Although they may sound unusual, brushes provide the sound you hear when you’re listening to drummers, both live and on a record.
In this article, I will explain to you why I, as a percussionist, use a pair of sticks to play riffs. Let’s do this!
Classical musicians also use brushes
Musicians as diverse as Modest Mussorgsky and Bartok, Maurice Ravel, and Miles Davis have used brushes in classical music. Some of these compositions are listed below:
- Have a listen to Maurice Ravel’s piano work, titled “Ballade for Two Pianos and Percussion.” The soloist, Moishe Oc-Balanoff, also uses brushes in the piece.
- Look at how Bartok’s piano composition, “Romance,” is arranged. The strings have clearly been played using sticks, and the percussion is done with brushes.
- Notice the section of Maurice Ravel’s masterpiece, “Tzigane”, that has been altered to use a brush.
- Brushes primarily perform the beat in this piece.
- Notice the orchestration of the most famous classical piece, “Symphonie Espagnole”, by Debussy. This piece also contains very prominent brushwork.
Some of the world’s greatest composers have used brushes as a central part of their pieces. However, they do not apply the traditional play position of the sticks to the skins.
Why would someone want to buy an ax? It is a complex, albeit aesthetically beautiful, instrument.
When I began experimenting with drum sets, it was mainly because I wanted to have a solid, portable set of instruments.
The hammer-on/pull-off technique, drum rolls, and syncopated fills were all being done with sticks, not by the hair from your head.
For many, a brush is an acceptable and simpler way to add your drum set’s tempo and complexity. I want to use this medium to provide you with facts and figures.
Brushes are faster than axon instruments, especially when it comes to side one and side two hits. To put it simply, I can hit the floor with a brush quicker than an axon drum stick.
In comparison, an ax can be slow to get off the floor, whereas a stick can be simple and fast to manipulate.
Once you get the hang of brushes, you can play beats quicker than you can on an ax.
With these figures in mind, you can then understand why stick players use brushes more often than ax players.
Brushes are accepted in drums
If you have tried out some sticks or are already using some sticks, you will have noticed that sticks are regarded as the lowest of the low in percussion. This is mainly because of their perceived awkwardness and lack of maintenance.
However, with a simple stick manufacturer change, you can change this perception and increase your versatility.
What’s more, with the popularity of drum kits, there is now much more room for creativity in drumming. Thus, drummers and stick players are finding it easier to use their sticks to perform riffs because other artists are also doing the same.
Even the world’s best musicians are recognizing that brushes and riffs are being used more and more on the drum kit. The last two Grammy’s in the Best Contemporary Instrumental category have been won by drummers, including Billy Cobham and John Bonham.
There are multiple reasons why an ax is more difficult to play than a brush.
The handle of an ax is traditionally made of wood and is not soft. I can easily imagine the feel of a blunt wood handle on a blunt instrument being very difficult to adapt.
I’m sure it took years of practice before someone like John Bonham could get used to using an ax without a soft handle.
The other reason why an ax is difficult to control is that the string is usually not strong enough to allow the player to pull the stick with the string. I know many drummers who use ax heads to move the sticks every time a drumhead is changed.
With a brush, you do not need to adjust the string position. This makes controlling the stick much easier and quicker than using an ax.
Another thing that makes brushes much quicker to use is the fact that the sticks are round. These rounded heads sit against the skin much easier compared to flatheads.
I can control my ax’s sound with my arm and feel it much more than a round head, which is much easier to grab.
Brushes support the bass drums
We have all seen images of drummers hammering away at their bass drums with their brushes, but what is less understood is that because brushes sit close to the skin, the bass drum can then be played much easier.
It may seem strange, but a lot of drummers are actually using their sticks to play their bass drum as well as their snare.
For instance, The Edge used a bass drum stand for a long time but has now begun using a brush to play the bass drum because the drum is sitting directly against the skin, and his sticks are perfectly placed to control the sound.
When players use brushes to play their bass drums, it provides a nice contrast with the slightly darker tone of the drums. This is because a wooden stick will slightly darken a brass or silver plate to an even level.
If you can, try out a brush and your bass drums to see how much easier and more enjoyable it is to play.
Although many drummers rely on traditional ax heads to perform rhythms, many more modern players choose to use brushes. This is because brush heads are extremely cheap.
I have seen hundreds of brushes being sold in supermarkets for only a couple of pounds. A drum kit of some of the top-selling Axon drums can cost hundreds of pounds.
In fact, a £250 bass drum kit can be replaced by a set of extremely cheap brushes for around £20!
An ax head may last you years, but a good quality brush can be replaced in a couple of years when using them regularly.
Brushes are easier to store
In the past, drummers would place their brushes between their legs for storage. However, with the invention of stored underneath drawers, drummers can now keep their brushes in a much more protected and organized place.
Although Axons can fit underneath your drummer’s seat, many drummers find this a little difficult to access because the drum’s tip is only about 5cm (2 inches).