The Great Taboo of Drumming – TuningLauren Fearon
Jeff Davenport is a UK based professional Drummer. He is currently a rep for Remo, but the drum tuning workshops are a concept that he has developed from his lifetime of experience with drums.
Apart from working his way up from roadie, to drum tech and further – Jeff has also been a rep for Sonor Drums and helped manage clinic events with Steve Smith, Thomas Lang, and Jojo Mayer.
As a professional drummer he has worked with a host of artists including Andy Sheppard, Phil Robson, and James Morrison.
What can we expect on Sunday?
Jeff: The Workshop starts with open questions around the group and then a request for specific ideas on “What do you need to know about drum tuning?” As we go around the group, we cover issues that bother drummers and irritate them regarding tuning, also going into some complex issues that they can’t get to the bottom of.
We will be looking at the variables of drum tuning, which I will explain during the day. So through the workshops you will get a clearer understanding of all the elements, giving you a much more confident outlook at tuning drums.
The aim is to also help people achieve their own signature sound.
Could you explain a little about the drumming variables now?
Jeff: The different tuning factors can be – type of head, type of shell, type of bearing edge, type of fitting, type of suspension, and quality of suspension fittings, etc. The room in which you play is also a factor, with the tuning for the room and the tuning for the music. Understanding a little bit about the sticks you use, and your own perception of sound is important too.
How and when did you start doing drumming clinics?
Jeff: The first thing that really got me into tuning and thinking about tuning was buying a top end Sonor drumkit. Suddenly I realized I could get lots of different sounds out of that kit, which I couldn’t get out of my old Premier kit, which was not very versatile and didn’t manipulate the heads consistently or evenly.
Then, when I was teaching between 2000 and 2010, I had 80 pupils a week, and part of that was teaching further education at Nottingham Castle College. A part of the syllabus was to teach some tuning, and I found that I could teach it very well and get good results. From that I found a lot of people telling me that I should teach tuning.
Another thing was when I was going into studios to do recording, and the sound engineer would say – “Well this is the best sounding kit I’ve ever heard. How did you get it to sound like that? Can you show me?” So then I started going into Confetti Studios in Nottingham to teach the studio engineers how to get the sounds out of the drumkit. From there I approached drums shops, using my contacts as a Sonor Drum Rep.
In preparation for going to a drum clinic, what do you recommend to do in order to get the most out of it?
Jeff: The first thing for this particular clinic is to come with an open mind. Be prepared to share, and hopefully have an enjoyable time.
I don’t actually play the drums in this kind of clinic, which is a bit odd, but I can do. I have some workshops where I just concentrate on developing the drumkit sound. We set up three or four kits and then change the sound. This particular workshop though, will be aimed towards discussing people’s initial problems. You don’t necessarily need a pen and a pad, as that would be a bit too much like going to school.
The key thing is to come with an open mind. It is about breaking down that taboo of tuning; this is the crucial thing.
A lot of people are very proud about what they do with the drums and are protective of the sound they get out of their drums. Hopefully I’ll get people to think, “Well I can change that sound,” and also rediscover old sounds. Tuning is not a fixed thing; it is a variable thing. I can come back to a kit with an old set of heads and get a sound I had about 20 years ago. It’s about giving people the confidence to change that because often they’ve spent a lot of money on drums, and they’ve only got one sound out of a $3,000 drum kit.
If you could sum up drum tuning advice in 5 words what would they be?
Jeff: To have an open mind.
Thanks to Jeff Davenport for spending the time to share with us his expertise. Please look for our follow-up review of the event, coming soon!