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1919 dance band percussionist -- how would I find one?

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  • 1919 dance band percussionist -- how would I find one?

    My singing partner and I have been hired to put together a show of World War I music; we both sing and I play piano. We've decided to pretend we are doing a gig in 1918 an will sing material from the 1800s right up to 1918 but no later with a focus on the previous twenty years or so.

    We'll be a duo but there's money for an extra something. We had a barbershop quartet lined up but had to change dates and lost them. Someone suggested adding drums, so I'm looking into it and here are some considerations:

    1) we can't use someone on the modern kit, which was developed in the 20s (the hi hat was invented in the 20s so it's not an option either)
    2) the player will either know the material already or will have some listening to do to get it right
    3) the player will need era-appropriate stuff like they had in this photo from 1921 -- probably much simpler since we're just piano and voice



    We live in a small town and I'm pretty sure that person doesn't live here. We're close, though, to Kingston Ontario, which is a small city and may have somebody like that. How does a fella seek out a specialty drummer? Any suggestions?
    Last edited by pogo97; 05-29-2014, 03:12 PM.
    Hi Mom!

  • #2
    Question is, if the drums have to era specific, does the piano? Getting an old set is not only hard to find, they are either ins such bad shape they are unplayable or a museum piece. I think you better figure out if you want the music played well or you want stage props.

    Its very difficult to have both instruments and the music correct. I think it should be the music myself. Having good horn players is key to allot of music written back then. Drums alone wont make up for not having them and I'm not sure a piano alone would do the trick.

    If you use synths, you could do the horn parts, bit you're back to weather you produce realistic music or putting on show to look like you're sounding era specific. Get the music first, then worry about the looks.

    Even movies, like the Music Man used new modern instruments because they would have been modern during that time era. It was the acting music and costumes that made it appear you were reliving that era.

    In this pick, the instrument are just beat to crap held together with duct tape. If those guys could have afforded new instruments I'm sure they would have been using then instead of some old Junkers. What I see in that photo is poor men playing well with what ever they could get their hand on.

    If that's what you want, then fine. Buy some drums and put a blow torch on them so they look like crap. If you want something era correct, you'd have to find a better cross section of the orchestras of that time. Not all jazz players looked like street bums. Allot of the music was a mix of marching band and all ethnic groups.

    Jazz was still very small in comparison because the black population was so suppressed and poor. Many national popular tunes of the time came from stage productions or marching bands. Cohan was a big contributor to many of the hits then and that's why many tunes had that Irish overtone to it. Those songs probably weren't played by the guys in those photos unless they got a hold of some sheet music and could actually read it.

    Jazz took off more in the 30's in all the speak easies and 40's when big bands started making it popular with the masses. In the 20's, people would hear music backing big stage shows, small clubs with pit orchestras or bars that could afford maybe one piano player. Any hits were usually part of a show many people would see in the bigger cities. There weren't any recordings until Edison came along so music was still pretty much for those who could either pay to hear it or for those affluent enough to purchase instrument and learn how to read and play them. The common working man working in a factory or field unlikely had the time or money to buy instruments or have the time to learn to play them. They usually made their own and played music by ear only. Again something like Hillbilly/music was around, to entertain the locals but little of it became nationally popular because they couldn't score, market, record or broadcast the music. Once radio and recordings were possible, that all changed.
    Last edited by WRGKMC; 05-29-2014, 04:42 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by WRGKMC View Post
      Question is, if the drums have to era specific, does the piano? . . .
      If the venue had an acoustic piano we'd use it. I'll have to bring in a digital piano, which kinda sucks. (I have two pre-1919 uprights at home, but portable they are not). However, my playing and the piano sound I use will be as close to era as I can achieve.

      Most of the vocal recordings I've listened to pre-1919 (I've listened to hundreds) have either solo piano backing or brass band with either no piano or inaudible piano. So adding drums is a bit sketchy to start. But if I'm going to add them, they absolutely have to sound right or it's just going to piss me off rather than make me happy. I don't mind the instrumentation being quirky -- that may have been pretty common* -- but I see no reason at all to make it inauthentic.

      * "I thought I could hear the curious tone of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
      Fiddle, ‘cello, big bass drum, bassoon, flute and euphonium
      Far away, as in a trance I heard the sound of the Floral Dance"

      or

      "When the drums go bang, the cymbals clang, the horns will blaze away,
      MacCarthy puffs the ould bassoon while Doyle the pipes will play;
      Oh! Hennessy Tennessy tootles the flute, my word ‘tis something grand,
      Oh! a credit to Ould Ireland, boys, is McNamara’s Band!"
      Last edited by pogo97; 05-29-2014, 04:25 PM.
      Hi Mom!

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      • #4
        strange, your desire to achieve authentic percussion while yourself using a keyboard.

        imo, a suitcase set and the right attitude would come close.

        focus on the drummer, not the gear.
        Last edited by cdawg; 05-29-2014, 05:08 PM.
        i miss you, mark
        r.i.p. rudy

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by pogo97 View Post
          My singing partner and I have been hired to put together a show of World War I music; we both sing and I play piano. We've decided to pretend we are doing a gig in 1918 an will sing material from the 1800s right up to 1918 but no later with a focus on the previous twenty years or so.

          We'll be a duo but there's money for an extra something. We had a barbershop quartet lined up but had to change dates and lost them. Someone suggested adding drums, so I'm looking into it and here are some considerations:

          1) we can't use someone on the modern kit, which was developed in the 20s (the hi hat was invented in the 20s so it's not an option either)
          2) the player will either know the material already or will have some listening to do to get it right
          3) the player will need era-appropriate stuff like they had in this photo from 1921 -- probably much simpler since we're just piano and voice



          We live in a small town and I'm pretty sure that person doesn't live here. We're close, though, to Kingston Ontario, which is a small city and may have somebody like that. How does a fella seek out a specialty drummer? Any suggestions?

          I kind of have to agree. You can achieve the same affect by using modern components. Finding a cowbell for 1919 may be a bit of a challenge!
          If you are using a digital piano, why not let the drummer just use a bass drum, snare drum, mounted cymbal, wood block, and cowbell. (no matter the era of the instrument)?

          D
          Bringing the Harmony back to Harmony Central

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by cdawg View Post
            strange, your desire to achieve authentic percussion while yourself using a keyboard.

            imo, a suitcase set and the right attitude would come close.

            focus on the drummer, not the gear.
            Agreed--attitude is the key. The equipment description was only to underline that this isn't just another kit job. I've had bad experiences with drummers who think that they can drop in for one rehearsal and cover when I've spent months working on material and execution. (Hint: they were wrong.)

            At any rate, there's no choice about the keyboard--moving and re-tuning my piano would cost about triple what we're getting paid. I don't demand antique equipment; I would, though, demand that the percussionist be familiar with and sympathetic to the genre we're working in -- including being willing to work within the equipment limitations/differences of the time.

            Here, again, was the important paragraph in the original post:

            We live in a small town and I'm pretty sure that person doesn't live here. We're close, though, to Kingston Ontario, which is a small city and may have somebody like that. How does a fella seek out a specialty drummer? Any suggestions?
            Hi Mom!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dendy Jarrett View Post
              If you are using a digital piano, why not let the drummer just use a bass drum, snare drum, mounted cymbal, wood block, and cowbell. (no matter the era of the instrument)?
              Took the words out of my mouth! I think a show drummer would welcome this experience, but no one is cracking out their museum-era gear for a gig. Ask around in the musical circles.

              Music, music, I hear music

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