Extreme metal 101: Part 1 in a series

December 3, 2009 3:05 pm in Drumset by Gus Rios

My set up

Tour kit

This is a subject that has become somewhat of a new “hot topic”, pun intended. There are many different genres and sub-genres that fall under the “extreme” category. The bottom line is that drummers need to have some proper technique to execute what is necessary. In a world where tempos generally live above 200bpm, you must have swift feet and hands! Let’s get started with the basis, the “extreme” drummer’s drum kit.

The drum kit-

This is home base, our drum kits. My general feeling is that 2 kicks are better than 1. The reason being is that when a note is struck, the kick drum head gives way at impact and if you immediately play another note while that head is still in recoil it can affect the performance, and present problems with triggering. This is obviously only a issue with the higher tempos. I also like the symmetry of the dbl. kick set up. Smaller rack toms have become more popular over the old standard “square” tom sizes such 12×12, 13×13, etc. More commonly we see 8, 10, and 12″ toms being used for rack toms. The smaller sizes cut through all of the low end coming from constant kicks and also fast 16th note fills are much more legible and audible with the higher and tighter tones. Birch shells are great for extreme metal. Their tight punchy sound really goes hand in hand with the extreme notation. That’s not to say that maple or bubinga won’t work. It’s ultimately up to the drummers tastes and opinion. This is just what has worked for me. I recently, after over 10yrs of playing a maple kit, used a birch kit on tour and ended up getting one for myself and am really impressed with how well they work for metal.

The snare drum-

This is a highly personal subject with as many opinions as there are snare drum models. That’s the beauty of our instrument, we can all have our own voices. Many of the world’s most respected and admired drummers can often be identified by their unique snare drum sound. For extreme metal, where there are arguably more notes being played on the snare drum than any other style of music, the more the drum is able to respond without losing any attack, the better. Wood or metal works great and die cast hoops really help with the attack factor. I like to keep it somewhere in the middle as far as depth is concerned. Piccolo drums may get lost in the mix live and really deep drums sound great for slow ballads, not so much blastbeats. Anywhere from 4″ to 6 1/2″ depth is great. You get plenty of body and still get that snap from the bottom head. Obviously the best thing is to try out a few drums and see which one works best for you. Go see some live bands and if you can, ask the drummer what kind of snare he or she was using if you like what you heard. A live setting is the best way to really hear how a snare drum performs. Recordings these days are loaded with tons of eq and samples and achieving that sound in your practice room is nearly impossible without using triggers, which is a subject that we’ll talk about in later installments.

What do you guys think?!-

These are just guidelines and not the gospel. This is what has worked for me through the years as far as setup is concerned. I want to know what you guys are using, what works for you? Maybe I can learn something new too! In any case, it’s still all about enjoying yourself behind a drum kit. For drummers who play extreme metal music, the more you know and the better equipped you are, the more you’ll enjoy your instrument! Next time we’ll talk about cymbal, head, and stick selection. Thanks!

Gus Rios