Stand Up & Deconstruct Yourself

I've been playing drum set for 40+ years—that's a lot of sitting down. And while sitting is cool, and let's you play with all 4 limbs at once, it is also restrictive. In sitting, we are locked into the instruments basically within your reach. We are also, in many ways, locked into the traditional drum set arrangement. You can try to cram more stuff in front of you, but there are practical limits.


The epiphany came to me 10 years ago when I decided to stand up and abandon the traditional drum set configuration. I also decided to abandon the traditional sound vocabulary: why should I be locked into such a rigid framework? 


My basic set up is a 20" single-head bass drum mounted horizontally on a rack—I can play it with sticks/mallets, or use it as a sound table by placing objects/small percussion on it. I can also scrape/rub/hit things on the head/rim/sides. Around the drum, I can add various cymbals and toms/snares as needed for the gig. I also have 2 percussion tables with various small percussion and cymbals/Gongs. Behind me I have a rack with Gongs, bells, Sound Plates. 


Mounted bass drum 

Table with metals

 Floor Gongs

Bass drum with metals

One advantage of standing is that I can move 360 degrees around my environment. Another is that I can easily change percussion items on the stands/tables/racks. This gives me a wider array of sounds. This biggest advantage is that I have to think differently than I do when sitting at a typical drum set. This leads me into new sonic territory. 

A good example of this is a gig I did with pianist Thollem Mcdonas back in 2007. I used just the bass drum and a lot of metals. You can listen to the results here: Cloud Path Through Window

 Mcdonas/Bettine Duo

Gong on top of bass drum

Now this is not to say that I never play a traditional drum set, but I don't let myself be locked into just that configuration. If you radically change how you do things as a musician, you will come up with new ideas, new sounds, and a new vocabulary to work with. You also flirt with danger:

"No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger." ~ Ranier Maria Rilke

Be dangerous…

~ MB

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