepwalk.
  • To Samiam, the first punk band I ever listened to while washing dishes at Pencader hall.  You guys are freaking rad, and it was great to spend time with you.  Charlie, thanks for your kind words and help, and letting me beat on your gorgeous Paragons.  One love.
  • To Flatfoot 56, my brothers with an average height around 6’6″.  You gentlemen redefine heart.  I miss you already.  Very special thanks to Justin who let me pound on his kit every night.

To all of these bands…I hope our paths cross again in the not – so – distant future.  I am blessed and humbled to have shared stages with you all.

  • To Matt Drastic, for keeping that ship together…dude, it was so good to see you again!
  • To everyone who came to the shows, or who realized after too late that they couldn’t (but were there in spirit)….thank you.  Your endless support means the world, and looking out at the crowds and seeing friends, old and new, rockin’ along is quite freaking rad.
  • To Justin A., for holding the merch ship together, and for fantastic talks on the rides home at 2 AM.
  • To Bri and Joel, my best buds…this is so much damn fun. We’re pretty lucky.

Words don’t adequately sum up how lucky I feel to have just experienced what I just experienced.   “Thank you” seems too easy, too short, too…little.  But, I will say it again, to all of you who made it all possible:  THANK YOU for all of it, and we’ll see you again in June!

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Don’t You (Forget About Bri).

So, I started doing Google Alerts for Plow and for all of the the three of our names individually after Riot Fest.  It was then that I realized just how busy Bri is, the little bollocks.  Thus far, he has shown up in Google hits where he is

  1. a basketball player.
  2. a baseball coach.
  3. a mixed martial artist.
  4. an effects artist.
  5. an information services officer in the Coast Guard (thanks for your service, Bri!).
  6. this guy.
  7. a former member of Simple Minds (oooooo!  Can we open for them?)

A true Renaissance man, this one is!  Rock on, Bri!


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Mama, Pearl’s comin’ home…

As indebted as I am to all of the awesome drummers who have let me use their wonderful kits over the past few months (and, who continue to offer them to me…thanks, Mikes!), I have decided that it’s time to stop bleeding all over other folks’ snare drums.  So, this AM, I carefully wrapped up the old 14″ x 6.5″ Pearl Session Studio (or is it Studio Session?) birch snare for the trip back east:

Yup…this was the snare I purchased at my beloved MidAtlantic Music (all you DE drummers out there remember that’s where Larry Nolly went after Drumstix closed down).  This snare has served me beautifully; it was my snare between the Gretsch blue – sparkle era and Tama piccolo era, and it appeared on quite a few of the later (post – ’95) Plow releases (Narcolepsy and a 7″ or two).  It’s also the snare (I think) that I played for the reunion shows in ’98, so it’ll be good to be wailing on it with Bri and Joel again…where it belongs, back on the Beast Coast.

I don’t think it was truly happy playing ska, nor thrash…but it sure looks forward to seeing you all soon!

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VH goes down…

So, I mentioned the nocturnal wrestling matches that have gone on since the grizzled old veteran (i.e., my VH necklace) was joined by the spirited young upstart (the bitchin’ Plow necklace from Bish’s Boutique).  Well, last night, VH got taken down a notch, in what must have been some intense wrangling:

I’m conflicted about this.


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