DROPPING and BREAKING STICKS: PANIC!

CC Cirillo

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A band mate shared a video of us playing a cover at a backyard casual last summer. Well, in the video she shared with me I broke a stick and had to grab another. I remember at the time it happened just feeling a sense of panic, like I’d totally lost the beat. But in the video I think I just toss a stick and come right back in without tearing out too much guardrail. I asked the bassist if she’d even noticed and she had not.

The lesson here for me is how in the moment with all that adrenaline and fear my sense of time is elongated. It seemed as it was happening that the entire song had been compromised. I’ve come to realize that the world in those situations is elongated to 60 BPM while one struggles, but the actual song is clipping at 100 BPM. Plenty of time to self-correct without scraping any paint, maybe just a little skid.

It made me think of other times, many, but these stand out:


Years ago my old funk band did a live video cast at a recording/AV college, Expressions, in the Bay Area. The deal was you’d play on their soundstage and students would record you and video tape you and do a live feed on their website or something. So the band would get that free promo stuff and a free recording out of it. Only catch is it’s all live with no second takes and cameras all around Boom you start and boom off you go for 45 minutes with no second chance. Welp: On our very last song, our best, a gospel cut time feel that gets loud and starts to testify at the end…I drop a stick.
I drop a stick at 125 BPM 2/4, last four bars of the song, it’s apex, with the B3 cranking up to tornado velocity and the horns doing a shout chorus. Absolutely no time to pick up another stick and I play the last four bars one handed, high-hat to snare. It did not fall apart but I think it took a few years off my drumming life. I was able to grab another stick for the trashcan.

Afterwards the school gave us a rough mix and we all listened to it on nice speakers. I confessed my error before it played: “I just want to warn you I dropped a stick on Praise the Lard. We’re probably going to have to dump the song.” Might was well, confess....Those guys had sharp ears and—while brotherly—would certainly let you know if you messed up. We had a conguero in the group who also played kit, the bassist was a drummer, and the guitarist used to be a drummer. Afterward they asked me: “Where’d you drop your stick?” …I told them…we played back the ending. They looked at me blankly: “We don’t hear anything.” They heard the linear hi-hat on the one and the snare on the back beat…so there wasn’t anything “wrong”. Again, during the song when it happened, under the cameras and lights and mics I was dying. But in the end it was ok. Not our best but good enough for government work.

In my very first bar band at 18 I dropped a stick during a song and—novice that I was—had to keep time on the bass drum while I placed down my remaining stick and used two hands to unzip my bag because I had no sticks out. (Yep, I did that.) Between sets the singer (first band crush) told me she loved how I did a break down on that song and insisted we keep in going forward.


I’m still dropping and breaking and learning to self-correct, but at least I now have a spare stick or two handy.
 

Dumpy

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I was a surf wax and multiple stick holder guy when I was last gigging. Yes- I had stick holders on both sides of the kit. I actually would practice how to recover from dropping or breaking sticks because I feared it so much to the point where it was seamless. The surf wax helped me keep grip, and the stick holders were those PVC tubes with a rubber nipple at the end and could be mounted onto hardware.

If nobody noticed, then it seems you can improvise.
 

fun2drum

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I was a surf wax and multiple stick holder guy when I was last gigging....The surf wax helped me keep grip.
Yes on the surf wax. I've been using surf wax on my sticks for several years and it's been a game-changer for me. I play with a very loose grip, but sometimes there's a fine line between loose grip and lose stick, lol. It's amazing how a little surf wax on the stick keeps them in my hands without feeling like there's anything foreign on them. I used to drop a stick at least once in every gig, but now it's rarely ever.

The good thing about dropping sticks so often was that I got very good at recovering without anyone noticing. Unfortunately now our bass player is very in tune with what's going on behind my drums and if I do drop a stick, no matter how smooth my recovery, he sees it and immediately bursts out laughing.
 

Dumpy

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Yes on the surf wax. I've been using surf wax on my sticks for several years and it's been a game-changer for me. I play with a very loose grip, but sometimes there's a fine line between loose grip and lose stick, lol. It's amazing how a little surf wax on the stick keeps them in my hands without feeling like there's anything foreign on them. I used to drop a stick at least once in every gig, but now it's rarely ever.

The good thing about dropping sticks so often was that I got very good at recovering without anyone noticing. Unfortunately now our bass player is very in tune with what's going on behind my drums and if I do drop a stick, no matter how smooth my recovery, he sees it and immediately bursts out laughing.
There is that, meaning people knowing when you drop a stick, a.k.a. your behind baseball moments. My last gigging band was so not fun that nobody laughed at anything! It took a few years to get over that situation, and now I can look back and see how comical our “no humor band“ was LOL

I use a trick when I wax my sticks: I heat the stick a bit with a heat gun and put the wax on. It’s the reverse of how I wax the tape on my forward sticks when I play hockey. Some wax to keep snow off; I wax to pick up the puck for a lacrosse-style goal, because the way I melt the wax makes my blade extremely tacky! Sex Wax (I hate the name, btw) truly has multiple purposes!
 

Polska

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Most of the time we make far too big a deal of it, myself included. Unless I'm recording, playing a showcase, or opening for a national act - if it's just a normal gig, no one cares. Be lucky if one person notices. It's good practice to be able to recover quickly so the band keeps chugging along, and that can be tough if it's a complicated or busy song, but as far as embarrassment no one is paying attention.

I've been using Working Hands which you can get at grocery stores and Target and such. $6. A little bit keeps some grip and keeps my hands from drying out. Win-win.

WH.jpg
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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I use a trick when I wax my sticks: I heat the stick a bit with a heat gun and put the wax on. It’s the reverse of how I wax the tape on my forward sticks when I play hockey. Some wax to keep snow off; I wax to pick up the puck for a lacrosse-style goal, because the way I melt the wax makes my blade extremely tacky! Sex Wax (I hate the name, btw) truly has multiple purposes!
[/QUOTE]

Yeah... I used to drop/break sticks like crazy. At my first few gigs it was something like 2-3 times per set. I once stupidly tried super tacky Hockey cloth tape, the kind with adhesive on both sides, on my drumsticks a while back... I ended up with the worst blistered hands EVER!!! Didn't drop them once though. I could extend my arm with my open palm perpendicular to the ground, put a drumstick in there without closing my grip at all, and the stick would hold there.

Like in that Jerry Lee Lewis song: Come on everybody, a whole lotta shaffing goin' on....
 

mcjaco

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We had a gig right before the pandemic closed the whole thing down. Finished our closer/encore, and I folded up my throne, and packed it up.

The crowd wanted more. I panicked for a brief moment, that seemed like hours, as our lead guitar player went into "Sweet Home Alabama" (I know, roll your eyes, but it's a huge crowd pleaser). I looked around, and just started playing my kit standing up. People went crazy. Talk about lemons into lemonade. Now the band wants me to do it at the end of every show. LOL
 

greegor

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Way back when I was in a southern rock band. We were playing Highway Song by Blackfoot. About the middle of the ending, where it keeps heating up to a frenzy, I launch a stick square into the guitarists back. I stop with a shocked look on my face. He stops, turns around looking like he wants to kill, and the crowd starts laughing hysterically. At that point we didn't even try to end the song. I felt humiliated, but we had a good laugh after the show. Yup, sheeet happens.
 

Dumpy

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I use a trick when I wax my sticks: I heat the stick a bit with a heat gun and put the wax on. It’s the reverse of how I wax the tape on my forward sticks when I play hockey. Some wax to keep snow off; I wax to pick up the puck for a lacrosse-style goal, because the way I melt the wax makes my blade extremely tacky! Sex Wax (I hate the name, btw) truly has multiple purposes!
Yeah... I used to drop/break sticks like crazy. At my first few gigs it was something like 2-3 times per set. I once stupidly tried super tacky Hockey cloth tape, the kind with adhesive on both sides, on my drumsticks a while back... I ended up with the worst blistered hands EVER!!! Didn't drop them once though. I could extend my arm with my open palm perpendicular to the ground, put a drumstick in there without closing my grip at all, and the stick would hold there.

Like in that Jerry Lee Lewis song: Come on everybody, a whole lotta shaffing goin' on....
[/QUOTE]

Friction tape causing some real friction!

My goalie partner (I mainly play goal) used friction tape near the paddle and would ask why his blocker palm was getting destroyed! That’s when I told him about horse hide palms! Friction tape ain’t no joke, that’s for sure!
 

Dave HCV

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Even the best drop sticks occasionally. The event is at 6:12...


Recovery is everything.
 

Rufus T Firefly

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I hold my sticks very loosely toward the butt end of the stick. I'm able to play more relaxed when they are loose. Unfortunately that leaves me prone to dropping more sticks than otherwise. I wrap the ends of my sticks with a good ring of electrical tape. It kinda acts like a warning track in baseball; when my middle finger hits the tape, its time to slide up on the stick a bit. I keep sticks on both sides of me and have gotten pretty good at grabbing a replacement without missing a beat. Recently I dropped both sticks at the same time (1st time ever) and the soundman saw the whole thing. He came up to afterwards and told me he couldn't believe I dropped both sticks and didn't miss a beat. He said I looked like a gunslinger pulling two six shooters from their holsters. LOL.

IMG_3303.jpg
 

DamnSingerAlsoDrums

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I hold my sticks very loosely toward the butt end of the stick. I'm able to play more relaxed when they are loose. Unfortunately that leaves me prone to dropping more sticks than otherwise. I wrap the ends of my sticks with a good ring of electrical tape. It kinda acts like a warning track in baseball; when my middle finger hits the tape, its time to slide up on the stick a bit. I keep sticks on both sides of me and have gotten pretty good at grabbing a replacement without missing a beat. Recently I dropped both sticks at the same time (1st time ever) and the soundman saw the whole thing. He came up to afterwards and told me he couldn't believe I dropped both sticks and didn't miss a beat. He said I looked like a gunslinger pulling two six shooters from their holsters. LOL.

View attachment 456983
Perfect opportunity to seamlessly transition into Bonzo's Mobby Dick hand solo. ;-)
 

NobleCooleyNut

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I will drop a stick occasionally - my hands don’t sweat so mist sticks from the major manufacturers are slippery to me . Regal Tip finish has been a godsend for me . It gets tackier as it heats up and allows me to keep my grip relaxed .
I also use a stick palette on my floor tom with a super pair of sticks and brushes on it . Very easy to replace a dropped stick quickly . I have found that I rarely drop the stick in my left hand . Anytime I drop a stick it is from my right hand. With the stick palette on. Y floor tom , I can easily reach a replacement stick ( or transition to brushes ) quickly .
 

BennyK

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Happens to me sometimes when I've switched to a heavy ride .
 

drumgadget

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Used to break nylon-tipped 5As on a regular basis ...... playing rock covers with spotty reinforcement, always on the heavy pingy ride cymbal. I'll never forget being hit up for the shanks of my broken sticks after a set at the local penitentiary ......... the guards were, shall we say, not thrilled with this ........ !

Now I have the problem of catching the tip of my right stick under the low-mounted main ride cymbal hovering a few inches above the front of the floor tom rim. I use a very loose grip with my right hand; the stick almost floats between my palm and fingers. And my execution around the drums at speed leaves much to be desired. I'm playing jazz ..... soft jazz ...... almost exclusively now. The only good thing ...... ? I've gotten pretty good at catching the stick in mid-air .......... but sometimes, it comes down butt end out; not ideal for up-tempo spang-a-lang!

Mike
 


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