September 24, 2010

Gearhead Thoughts: Back to Double Bass, and My Studio H Experience

I have just survived playing without a double bass pedal for almost a year.  October last year, I decided to take a vacation on double bass and return to single bass drumming, as documented in this October 2009 blog.  Now, I am happy to say that I'm back to playing double bass.

I got myself a second-hand DW 5002AH Delta 2 double bass pedal two weeks ago.  I bought it from a friend, and I think I'm the third or fourth owner of this pedal.  It's an old model, but it's still in great mechanical condition.  I just needed to clean it up a bit after I got it.  I made some research on this particular model, and I reckon that this particular DW model was built circa 2002, judging from the footboards with the words "chain drive" casted above the distinct 5000 trademark.  This model must be the first to have DW's Delta ball bearing hinges, with its distinct red finish.  Plus, this model was the first to be featured with optional accessories such as pedal weights and stacking Elevator heels.  The DWs I got have the weights, which are those round things screwed at the top end of the footboards.

Back in the day, when I was still starting out, DW's 5000 line of pedals were the most sought-after drum pedals, and these were the benchmark and cutting edge in terms of design, technology, and playability.  In fact, they were my dream pedals.  Until, the Japanese came out with their Iron Cobras (Tama) and Powershifter Eliminators (Pearl), which offer plenty of high tech features and player customization.  Then, American pedal manufacturers such as Axis and Trick took pedal innovations notches higher.  Nowadays, there are so many great drum pedals to choose from, and I guess we somehow owe it all to DW.  As far as I'm concerned, the DW 5000 pedals are the pioneers of the modern bass drum pedal.

It's cool that I now have a DW 5002 double pedal.  Though second-hand, I can still say that I'm able to get my dream pedal.  Though it doesn't offer as much customization as the Cobras and Elims which I used to have, the DW still has that great feel, which is what matters the most.  I don't know if it comes with maturity, but I'm probably getting less techy when it comes to pedals.  I would still love to have a high-tech set of pedals someday, once it's time for me to upgrade.  But for now, I'm enjoying these good old 5000's, which still feels great even with all its mileage and battle scars.  And now, I have to shed off some of my double bass rust.  Better get my footwork back on track.

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It's great timing that I got back to double bass.  Recently, I was called to do this recording session.  We recorded an original progressive rock composition, so it was an opportunity for me to go back to my rock roots and play some double bass.

It's a privilege for me to do a recording session at Hit Productions' Studio H last Sunday afternoon.  It was my first time to do a session there, and it was a treat for me.  Hit Productions is among the best audio production houses in the country, and their flagship Studio H reflects their quality, innovation, and their knack for the latest technology.  For me, Studio H is like the 19 East of local recording studios.  The studio is so well-equipped.  The house kit is a Mapex Saturn, which sounded sweet.  They have a stable of over a dozen snare drums of different shells and sizes, some of it are custom-made models from companies which I never get to read about in my drum magazines.  Plus they have a wide selection of cymbals.  I am particularly impressed with the set of Paiste Twenty cymbals, which I was able to try for the first time.  If I were to use Paistes, the Twenty would be my line of cymbals.  However, for the recording, I need brighter, heavier cymbals.  Plus, they have enough drum hardware for drummers who need to improvise with their set-ups.

Studio H also has a baby grand piano, and plenty of high-tech recording tools and gadgets.  The recording facility is also a haven for guitar and bass players, for there's an impressive collection of electric and acoustic guitars & bass guitars lined up along the walls of the mixing room.  It's simply topnotch, and by far it's the most impressive recording studio I've ever visited.

Going back to the recording session, one of the bosses from Hit has this original progressive rock composition.  For me, the song's got an old-school feel in it, with a twist of Frank Zappa & Black Sabbath.  The song is funny.  It is about this fictional superhero, who will be revealed as a homosexual later in the middle of the tune.  There's some straight-ahead parts in 4/4, then the tricky odd-time pre-chorus, which I counted out was in 19/8.  It was a challenging session for me because first, it's been a long time since I last played heavy progressive rock music.  Second, I have to learn the song on the fly (while the people I worked with already knew the song).  And third, I am recording with complete strangers!  It sure took me some time to learn the track on the spot, particularly the transitions and the different grooves.  Yet, at the end of the day, I thought it's a great challenge for me, and I hope that I'm able to satisfy the songwriter & my fellow sessionists.  Though I wish I had more time, I think I could have done a much better job.

For that session, I set up the Mapex house kit with 3 toms (10"-12"-14").  My cymbals were a mix of Zildjians, Sabians & Paistes.  My ride cymbal was a 22" Sabian Neil Peart Paragon Ride, which sounded big yet crisp.  My effects cymbals were a Paiste Twenty splash & China, which sounded well on the mix.  The hats and the crashes were all Zildjian.  I also used my Old Faithful 14" Tama Starclassic Maple snare drum.  No disrespect meant to Studio H's snare drum collection, but I thought of using my own drum so that I can hear how it sounds on recording.  And finally, I hooked in my DW 5000 double bass pedal, which I got to use on a few fills & some straight-ahead passages.

I hope to have another opportunity to work again at Studio H.  I had a blast.