'Baby, you can drive my car'

Baby you can drive my car (well obviously not a REAL baby – though that would be interesting under controlled conditions) and I'm not TOO fussed who else gets to drive it. As long as they put diesel in and bring it back in one piece – and they have no alternative. But one thing Baby et al. can't do – is drive (play) my drums! Okay – under extraordinary conditions, maybe, but my drums are VERY special to me. Even my drumsticks. I recall playing a gig once and during a break (or before/after) this chap asks me for my sticks. No, thank you. He persisted so I gave him one of my old sticks. Just as well as he proceeded – much to his great amusement – to put it where the 'sun don't shine'. How very odd. That stick did not return home with me.

It is quite amusing how many folk ask to play my drums when I'm doing a gig. I might let some of them play, given the nature of the gig. (Ah, so you DO let folk play them?!) But I'm always surprised when they ask for my sticks. Now, if you don't know, sticks come in many sizes and weights – and even the tip can be different. When you choose sticks you do so based on a number of reasons:

· The length/width/shoulder and its taper

· Whether the stick has a wooden or nylon tip

· The quality of the wood (hickory is considered the best)

· The weight of the stick and how it balances in your hand

· A balanced pair – I roll the sticks on a flat surface to see if there's a 'wobble'

· The nature of the music you are playing! (No point having a chop-stick size to play metal – no use having sticks the size of police batons to play jazz!)

· The price (sadly this can affect a purchase)

These sticks have interesting names too, I use 7As, I used to use 5As and before that 2Bs. (Sounds like the names of my old school forms.) But more than the qualities mentioned above, our sticks become imbued with our very spirit. They connect the mind to the body to translate thoughts through them into the act of playing - and imbue the nature of that playing from randomness to directed and tasteful. The sticks have power. Every thought/experience and creative idea runs through them. They are the divining rods of the drums! They are very personal – and have so often become an extension of my arms. Therefore I have a deeply personal attachment to them. So you can 'sit in' on my drums but bring your own sticks! I do love the paraphernalia of the drums. The stick bag is the place for all the sticks, plus brushes (metallic wires for sweeping across the snare drum - think 1930s jazz) and soft beaters. These are great for tympani type rolls on the toms or creating majestic crescendos on the cymbals. The bag is also a place for 'spares' if it has the room. I carry some gel (not drum damping gel but hand gel – you never know!) and a pen to sign autographs! No that only rarely happens. I always used to sign Jimi Barg back in the day. I nearly forgot the 'bundles'! These are sticks made up of very thin diameter lengths of wood, bundled together. They are like a cross between a pair of brushes and normal sticks. Though they lack in both categories. You can hit the drums quite hard though and not produce too much sound. They are beloved of many a guitarist!

Any way – where was I? O yes, Baby, if you're nice you CAN borrow my car (with the drums in the back) and drive me to my next gig. Next gig? GIG? What on earth is that strange beast.

Tim Bragg

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