Of Drums and Weather

Jan - 05 2010 | no comments | By

My newest drums have a lot to tell me about how sensitive and moody drums can be. Raven Laughs is the crankiest thing in the house after me. We both wake up in the morning slack and grumpy. That drum…now it’s the temperature. Give it a blast of heat and it sings, but at 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit (“room temperature” in my house most of the winter) it goes flabby. In summer, it will probably have fainting fits because of humidity. It’s something I’ll just have to live with, at least if I want to learn bodhran style. Gotta make a tipper yet. 🙂

Raven Laughs -- front

bottom

bottom

side-detail

side-detail

Note the double edge binding of the head. From a video by Don Shulz (found on YouTube) I learned the trick of going once around and then running the main binding through the edge lacing rather than the holes in the head. It gives strength. After the disastrous first attempt to head this drum, I decided to go it one better. Once around, winding rather than in-out; then when that is fitted to the frame, another lace straight through around it. The second lacing anchors the main binding.

On the bottom edge I used a strong synthetic cord that is probably intended for macrame jewelry. The holes it goes through are lined with eyelets.

The small drum that I finished the day after is also very sensitive. I can tune it lower in a few seconds by blowing on it. This morning, it was almost as depressed as RL (that’s a pun, BTW), but when I warmed it by rubbing with hands and cheeks it cheered up. I think I could have made it tighter, but then it could get way too high-pitched and possibly be in danger of self-destructing under the right (wrong) circumstances.

small shaman drum

small shaman drum

This handy 8″ drum is no thunder-maker, but it can hold its own. The frame is of the same steel hoop, cardboard, layered paper, and fabric construction. I made it more quickly and simply, however. Less layers, less fussing — it doesn’t show much anyway. You can see the duct tape on the top edge. LOL

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Raven Laughs

Jan - 03 2010 | no comments | By

…at plans. And drum makers who make plans. But this time I think I’ve got it right. It took several weeks to make the frame, from steel hoops, cardboard, and layers of paper and fabric. Tedious waits for glue, paint and protective coatings to dry. Sanding, re-coating, measuring, drilling. Then twice I tried to head it. The first time, I chose a piece of rawhide that was too thin on one side. It tore. Twice. Scratch that one. The second time, I didn’t get the bindings tight enough. The head was disgustingly flobby. Discombobulate again.

The third, and by far the best, attempt to head this drum looks like a — heh-heh — resounding success. It’s hanging in the kitchen drying. Now and then I hear a twing as something adjusts. A bit scary, those sounds, but it’s not threatening to break; merely tight enough to sound off at the slightest stimulus. A proper drum attitude.

I felt very confident as I started. All went well. Previous practice paid off. The binding technique that I’ve worked out through these three phases is solid and effective. I can visualize, a little at a time, any process; building or taking things apart in my mind before getting down on the physical components. Then when I actually lay hands on, small improvements come to mind. It helps that I can always gauge the amount of lacing to prepare. Running out of something that takes a few hours to soak would not be a Good Thing. 🙂

So I’m happy. I’m rubbing my hands together (with home-made lotion, they’re rough and sore) and gloating over my success. I’m planning more drums using built-up frames. Would be nice if I could make or buy nice wood frames, but for now I’ll make do with what I have.

Hoppin’ New Year

Jan - 02 2010 | no comments | By

A little more interesting start than some. My onlybegottendaughter reappeared (e-mail changes can have a dire effect on communications) on the morning of Dec. 31. Did she just e-mail me? No-o-o-ooo, she sent me a friendy from Facebluck. Hokay, must be some reason I got back in there a coupla moons ago. I had to reset my password to log in this time (I swear I had it right, but Facefook wouldn’t take it yadda yadda) but I was going to do it no matter how many captchas I had to squint through. It takes something to drag me into Facefook.

Then I find out that she has managed to find her father, whom I haven’t seen in nemmine how many years. Danged if she ain’t as bull-headed as me.

Voilà!

I Can Get (some) Satisfaction

Dec - 27 2009 | no comments | By

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and I wanted to do something. I did two somethings.

This four-inch drum is made from a section of PVC sewer pipe. It has a bright tone, loud for its size.

2280r-minidrum

The striker is not only proportional to the drum, it is ideally suited to bring out the best sound from it. A drum responds differently according to how, where, and with what it is struck. Size, weight, and consistency of the striking head mean a lot.

I had to have a rain-stick. The upcoming series of drum circles wouldn’t be the same without one. No spare cash to blow since I used all my mad-money for rawhide, but my house is full of…stuff. Not content with traditional methods of construction with my non-traditional materials, I brainstormed. The result: Instead of drilling or poking holes in a tube, I inserted tortured wires. I have a big spool of aluminum welding wire that I bought at a garage sale for a song. It is an indispensible source of stiff yet bendable wire for hundreds of uses.

wire wire-side

It works. It takes a few yards, and it is probably best to form it in several sections, stuffing each in separately. The coils should hold themselves in place by tension against the sides.

I did a little bit of writing too 🙂

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Silent Christmas

Dec - 25 2009 | no comments | By

I blew it again. The binding wasn’t tight enough. Since there was no way to adjust it, I’ve taken it apart again. Yes, again. This was the second time I’ve mis-headed that frame. Maybe the third will be lucky.

Oh well. Dinner was good. Ham, baked potatoes, and squash.

BTW, I have always loathed that hideous pseudo-Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy. This was a bad season. I heard it more times than I want to count. Nausea.

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The Drums of Christmas Eve

Dec - 24 2009 | no comments | By

The promised bad weather held off. I went to work with lots of summer sausage, cheese, and crackers and a jar of my favorite wine-substitute: cinnamon hibiscus tea mixed with orange juice. It was my co-worker’s birthday, an extra excuse to party. We had one visitor to help eat the munchies. I know, doesn’t sound like a day’s work, but there are much more…interesting days.

Back at home, I’ve watched the second half of The return of the King while soaking a few yards of rawhide lacing. Now the drumhead is soaking. It’s thin, doesn’t need to soak as long. The drum I promised myself over a month ago will be finished tonight.

Here’s the one said I’d show, a while back. Little Grandmother, she’s called.

Grandmother Drum

Grandmother Drum

Sitting proudly next to the dishes I had just washed 😀

unfinished

unfinished

Here’s the fabric-covered coffee can ready to have holes punched for the cord loops. The loops are pulled together wih a tighening cord after the rawhide binding is done — a hybrid technique derived from my study of djembe construction. I used hemp cord loops on my first coffeecan drum, but it didn’t need the extra tightening.

My antique icepick lies near it, and the sleek, black frame that I built out of laminated paper and cardboard and two steel hoops. That one will receive its head when I’m done here.

After watching The Lord of the Rings twice in the past week, I’m feeling a bit epicked out. I think I’m ready to get back to writing.

Good? Morning

Dec - 18 2009 | no comments | By

I h8 waking up too early to be up and too late to get back to sleep. However, having a big bowl of homemade stew to re-induce sleepiness is a nice way to unstart the day.

Stew!

Stew!


NOM NOM NOM

I’ll show off a cute drum later.

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Man-made Mini Sinkhole in Sturgeon Bay

Dec - 13 2009 | no comments | By

I love karst landscapes. Wisconsin’s Door County, where I was born and currently live, is a monumental block of cracked, leaky Niagara dolomite, riddled with caves. Southern Poland, where my novel, A Drum Is Empty, is set, has it beat all to heck for caves, sinkholes, water-sculpted limestone cliffs, and monadnocks (huge free-standing rocks).

A shallow sinkhole provides a convenient camping place for kidnappers with evil intent in ADIE. It’s out of the wind and concealed from view. Un?fortunately, it makes sitting ducks of the bad guys for a sling-toting stone age sharpshooter like my MC.

This morning, I discovered a much less handy hole half a block from my home. Apparently the large snowblower that clears some of the sidewalks knocked an old storm sewer lid half off last week. I have walked past it every day, but didn’t see it until I was coming back from the laundromat today. It must have been concealed by snow until the weather warmed up; then the snow fell in — a man-made sinkhole!.

When I saw the hole, I said a couple of rude words, stared a bit, and then hastened home. Leaving my bags of wet wash to amuse themselves for a while, I scrounged up the makin’s for a couple of small marking flags. (Damned if I had the energy to drag a plank out of wherever….) I went back with two blaze-orange markers and my camera, shot some pics, and then returned home to leave a message on the street department’s answering machine.

Then I hung the wash and fed my hungry face.

The hole

The hole

Inside the hole

Inside the hole

It’s plenty big enough, and deep enough, to swallow a small child or an animal, and an adult could be trapped and/or injured.

The lid is not only heavy, it’s covered with snow and frozen down. Owoo.

Practice makes…another darn drum

Dec - 10 2009 | no comments | By

I made one mistake in buying a ready-made drum. It was so shoddy there was no way to tighten it up enough to get a decent sound out of it. So I took it apart. The fourth-rate rawhide heads can be recycled into rattles. The frame, after a little work, was fit to use again. Not high quality, for sure, but solid enough if not abused.

Now the frame is reincarnated with a decent head. Part of this adventure was cutting a length of 1/4-inch rawhide lacing in half. I invested in an obscene quantity of 1/4-inch lacing because it was the best deal I could get. Way too chunky for most of my smaller projects, but when soaked it can be split with a sharp scissors. Slowly. Inching along. But worth doing.

The decorating was done in great haste with acrylic paint while the head was still damp. I did some research on this, to find the best and safest media. My coffee can drum, “First Raven”, has a couple of ambiguous symbols dabbed on in soot and spit with a finger. Any fine particle pigment can be embedded in the damp surface.

So here’s the newest in my growing collection, 12″ in diameter, hanging from a nail in a doorway to dry:

front
back

“Raven Dances” … the world into existence.

I still haven’t dug up that adapter for the microphone. Too much snow to shovel.

Morning-after note:
w00t, this baby has a voice! *reminds self to look for adapter*

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The Urban Shaman – Drums before Breakfast

Dec - 04 2009 | no comments | By

The wonderful one-hour drum

I got up a little too early, and a little obsessed. This was the result:

TopBottom

The head is ultrasuede. I have a lot of odd pieces from when sewing machine art was my current obsession. While looking for things to get rid of, I ran across my stash of purple, and its stretchiness made me think… Heh-heh.

So, for my before breakfast chore this morning, I sat down to prove it would work. Within an hour I had a decent sounding drum — for its 6 5/8 inch size — and sore fingers. The stainless steel hoop frame was originally intended to make pancakes perfectly round. It’s still close enough to round after stretching the ultrasuede as tight as was practical. The binding is hemp cord.

It wants a light-weight striker, and likes a quick, light beat. Kind of a happy-dance drum. 🙂

I’ll upload a short sound sample as soon as I dig up an adapter for my good microphone.

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