Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Visit To A Toy Factory

I have a wee dilemma. When I play with brushes (which is quite a lot these days) I occasionally want some real attack. So I was intrigued when I saw Headhunters' new line of strange drum brushes. To be honest, my first impression was that they were perhaps mainly a gimmick. So I contacted Dave Rundle at Headhunters to arrange a factory tour and to discuss these radical looking implements.

I've actually been using Headhunters sticks since long before they became Headhunters (does the name Kirkwood ring a bell?) and although I'd visited the Headhunters shop a couple of years ago when they were just getting into 'exotics', I was still in for quite a treat and an education.

Dave is quite a gear head when it comes to discovering ways to hit things. If it can possibly be used to strike a drum, he's either tried it or is about to. The evidence is in the racks, boxes and baskets filled with prototypes, experiments and oddities. From out of Dave’s curiosity and creativity have come some products that should be in every percussionist's stick bag. The new products are so radical that the company is modifying its slogan. While the traditional sticks will still be known as “The stick with the groove”, Dave feels the new slogan is a better fit:  “Advancing Designs for Creative Drummers”.

Brushes, brushes and more brushes
I'm quite fond of my Headhunters Jazz Brushes, except for the lack of cymbal articulation, so I was curious about brushes with things attached. I was mainly interested in the Dream Catchers: non-retractable brushes with a loop of nylon rod transversing the wires. If you're looking for brushes with more oomph, these may be just the thing. I think the heavy duty model would be a must for country shuffles. There are three styles of Dream Catcher, all of them adjustable. Impressive, but not quite what I was looking for (tho' I do own a pair).

Next I tried the Saber Tooth. These have two adjustable rods extending to the sides of the wires, each with a small nylon ball near the tip. All I can say is you've got to try them. Never have brushes had so many sounds available and with pin-point articulation.

I finally settled on the Cyclops model, which has a single, adjustable rod with a ball end poised in the middle of the wire spread (without the ball it’s called a Rhino).  I took these out on a gig and was floored by what they can do.

Rather than try to describe Headhunters’ cross-over designs, here’s a video from Jeff Salem that does an excellent job of presenting them:

Cajon Creations
Many of the brush and multi-rod designs have been adapted to accommodate the needs of cajon players. One distinctive option is a sponge-rubber beater ball. These have been added to sticks, brushes, rods and cross-overs, and the variety of sounds available is astounding.  The sound possibilities are awesome plus they reduce wear and tear on the hands. If cajon is your thing, you've got to check out these products! Oh, and you can have jingles too. How about ‘the works’: bundled nylon rods with a sponge ball and jingles in the middle?

Mere words really are inadequate for describing the wealth of possibilities lurking in these creations and it would be easy to write a lengthy post on each one, but I think a better use of your time would be to get out there and try some of them. Life is too short to use a single tool for hitting things.

Headhunters brush Creations (L to R) Cyclops, Dreamcatcher, Rhino, Sabretooth.

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