VintageView - Accessories Part 2
In the sixties when we started getting really serious about drumming and invested in an extra bass drum, there was a piece of equipment many of us had to have. It was a bracket to attach the hi-hat stand to that auxiliary bass drum. These attachments clamped to the bass drum hoop by more or less the same piece of equipment you used for your cowbell. But if you were serious about double bass drums, you could mount a permanent cymbal/spur holder block onto the shell itself to make it more professional-looking and more secure. In the days before legless hi-hat stands all you needed to do was to set the hi-hat leaving the legs in the folded- up position and attach it. (Incidentally, I also had a block screwed to my bass drum to mount my cowbell and in those innocent days before anybody had any thoughts on the subject of ‘Resonance Isolation Mounting Systems’ it didn’t matter.)
While we were at it of course, since both our feet were working overtime on the bass drums, even though we could ‘heel and toe’ to keep the hi-hat going up and down, we obviously really needed a gizmo to allow our hi-hat cymbals to rest together for that ‘open’ sound – before we moved our ‘slave’ foot to the secondary bass pedal.
To release the top cymbal there was a lever on the top of the clutch which you swiped with the stick to drop the top cymbal on to the bottom cymbal for that half-open sound. Rogers made the first commercially available one in the 1960''s with part-aluminium cast parts called a ‘drop clutch’. Arguably theirs was the best one although in the fullness of time every other drum company copied Rogers. Nowadays just about every mainstream drum company makes one.
Towards the end of the fifties when I began playing, there wasn’t anything you could do to adjust the ‘feel’ of any hi-hat other than change the angle of the bottom cymbal to release the air. What I mean to say is that the original hi hat stands I had at the beginning of my career couldn’t be adjusted in any way other than up or down in height, but that wasn’t their only problem - they had the potential to wave around as you played them.
It wasn’t until Ludwig brought out their Hercules hi-hat stand around 1980, which had tubular legs, that you could experiment (albeit slightly) with the spring strength which suited you. You could also (again courtesy of Rogers) make your hi hat even higher by adding an extension to your centre-rod. In those days the majority of hi-hat pedals were side-pull although this particular action could be on both sides of the lowest tube like on Rogers’ ‘Swiv-o-Matic’. Eventually centre-pull versions turned up which were a step in the right direction (no pun intended) especially when they had spring adjustment. There were variations upon the theme with twin external springs and so on.
As I said, Ludwig’s first adjustable spring hi hat stand came out in 1980 and was swiftly followed by everybody else jumping on the bandwagon with their own version. Nowadays even the lowliest of hi-hat pedal boasts that facility.
I once bought a spike which went onto the front leg of a hi-hat to allow it to dig in to the floor. The only problem was it could only be attached to a flat leg and you had to drill a hole to fit it. Eventually small spiked spurs were tapped into the framework of the pedal in a vain attempt to stop it moving. It worked on carpet and that was about the extent of it. Ludwig put some spikes underneath the heel-plate of their hi-hat which helped on a carpet but was absolutely ineffectual on a smooth wooden floor. It’s interesting that no one seriously thought of carrying their very own carpet then. I actually did have one through my years with Argent which had Quick-Release bike-type toe straps on it to hold everything in place. It was designed to sit on top of my riser, which was formed from flight-cases made for the transportation of the abundance of 4 x 12 speaker cabinets we, and every other touring band worth its salt, owned in those days.
For most of us the most important element of any hi-hat was/is the clutch and there again we’ve had problems. Invariably at the most inopportune moment they would unscrew by themselves and the top cymbal would fall onto the bottom one. Eventually some models were fixed by fitting a drumkey operated screw inside the top cymbal to lock the clutch to the centre rod. The best one I ever found came from Remo and was called QuickLock which had a bottom locking nut with the usual collection of felt washers, but was spring-loaded and held in place by a bayonet-fitting.
As music progressed the demand for more sounds led to more and more elements being included within the kit – almost like those traps sets of old with the large bass drums. Being partial to the sound of the hi-hat I had always wanted to have more than one of them although I was only interested in them if they all sounded different. I wasn’t interested in what had gone before where two pairs of cymbals were set vertically above one another, or even horizontally alongside. I wanted more than one regular hi hat but it was impractical to position them both near my left foot. So the solution was either the X-hat, or the remote hi-hat - invented in 1939 by the indefatigable Billy Gladstone, but it appears Leedy had a static version seven years earlier than that. In my Kinks days, I wanted to be able to be able to change gear within a song but still keep the chugging hi-hat sound going. So I set up a pair of 14” cymbals on my right foot and a pair of 15” on my right-hand side on a remote pedal, in the vicinity of my ride cymbal. I took this to its illogical conclusion by adding a pair of 10” hi-hats which I had mounted half-open on an x-hat to produce the most brilliant ‘muted’ crash sound. This was used in soft music which demanded some punctuation, but where a splash was wrong and a regular cymbal was overpowering. Several companies offered hi hat pedals with two pairs of cymbals around this time (an idea carried on by HiPercussion and DW in the seventies) and there was even a pedal with an upturned crash cymbal underneath the hi-hats in the thirties!
The need to place my hi-hats somewhere accessible inevitably led to my involvement with rack systems because I needed somewhere to mount these hats as well as the Dauz pad which was linked to my Simmons ClapTrap which was used to great effect, for just one song! I also mounted microphones and cymbal stands to the rack and the only thing I was unable to mount successfully was my hi-hat with legs. I’m not alone in this ‘cos I’ve watched other drummers doing it – when we all sit down to play our drums the first thing we do is move the hi-hats towards us! Obviously you couldn’t do that if it was attached to the rack. I’ve subsequently tried mounting my main snare drum on the rack and that doesn’t work for me either.
Racks were free-standing tubular metal frameworks, re-invented and popularised by Jeff Porcaro, which support toms, cymbals, microphones and even snare drums whilst leaving the bass drum standing on its own two feet and quickly removable should you accidentally break a head. I always had two bass drums on the road with the Kinks , just in case I broke a head. I never did break one because the drum tech kept an eagle eye on the batter head, but I speak from bitter experience in 1973. If you’ve only got one bass drum and it breaks at New York’s Palace Theatre it’s not easy to change it on television in front of a theatre-full of people – trust me.
But I’ve gone off at a tangent again. To get back to the subject, rack mounting systems were an eighties innovation which first saw the light of day in the nineteen-twenties supporting dance band drummers'' Chinese and Cuban toms, cymbals, temple blocks, cowbells, sirens, train whistles, football rattles and so on! Back then Premier are said to have made one for Gretsch. More recently Pearl, Tama, Yamaha, CollarLock and several Taiwanese companies including Gibraltar and Dixon had various racks on offer and there was even a Californian custom builder called Greg Voelker who''d tailor a rack and a riser specifically for up-market players – a bit like getting a made to measure bike for a cyclist with ‘Loadsa Money’.
Little by little as drumming became heavier anything which could be beefed-up and made adjustable was, including the lowly ‘T-screw’ which kept everything in the required position and, you’ve guessed it, Rogers were the first to do this.
Long before my time, the first bass drum pedals were crude and made from wood, but surprisingly, once they began to build them from metal little about their actual principle has changed since the beginning of the 20th Century. To underline the point, Ludwig''s ''Speed King'' arrived in 1934 with its twin compression springs and something like 82 years later is still going strong. In my opinion during the sixties the pedal was the best available even though it wasn’t infallible and over the years I happily broke and replaced a great many of them.
Many other designs have come and gone although there was one feature which turned out in the fullness of time to be less than ideal. We had all been used to lambs-wool bass drum beaters because that was what was supplied with the pedal, but they gave a softer sound. These beaters were replaced by hard felt versions at a time when we seldom had microphones just for bass drums. However when wooden beaters from America arrived, even though they gave the bass drum a much more audible sound, they unfortunately wore the head away where they hit it which certainly wasn’t ideal. At the time nobody saw fit to put a piece of plastic, leather, or even the top of a metal can in the way to create a kickpad to take the wear. Over time we saw beaters made from rubber, acrylic, polished stone and even polythene which you could fill with shot, sand, or even grit to get a different sound and balance.
Besides the Ludwig there were lighter-weight, double-post pedals available which became popular and seem to have been built by every manufacturer worth his salt. There have been lots of variations on the original pedal theme, including, for example, Gretsch''s ''Floating Action'' pedal which in turn was a copy of the Martin ''Fleetfoot'' of the forties. Some pedals like the Rogers ''Swivo-matic'' had single posts, others had compression springs like Ludwig and Slingerland, and yet another used a complicated system of opposed clock springs mounted on each post. One was winding up while the other was loosening off!
Calato used to make a pedal which worked on that ''push/pull'' system too although theirs used expansion springs joined around a circular cam/boss. There have even been plastic bass pedals produced (in a moment of seventies'' insanity?) by the American Rogers company, and more recently Duallist (see below) from Scotland have made pedals using more modern materials which most definitely are not metal.
The nineties fashion was to link two foot-pedals for double play on one drum (although that particular innovation was new in 1920) and, with necessity as ever being the mother of invention, in the mid-nineties Duallist''s non metal pedals came up with a design which used double beaters which shared a single foot plate, and Mapex''s Janus was a combined hi-hat and bass drum pedal.
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