Aka. The Moron's Guide to Learning Musical Instruments
Okay, let's clear the air here, first off, I'm not a "drummer". Actually, I suck at percussion, I can't dance for shit, and there's a reason I'm not putting a itemized listing of David Robinson's Candy-O Slingerland set on the gear pages! Yeah, I think Lars Ulrich would probably throw me inside his kick drum if he heard me "play"! And I use the term "play" loosely here. I'm a musician, I compose, I play Guitar/bass/keyboard and can eek cool stuff out of banjo/mandolin/insert-keyboard-or-string-and-fret-instrument-here - hell, I'll even admit for a period of about 6 years, I played Trumpet, and could probably play brass still if I boned back up on my "studies". But honestly, I just barely know enough about drumming to be hilariously bad but still effective in SOME scenarios.

It was the summer of 2001, and Lithium used to rehearse at this rural Trailer in Pratville Alabama for a VERY brief period of time, and we had this mysterious drummer named "Wayne" who ultimatley dissappeared mysteriously. He was also in a band called "Severe Melonhead" and he would play guitar in that band, usually sharing rehearsals with Lithium. They had one song (that I know of) - called "The Cop Song" - a song where me and Wayne would trade instruments, and for once, I played the drums, and HE played guitar (and did lead vocals). This was maybe the only time in my life behind a kit I did not sound like a man with one leg trying to run. I think that day, I was also buzzed on some inadvertantly spiked Hawaian Punch (so yeah, I guess I did imbibe a little bit when I was young, and I mean a LITTLE bit), so maybe that helped calm my nerves and shut off my "compartmentalization feature" if you will.

So I take you now to today. I've still been writing demos for the last 20+ years, but my drums have either been played manually on a keyboard, or tapped in using a "piano roll" in MIDI. Only time I've had any sort of live drums on my own music, is with a band. So I take you now to this looney misadventure...
The Scenario
So it's almost Christmas 2023, and the wife wants an electric drum kit. I'm open to it but I'm not planning to learn anything new TBH. I just got a new Sustainer system put in my old red Kramer guitar and I want to mess with that. So we got one. An Aodsk UAED-400 to be exact. This is the one you see on Amazon with 1 snare, 3 toms, 1 crash, 1 ride, and one Hi-Hat, and two petals for the hi-hat and the bass/kick. Same as in the picture.

My wife has, for the better part of our 13 year relationship, been messing with various instruments in the house, claiming she's "learning to play" but not playing when anyone's at home. Her father played drums back in the eighties, and she used to mess with his kit, so maybe this is something she can get in to. Of course now BOTH of us are learning on this thing. But my wife is a bit - for a lack of better words - anxious about learning anything and me knowing about it for some crazy reason. Look, I get that I'm a great musician - not the best - but I can hold my own. But I'm not the asshole who judges people learning to play - I don't own a Les Paul and a Marshall and claim to be the grand-poo-bah of rock n' roll. Not that kind of dick.

But alas, we got it, and let's start with the FUN part - assembling this thing. Might be the most fun I have in teh relationship - building stuff. And I'm quite good at it, even when it's in a hurry on Christmas with constant interruptions.
Assembling the Kit
So this electronic drum kit is like assembling a piece of Ikea furnature with a Drum Key. Yes, everything goes together with a drum key - the stand, the drum pads, the "brain" as they call it (drum computer). You know how simple this makes my life!?!? I mean I've got re-runs of Jem and the Holograms playing in the background, and I'm putting this crazy thing together.

The stand is held together entirely of drum key-based bolts. There's a crossmember with 3 connections on it, and was the only mistake on the whole thing I made - which I fixed in about 2 seconds with a drum key and the wife holding the left side up while I flipped the bar over. Both drum pads for Toms 1 & 2 are bolted onto clamps, and the center is tilted back, and the notched ends of the pole go into the two side pieces.

Once the side pieces are installed, then comes the legs. Same deal, poles are notched to keep in direction, then tightened up with a drum key.

then there's swivel-out connections on the left and right side. The left side has the snare and hi-hat, while the right side has Tom #3 (the big floor tom basically). On each of these is a pole, with attachment hardware - again, all drum-keys. The Hi-Hat is another cymbal shaped pad that attaches to a metal rod with a thumbscrew on top. The Snare is the only pad with a "mesh" on it which can be tensioned - via, you guessed it, drum key, like an acoustic kit (hehehe). The Snare and floor Tom (#3) are all held on like the two toms in the middle with clamps held with drum-key bolts.

Then comes the splash/crash/ride/whatever cymbals, splash is right, the other is left. These are installed on two friction-held metal poles with a finger-nut like the hi-hat is.

Last piece of physical hardware is the so-called "brain" "Drum computer" or "Drum Modeler" I guess we could call it. A little black box with a DB-9 Serial port on the back (or DE-9 for you youngin's), and three 1/8" jacks on the side, USB, power switch on the bottom, and some buttons and a volume knob. This attaches to the center of the center pole via another drum-key based clamp with an adapter piece that allows it to attach 90-degrees (so it's out of harm's way).

Then comes the "octopus" as I call it - a DB-9 serial port (9-pin Atari joystick type connector) that has 1/4" mono phono jacks to all of the drums except the ones that would be metal discs on a acoustic kit (those are all 1/8" phono jack). Thing is, I think the octopus was mislabled because of a few early mistakes made. One I diagnosed as a "bad connector" probelem.

All the 1/4" jacks go - left to right - Snare, Hi Hat Pedal, Tom #1, Bass/Kick, Tom #2, Tom #3 - all were labeled - but I think the tom and kick were mixed up. This lead to me getting to test out the SERVICABILITY of this drum kit by replacing the 1/4" connector, until I made a surprise realization that the tom and kick were reversed. So now I KNOW we can keep using this for eons now, and I can keep it going in that time.

The "metal disc" drums all go into the SIDE of the "brain" module dealie in ports properly labeled. You just have to keep track of them. Granted, I got those mixed up, but that was MY bad. I realized it when I was trying to do a basic (not to mention poorly executed) 4-on-the-floor beat with the hi-hat not opening and closing (well, closing for my purposes)...hehehe. Seriously, I could already feel Matt Frenette's eyes over the internet cringing like he was watching a train wreck unfold as I tried to emulate "Working for the Weekend"'s basic parts.

Lastly is the throne, which I vaguely recall seeing something similar at a friend's house when I was six. I'm a tad concerned my stocky frame might wreck this thing. See, does anyone notice most drummers are actually pretty lathe, thin, and fit? This is a "High Energy" instrument - great for my wife, that woman has more energy than a NASA Rocket, and I can carry her around. Bit me - I'm a 6'4" tall stocky built, big boned, broad shouldered guy, whose probably padded himself up a little more over the holidays with junk food than all of 2023. Ever watched these drummers? They're usually the sweatiest, fastest moving, most energetic people in the band. David Robinson is the most active thing on that stage, tied with Elliot Easton at cars concerts. Dave Grohl goes full murderhouse at Nirvana Shows. I swear, watching Loverboy, Paul Dean was like Steve McQueen in Bullit with the Strat, lots of noise and quiet cool visually, but Frenette - there's a reason they call him the "Frenetic One" - this dude is like Usain Bolt with drum sticks...and he's like what? 60-something? I'm 40 and getting winded banging around like a lunatic 7 year old.

So I'm already laying bets my wife will kick my ass on the drums if she applies herself to it. And you know what, I'm more than fine with that. I'm learning myself for the fun of it, and have no intention of becoming a drummer - maybe for demo purposes. If anything, I want to learn the PERSPECTIVE of being the drummer - might help with my composition skills ya' know. That's why I play bass and Keyboard - but why you don't see me rippin' around like Victor Wooten and Tomita! I'm a guitarist first for the most part.
12/23/23 - Mixed Up Drums and Christ it's Been Awhile
So I got the kit all together and Tom #3 was sounding ridiculously huge. The kick, however, was not working. So I noodled around - probably the most fucked up rudiments comparable to my cats knocking things off of a shelf - for a little bit, before taking on about an hour to put a new 1/4" Phono on the "octopus". I tried to use the original jack, but was getting a different hit every time I held the connection - and inconsistant. I spent a few minutes playing some Budgie tunes my wife had somewhat masochistically put on. So noting these issues, I went on to make the changes required.

So then I messed around a bit more, looking at the different kits. There's 15 in all, and 1-3 + 15 are fun. There's one that changes the Toms to bass notes, so I guess I could do a "white Stripes meets the B-52's" type thing. There's also a metronome....which I'll probably never use, and I found out how to change the Reverb using the Menu button (I like C3 the best, I like sounding like I'm playing drums in an Abandoned Warehouse, or in the cave from Adventure).

Replacing gthe connector took me about 30 minutes, and was pretty easy. I used an old 1/4" jack from a guitar pedal patch cable. I then did some digging and found that the tom sounded like a kick and the kick like a tom while listening to some Budgie. So I switched the cabling, now the foot pedal works, and the tom#3 works - so if you buy this, keep in mind that you might need to move the cables around between the various pads to get it right, and that the labeling might not be correct. What I had to do was use a wire stripper on the plug to get to the red and white wires for the drum pad. Then wire red to the tip, and white to the sleeve of the new jack, crimp it on nicely, screw the barrel on, and then still issues.

That's when I detected the tom vs. kick thing and corrected it. However, now I had a new problem - the hi-hat would not let me close it.....that's because I had the wires all mixed up for the crash/ride/hi-hat symbals - which was an easy fix of just switching around two of the three connectors. Now we're rockin'. Probably an oversight due to my poor vision in this case.
12/24/23 - Making SOME Progress
So now with everything wired up and working, I decided to think of some EASY drum stuff to play. The easiest stuff to play would be David Robinson of The Cars. Not because he's not good, this guy is awesome, but the thing is, underneath all the wild stuff he does, there's a lot of good BASICS in there to work with that should not be TOO hard for me to figure out. A LOT of The Cars catalog works on Clickety 8ths - and as I learned learning Rhythm guitar playing Ric Ocasek's guitar parts, David does a lot of the basic rock rhythm stuff.

So for this session - I just focused on bass and snare.

I started with "Drive" which was pretty easy with just a bass and a snare, but a complicated enough rhythm pattern to keep me engaged.

Then I moved to the first record. "Good Times Roll" is fairly easy with just the bass and snare. I think this is the time I realized the Hi-Hat pedal was not opening and closing the hi hat, and I was failing with the 16th notes anyway, so I just focused on following the bass and snare still. The Bass pedal kept sliding away from my foot however, so I wound up sticking it against the knick knack table crossbrace.

I tried my hand at a good chunk of the album, My Best Friend's Girl, Just What I Needed, especially "I'm in Touch with your World" - and most of the rest was ignored, Moving In Stereo was done because good rhythm pattern, then I jumped over to Candy-O and did Let's Go and Since I Held You. Worked out pretty well. By the end I got the kick drum down and could keep time.

I can only imagine, starting out without any point of reference for what playing an instrument is like would make this even harder, not that it is not already hard. My feet apparently like jazz, my arms like rock, and my brain wants to "single task" all of a sudden. I'm like an old 8088 computer with memory issues I guess - but this go out, I did pretty decent. Probably because I picked the most familiar band to me besides Nirvana (Dave Grohl would be murder for me at this point, and seriously, I might have to give myself diabetes and use up all my K-cups to reach the level of energy of Matt Frenette has).

12/25/23 - The Sad Reality, I'm Too Damn Aggressive
Here's a grand confession about me and music. I became a musician, in part, because I discovered early on that it was a great outlet for my rage and aggression. As much as I try to avoid talking about it it on this website, I'm actually a very negative, angry, traumatized, and fucked up person - not a victim, just angry, traumatized, and fucked up - but I function. I'm still high functioning, but music is one of the ways I vent and deal with all this crap without putting someone's lights out at the end of the day. There are days, in real life, that I bite my tongue until it bleeds, and have to literally hold my arms so I don't reach out and put a nice welt on someone. I know it's not a pretty picture, but it's just one picture of how screwed up the outside world is.

It's been like this since day one. My mom used to comment on how I'd make the windows rattle in my bedroom with that old 1982 Yamaha G245S-II classical guitar playing with my Nirvana tapes. I gouged up the top of that Yamaha like a cheese grater - I think Willie Nelson would be proud. That's because I'd go to school every morning, get bullied, harassed, heckled, outcast, and then invisible - come home, get yelled at, harassed, and told how lazy and useless I am - so what the hell DO you think I'm going to play guitar like? Andres Fucking Segovia? Fuck no, I'm going to play like a disenfranchised punk, because I AM a disenfranchised punk! And from there, I just got more and more aggressive with more tact,

And now, I'm a disenfranchised old punk. I get up in the morning, I get enraged at the news, YouTube Shorts, and then try and stave it off with some Bithead1000 because he seems to be the only guy on the entire internet whose openly speaking the truth about how shitty life is and then puts a video game cherry on top of it all. Go to work for 40 hours - at least I'm paid for other people's stupidity - go home, and then deal with the same levels of idiocy for FREE! Including this go out which started with my wife wanting to talk to her parents on the phone, and telling me to play drums. So I did - and then I get reprimanded afterward for being "too loud" - on an ELECTRIC DRUM KIT for cryin' out crin! Oh, and what was I playin - the freakin Cars. The holidays already make me angry with how much of a sham they are, now even what little joy I can get has to be ruined because I'm a big oaf with 1/4th the rhythm of my old Substitute Teacher Mr. Matthews who had a condition that caused him to hump the chalkboard for no reason whatsoever!

And so begin the discussion about how I "take everything musical over" - how do I do that. I'm not telling her she can't do it, I WANT HER TO FUCKIN' DO IT! You can love music all you want, but it's not the same as actually PLAYING it! The truth is, she's just intimidated by me, and I don't like that. That's why I've been a bit hesitant to learn any new instruments - because every damn time it's "it's because you're soooo good at it. She, and anyone else reading this page that feels intimidated needs to remember, I've been playing the guitar for almost 30 years, bass for almost 25, keyboards almost as long, did eight years in the school band on trumpet, and I'm still actively composing even though I'm not in a band right now. You should realize, I'm "Seasoned" at this, hence why I might progress faster. No slight on anyone, you have to FORGET about me.

Look, I remember what it was like when I started playing guitar at age 11 in actuality. It seemed like I was standing at the base of the himilayas a one-person mountain climber, wanting to reach the peak of the summit without any prior experience. I fell, I broke legs, I got rolled into a few snowballs, made a few savant advanced maneuvers that gave me too much confidence and then fell down again after that. Sure, a little after those early fumbles, I had a teacher, but it's not like Chuck sat there and manually put my fingers on every note and every chord and taught me every strum like a damn robot - I had HOMEWORK. I had to go home, and every week before guitar lessons, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. I don't even consider myself actually learning guitar until that first week I was tasked with learning Nirvana's "Come As You Are" - and spent the next week watching Bob Ross Joy of PAinting Videos after school as I fumbled my way through the main single-note riff. I entered that week so embarassingly bad it made Kurt Cobain look like Yngwie Malmsteen, by the end of the week, I could actually play it decently enough to be recognizable - not great, but okay enough.

And I did not get to practice in my own apartment on a holiday without neighbors around and a wife who actually LIKES my music. No, I had to practice guitar, on a nylon string acoustic with a neck that's too wide for my 12 year old hands, and endure the Statler/Waldorf comedy antics of a pissed off 45 year old Menopausal single mom who only likes Enya, Placido Domingo, Neil Diamond, and Gregorian Chant music! On a nylon string acoustic guitar that was as loud as an electric guitar, because an electric guitar would "blow the roof off of the house". All the while having to endure "can you play a lullaby" "that song reminds me of snakes" "that sounded like a misadjusted lawn mower" "can you knock that racket off" "can you turn that damn thing down (How? Acoustic Guitars don't have headphones)" "someone take that guy to the doctor, he's screaming "Stomach Ache"!

So if she's wanting to learn and practice, why is she intimidated by me? I'm more aloof than Mr. Magoo sleepwalking in a construction site. She could be learning how to play Subdivisions or We Won't Get fooled again and I'd have no critique because I have not a foggiest idea of what Keith Moon or Neal Peart did. Hell, hell, I can't even follow the bloody Sex Pistols on drums, that should be some encouragement when judgement is an issue. That might seem like I don't care, but that's not the case, the case is, she's free of judgement regardless of if I'm around or not. Most likely, if it's not sounding good to me, I'm just going to go about my business anyway, because I'm a seasoned musician myself, and I once was starting out, so I totally "get it".

But yeah, I now see that once again, this is going to be an issue, just like when she took up guitar, just like when she tried to play bass, just like any other time she picks up an instrument. I'm not giving up guitar so she can take time to catch up. But with this, since I drum like a guy with one leg trying to run, there should be no intimidation, because I'm a worse drummer than she is probably. She had a dad with a high end kit to mess around on, I had a mom who probably would have given me Vodka and a Shotgun to play with if I insisted on learning to play a drum kit.
1-7-2024 - Back At It, Scenes from Behind the Throne
Got back at it a little more today taking turns with the Wife on the drums. Seems I'm oddly getting the hang of this somewhat. Even got some bit of *swing* which is odd.

I think I have found some stuff in my wife's playlist I can deal with. "Bargain" by The Who was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to keep up with Moon The Loon kinda-sorta enough to sound like I was actually learning something. "Going Mobile" and some acoustic song of theirs was easier though from the same album. So maybe that Keith Moon Halloween costume was not as ridiculous as I thought for me.

I got tossed to "The Sweet" a bit - the first tune was a bit of a stroke of luck with me veering off into a "toolchest down the stairs" after awhile, but "Solid Gold Brass" was where I found I might be able to pull some ZZ Top at some point.

But the most amusing - Pink Floyd - Breathe! I always had a funny relationship withthis song. See, when I took guitar class in high school, some kid did this and the singing was hilarious, and I almsot wonder if it was done intentionally. But drums on this - christ, I could hang around with the chill side of Pink Floyd all day on drums just starting out. So there's an easy one if you want to start.

Of course in between me and my wife being the "other half" of the two of us who makes one drummer - she can do fills on a psychotic level that Keith Moon would be proud of, but has not quite got the basic stuff....maybe if we got two stools - I could patter along like the most basic of David Robinson car's drums (think Shake It Up or Got a Lot on my Head) while she does all the fills. However, the Pink Floyd song was where I felt a bit comfortable for the first time.

Also, I put my big ole NEC Computer speakers on the drum kit today too, so that might have helped, not having everything piped in via headphones and me worrying about cables the whole damn time. It felt more natural than headphones and my cell phone.