Pro Drummer Tips: Dustin Ragland on Experimental Drum Sounds

Dustin Ragland

Dustin plays for Charlie Hall, Student Film, and Dr. Pants. He has been a full time drummer for 9 years, and has played for 16. He produces and mixes records in OKC; teaches recording/songwriting at ACM@UCO in OKC; and reads maps for fun. He also makes his own music as Eutopian Accident, at www.eutopianaccident.com.

Dustin’s Pro Drummer Tip:

“My bit of tip for drummers out there is perhaps to encourage you to search for the many different kinds of tones each drum is able to give you. What I mean by that is, we have at our hands and feet quite a few tonal options, just within the way and where we bang on the drums. A snare drum has hits in the center of the head, the rim, the rim shot, the cross stick across the snare, or just a simple click on the rim, to slapping the sides of it with a bare hand, to muting it with the off-hand…to turning the snares off and doing all of the above all over again!

I would encourage you to seek out ways to make your kit offer you the tones you want, without having to go to programming first, especially when it comes to muting your drums. One of my favorite mutes is to keep an old head from each size and flip it over (it fits exactly, of course!) and use it as a mute. It keeps quite a bit of attack, but much more muted, with a perfectly shrunken decay.

“One of my favorite mutes is to keep an old head from each size and flit it over and use it as a mute.”

That’s only one simple example, but try to experiment with different muting and altering techniques that can be easily and quickly changed during a set, and build a small army of helps to carry along with you to gigs where those kinds of subtleties shine through. A few dish towels, rubber coasters, old heads, sheets of paper, cracked cymbals, jingle bells, flyswatters, old necklaces with jangly pieces-all of these things can easily take your kit into loop-ville, while keeping your feel and timing, and live performance! Of course not all of these are useful for something like an arena gig’s broad strokes, but for studio and smaller venues they can really open up a song or two!

We get to play remarkable instruments, we don’t have to rely on amplification, and we have a lot of notes available to us. Choosing them well, and making them our own is a joy we get to participate in!”

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