Friday, May 14, 2010

Drumming diary: Drum girls

I'm copying this from a previous post on my private journal, because I would like as many female readers to see it as possible.

I wanted to focus this entry not on my own drumming, though, but on what it's like being a female drummer.

I ran across this article that says more girls than ever are learning to drum (yay!), but that only about 5-10% of the pop music instrument market are women (boo!). Of all the instruments, drums are probably one of the least played by women (I don't have any evidence to back this up, just personal observation from looking around at bands and talking to people). This is actually a big part of the reason that I chose to start playing the drums: let it never be said that I am not a contrary creature. >:)

Setting aside any issues about gender conditioning or growing disparities in income between men and women (drum kits ain't cheap, yo), there are valid physical reasons why so few women choose to drum. It's an unfortunate truth that on the whole, women are smaller and have less muscle mass than men, and if there's one instrument that needs both size and strength to play, it's the drums. The drumming industry might be taking steps to entice more women, but its salespeople, teachers, and manufacturers are still unequipped to address the needs of female drummers. So, we gots to look after ourselves.

The biggest issue I've come across is the drums themselves. They are manufactured to assume a male form, with the height and longer reach of a man. The standard size of a rock-music bass drum, for instance, is 22"x18" (meaning, 22 inches in diameter and 18 inches in length). These days they often come with tom mounts on top, which would be very handy...except that puts the toms (the smaller drums that aren't the snare) up too high for me to play without hitching my shoulders way up. I'm on the hunt now for a 20" diameter kick, or even an 18". It'll take some tuning and muffling to get the same BOOM, but I've got to be able to bring everything down lower and within my reach. I'm doing that with my entire kit, actually, struggling to bring everything in closer than it was all built to do. I'm thinking I'll also need to get a smaller snare, maybe a 13" or 12" instead of my current 14".

Another point to be very aware of is wrist strength. Woman have weaker wrists than men, period. You can get stronger wrists than you currently have, but you'll never get as strong as a man doing the same exercises. Conventional drumming techniques rely a lot on the wrist and forearms. Do whatever you got to do to get around that, but if you're taking lessons bear in mind that the way your instructor's telling you to drum might not work for you long-term.

Basically, the standard model of a drummer does not apply, and you've got to find your own way to make things work for you. Keep at it and good luck!

BONUS: Can't support female drummers until everyone knows who they are! Tell me in the comments about a badass female drummer that you know of! I'll start out: Kim Schifino from the New York punk cabaret indie duo Matt & Kim. They won Breakthrough Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards for their video Lessons Learned (WARNING: NUDITY AND A TWIST ENDING) in which they basically walk down a street in New York taking their clothes off. Also check out an interview here. Their songwriting process is very interesting to me.

It doesn't hurt that she's totally hot and tattooed, neither. For more info check out their website.

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