SKF NOTE: Six years ago I wrote about drum photos as drum lessons. As a pre-internet kid, opportunities to see well-known drummers live were rare. Studying every detail of a great photo could command hours of my attention.
The fine points of this 1968 Gretsch ad with Elvin Jones and Tony Williams is a case in point. How are they each positioning their drums? What about the height and angle of their ride and crash cymbals? Their hi-hat stand and cymbals? If Elvin’s and Tony’s cymbals were set up different from mine – were they right and I was wrong??
Some of my favorite drummers had their ride cymbals mounted on cymbal stands attached to their bass drums. Tony and Elvin were using floor cymbal stands. Why? Is one cymbal stand better than another?
That how drummers set up their kits was a reflection of their physical size only occurred to me later in life. And only much later in life, while on staff at Modern Drummer, I found out the drum sets in those drum ads may not have belonged to the drummers portrayed. Chances are the photographers had a few sets in their studios for the drum ad photo shoot.
But one photo was enough to pique my curiosity. Why not put my ride cymbal on a floor stand and see if I like it?
Did I hold my drumsticks they way Tony and Elvin are holding theirs? If not, why not? Were they using plastic tip or wood tip drumsticks? Either way, why did they prefer wood or plastic?
With this Gretsch photo I’m sure I wondered how the heck can you play drums dressed in a suit?
When I have time now it’s fun to leaf through old music magazines, stopping at drum photos I remember, and those I missed the first time around.