Saturday, January 12, 2008

When a good tuning goes bad

Yesterday I was so excited and anxious about our big debut at Black Rep I couldn't eat. In the morning I went to the gym and worked out. Later Sidy came by for my lesson and tuned his drum while I played all my Sounou parts for him.

The drum tuning was interesting. Instead of two ropes at a time, he was pulling in sets of three. He explained that this was because he was tuning a cowhide, which needs to be much tighter to sound right. At one point I asked him if I could try pulling the rope.

"I don't think you can do it." he said.

But he pushed the drum towards me on the floor. I took off my shoes and held the drum with my feet. Because of the triple rope, you actually have to pull the rope through in two stages. I wrapped the rope around a metal tool, like Sidy showed me, then leaned back into my chair, bracing the drum with my feet. The first two ropes snapped into position. But the second two simply wouldn't budge. I leaned back harder and realized that if I pulled too hard I might hurt myself.

While I was playing, Sidy pulled an entire row of the three rope diamonds. Then he tested the drum and decided it still wasn't tight enough, so he started on a second row. Each diamond makes the whole operation progressively harder. By the end, I really can't believe how strong he has to be to make it work.

All this time I was playing my parts, working the transitions, practicing the breaks. Now and then he'd take his drum and play a bit for me to show me what I was doing wrong. Then he'd go back to pulling more diamonds.

All of a sudden, there was a terrible snap sound. At first I thought his rope broke, but soon realized that he had put so much pressure on the drum the bottom iron ring actually snapped apart. The welded seam gave way.

Oh no! Suddenly, Sidy was without a tuned drum for the show last night. So of course I gave him mine. He tuned it up a bit higher (assuring me he wouldn't break it!) and at the end it sounded high and crisp and very tight.

I have asked Sidy in the past if I could help him rehead a drum sometime. After yesterday, I am not sure I will be physically strong enough to do it. But if it is anything like the tuning, I would love to see it.

No comments: