Welcome to the very first Rising Star feature here at Drum Faster! Mikaela Swan is a perfect example and we are so happy for her to be our first feature. These articles are here to feature the best up and coming drummers we think you need to know about.
Mikaela Swan has exploded online in 2020 with videos getting millions of views on both TikTok and Instagram. Today she now has over 100,000 followers on both platforms!
It is easy to see why her videos have blown up. Each performance is full of passion and energy. It is infectious! And of course, great drumming.
Let’s find out more about Mikaela Swan and her drumming journey so far.
Q. Who is Mikaela Swan?
My name is Mikaela Swan, and I am a female drummer that is all about changing people’s perceptions, providing entertainment, and expressing my creativity through my social media. I enjoy playing various genres such as rock, indie, heavy metal, pop and classic.
I first started the drums when I was young when my parents gifted me with a High Five musical kit. From there, I was instantly drawn to the little drum.
I started taking lessons to read and play music in grade 3 and continued through school with it. Unfortunately, I was a little bit lazy and did not take it all too seriously and fell a bit out of love with the drums.
That was until grade 9 when my dad said to me that they would sell my drum kit if I weren’t going to practise and play at home, which I wasn’t. From there, I picked up my game and has been taking it seriously, learning and pushing myself to become a better drummer.
Looking back, it has now; it has been 6 serious years of playing the kit, and I am excited to see my progression evolve even more and to make a career out of it.
Q. Who are your influences?
The two drummers that have had the biggest impact and influence on my drumming have been Dave Grohl and Emerson Barrett.
I have grown up my whole life watching Dave play the drums, and it has honestly blown me away to see someone go that crazy on the drums; he is an animal. Dave feels the music like no other and goes headfirst into the music. He has been the main reason I started the drums, and also influenced my crazy and animated playing style throughout my drumming journey.
Emerson Barrett has influenced not only my artistic style but also my drumming. He has inspired me to take myself to the next level and to push myself as an individual artist. His ability to do immersive himself in both the art of drumming and drawing makes me want to take that direction, hopefully inspiring and changing the lives of others around me.
Q. What is your playing style?
I love to play a range of different genres such as classic rock, right down to heavy metal, funk, classical music and even pop. I love to give myself a challenge and keep an open mind to playing different styles and a range of music, this way I am building my drum vocabulary and my skills on the kit.
My playing style is often described as very animated and lively. I can not help but feel the music and really get into playing the drums. I always got to be moving around and bouncing on my seat.
I have three bands I play with who are Happy Valley, Big Blue Eyes and Bronze Age. I am also known for doing some session work with local artists. The people I have fortunately had the opportunity to play with were Oskar Campbell, Tom Dron & Lucy Francesca Dron.
Q. What gear do you use?
The drum kit I predominantly use in my videos Is a Roland TD-27KV, which I also share an endorsement With. Aside from my electronic E-kit, I also use an acoustic mainly used for live gigs and occasion acoustic covers.
In addition, I have a Matt Black Pearl Master Series with Custom Hyrbid Zildjian K’s and a mixture of both Evans and Remo drum heads. I also have custom drawn artwork on my skins to fulfil my artistic needs.
Benny Greb is a prolific drummer but he is more than that. He is an artist at the kit who can make you feel like most drummers can’t. His playing oozes feel and groove and luckily, he has the tools to teach you his talents.
Here you will get to know about Benny Greb, his music releases, and educational releases.
Benny Greb is a versatile artist known for being a creative drummer, clinician, and singer. Benny Greb was born on the 13th June 1980 in Augsburg, Germany. From a young age, he was enthusiastic about music and started playing the drums when he was only 6 after receiving a kit as a gift.
In the early years, Benny was self-taught and he would learn by playing along to his favourite songs. He drew influence from musicians such as The Police, James Brown, Tower of Power, Billy Joel, and James Taylor.
It wasn’t until later in his childhood he took lessons starting at the age of 12.
Benny progressed quickly now he had tuition and began to play in some local bands. At this younger age, he was mostly a punk player but he then went on to discover rock before transitioning into jazz.
At this stage, Benny knew that he wanted to become a full-time drummer and musician. Benny’s mum saw this and pushed him to study full time to further progress.
In 1997 Benny began to study music full time in Dinkelsbuhl and then in Hamburg. It was here Benny rounded out his knowledge of music as well as getting the opportunity to gig and jam with other musicians.
Transitioning from studying to a full-time drummer
After finishing his studies, Benny set himself a target to be living off drums financially within one year. If he failed, he would move back to his family and begin a traditional career. This was the start of his session drumming career. He would perform drums live, record in the studio and teach.
Benny was a bit different to most players though. He would listen back to his performances and critique them. What did he like, what didn’t he like and how could he have done things differently?
This is an important step that most drummers skip. How are you supposed to know what worked or where you need to improve if you aren’t your harshest critic?
As a full-time professional drummer, Benny Greb still spends a lot of time practising his craft. Not as much as he used to, but more productively.
Benny has a 3-month cycle of what he is working on and what he wants to achieve and makes the most out of every practice session.
When he practices, he knows what he is going to work on and avoids distractions. Many drummers sit down to practice but just end up playing things they already know. Not Benny.
For each session he documents:
What he practised
What tempo he practised at
How he felt about the practice session
This makes tracking progress simpler and more effective. Especially when working on more complex concepts that need multiple sessions.
Where is Benny Greb today?
Today Benny is a drummer very much in demand. His ability to pick and choose flavours from different drummings styles gives him a wide scope for the drumming he can do. This vast palette of styles allows him to create grooves and feels many drummers couldn’t offer.
Benny Greb has performed with several musicians including:
The Ron Spielman Trio
Strom & Wasser
The Influence of Benny Greb
Few people have that persona to influence the world with their work and personality. “Grebfruit” proved to be a turning point for Benny’s career as it marked his success internationally. He got popular because of his creative sounds, grooves, and his never-ending passion for drums.
If we talk about his talent, he has given multiple music tastes to his fans. He is capable of playing:
As well as being a fantastic drummer, Benny Greb has also released a lot of music. Some as solo releases and some with his band “Moving Parts”.
“Moving Parts” consists of Benny Greb on drums, Chris Montague on Guitar and Chris Hargreaves on Bass.
If you are wanting to listen to Benny Greb’s releases, check out the albums below.
Two Day Trio
There are also plenty of singles and features to check out also.
As Greb is passionate about drums, music, and clinics it was a natural progression to release his educational content.
He released his educational DVDs, two of them so far called ‘The language of Drumming’ and ‘The Art and Science of Groove’. These have become hugely popular and this is down to the combination of the topics covered and the excellent delivery.
Benny is not scared to delve deep into complicated topics some drummers would stay away from. This is because he has an impeccable way of presenting extremely complex things simply and in an entertaining way. It is a joy to watch Benny as he teaches.
2009: The Language of Drumming
“The Language of Drumming” by Benny Greb is evidence of his talent and amazing sense of music that he produces with the drums. The Language of Drumming enables you to express emotions through the drums.
Benny Greb has introduced his 24-character system and taught how to use binary and ternary rhythms in developing timing, dynamic control, technique, and speed.
After the release of The Language of Drumming, Greb expanded his creativity by a complete system of drum-set methods in his book. This book is a stand-alone companion to the DVD.
The book is a complete source of guidance. It delivers different ways of learning the basic steps of drumming. As we learn a language with basic letters, similarly drumming steps are the same. As we know books are always helpful to all. So, this drumming book helps you think, understand and play the rhythms. It will facilitate you to decode other educational material and you will be able to come up with unique exercises.
2015: The Art & Science of Groove
The Art and Science of Groove is one of the best educational releases by Benny Greb. It’s an influencing and unique release that will help all drummers to get the undeniable feeling and emotion−groove.
In 2014, Greb launched a crowdfunding campaign that was the most successful in achieving all of its goals. All the contributors were enthusiastic about getting insights from Benny Greb. The campaign gave confidence to Benny for the release of an educational DVD that ascended the production levels to new heights.
The Art and Science of Groove have the best techniques and exercises that give energy and confidence to all those, wanting to learn and experience groove.
In The Art and Science of Groove, Benny Greb has introduced the five key elements: Time, Feel, Sound, Body, and Mind. He added sets out to shatter the myths about elusive, misunderstood to groove. Benny’s approach is a great influence for all levels of drummers. The Art and Science of Groove DVD have revolutionized the preconceived concept. It has provided an emotional connection to drummers so they become consistent while performing.
Benny Greb’s drum setup
At first glance, Benny Greb setup looks like a traditional setup. It features one rack tom with one/two-floor toms. You will then notice the second snare and an interesting selection of cymbals.
Benny likes to use various stacks to get unique sounds as well as darker cymbals that are full of character.
When you look at Benny’s kit you will notice everything is almost flat and the cymbals are very low. Over time it seems that Benny’s cymbals have gradually lowered.
As well as the art of playing, Benny loves creating unique sounds. Benny possibly has the most signature products of any drummer. He has been lucky enough to work with fantastic companies that believe in him and want to help him achieve his sound.
Vic Firth Benny Greb Signature Series Drum Sticks
At its core, these drum sticks are a 5B. It features a medium taper with a shortened tear drop tips. This creates a focused and defined cymbal sound whilst providing enhanced rebound.
They also feature a unique green print rather than black. Nice.
This is the first signature cymbal released by Benny Greb with Meinl. It is made using Meinl’s high tech computerised manufacturing.
Although labelled as hats you are more than likely going to want to use them as a stack. These hats are fast and crisp with a clear trashy sound when loosened.
Meinl Byzance Vintage Sand Series
This isn’t just one cymbal, it is a whole line of cymbals. Benny wanted a full set of cymbals that he could use to complement his playing. These feature a beautiful vintage finish with varying degrees of rawness depending on the cymbal.
These have been designed to be transparent without being harsh, full of nuance without being weak and having character and personality without overpowering the rest of the band.
The Session Studio Select from Pearl is an entry-level professional kit. It sits above the Pearl Export kits but below the Masters and Masterworks drum kits.
Even though it isn’t in the top kits from Pearl, it certainly does have many of those top tier features. That makes this kit a good option for drummers wanting a professional sounding drum kit without breaking the bank.
Alternatively, if you are a drummer that does shows often, this kit is a great workhorse. You could invest in a Session Studio Select for touring whilst keeping your best drum kit safe at home or for studio work.
What woods are Pearl Session Studio Select shells made?
The Pearl Session Studio Select drum shells are made from two different kinds of wood.
Masters grade Birch hardwood and African Mahogany imported softwood.
There are four plies of the birch on the outside of the shell with two plies of mahogany on the inner.
Birch offers a full rounded tone full of projection whilst the mahogany adds the low end and punch.
Using premium and cheaper wood produces a professional sound whilst reducing the purchase price.
The shells feature a 60-degree bearing edge to help increase the volume and resonance of the shells without the harsh tones.
The combination of the shells and the bearing edge produces a kit that sounds punchy with an almost pre-EQ’d sound. The toms are very musical and flow well as you play through the different sizes.
Depending on the heads used and tuning of the kit, it can be used for a wide range of musical applications. Tune the heads low for more punch in a rock band or tune them up for jazz gigs.
Have a listen to the kit here
What hardware comes with the Session Studio Select?
The hardware on the Pearl Session Studio Select drum kit is designed for the working drummer. Everything is built to be sturdy, reliable and durable.
2.3mm Superhoop II Hoops
These 2.3mm Superhoop II Hoops are triple-flanged and are one of the better hoops offered by Pearl. These are designed with hard hitters in mind.
They will maintain tuning and drum resonance even after a long session of playing.
Optimount Tom Isolation System
The optimount tom isolation system from Pearl removes any contact between the hardware and the shell. The mount attaches to the lugs of the drum rather than the shell itself.
Therefore the shells are not being interfered with in any way. Ensuring you get the best sound from the shell woods.
The rest of the hardware on the kit is sturdy and dependable. It isn’t the premium quality as on the Masterworks kit but is perfect for this kit.
Pearl has ensured that the premium hardware is included where it has an impact on the sound. Holding back on the other elements helps keep this drum kit at a great price point for you.
What finishes are available?
The Pearl Session Studio Select drum kit is currently available in five different finishes. Either as a wrap or a lacquer. All of which look amazing.
High Gloss Lacquer
Gloss Barnwood Brown (#314) – this is a beautiful finish that allows the wood to peer through the dark fade.
Piano Black (#103) – the timeless finish that looks good on any drum kit.
Premium Delmar Wrap
Nicotine White Marine Pearl (#405) – a classic shell finish that still looks good to this day. If you are wanting white, this is as close as you will get.
Black Mirror Chrome (#766) – for that classic black finish that reflects at you.
Matt Ash Lacquer
Scarlet Ash (#847) – this finish is a combination of red with the natural wood pattern. Personally, this is my favourite finish available. The longer you look at it, the more beautiful details you see.
Of course, the finish of a drum kit is unique to each drummer’s tastes. With that being said, Pearl has done a good job at offering something every drummer will like.
The limited options also make it easier for Pearl to produce. Once again, keeping the costs down and giving you a lot of drum kits at this price point.
Pearl Session Studio Select kit configurations
The Session Studio Select is available in several basic configurations.
The “funk” set (STS904XP/C)
This configuration features slightly smaller sizes making it perfect for pop/ funk.
20″ x 14″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ and 12″ x 8″ toms
14″ x 14″ floor tom
The “standard” set (STS924XSP/C)
This configuration features the most common sizes you find on a drum kit.
22″ x 16″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ and 12″ x 8″ toms
16″ x 16″ floor tom
The “rock” set (STS943XP/C)
This configuration features larger size drums and the one up one down tom setup favoured by rock drummers.
24″ x 14″ bass drum
13″ x 9″ tom
16″ x 16″ floor tom
The “small” set (STS983XP/C)
This configuration features smaller size drums. This makes it perfect for a younger player who hasn’t grown into a full-size kit yet. Or a player after a tight sound.
18″ x 14″ bass drum
12″ x 8″ tom
14″ x 14″ floor tom
You can also order extra drums separately to create a custom setup to your liking. Also, none of the kits above come with a snare but they are available to order as extra if you wish.
Gong bass drum
It is nice to see Pearl adding some of the more unique drum pieces to this line.
That being said, the Pearl Session Studio Select Gong Drum is only available in one size. 20″ x 14″ (STS2014G/C)
Are Pearl Session Studio Select drum kits good value?
Without a doubt, the Pearl Session Studio Select is a great value kit. You are getting a professional sounding drum kit at a great price point.
Pearl has invested in the elements that give you a great sounding kit and tactically used cheaper parts in certain places to bring down the cost.
Where can I buy one?
Luckily for you, Pearl drum kits are available from all online music stores or your local music shop.
If you are looking to order online, check out the link below.
The unique feature of this stand from Pearl is the curved arm compared to a traditional boom stand that comes with a straight arm.
Pearl has done this to allow you to place cymbals in those hard to reach areas that a straight boom arm cannot achieve.
The second reason is to give the kit a distinct look. Drummers are always looking for ways to stand out and have a unique setup. This curved boom stand could be the new piece of gear to achieve this.
Advantages of a curved boom stand
The main advantage is that of what Pearl wanted to achieve. You can indeed put your cymbals in some hard to reach placements.
This will be most beneficial for drummers that have a large or compact setup. Sometimes a straight boom stand won’t suffice.
Disadvantages of a curved boom stand
I think there is one main disadvantage to having curved boom arms. That is that they don’t fold away as neatly as straight boom cymbal stands. Most professional-grade touring boom stands fold away within themselves making them ideal for transporting.
With the curved boom arm, it folds down next to the main arm. If you are playing a lot of shows, setting up your kit and down it will be interesting to see how well the boom arm lasts.
Even though it doesn’t fold away perfectly, Pearl has a reputation for building sturdy hardware that is built to last. If it wasn’t going to last, I don’t think Pearl would have released it.
The curved boom stand comes with all of the features you would expect from Pearls top of the line hardware.
GyroLock cymbal tilter
The GyroLock cymbal tilter allows you to adjust the angle of the cymbal on both axes. The result is being able to change to the cymbal placement without needing to twist the arm.
WingLoc Quick Release
The WingLoc Quick release nut allows for the cymbals to be removed from the stand in a matter of seconds. You simply squeeze the nut rather than having to unscrew it.
Double-Braced Trident Tripod
To ensure the stand has a sturdy bass is comes with three heavy-duty legs to keep it in place.
Reversible Seat Cup
The reversible cup allows you to get a slightly different response from your cymbals. Depending on which way up you have the cup will determine how much the cymbal can swing on the stand.
Reversible Cymbal Washers
Cymbal washers also help you change the response of the cymbal. The cymbal washer has a felt or foam material on either side. Depending on which is touching the cymbal will change the response.
Pearl has released two models of the curved boom stand.
It can either be purchased as a stand with the legs or as an arm without the base. This gives you a cheaper option if you use a rack or plan to mount it on another stand.
Pearl 1030 Series Boomerang Cymbal Stand
Just the boom arm
Pearl Curved Cymbal Holder
Where can I buy these?
If you are wanting to purchase either of these stands, check out these online music stores.
Greyson Nekrutman is a drummer who has exploded in popularity during 2020. His determination and passion ooze out of every drum performance. It is clear to see why he has amassed such a following in such a short time.
Let’s find out more about Greyson Nekrutman and his drumming career so far.
Greyson Nekrutman is a drummer born on the 13th June 2002 from Long Island, New York, USA.
Greyson started learning drums at the age of 4 with tutor Justin Gallow.
Justin would teach Greyson a bit of each different genres. Latin, jazz, rock etc but never diving too deep into any of them. Justin wanted Greyson to become an all-around drummer with knowledge of everything.
This gave Greyson a strong foundation and knowledge from which he could build upon. When he was ready, he could deep drive into particular styles and narrow his focus.
As Greyson got older he focused a lot on rock and prog-rock becoming a big fan of bands such as the Dave Matthews band.
It wasn’t until later jazz started to become of interest. At first, like many drummer Greyson had the impression jazz is this quiet genre with a lot of brush playing and it wasn’t of interest.
When he discovered drummers like Buddy Rich and big band jazz, it all changed.
Greyson Nekrutman is currently studying at The New School in New York City.
Studying the greats
One way Greyson Nekrutman has improved his drumming is by studying his influences on a deep level.
Not just a bit of reading, learning some songs and moving on.
Really deep research into what drove these drummers. What were their inspirations? What about their style is unique to them?
Greyson will call around to find people who knew the drummer he is studying. He wants to know them and what drove them. How did they develop their style? What did they listen to?
Greyson wanted to be able to recreate these drummers. This has led to many comments online about how it is these drummers reincarnated.
His photographic memory
Greyson discovered in school that he had a photographic memory. He could take maths formulas, remember them and recite them back in exams.
This memory has helped him create some of his most popular videos to date.
In these videos, you will see Greyson reenact a drum performance, part for part with all the nuances. It is impressive to see.
Of course, the photographic memory helps him digest and memorize the parts faster than the average drummer but the hard work and practice are still needed to play everything perfectly.
The challenges of being a young drummer trying to start a career
Like many drummers, Greyson has faced challenges trying to get his career going. Greyson had a unique challenge though.
There is no doubt about it, Greyson is an incredible drummer. But with him being so talented at a young age, it made it hard for older peers to accept him.
No matter how he played, he would get criticised. Even when he would perform a classic drum solo perfectly note for note.
It was either too hard, too soft, too busy… you get the point.
No matter what he played he was always put down by older players. Not because of his skill but because of his age.
Sometimes older drummers feel like because they have been doing it longer they are on a superior skill level and it can create egos. Even if you are the better older player, you should be helping and encouraging the fresh up and coming talent.
Of course, with being older you have the respect of your peers and career experience. Only time can get you this.
This issue has even led Greyson to not be invited to an audition for a college he applied for. Even though, he had the skills and drive to thrive.
This fueled Greyson to go, “I am going to play the way I want to play and if you have an issue with it, sorry, I don’t care”.
This is when Greyson started releasing his incredibly popular play-along videos. In these videos, he will match classic drum performances note for note.
These prove his skill, dedication and passion for the great drummers that have come before him.
The main thing you need to know about Greyson is that he is a hard worker. He practices, a lot!
While most of the world shut up shop when Covid 19 struck in 2020, Greyson got to work. Practising on average 8 hours per day over two or three sessions.
To push through long practice sessions Greyson uses several methods to keep his focus up. When working on difficult pieces he will slow down the songs and parts so he can fully learn each note.
If he feels his mind starts to wander he will crank up the tempo. This does two things. It switches up the challenge making the brain reengage with the task at hand.
It allows Greyson to determine how close he is to complete a section. This allows him to then dial back the tempo and refocus on the bits that need work.
If this doesn’t work, he will simply step away from the kit and come back to work on it again after a break. Sometimes your brain needs a break to process what it has been working on.
Using social media to launch his career
Greyson Nekrutman had a strange introduction to the power of what social media can do for drummers. Initially, his mom would get him to record drum videos so she could upload them and manage his profile.
At the time Greyson didn’t realise the power social media could have. When you have the talents he has, you are going to stand out from the crowd and gain attention.
Greyson soon realised the power and it became a serious focus.
Initially, Greyson was uploading playing to songs that he wanted to because he enjoyed them and it is what he wanted to hear. Logically, this always seems like the best move but what happens when these videos don’t get a lot of views. You have invested a lot of time and effort for little reward.
Once Greyson realised this, he decided to take it seriously and work extremely hard on the types of videos people want to watch.
That was jazz. People loved the content and it created space in the market for him. Not many people do jazz drumming videos so this created a space for him to gather an audience.
Greyson is extremely focused currently on using social media to launch his career and get his name known. He knows that is the goal and is making the most of it whilst the world doesn’t have many other opportunities.
When the world reopens his socials will transition with him. They will act as an insight into his career and his drumming journey. With the occasional cover video for good measure!
One of the things Greyson gets asked a lot is about his left-hand technique. It is a variation of a classical grip.
Greyson is a believer in doing what feels right and works for you, not use technique X or Y. This has led to this hybrid style.
Depending on the tempo and the application on the kit varies up the grip.
Here is a great video of Greyson Nekrutman explaining his left-hand technique.
Greyson Nekrutman’s drum kit
Greyson plays a fairly minimalist drum kit but he plays some beautiful gear.
His setup is very classic. 1 tom, 1 floor, 1 kick and 1 snare. Hi-hat, ride and crash. Occasionally you will also see a splash or some extra toms.
This drumstick size guide is going to cover the different elements of the sticks and how the different options affect the sound and feel.
This guide doesn’t cover the different woods available. That is a big topic that needs its dedicated feature. For our guide on the different drumstick woods, check this article.
The anatomy of a drumstick
A drumstick is made of a handful of different elements.
Balance point/ fulcrum
The tip is a key part of the drumstick as it touches your drums. The shape and material has a direct effect on your should but doesn’t have a huge impact on the feel.
Drumstick tip material
There are two options when it comes to the material that makes up the tip.
Wood – the tip is carved from the same piece of wood as the rest of the stick. In general, there are more tip styles available in wooden tips.
Nylon – the tips is created from nylon and is glued onto a wooden stick. Nylon tips on drumsticks are incredibly durable and will outlast the rest of the stick. Nylon tips also produce a brighter sound than wooden tips.
Drumstick tip shape
There are multiple tip styles available when it comes to the tip. Hybrid models are also available that sit between the standard shapes.
Barrel tip drumsticks
Barrel tips are stubby much like the shape of an actual barrel. They produce a bright and articulate cymbal sound.
Oval tip drumsticks
The shape is very similar to that of the barrel tip but fatter at the centre point removing the flatter sides. Oval tips produce a full sound.
Round tip drumsticks
Round tips are essentially a ball on the end of your drumstick. The shape helps to accentuate the cymbals sound. The shape is popular amongst jazz drummers.
Taj Mahal tip drumsticks
These tips are fatter at the beginning of the tip and then become narrower at the top. This diverse shape allows you to get multiple sounds from the stick depending on the angle you hit your cymbals.
Teardrop tip drumsticks
The shape is similar to that of the taj mahal tip but it isn’t as fat at its widest point. Due to this, the tip gets a lot of surface contact with the cymbal. This produces a rich sound. Teardrops tips are the most common tips found on drumsticks.
The shoulder of the drumstick can have a drastic impact on the feel of the stick. It greatly changes the weight distribution of the stick and the balance point of the stick.
The type of shoulder styles is referred to as the taper.
If you have a long taper you have a long transition between the body and the tip. A shorter taper has a shorter transition between the body and the tip.
A short taper pushes more weight towards the tip of the stick. This moves the balance point further towards the tip also. The shorter the taper the faster the response making them popular amongst faster players.
Drumstick grip area
There are two most common finishes for drumsticks. Lacquer or natural. In recent years manufacturers have been creating new options for the grip area of the stick.
Lacquer – a slick feel that is moisture resistant.
Natural – no lacquer. A tight grip but susceptible to moisture.
Custom grips – manufacturers are producing new grips to help drummers get a better hold of the stick in different situations. There are too many to list though as they vary by brand and each brand is trying something different.
The diameter of the drumstick has a big effect on the overall feel of the stick. A thicker stick will feel different in your hand due to the size. The stick overall will be heavier and the stick will likely be more durable.
The diameter of a stick is very personal to the drummer and it is impossible to know what is right for you without going to a drum store and giving some a try. Or you could order a selection of sizes to try at home.
The majority of sticks have a diameter of around 0.57″ (1.45cm).
Much like the diameter of a drumstick, the length is subjective to the player. A longer drumstick will give you more reach but it will increase the overall weight of the stick.
With 7A being the lightest and 2B being the heaviest.
If you have no idea where to start, try a 5A. This is the most commonly used size. From this medium size stick, you can determine if you need to go heavier or lighter, longer or shorter.
Drumsticks are extremely personal to each drummer. When a drummer finds a size that fits, they like won’t change.
Take your time finding the size that works for you. Order some pairs, give them a go and keep trying more until you find the perfect pair for you.
It is worth taking your time to find the pair that feels best to you. If you are going to be playing for years and almost every day, a comfy pair of drumsticks is crucial to your overall enjoyment and development.
I hope our drumstick size guide has helped you find the perfect pair for your playing.
What is your favourite drumstick? Let us know below.
The Sabian HHX cymbals are designed to give you the sound of the dry and complex sounds of the HH (hand hammered) line but with more volume and projection.
This makes these cymbals a great option for live performances. Darker cymbals sound great in the studio but can be lost in a live mix. The Sabian HHX line should help overcome this issue.
You are getting the dark complex sound you love with that extra punch.
But they are more than that. These cymbals are also dynamic and articulate. Therefore these cymbals are great for anything from jazz through to rock.
How are Sabian HHX cymbals made?
Sabian HHX cymbals are related to the Sabian HH line. The HHX cymbals are hand-hammered but have more projection than the HH counterparts.
This is achieved through a higher profile on the cymbal and a raw bell. This gives the cymbal more projection whilst maintaining that dirty sound.
The Sabian HHX line is fairly complex and full of many sub-lines.
Below we have simplified this so you can find the cymbals best for you.
The Sabian HHX medium cymbals are the core of what the HHX line is. These cymbals are dark, complex and have the extra projection. Everything the HHX line aims to achieve.
Hi-hats (natural or brilliant finish): 14″, 15″
Rides (natural or brilliant finish): 20″
Crashes (natural or brilliant finish): 16″, 18″, 20″
This is the same design as the medium range but thinner. This makes them a little bit darker.
Rides (natural or brilliant finish): 21″
Crashes (natural or brilliant finish): 14″, 16″, 18″, 20″
These are the latest HHX cymbals from Sabian. These are becoming the new standard cymbals in the line in an attempt to reorganise the complex selection available.
Overall these cymbals are very similar to the medium line but are a little more complex.
There are also a couple of different weight options depending on the cymbal you are after.
Hi-hats (medium): 14″, 15″
Rides (medium weight): 20″, 21″, 22″, 23″
Rides (thin weight): 21″, 22″
Crashes (thin weight): 16″, 17″, 18″, 19″, 20″
O-Zone Crashes: 17″, 19″
The HHX Legacy line was designed with legendary drummer Dave Weckl to help capture his sound. The HHX Legacy videos focus on capturing his darker sound.
The cymbals have a classic look and feel.
Hi-hats: 14″, 15″
Rides: 20″, 21″, 22″
Crashes: 17″, 18″, 19″
The HHX Evolution line has also been designed with Dave Weckl. This time to focus on the higher end of the spectrum. These cymbals are bright with a glass-like cut.
These cymbals feature a brilliant finish making them stand out from others in the HHX line.
Hi-hats: 13″, 14″, 15″
Rides: 20″, 21″, 22″
Crashes: 16″, 17″, 18″, 19″, 20″
Splashes: 7″, 10″, 12″
O-Zone Crashes: 16″, 18″
Effeks Crash (hand and finger suitable): 17″
The Sabian HHX Fierce is a small line of cymbals designed for the drummer Jojo Mayor.
These cymbals are dry with a very clear stick definition. The cymbals also have very little sustain making them ideal for busy beats and grooves.
The crash cymbal isn’t as dry but has a trashy wash.
The Sabian HHX Omni was developed with Jojo Mayor. This cymbal is designed to be versatile providing a clear distinction between the edge and the bow/ bell. This cymbal allows you to quickly change gears between crashing and more intricate parts.
If you are looking for a brighter version of this cymbal, it is also available in the Sabian AAX line.
Sizes available: 19″, 22″
There aren’t many splashes available in the HHX range. They aren’t available in different weights so this is the only option in the core HHX line.
These are nice fast and dark splashes.
Sizes available: 10″, 12″
The HHX Chinese cymbals are heavily hammered and have a dark and aggressive tone.
Sizes available: 18″, 20″
HHX Zen China
The Sabian HHX Zen China is similar in sound to that of the other HHX chinas but the bell is inverted. This makes it easier to mount the cymbal flat.
Sizes available: 20″
More ride cymbals
21″ Dave Weckl Serenity Ride
This is another cymbal developed with Dave Weckl. This time it is a flat ride. This cymbal is very musical for a flat ride.
It has a clear stick definition like you want from a flat ride with a fast crash.
The cymbal is made using a blend of legacy and artisan technology.
21″ HHX Groove Ride
This ride has a high cutting pitch whilst maintaining those dark undertones.
HHX 3-Point Ride
The HHX 3-Point Ride was designed with drummer Jack DeJohnette. This ride has a distinctive look with the raw ring that goes around the body of the cymbal.
This is a dark yet diverse ride cymbal with a nice dark sound that is very crashable.
HHX 21″ Raw Bell Dry Ride
The Raw Bell Dry Ride is a medium to heavyweight cymbal. The cymbal has a very clear ping reminiscent of heavy ride cymbals.
Due to its weight, this ride isn’t great for crashing.
More hi-hat cymbals
HHX 15″ Groove Hats
These hi-hats give you a retro tone with a crisp definition. The 15″ size gives you more depth and click like classic hi-hats produce.
HHX 14″ X-Celerator Hats
The X-Celerator hi-hats feature an “air wave” bottom. These crinkles allow air to escape making the sound extra crisp.
HHX 14″ Click Hats
The HHX CliCk Hats are made using a combination of Sabian techniques. They feature the high profile of the AA line with the hammering of the HH and HHX line.
These hi-hats are designed to produce enhanced click that emulates an electronic sound.
More crash cymbals
HHX X-Plosion Crashes
The HHX X-Plosion crashes provide you with what you would expect. Even more shimmer and bright tones cut through.
Crashes: 17″, 18″, 19″, 20″
The HHX X-Treme crashes are thin and explosive. They have the attack of a china cymbal this a hint of trash.
Crashes: 16″, 17″, 18″, 19″
If you are wanting to get the best bang for your buck when purchasing Sabian HHX cymbals you will want to look at the cymbals packs on offer.
The packs available do change over time. To see what is currently available check out the links below.
Anika Nilles has taken the drumming community by storm over the past 6 or so years. A true drumming powerhouse full of groove and chops no matter the time signature. It is easy to see why Anika Nilles has become a favourite drummer of many players.
Let’s find out more about Anika and her drumming career so far.
Anika Nilles is a professional drummer from Aschaffenburg, Germany born on the 29th of May 1983. Anika is best known for her drum performances and her original music.
Where did it all begin?
Anika first started playing the drums at the age of 6. Her father taught her a groove and that is where the passion began. Anika had a family full of drummers so she was surrounded by inspiration.
Anika was determined to give becoming a musician a try when she finished school.
A diversion from drumming
Like many people, Anika’s parents warned her about becoming a musician and to get a “real” job. Anika did this and studied social work for the next 5 years.
After her studies, she accepted a job at a preschool and soon when on to become the head of the preschool.
Throughout this time Anika was still taking lessons and playing in bands. The passion was still there to become a musician.
At this stage, she was in her mid-20s and started doing private drum tuition. Anika was lucky as she was one of the only private tutors in her area and soon took on enough students to go part-time with her preschool job.
Anika wanted to do further studies to help advance her playing. She auditioned for a place at a vocational music school. Underprepared for the audition Anika failed.
Although this was a hit for her confidence, she started taking lessons from a nearby drummer, Claus Hessler.
Claus greatly helped Anika improve her theory and skills as well as introduce her to a drumming program.
This program was full of drum teachers and drummers and helped inspire her to continue her journey.
As well as private tuition, Anika managed to launch her workshops as well as starting to get some gigs. She was now a full-time drummer.
This didn’t stop Anika from wanting to progress. Anika decided to apply for the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg in Mannheim to study popular music and music business.
This time she was successful.
This wasn’t an easy time for her as she was surrounded by incredible musicians that filled her with self-doubt. So much so, she also quit during the course but due to some encouragement from her parents.
Anika went onto complete the degree and proceed to do clinics.
When Anika started to perform clinics the self-doubt started to come back. Anika suffered badly from stagefright which would cause her to struggle to be present and fall back on what she practised.
People still loved the performances but it left Anika feeling like she had just sucked and put on a poor performance. She was hard on herself.
To overcome the stagefright and doubt, Anika worked with Norbert Saemann from Meinl. Norbert would record the clinics, then after the performance with Anika, they would review the performances.
Slowly but surely, the confidence came back.
This interesting technique is also used by other drummers. For example, the excellent Benny Greb.
Anika Nilles is also a songwriter and has been releasing songs during her professional drumming career.
Anika first released the track “Wild Boy” in October 2013 on her YouTube channel. The follow-up song was “Alter Ego” released in February 2014.
The music videos for both of these tracks are of Anika playing the drums in the studio. Anika writes and produces the music with guest musicians playing the parts.
These videos racked up millions of views and gained Anika recognition globally. This led to clinic performances across Europe, American and China in 2015.
Anika released her debut album “Pikalar” in 2017. The album consists of 10 instrumental tracks.
Have a look at this video of Pikalar performed with hand band Nevell.
Most recently Anika released the album “For A Colorful Soul” in 2020. This album features her full time touring band Nevell. The group consists of Patrick Rugebregt on synth and key, Jonathan Ihlenfeld Cuñado on bass and Joachim Schneiss on guitar.
As well as performing her music they are also her full time touring band.
Anika Nilles educational releases
Anika Niles has released a few different products to help you improve your drumming or to learn her songs.
This book features several transcriptions of her solo releases. This includes Alter Ego, Wild Boy, Queenz and more. Anika’s songs are very complex so having a written transcription can certainly help make things easier.
This features several practice pad exercises for drummers who don’t have a huge amount of time to practice behind the kit and want to improve. Or for those drummers who want to dive deep into improving advanced hand technique.
A few things make Anika Nilles drumset different to that of a standard kit.
Firstly you will notice that the cymbals lean away from the kit. Almost making them look like the stands are set up backwards. Because the cymbals are set up low this means that the cymbals are still getting hit correctly with the shoulder of the stick.
The second thing you will notice is the toms are reversed. So they go from low to high rather than high to low. Anika mostly plays the kit as a single tom setup but the extra high tom is there for more options.
In some configurations of her setup, you will also notice that a second snare is used in place on the floor tom. This is tuned low and is being used as a snom drum. This gives you a floor toom or snare sound depending on if the wires are on.
Many drummers have signature practice pads but many just consist of a standard pad with custom graphics.
Not with this pad…
The Mein Split Tone Practice Pad from Anika Nilles features three different zones for different feels.
This has been done so that you can hear what is happening between hands from the different tones. This is a great practice pad for drummers who tour a lot and don’t get as much time behind the kit as they would like.
There is no doubt that Anika is an incredible player. I think her story is very inspiring. It shows you that passion and determination are incredibly important, but so is being able to see where you are weak and take the time to improve those aspects.
Anika has pushed through so many boundaries that would have stumped other drummers and it is great to see that she has succeeded.
I can’t wait to see where Anika goes next on her drumming journey.
Hickory is the most common material used to make drumsticks. Hickory is the favourite of brands such as Vic Firth, ProMark and Vater.
Hickory isn’t the strongest of the wood used for sticks but it is fairly dense and hard. One of the best attributes of hickory is that it is a great shock absorber. This makes it easier on your wrists which is good for drummers who practice for long durations.
Good shock absorber
Oak drumsticks are often made from Shira Kashi Japanese Oak. Oak is around double the weight of hickory. Keep that in mind if you are going to pick up your usual size stick in oak.
Oak is a hardwood, therefore, having a longer lifespan. With oak drumsticks, you are less likely to break from rim shots and splinter away from hours of cymbal hits.
A few brands make oak drumsticks but ProMark are the most common choice.
Heavyweight and durable
Maple drumsticks are lighter than hickory sticks. They are about 10% lighter. This is great if you like a thicker stick but don’t want the weight that comes with it.
Due to their low weight maple drumsticks are associated with faster playing.
The main downsides are that maple drumsticks aren’t as common and are the most likely to break from the wood sticks.
Lightweight and quick
The most uncommon type of wood found in drumsticks is hornbeam.
It is lighter and less durable than hickory but it is more affordable.
Hornbeam can usually be found in budget drumsticks.
Metal & Plastic Drumsticks
If you are looking for an alternative to wood drumsticks Ahead has created something for you. These sticks are made from an aluminium alloy with polyurethane sleeves that cover the shaft and shoulder of the stick.
Ahead drumsticks have many unique benefits over that of a wood stick. Mainly that they produce less shock making them far better for your wrist and elbow health. This is important for drummers who play a lot and have been playing for many years.
These sticks are expensive to purchase but get cheaper over time as you only need to replace the drumstick sleeve going forward.
50% less shock
10% more rebound
Last up to 10 times longer than wood drumsticks
It is impossible to definitively say there is a best type of drumstick wood or material. Each player has their style and feel that they like to have from their sticks.
For example, I play hickory sticks and have my whole drumming career except for a brief year playing Ahead sticks. In the end, they didn’t feel right for me and went back to hickory.
You also have to keep in mind that as drummers progress, they may want to change stick type to achieve different goals. This is especially common if you start playing at a younger age into adulthood.
What’s your favourite wood type for your drumsticks? Or have you tried the Ahead sticks? Let us know in the comments.
The Imperialstar is the budget drum kit offered by Tama. Its price point makes it ideal for new drummers who are looking for a good sounding kit to learn on.
Although this is the budget model, it is still packed full of features you may not expect to find on an entry-level kit.
Since this is the case, the Tama Imperialstar often lasts drummer beyond the early years and can become a good touring kit.
This is why the Imperialstar stands out against many of the budget drum kits available on the market.
What are Tama Imperialstar shells made from?
The shells on the Imperialstar are made from 100% poplar wood.
When compared to other woods commonly found in drums such as maple and birch, poplar is a cheaper option.
That doesn’t mean it is bad though. Poplar creates a warm tone with a medium attack.
The shells are made up of 6 plies of 8mm poplar.
To make an affordable drum kit poplar wood is a great option as it pushes down the costs without the need to use a wood blend.
Tama Precision Bearing Edges
The final thing to note about the Imperialstar shells is the Tama Precision Bearing Edges.
Bearing edges have a big impact on the sound of the drum. It can affect the tuning, how the drum rings and the response.
Tama’s advanced edge-cutting process provides extremely precise bearing edges making the most out of the cheaper poplar wood.
The result is a drum that has a full ring, a wide tuning range with sensitivity and response.
What hardware comes with the Imperialstar?
As well as their incredible drums, Tama is known for making great hardware.
Unfortunately, the Imperialstar doesn’t feature any of the latest innovations but that is to be expected.
There is nothing wrong with the hardware found on the Imperialstar though. It has classic features that have stood the test of time.
The bass drum mounted dual tom holder features the L-rod ball socket holders.
These holders allow you to make the smallest tweaks to the tom positioning. If you like to have your toms placed over your bass drum, you will be able to get the placement just how you like it with these holders.
The spur brackets on the bass drum are very sturdy to ensure maximum stability. This is very important as the bass drum is also holding your toms.
Stage Master Stands
The Imperialstar comes with stands included. The stands are from the Stage Master range.
The Stage Master range features double-braced legs for extra stability and quick-set cymbal mates for quick cymbal changes.
The Tama Imperialstar comes with:
Straight arm stand
The kit also includes a standard single pedal and a throne.
There is nothing special about these but they will be fine for any drummer starting to learn.
What finishes are available?
The Tama Imperialstar is available in 6 different finishes. These finishes are all wraps.
These look nice and there is a good variety to meet everyone’s tastes.
The wrap finish helps keep the cost down to make the kit good value to you whilst looking nice.
Brand new finish for 2021. The Natural Zebrawood Wrap has been added newly for 2021. This is a great looking wrap giving the kit an exotic wood look.
Black Oak Wrap (BOW)
Natural Zebrawood Wrap (NZW)
Vintage White Sparkle (VWS)
Candy Apple Mist (CAM)
Hairline Black (HBK)
Hairline Blue (HLB)
Tama Imperialstar kit configurations
The Tama Imperialstar is available in 4 different configurations to match the style of drumming and budget you have.
Each kit comes with all the hardware mentioned above.
The kits are available with or without cymbals.
If you are starting to learn drums and don’t have cymbals yet it comes with Meinl HCS bronze cymbals. These are as good as any other entry-level cymbal and are of good value when purchased with the kit.
6 piece kit with 22″ kick (IE62H6W)
This configuration is the most expensive and comes with the most drums. If you are looking for a bigger set this is the configuration for you.
22″ x 16″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ tom
12″ x 8″ tom
14″ x 13″ floor tom
16″ x 15″ floor tom
14″ x 5″ snare
5 piece kit with 22″ kick (IE52KH6W)
I would class this as your “standard” drum set configuration. You are getting a 5 piece kit in the standard sizes you would expect.
22″ x 16″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ tom
12″ x 8″ tom
16″ x 15″ floor tom
14″ x 5″ snare
5 piece kit with 20″ kick (IE50H6W)
If you are looking for a kit with a slightly tighter sound this kit could be the one. It comes with a slightly smaller bass drum at 20″ and a 14″ floor tom rather than a 16″.
20″ x 16″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ tom
12″ x 8″ tom
14″ x 13″ floor tom
14″ x 5″ snare
5 piece kit with 18″ kick (IE58H6W)
If you are looking for a kit for a child this configuration is the better option. The 18″ bass drum allows you to place the toms lower whilst still maintaining a good tone.
18″ x 14″ bass drum
10″ x 7″ tom
12″ x 8″ tom
14″ x 13″ floor tom
14″ x 5″ snare
If you have purchased a Tama Imperialstar drum kit and you are wanting to expand it you can purchase individual drums.
The size selection is decent as long as you aren’t picky when it comes to the depth of the drums.
18″ x 14″
20″ x 16″
22″ x 16″
14″ x 13″
16″ x 15″
18″ x 16″
8″ x 6.5″
10″ x 7″
12″ x 8″
13″ x 9″
14″ x 5″
14″ x 6.5″
Are Tama Imperialstar drum kits good value?
There is no doubt that these drums are of great value. If you are a beginner or an intermediate player this kit is an amazing option.
Tama has had to cut areas of the kit to lower the price but it has done this in areas that will have minimal impacts on the sound.
For example, the hardware and finish have been cut back to allow the shells to be the best they can for the price.
The only thing you will want to replace on this kit is the heads. Drum heads can be expensive so cheaper Tama branded heads come with the kit. These are single ply so they won’t be that durable and they will be a bit harder to tune.
Ideally, you would switch these out for a two-ply head such as the Evans G2s or Remo Emperor.
This does push up the cost but there is nothing wrong with playing the stock heads while they last.
Where can I buy one?
Luckily for you, the Tama Imperialstar is available from nearly all online music stores or from your local drum shop. If you are looking to order online, here are our top picks.
If you are a beginner the Imperialstar drum kits are perfect for getting started. They are one of the best sounding drums at this price and will last you for many years until including when you are at an intermediate level.
Should I buy a used Tama Imperialstar?
If you are wanting to save more money a second head kit is a good option. The Tama Imperialstar has been around since the 1970s so there are plenty of second-hand kits around. Like when you buy anything pre-owned, make sure you inspect the kit before purchasing. Looks for any cracks in the shells and damage to the hardware.
What is the difference between a new or vintage Tama Imperialstar?
The main difference is the wood the shells are made from. The vintage Tama Imperialstar drums from the 1970s and 1980s were made from Luan with a heavy speckled Zola Coat on the interiors rather than poplar with a natural internal finish like on the new kits. Luan is a cheap wood like poplar. They have many similar characteristics but the sound of luan is preferred by some drummers.
What are our thoughts?
If you are buying your first drum kit this is one of the best options. There are cheaper entry-level drum kits available but this kit will see you beyond being a beginner well into intermediate levels.
It sounds good and it is built to last.
If you are looking for an alternative at this price point we recommend checking out the Pearl Export. If you are looking for an entry-level professional level kit from Tama, check out the Tama Starclassic Performer.
Have you owned a Tama Imperialstar drum kit? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.
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