Given the rapid increases in technology in the past 100 years, I thought I'd take a stab at listing the top ten technological advances for drummers in the past century. Here are my picks.
1. Hearing protection. This is a no-brainer for me. Of all the critical tools a musician has, the ears are the most sensitive, and they're irreplaceable. And the tools available to protect your hearing while still allowing a full, satisfying musical experience are getting better all the time. You can check some of them out here.
2. Metronomes. I know, I know. You gotta have the pulse inside. Well, consider this tool a pulse-injector if you're willing to spend time with it.
3. Improved thrones. If your sit-down part is comfortable, you won't think a thing about it, but if it's not, you can't think about anything else. Long gigs absolutely require the most comfortable seating.
4. Sticks, brushes and mallets. For me, this is like the tires on cars. It doesn't matter what's under the hood if you can't control it on the street. Not only are there more choices than ever, but the quality and consistency are pretty unbelievable.
5. Pedals. Like sticks and mallets, pedals are the direct link between you and your drums. Especially in the past twenty or so years, I've gone from cursing to praising my footboards.
6. Shell truing machines (think Yamaha's YESS technology). There is nothing worse than a shell that's not round and true. Using the car metaphor, there's nothing worse than a beautiful automobile with an unreliable engine.
7. Head variety and quality. I know some players really dig calfskin, but I'm a huge fan of mylar and kevlar. In addition to sticks, shells and size variations, the heads you choose have a huge impact on how you sound and how the kit feels.
8. Cymbal variety and quality. Almost more than heads, the cymbals you choose will define your sound. I'm amazed every time I see the new releases - and new cymbal companies - that pop up each year. Unique and ever-more-expressive sounds are available to anybody with a little (okay, a lot of) cash.
9. Portable digital recording equipment. Obviously, there are lots of things that can fit into this category, but I'm thinking specifically of things like the Zoom H4N. The ability to record an idea, practice session or gig easily and with great quality is a game-changer.
10. Smart phones, tablets and laptops. Again, this category is huge, but I'm primarily thinking YouTube, educational apps and programs like metronomes, and specialized apps like SoundHound and Garage Band. Almost anywhere you go, the world is literally at your fingertips.
Honorable mention: Drum hardware in general.
What did I leave off the list or put in the wrong place? Let me know in the comments below!
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