Back at it: Hundred Days

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The latest version of Hundred Days is up and running at the Straz in Tampa. We had two days of tech and open Tuesday. My friend from college, Scott Crawford, provided the rental — a beautiful, brand new Pearl Session Studio Classic kit. It sounds great! Scott is a fantastic percussionist and all-around great guy. It was a dream come true to have him tech for me on Sunday. I can’t wait to hang with him some more on this 2.5 month stint in Tampa.

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Rig Rundown: The Grinch

The Grinch is off to a good start here in Green Bay. Let’s take a look at my setup for this season:

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This year I’m playing a Champagne Sparkle DW kit It sounds great for this particular show. Beefy toms! I’m using a variety of Zildjian cymbals.

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Using the always trusty Roland SPD-SX with 9 different kits programmed (woodblocks, gong, tambourine, bass drum, chimes, glock, sleigh bells, triangle, finger cymbal, ratchet, and one timpani patch are all programmed). Two Adams timpani (29” and 26”). I also have an acoustic cowbell and Jam Block, but they didn’t make the pictures.

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Mmmm… I love a good metal station. Mark tree, two triangles, one finger cymbal, and three Miller Machines.

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Delvcam mounted on my music stand so I can see the conductor when I’m reading the music.

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Stick tray with a variety of multi-sticks, timpani mallets, brushes, triangle beater, sus mallets, and two caxixi.

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And finally, Aviom land. Each band member has their own channel in addition to a conductor mic and onstage mic.

Rig Rundown: Hundred Days

The cellist is naked! The throne is falling off the riser! What kind of show is this??? Let’s take a look at my setup for Hundred Days here at the La Jolla Playhouse!

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La Jolla Playhouse provided me with this black Gretsch Catalina maple kit. It was amazing not having to worry about schlepping drums across the country or setting up a rental in San Diego. The kit sounds great. We are expecting some new heads to arrive any day now.

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AVIOM land is a good scene! I have two running here: One for each instrument and voice and a dedicated one for just the drum mix. We are all using in-ear monitors which has been a godsend. I may never be able to go back to a wedge again!

Drum key and Moon Gels in an accessible position in case of emergency.

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I’m using my trusty SPD-SX for this one. I’ve built 12 kits (some of which are just running click tracks). The electronics add a nice element to this show. All sounds were provided by the composer, Shaun Bengson, except for a few 808 bass drums and claps. I’ve enjoyed working with our sound designer, Nicholas Pope, on dialing in levels and effects for each sound. I have a few glow dots on the machine so I know where to hit during two black out sections.

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I’m running a pedal trigger out of the SPD-SX for bass drum and other sounds and using a foot switch to turn the click track on and off. More glow dots!

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I finally get to put those contemporary percussion ensemble skills to use during a song that features bowed crotales. It’s a nice effect for the piece and serves as a few meditative minutes for me to re-center and think about what’s coming up next.

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Oh yeah, I’m a singer now! I sing harmony on a few songs. It has been a challenge for sure, but I’m surrounded by many amazing and supportive singers who are always uplifting.

The show runs in San Diego through October 21. If you are in the area, come on out to a show! Otherwise, perhaps I’ll see you this winter in Tampa or Miami!

Double pedal at a synagogue? Oh sure!

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Finally, a practical reason to use my double bass pedal! I reversed the action of the slave pedal so I could sit comfortably on the cajon (well, as comfortable as a cajon can be when you're sitting on it for approx. 6 hours) and not have my leg in the way if I wanted to play the cajon with my hands. It worked out nicely! This page helped me modify the pedal.  

This was for a women's seder on Long Island. The ensemble consisted entirely of women, about 15 of us. It was a beautiful experience! 

On Subbing

I have the honor of subbing for my dear friend Jeremy Yaddaw on the current run of the off-Broadway show, Attack of the Elvis Impersonators. Subbing on a show is quite an arduous process. You can't simply show up and read down the charts. Your job as a sub is to play the show EXACTLY like the regular. The main goal is for the other musicians in the pit and actors on stage to not notice that there is a different drummer behind the kit. 

Prepping for this show was a month-long process. First, I got the music and recordings from Jeremy. The recordings were two giant WAV files, so I imported them to Garage Band and split the file up into separate tracks for each song and scene. Next, I went through each track and followed along, marking up my book. The older I get, the more I find I write down EVERYTHING. I'm not sure if it's because I fear my memory will fail or if I'm just more meticulous in my old age. Probably a combination of both! In this example, both Jeremy and I have written in measure numbers, vocal and instrumental cues, changes to the actual drum part, and places where it's necessary to follow the conductor: 

That's a lot of information for just 21 measures but it helps with the learning process and insures that nothing is missed in performance. 

After putting my book together (a craft project which includes printing, whole punching, stapling, and making sure page turns are in the right places), it was finally time to play the music! I scheduled 6 or 7 three-hour sessions at my rehearsal space to go through the show, playing along to each song, making more notes about things I was hearing that were different than what the music told. There are a lot of up-tempo rockabilly numbers (hello, this is a show inspired by Elvis), so in addition to playing the songs, I worked on some shuffle grooves and swing fills using two of my favorite books - The Art of Jazz Drumming and Syncopation

Somewhere in between practicing the music, I went to "watch the book" twice - once while being conducted by the regular music director and once with her sub. I took a thousand more notes. 

The day before my first show, I went to the theater between the matinee and evening shows to play on the drums, a Roland TD-30. All drums have a different feel, especially when they're electronic! I had to make some adjustments in my technique to get the best sound out of these beasts - playing my right hand lighter on the hi-hat, my left hand harder on the snare drum, and my right foot lighter on the bass drum, to name a few. There are a few patch changes throughout the show, so I had to get used to advancing the kit between many of the songs. Here's a look at the kit:

Finally, it was time to play the first show. I made sure to eat a good meal, avoid caffeine, and show up to the theater an hour early to practice on the drums again. Thankfully, I was super nervous the two days before the show, so by downbeat I was feeling fairly relaxed. I tried to stay as focused as possible (the show moves quickly), make EVEN MORE NOTES of what could be better, and get used to playing with the guitarist, bassist, and pianist in a live setting through the Aviom (personal mixer).

After the last note, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about things I would do differently for the evening show. I put a lot of time in to preparing for the show and it got to the point where the only thing left to do was to actually play it live. I have a few more dates with Elvis coming up and I am looking forward to each one of them! 

TL:DR - Here is a NYTimes article about subbing on Broadway, featuring Ann Klein who I just played with a the Beechman a few weeks ago. 

Drum Pictures

I have that common disease drummers have - the obsession with taking pictures of gear. I can't help it and I'm not looking for a cure. Here are some shots for the show, Bridges, I played at the TimesCenter on Saturday: 

An equal representation of strings and percussion.

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I just love drums so much. Sorry/not sorry.

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