Drumming Tips with Tosha Jones

Tosha Johns with Kit

By Tosha Jones for Tom Tom Magazine

Hello fellow drummers and musicians from all over! My name is Tosha Jones, and I am currently playing drums for the Long Beach, CA-based band, Spare Parts For Broken Hearts. We are an all-girl power trio. We have been together since April of 2010, and we are currently putting the final touches on our second studio album and crossing our fingers that it will be released in August of this year, so stay tuned!

My band is constantly playing shows and practicing, which leads to wear and tear on my gear. I believe having the most rugged, elite drum equipment possible is my key to playing my best and sounding my best. No one wants to play a show and have drum gear fall apart during their slot time! That could possibly ruin your chances at ever playing at that particular venue again.

I have been playing drums for quite sometime now, so I have a pretty good feel for all of the different company’s on the market. It took me years of testing out different gear to find exactly what felt right to me, and I believe that most high-end gear is amazing. I have played with every brand of stick known to man, different drumheads and all sorts of hardware.  I have selected it down to what feels the best, sounds the best, and in my opinion, holds up the best and longest.

Tosha Jones kit

Here’s a run down of the gear I play and exactly why I play it. Cue fake drumroll in 3, 2, 1…     The sticks I play are the Vater 1A wood tips. They are the most solid, rock-drumming stick I have ever played. They are a bit longer, measuring at 17”, which I love, and are a tad heavier than a 5A stick. I feel like the Vater 1A allows me to play with power, yet have control over the stick because it isn’t too heavy. I play highly aggressive, so I prefer the wood tip compared to the nylon tip because those little buggers would always break off. Therefore, all I was left with were dented drumheads (highly unattractive). During my trial and error days, some sticks would break after just a few hits. Many brands felt unnatural in my hands, and others actually hurt my forearms from odd vibration during each stroke. I have since found a home with Vater for about 9 years now, although find what works for you. Being uncomfortable while playing is unnecessary and it all begins with the drumstick!

If you have ever played a show and ripped through the drumhead, it’s probably the universe telling you to change out your heads. I am the world’s toughest critic when it comes to old drumheads. First off, old drumheads look bad, but more importantly old drumheadssound bad. They lose their tone, their resonance, and also go out of tune a lot quicker. Because my band plays so often, I change my drumheads quite frequently. Nothing is more disappointing than a band playing and the toms not cutting through the music from lack of maintenance of the drummer.

Remo is my choice of drumheads. Considering how hard I hit, I have found that Remo holds up the longest and I get the best tone out of them. Currently I am playing on Remo Black Suede Emperors on my toms, a Coated Controlled Sound for my snare, and a Black Suede Emperor for my kick drum. I like a super deep tone for my drums, so I tune them pretty low. The Black Suede Emperors give me the low tone that I prefer and continue to cut through the guitars and cymbals night after night. The Coated Controlled Sound head for my snare drum creates a deep crack and it is extra durable.

There are a ton of options for drumheads, so if there is a certain band or sound you want to mirror, do some research on what your favorite drummer plays. However, each drummer attacks their drums differently and can create a different tone out of the drum than the next drummer. By playing out live or in the studio, the drumheads may create a different sound and or tone. If that means testing out every different drumhead as many times as you need until you find the perfect drumhead for you, then do it! Not only do I play every live show with the Remo Black Suede Emperors, I have also recorded our last two Spare Parts For Broken Hearts’ albums with them. A good sounding drum kit more than likely means you have solid, reliable drumheads, so regular maintenance should be a high priority.

If I told you my 12-year-old dog’s name is Zildjian, you would probably have a good guess about what cymbals I play. And it also tells you how long I have been playing with Zildjian cymbals. For me, they are the only choice. Although there are numerous cymbal companies, and excellent ones at that, I have always preferred Zildjian. Not only do they sound amazing, they feel great when I strike them.

Zildjian offers a wide variety of great sounding cymbals for different styles of music. Since I mainly play rock music, I tend to play larger cymbals that create a lot of projection, ranging anywhere from 18”-20” crashes. I always play 20” rides so I can crash on them as well to create a heavier sound when the music calls for it. I prefer cymbals with bigger bells, and I like diversity in the sound of my cymbals so I play on both brilliant and regular finishes. I also focus on what cymbal sounds better during a particular drum fill or even during the melody, verse or chorus of a song. Listening to what the guitar player is playing or what the singer is singing has a lot to do with creating the perfect cymbal sound.

Correct cymbal set-up is a MUST! If you are reaching to hit a cymbal, chances are the perfect sound isn’t being created. Make sure you are setting up your cymbals where they are most comfortable for you. I also believe purchasing high-end cymbals are crucial to my sound and also the longevity of them. If you are finding yourself buying cymbals often, it’s probably time to dig deeper into your pockets. Over time cymbals will break, but I believe the more money you put into a cymbal in the beginning, the longer it will last and that means less money in the end. Plus, it will sound the best, which is crucial to the music and also everyone’s ears. I can distinctly hear the difference between lower-end cymbals versus a higher-end cymbal even if I am unaware of what kind of cymbals another drummer is using. All in all, find what cymbals and sizes work best for you and enjoy creating great music with them!

Quick Tip: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: Wearing earplugs has been a life-saver for me (or ear-saver) I believe the cymbals can be your ears’ worst nightmare, so plug ‘em up! It will only lead to lifelong rocking!!

You may think you can get by with purchasing cheaper hardware. Some players can, but if you are a heavy hitter like myself, I recommend taking the easy route and buying top-of-the-line, double braced hardware the first time around. I have played many different brands of hardware and had luck at first, but after about 6 months of wear and tear, I would end up stripping the wing nuts or I would hit a crash cymbal and the cymbal would fall right onto my toms, or the best was when I would play my ride cymbal and it started inching slowly away from me because the base wasn’t sturdy enough. That led to much embarrassment and me buying more gear in the long run. I eventually realized that DW Hardware was the best and most reliable for me.

The DW 9300 Snare Stand is my favorite because of how easy it is to position my snare. It locks in wherever I need it and stays there. It’s a luxury to remain focused on the music you’re playing instead of wondering if your snare stand is going to fail within the next measure or two. I know that that takes a whole lot of pressure off my shoulders, considering for now I am my own drum tech.

My crash cymbals are also played on the DW 9000 Series stands. My favorite function found in these particular cymbal stands are the toothless tilters (can you say THAT sentence 5 times in a row? I believe only a drummer can) Anyhow, the toothless tilters with TechLock, gives full access to any angle position for your cymbals. Nothing is more annoying than not having the angle I want from my cymbal. Even though I currently play my cymbals on a straight stand, I always make sure I buy the DW 9000’s with the boom arm available. Therefore, if I ever want to take away a tom or create an add-on, I have the boom arm as an option for easier cymbal placement. Because I do a lot of hi-hat work, I have chosen the DW 5000, 2 legged, extra heavy-duty base stand. Between my hi-hat work and playing my double kick pedal, I need a hi-hat stand that can hold its own since my left foot is constantly moving back and forth between pedals. Also, I chose the 2-legged hi-hat stand instead of the 3 legged because it creates more space for my double kick pedal.

Did someone say double kick pedal? I play on the DW 9000 double pedal. It has always been sturdy enough for my heavy feet, yet it feels light, while providing the speed I need to play 16th notes or doubles. It is ultra smooth and has wonderful response. Also, the clamp never becomes detached from the kick drum, which is a blessing for more than one reason. I have played many other double kick pedals that have not met the standards of the DW 9000. Perfection is how I would describe them in one word. Oh, and it also comes with a hard shell case. Double perfection! (Pun intended) I cannot stress enough how important it is to have hardware that is beneficial to your playing. Purchasing reliable hardware is equal to purchasing a reliable car. You don’t want to go out and buy a lemon just to have it break down on you 6 months in. Research what you think is best for your playing situation and go for it!!

Quick Tip: Don’t forget to tighten the wing nuts on your hardware during breakdown after a gig. If you lose one in a dark club, you’ll probably never find it again, and I know finding one of those puppies on the ground at a show is like striking gold!

Last month I hit the jackpot and was able to attend the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame Ceremony. That night, the 3-piece, prog-rock, Canadian band, Rush was inducted, and also performed. I’d venture to say that for every audience member in attendance that night, Neil Peart had just as many drums! He had electronic drums, along with every cymbal and tom in history, as well as a gong, and a timpani set up!

The drum kit comes in all different shapes and sizes. Over time, technology has given us many options for different drum sounds. Think of each drum sound as effect pedals for a guitar. Each band can make magic just by plugging into a wall!  Some drummers like electronic kits where others prefer your old fashioned acoustic kit. I am a fan of acoustic kits myself, especially for live settings. However, I am not opposed to having a drum pad available to create a sound I ordinarily can’t get from an acoustic kit and so on.

The drum kit I currently play is the DW Pacific Platinum Series. The PDP shells are the same shells as the DW kits only without the reinforcement hoops, which I feel actually gives them a deeper tone. I play 10”, 12”, 14”, and 16” toms, with a 22” kick drum. A 5½” x 14” DW snare and I recently just received a 7½” x 14” OCDP snare from Adrian Young of No Doubt for winning the Push And Shove Drum Contest. (And it sounds amazing!) There are so many different brands of kits, odd configurations and numerous shells to be used for different sounds. (I.e. Maple, birch, mahogany, even metal and acrylic shells) My DW Pacific Platinum Series is a 100% all-maple shell kit. I can go into detail about what wood sounds low, or high or whatever, but the fact is I like the warmth of a maple shell and the response I get out of the drums when they are being attacked. They are loud, they sound good and look amazing! I have recorded the last two Spare Parts For Broken Hearts’ albums with this kit. During both recordings the engineers couldn’t say enough about how amazing they sounded. And for the price I paid for them, DW Pacific has really out done them selves!

Tosha Jones on kit

In the end, we are all anal about our gear, so choose accordingly to you and what feels and sounds the best. I can’t say this enough. It will change throughout the years, and that is a good thing. The more we learn about our instrument, the more changes there are to be made. Embrace it and go with it, because in the end no matter what, the music is always going to flow out of us! Much love and happy drumming to all –xoxo-

Quick Tip: You can keep in touch with my band and I at: www.toshajones.com and/orwww.facebook.com/sparepartsforbrokenhearts, Reverbnation, Twitter and Instagram.

Tosha Jones on kit

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