So last year, my good friend and fellow musician Christian made a horrible decision. He let me have access to his Yamaha Birch Custom Absolute drum kit for use in the studio. It's actually the one pictured on the studio website's home page. As an engineer, I was pretty familiar with most drum manufacturers and I certainly knew a good sounding kit when I heard one. However, as a guitarist I was not quite prepared for what this thing sounded like. His kit was six pieces (without snare) and included a 24 inch bass drum and when he set it up and started playing I began wondering if there was a volume knob on the drums that had been left on 10: they were so full, deep, resonant, and yes loud. Loud in a good way, that is.
This was a horrible decision on Christian's part because he forever ruined me in terms of drum sounds, especially considering the other kits that I had stored at the studio. They got the job done, but this one was something special.
Well, a few months ago the inevitable happened: Christian decided to sell this kit, so needless to say it left the studio for good.
Now what? Go back to eating Walmart frozen burgers after dining on NY Strip?
You guessed it, I started looking online as well as bugging my friends about what sort of kit I should get for the studio. There were lots of opinions from a lot of good drummers and engineers, but almost all of them boiled down to either a Gretsch USA or a Yamaha Custom Absolute, especially given what my application was.
My initial research revealed that I was going to spend at least $2000 for a used kit comparable to Christian's.
I learned long ago that running a recording studio is not a hobby, nor is it an inexpensive endeavor, especially when you are still building your reputation and establishing a world-class collection of microphones, amplifiers, outboard gear and instruments. I'm fortunate now to have most of those boxes checked, but a top-of-the-line, great sounding drum kit that would work on just about any type of music was still missing.
I am always open to musicians bringing their own equipment to the studio of course, including drums. But after years and years of recording I have become more convinced that if you don't have an excellent drum sound, the rest of the recording just kind of falls apart. It's too complex, too harmonically rich, too prominent of an instrument to settle for 'good enough.'
Also, I admit that I am a wannabe drummer. If I hadn't been drawn to the guitar, I'm pretty sure my next choice would've been the drums. I love the sound, the power, and the way a good drummer can absolutely transform the sound of a band. I love that the drums are simultaneously a big picture and an extremely detailed instrument. I love recording drums and I absolutely love mixing them, probably more than any other instrument.
So, with these rationalizations in place (the studio needs a good kit, and I love drums) I continued my search on the inter-webs. I looked for weeks, but the fact is Yamaha no longer makes the Custom Absolute series and all of the Gretsch kits that I looked for seemed to be located in Wisconsin. Or Maine. Or Patagonia. With a shipping cost the equivalent of an additional drum kit.
I was about to back off and just put that pursuit on hold when one night I went down the rabbit hole of trying to find out how to look for things in different cities on Facebook marketplace. It's not easy for me, not being part of the generation who grew up with social media. But eventually I figured it out and started looking at different cities in Texas, then Louisiana, and then Oklahoma.
Some individual with a rather ridiculous Facebook profile that I was sure was fake was selling a Maple Yamaha Custom Absolute drum kit in the exact sizes that I wanted for less than half of what other comparable kits were going for. I chuckled at his profile picture, and then sighed, since this was most likely a fake ad. I folded my laptop, turned off the lamp in my living room and started to walk to the bedroom for some much needed sleep. Then, as if obeying some sort of invisible movie script, I turned around and walked back into the living room, opened the computer, and wrote the guy a message:
"Is this still available?"
I waited a minute or two, as if he as well was awake at 1:17 AM. He was not. Or maybe he didn't exist. But there was no response, and I went to bed.
The next morning I opened the laptop again and there was of course no red circle of any kind at the top of the Facebook menubar.
Two hours later: the Facebook Messenger alert sound echoes from across the room.
"Yes it is. You're welcome to come look at them if you like, I will include all the mounting hardware but no cymbals or pedals. The drums are in good shape but they need new heads all around."
Well, this is not what I expected. First, it was a response. Second, it was a coherent response from an articulate person who seemed genuinely interested in selling his drum kit.
I confirmed the price to make sure that he hadn't left out a number by mistake. I confirmed that the drums had not fallen out of the back of a pickup truck and were scratched beyond belief. I confirmed that the drums had absolutely no defects in the shells, no cracks or major damage. I confirmed that this was indeed a Yamaha kit, and not a Yama kit, or some sort of knock off made in Malaysia. I confirmed that he was in fact a real person.
All questions confirmed in the affirmative. This was apparently the real deal.
So after a few more exchanges it was decided that I was going to Tulsa, Oklahoma to pick these up. I was still shaking my head, wondering if this was a joke and was about to get into a car and drive 200+ miles to a fake address, or the address of Domino's pizza or the city dump or something.
It was not fake.
Instead, at the address was a very nice young man who looks nothing like his profile picture. He said he created the profile as a joke, and later wondered to me out loud if that's why he didn't get more interest in the drums.
I'm not sure. The whole process was one of the most serendipitous experiences of my life when it comes to purchasing gear, which I do A LOT.
Regardless, I now give you the new and permanent studio kit: a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute with Plum finish in sizes 10, 12, 14, 16, and 22 with brand new Remo Vintage Emperor heads, all tuned up thanks to the Ghost Note here in Denton.
They sound amazing and I can't wait for the next session to use them. Come see for yourself.