Category Archives: How to

Teach Your Step Mom to Play 7 Nation Army on Drums in 7 Easy Steps

1. Introduce your step-mom to the drums. Mom meet drums. Drums meet mom. Teach her how to hold the sticks and work the pedals. Teach her simple beats. Boom tap boom tap boom boom tap boom tap, etc. (there is a whole drummer language at work here trust me I just haven’t learned to speak it all yet.)


2. Next, take over the radio in the car whenever y’all are going somewhere together and play her every White Stripes song on your iPod that you like. Repeat as needed but focus on the songs you like the most ingraining them into her psyche so that random riffs play through her head while she’s sitting at her desk at work. Eventually she will become the one playing you her favorite White Stripes songs. (Remember moms and dads there is no rule that says if you like bluegrass you can’t like Jack White- in fact I think he may even like bluegrass a little too…..give your kids music a chance ’cause sometimes it’s not just noise… unless maybe it’s the Beiber then I’m so sorry, I’ll pray for you…)

3. Casually mention to your step-mom how easy the drum parts are in most of those songs – how they’re mostly quarter note beats and one day, if you’re really lucky, she will say hey if Meg can do it I bet I can too. [editor note: this happened about a week ago…. Look out world this chick has some sticks and she’s not afraid to use them!]

4. Work out your solo for 7 Nation Army on the guitar and then invite your step ma into the music room and have her play the part of the drummer. (black clothing and wristbands are optional)

5. Break down the parts of the song for her and tell her what to hit and when. Smile as she starts hammering away on the wrong drums. Gently correct her attack of the ride to sound more “tappy” and not so “crashy”. Remind her this is Meg White not Metallica.

6. Start to play, nod at her when to come in and listen as she gets lost halfway through the song and says, “man I need to write this stuff down so I know what to hit and when.” Cue light bulb moment when you excuse yourself from the room and return with sheet music. (Just because she only reads guitar chords doesn’t mean she can’t be taught drum score. There are a few old dogs and cats who can still learn some new tricks)


7. Watch her light bulb moment happen when she puts it all together and realizes what all the dots and x’s mean after you explain them and then executes them in a semi-pleasing way while you rock on the guitar, even if they are just all quarter notes with one eighth note thrown in for grins.

Your work here is done!

P.S. For some more odd pairings (as if a step mom playing White Stripes on the drums wasn’t odd enough!) you can catch Jack White and the picker people (as we refer to them), Frank and Mike together tonight- Monday Jan. 9th on the History Channel in a new episode of American Pickers. And yes we are big fans of this show ’cause you know how we love a good deal on cool stuff around here!


Shirt, Shoes, Problem?

Ok class lets review:

Good: Wearing the band’s t-shirt to their own concert

Bad: Wearing a Justin Bieber t-shirt to a Metallica concert

Good: Wearing any type of music equipment related clothing to a hard rock concert

Bad: Wearing pink anything to a hard rock concert

Good: Wearing comfy shoes to a concert where you’ll be standing a lot

Bad: Wearing flip-flops to any concert anywhere anytime

Now I admit I have been there and done that in almost all cases of the above rights and wrongs. See here and here if you want to see the ugly truth…

However I have not yet entered the realm of Christmas sweater vests. Hi Mom!

That’s the woman who gave me life right there with her favorite TSO band member Chris Caffery. They have lights and lasers and smoke a guys with long hair and guitars! What’s not to love? Yes my mom is a Trans Siberian Orchestra fan. And she has seen them 9 times. And she has gotten autographs from each of them 9 times. Thank goodness she didn’t wear the poinsettia sweater vest all 9 times.

I know it was almost Christmas but I’ll forgive her if you can. She really is cool. Don’t let the vest fool you. Back in the day she saw Elvis. And Neil Diamond (ok maybe not so cool.) And there was the trip to see Kenny Rogers downtown which involved my four-foot something aunt sitting on telephone books to see over the steering wheel of our Ford LTD because she was the only not scared of driving in the city. And mom even took me to see Garth Brooks when I was 15.

And let us not forget Alabama. From 1980 until the 90’s when they finally retired she faithfully attended their concerts every time they came to town and even finally learned to maneuver downtown so she could make the pilgrimage to the coliseum to see them when the aunt couldn’t go. Rain nor snow nor event staff confiscating her video camera tape in 1988 and letting her off easy by having her return the camcorder to the car and letting her back in couldn’t keep her from her favorite band. (hey it was her first camcorder and she didn’t know you weren’t allowed to take “moving” pictures at a show…) By the way that was my first concert and we’re lucky I continued to go after that because when security folks whisk your mother away from her seat and you’re left with your aunt and no keys to the car you could possibly be scarred for life….but she came back, all was good and we continued to return faithfully to their shows through the next 10 or so years but we left the video camera at home.

So you see I get this concert thing honest because of my mother (although I’m a little more subdued about it). She on the other hand is a die-hard fan and once she loves you and your music, that’s it. She’ll have your t-shirts, your albums, your autograph, your pictures, your fan club membership, your website message board saved on her favorites, your email and your telephone number (well not really the last 2 things although if she could find a way, she would and you’d get lovely little encouraging cards and messages…)

Concerts – it’s just what we do. And thankfully it’s what my husband and step-son do too. So you will see us all together – mom, dad, me, the husband and the boy in Section 2L seats 1-5  in November when TSO blows through town. We will not however be wearing Christmas flower vests.

{mom and TSO drummer Jeff Plate – I guess I get the drummer thing honest too!}

We’ll leave that to mom.

Shakin’, Rattlin’ and Rollin’ and How to be Prepared

First off let us recap this week- ’cause I’m sure y’all are dying to know all about it!

  • Monday: Back to school! We are now the proud owners (!?) of a 10th grader. But I refuse to talk about driver’s ed…Sold some drum goodies on eBay – snare parts and mounts and a little DW 8″ piccolo tom – and got held up at gunpoint by Paypal. (no, not really, they just have some random new “hold your money for no reason” policy even if you are an excellent eBayer and have been for years, but I digress…)


(good-bye cute drum!)

  • Tuesday: EARTHQUAKE!! We were lucky- no damages to home, persons or drums. (A co-worker’s deer head in his office didn’t fair as well….I warned you we live in the sticks..) Kids got a nice afternoon of hanging on the football field when they evacuated school. I finally stopped shaking a few hours after the ground did. (Props to you California for living with this sorta event all.the.time. Yeah, we know, we’re wusses when it comes to the whole earth-shaking thing that’s why we chose to live way over here… but we can take your jokes! Some folks did have some significant damage though and we can now say that Central VA is responsible for cracking the Washington Monument…)


(image borrowed from here)

  • Wednesday: More Earthquakes, well aftershocks, followed by blizzards (the ice cream kind!)
  • Thursday: MORE Earthquakes (aftershocks can end at any time now thank you!) and a helluva thunder-storm that I think may be a preview to the impending doom predicted for the east coast this weekend (aka Hurricane Irene…hopefully it won’t be this bad…)


  • Friday: It’s early so I can’t say how the day will play out just yet. We should be preparing for this new disaster of biblical proportions I suppose, but we have no generator to buy gas for and the guys aren’t big on tuna or other non-cooked meals that one should have on hand to survive should the storm render us powerless. So we’ll just play drums and guitar in the dark, drink our bottled water and Coke, eat jalapeno potato chips and wait for the next big thing! Since we already had the fires last week (well just some overzealous boy scouts in the camp behind our house who weren’t familiar with operating dampers on the big cook stove they were using and in return smoked us out and made us think the woods were on fire) I figure the locusts and the plagues should be here about Thursday next week…. 

Now in the spirit of being prepared, I give you a list of things to know if you are soon to be living with, working with or dating a drummer:

  • They will carry drum keys everywhere they go {it’s like an unwritten rule or something…}
  • They will carry sticks most of the time too – these are used for beating on the dashboard in the car or the practice pad or whatever else they can beat on wherever they are


 (“drumchucks” image by drumlove)

  • They have their own language meaning they will talk to each other in “drum” sounds -I would give you an example but I can’t speak it yet let alone type it correctly!  
  • They will use funny sounding musical terms like paradiddle and triplet
  • They will teach you that RLRR LRLL is not a texting abbreviation like ROTFL 
  • They will introduce you to tons of new music- this past year alone I’ve been privy to a whole new world of sounds including Slipknot, Shinedown, the White Stripes and marching band music (the last two by the way are phenomenal for getting stuck in my head And I keep telling the boy I can play drums as good as Meg if he’ll play Jack’s part, but he just shakes his head…)
  • They may not always hear you when you call to them from the other room…or sometimes in the same room…
  • They will be entertaining {have you ever met a drummer who wasn’t funny?}
  • They will make great husbands {hi hunny!} and step-sons {yo!}

So bring it Irene! We can take it! Batten down the hatches my friends and lock up what you still want to own and have a lovely disaster free weekend!


First of all, I tried a new cardio jam class at the Y the other night and the former army drill instructor nice lady fitness teacher tried to kill me, I think. I am still sore. It hurts to type. But if I keep this up through the summer by Labor Day I will be like the title of this post says. {haha…mabye}

But that’s a whole other topic that probably doesn’t belong on this blog. Let me instead turn your attention to these stacks…


Yeah that’s more like it! Last summer the guys were collecting these. Yes in addition to drums and guitars, we also had a collection of amps and cabinets going on. Are we music hoarders? Is there a show for that? Anyway they aspired to the arrangement above but only made it to this:


It was a noble attempt.

 (Again I apologize for the fuzzy picture- it’s not your eyes! Just another blurry cell phone pic…Note to self: Use real camera from now on…)

This summer, the bottom cabinet a JCM 1936 (2 x 12) is still in our possession but the top 2 micro stacks went on to new homes to make funding and room for this:


A Marshall JCM900 50 watt tube head

If you thought this house was loud before you should hear it now…! {Gotta love living in the country and having older neighbors who don’t care probably ’cause they can’t hear the ruckus anyway!}

But you know with us enough is never enough! While the amp and cabinet we have now is great for the guitar we’re still looking for a good deal for a decent power amp and speakers for amplifying our SPD-20 electronic percussion pad. The guys currently use it as a drum module to sample sounds but can only hear the result through headphones. And if we had a power amp we could set that up with our triggers again….

What’s a trigger you ask? Well, besides being Roy Rogers horse, it’s also a device that clips on the drum and makes your acoustic kit sound like an electric kit.

Here’s a pic of the kind of triggers we have:


{Not our drums, but you get a better idea of what they are and how they mount to the hoop.}

Triggers get you get a tighter ‘bigger’ sound ala Tommy Lee, Frank Beard and Joey Jordison and when hooked into a drum module you can even assign different sounds and patches to play when you hit certain drums. So your rock DW kit equipped with triggers could sound like a tympani or steel drums with the right patch. It’s a very cool setup that gives you endless ways to play and annoy your pets and neighbors!

And that is my rambling story about working out, amps, triggers and drums for today. I’m off to pick up the boy from camp {yay!} and apologize to the neighbors that can hear ’cause it’s about to get loud again.

Strings vs. Snares

There’s a battle shaping up out here Casa de drum. The snares came out strong in the first and second round and were holding their own at 5 but recently the guitars added to their numbers and now weigh in at 6! (and as many as 8 if you count the guitar hero guitars…) Check out what the boy came home with the other week {for FREE! Good work son! & please excuse his blurry cell phone pics}


It’s a 12 string guitar that was in need of a little love. {which probably explains why it was FREE…!} When he got it was really only an 11 string guitar…and soon after a tuning session we were down to 10. The saddle was a little chewed up and cracked and the whole thing needed a little cleaning. He’s already declared it his new favorite instrument. (I think it made his dad a little nervous to see him favor a guitar over the drums! haha! I just may successfully pull him over to the dark side after all! ha!)

After I had a go-around with trying to buy strings and a saddle at that center that sells guitars and that somethin’ or other ash place… (sidenote: we REALLY need to open a music store by the way….anybody got any retail space they wanna donate to us??) I finally came out with a pack of Martins for a 12 string (not 6 as the sales dude at that first store tried to hand me even after I said 12 twice….) and no saddle.

Since the boy was leaving for music camp soon, as in the morning after the night we were trying to do all this, and he really wanted to take his new stringed friend along with his snare (so he could be his own one man band?) we stole borrowed the saddle out of my Epiphone to try to resuscitate this thing. (I figured I’d still have the Yamaha in working order to play while he’s away with my saddle….and my capo…note to self: buy another capo) But back to the matter at hand.


When the carpel tunnel subsided {did I mention there were 12 strings on this thing to wind? by hand? ’cause the little winding tool thingy I have for the tuning heads would fit on these?} we had a newly stringed instrument with a saddle that still wasn’t quite right… this is what drummers and drafters get for trying to be guitar techs! But we soldiered on. 

After one more trip to the music store for a saddle and some sanding, we were finally lucky enough to come out with something we could work with saddle wise. Then after some tuning…. and a little more fine tuning… {did I mentions there were 12 strings to tune??} we finally had something in playable order. I really intended to take a picture of it all polished and pretty and restrung, but instead I took a nap!

{Just pretend there’s a purdy picture here!}

So that’s how we spent our night before the big camp send off. Well that and doing laundry and packing a weeks worth of stuff for a teenager to go to camp. Now we’re counting the days until he comes home with a weeks worth of dirty laundry and hopefully with my capo…!

And in case you’re a drummer who also likes guitars and needs some info on 12 stringed versions like we did, here’s a site that was helpful and if you like watching versus reading here’s a video.

And did I mention that my handsome husband also scored some free guitar gear last week? A double guitar stand- which is a good thing considering we were losing the battle with where to put the guitars! Anybody else being crowded out by their drums or guitars like us? We’d love to hear about it!

Drum Roll Please

Now that I’ve made you wait almost a week… I finally have a picture of our newest arrival!

You knew it had to be a snare right? They outnumber the people around here 2 to 1. It’s like a sickness. Must.have.more.snares!

This one is so cool the picture hardly does it justice.

Here’s the lowdown. It’s a DW 5.5 x 14 maple VLT snare with an ebony satin oil finish and black chrome hardware. Or you can be like me and call her Black Beauty- whichever floats your boat!


Now if you’re that girlfriend or wife who wants to look cool and totally impress her significant other with how much she knows about drum gear (Hi hunny!) here’s how to decipher those specs above (and if you just want to know more about drums in general I’m talking to you too!) So away we go!

Manufacturer: DW or Drum Workshop- this used to be the drum company of choice for Tommy Lee…now he’s defected over to Pearl….! It’s hard to read from the picture, but the badges say Collector’s Series under the dw which is their primo line.

Size: It’s 5 1/2″ deep x 14″ in diameter. Ok easy enough!

Shell: Maple- pretty standard wood choice here. Provides you a lower, warmer tone than a birch shell. They are also making some shells out of bamboo nowadays like this one seen here.

Construction: VLT (Vertical Low Timbre) All this means is that instead of it being a typical shell made of  10 laminated plies of wood going in the same horizontal direction, this baby’s grain runs the vertical direction on the outermost and innermost plies which places less tension on the shell and gives it a lower fundamental pitch because it can vibrate more freely.

Finish: ebony satin oil- the black stain allows you to see glimpses of the wood grain through the stain and the satin protective coat is more matte than a shiny lacquered finish.

Hardware: black chrome. It’s like jewelery for your drum! haha! So many choices! Although I don’t think 24k gold lugs would have had given this snare the same look. However the menfolk were talking about switching them out to chrome just for fun… yeah that’s how we roll….!

So there’s a quick walk-through of what you’re looking at- now go impress somebody with what you know and have a fabulous weekend!

Drumming Keys for Success

Newsflash for me! Drums have keys! I never knew this before the “engagement drums” as I like to affectionately call them, made their way into the house. That’s a funny story I’ll share later! Remember it’s my job to entertain you folks! Anyway, a drum key is a specialized little T-shaped wrench, I guess you could call it, with a square hole on the end like a small socket that fits over the square end of the tension rod. Turning the end of the tension rod which screws into the lug allows one to adjust the tension around the hoop that holds the head in place and in turn, tunes the drums. Whew! Did ya get all that? And yes even drums can be tuned! Who knew!

There are fancy ones like this cross-shaped one we bought for the boy recently:


{Note to those of you in the market for this one– objects in the picture appear smaller than they are in real life! It was a little too big to be worn as a necklace on the lanyard…a little too much bling for his taste! But still cool! And another sidenote- it broke just the other day! Come on Vic where’s the quality??}

And they can be simple like this good old stand by:


Prior to my introduction to drum keys, the only other experiences I had with keys involved me as a single chic locked out of my own house or car on multiple occasions.

Like the time I locked myself out of the rental house on my way to the gym. Thankfully upon casing the joint, I found the back door unlocked but chained. Pass! followed by a definite Fail! But I had a sweet older neighbor couple who lent me a short-handled screwdriver that I could get through the crack in the door and unscrew said chain from the trim to break into my own house.

Or the time I locked myself out of the new house in my pj’s and flip-flops on a 50 degree Saturday morning. I guess hearing too many times as a kid, “Shut that door! You don’t live in a barn” ingrained itself in my psyche so deep that I don’t always think it through when I walk out of one sometimes. This time though all the new sweet old neighbors were gone so I had to resort to vandalism, i.e. breaking out the bottom window of the back door to get back in. Soon after I had lots of extra keys made…

And who can forget the trip to Lowes when I got out of the car, purse in hand locking and shutting the door behind me only then to notice laying on the seat on the other side of the glass were my car keys. My saving grace here was a cracked window and a store full of spools of wire and other implements to use in fishing out those pesky keys.

But enough about breaking and entering! Here are some keys to becoming a successful percussionist we’ve been hearing from other drummers and trying to put into practice around here.

1. Master the basics. Learn and practice all the elementary rudiments like rhythms and paradiddles and how to read music. (More on those para-thingys on a later post!) I can’t tell you how many rockin’ heavy metal drummers we’ve seen who have started out in high school band. Joey Jordison just to name one! No matter how much style and flair and flutters and fills those guys have mastered now, they have so much more to draw upon because they have that technical foundation under them. And don’t be afraid to take lessons either-no matter how old you are!

2. Listen, appreciate and try playing with all different kinds of music. {Thanks to Shinedown for this piece of advice!} Jazz, rock, country, big band, they all have something to teach about style and technique. Besides, it never hurts to be versatile when you’re trying to find your place in the drumming world.

 3. Take every opportunity to play out that you can reasonably manage. Granted the boy isn’t at rock star level yet- heck he’s still in high school, but every time he gets a chance to perform- whether it’s in talent shows, marching band, friends houses, church events, or playing with the symphony on their community day, he’s there.

4. And to build on #3, it’s not who you know but who knows you. If you’re really serious about getting out there and playing you gotta get your name out there. Be friendly. Be confident but modest. Pride goes before the fall ya know and you do catch more flies with honey! So get to know those people you play with. Introduce yourself to other drummers and bands you meet along the way or make videos of yourself playing and post them up on your favorite social media site. If someone needs a drummer but doesn’t know your name, how are they gonna find you?

And note to self, that thing under the vanity sink that looks like a drum key isn’t a drum key. It’s a valve key — there is a difference! You get very strange looks from your family when you inquire as to why they store a drum key in the bathroom drawer! In my defense though when you live with drummers, you never know when and where you’re gonna find those things!