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Bang the Drum, Loudly

The shop sits at the end of a long row of industrial mini-warehouses off Mission Gorge in Grantville, a good thing when you consider their line of business: drums. Jon Oren, the general manager, hands a visitor a pair of sticks and why not? Out here, across from the trolley station and fronting a major freeway there won’t be any noise complaints, not even from the guy drilling sheet metal a few doors away.

“The best thing going right now,” Oren says, “are these Chinese cymbals.” There is a sound-proof studio full of them at the San Diego Drum Shop, and he’s right on about their quality. For the most part, the lesser-priced Chinese cymbals mimic their more expensive Turkish cousins.

“Drummers are in a never-ending quest for the perfect cymbal.” Oren describes the average drummer’s search for the perfect cymbal in terms like Holy Grail and cymbal nirvana. “They go after them like crazy. Once you’ve heard something you like, you’ve gotta have it.”

It turns out that cymbals were invented in China. “The Chinese were the first to work with bronze and turn it into something you could hit.” Oren says that much of the cymbal work in early China otherwise sounded horrid and was used in religious ceremonies.

Turkish cymbals, on the other hand, were secular in origin. They began life as shields to be used by infantry.

“As they were being worked in the shops, the shields rang out.” Therefore, the beautiful cymbals used in jazz and rock, he says, were a product of war. This fact may account for the lust that a large number of drummers have in common for bona fide Turkish bronze, and the older the better.

The San Diego Drum Shop started as the end result of a road trip. Paul Scott, of North County, who is not a drummer but is instead a bassist took his son Chris on a cross-country driving tour of drum retail and build shops. When it was over, the elder Scott returned to San Diego, found a location, and financed the drum shop for his son. But retail was not Chris Scott’s métier and he quit to run a rehearsal facility next door where the walls have been triple-insulated so that multiple drummers can pound the skins without disturbing each other or anyone else.

Standard issue drum kits in a rainbow of glitter finishes, made by Gretsch and Sonor and DW and Ludwig are stacked in the shop floor to ceiling. There are lesser known makes as well in the showroom, including Page drums. Invented and manufactured by David, uncle to a local singer/songwriter named Gregory Page, the distinctive design was perfected when Page the uncle lived in North Park. He now lives near the La Mesa/Lemon Grove border and his drums are manufactured in Los Angeles.

But surely the hardest part about being a drummer, second to learning to operate each extremity independently of the other has got to be in the finding a of a place where one can cut loose and practice without disturbing the peace, which is to say impossible. For years, a local drummer solved the noise problem by setting up his entire kit under the Friars Road /Mission Center Road overpass weekday evenings during spring and summer. His hammering was barely heard over traffic.

Then there is Kofi (son of Ginger) Baker, who once lived in an industrial shop in Orange County with his girlfriend Cinnamon and his mammoth kit. The shop was outfitted with a sleeping loft and a couch and a stove and was located right next to an auto body shop. Oren gives a knowing smile.

“Our practice rooms next door are beginning to pay off.”

There was another such drum-centric music store in Vista, but it closed to the public. “When they shut down, it created a huge vacuum.” The single most reliable source of new customers for the San Diego Drum Shop is the big-box music discounter Guitar Center. Oren says an investment group headed by Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney bought the chain and promptly drove it to new lows in customer service. “A lot of working drummers don’t want to run the Guitar Center gauntlet.”

These days Oren describes the shop (he drums with Roman Holiday and Gypsy Jazz guitarist Patrick Berrogain ) as something of a community center for drummers. Tuesday evenings, percussionists of every stripe are invited to try out new gear, or to have drum-offs with their contemporaries, or to lie about and watch old drummer videos on the wide screen plasma in the office.

“It’s like bowling,” he says, “but for drummers.” Image

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The shop sits at the end of a long row of industrial mini-warehouses off Mission Gorge in Grantville, a good thing when you consider their line of business: drums. Jon Oren, the general manager, hands a visitor a pair of sticks and why not? Out here, across from the trolley station and fronting a major freeway there won’t be any noise complaints, not even from the guy drilling sheet metal a few doors away.

“The best thing going right now,” Oren says, “are these Chinese cymbals.” There is a sound-proof studio full of them at the San Diego Drum Shop, and he’s right on about their quality. For the most part, the lesser-priced Chinese cymbals mimic their more expensive Turkish cousins.

“Drummers are in a never-ending quest for the perfect cymbal.” Oren describes the average drummer’s search for the perfect cymbal in terms like Holy Grail and cymbal nirvana. “They go after them like crazy. Once you’ve heard something you like, you’ve gotta have it.”

It turns out that cymbals were invented in China. “The Chinese were the first to work with bronze and turn it into something you could hit.” Oren says that much of the cymbal work in early China otherwise sounded horrid and was used in religious ceremonies.

Turkish cymbals, on the other hand, were secular in origin. They began life as shields to be used by infantry.

“As they were being worked in the shops, the shields rang out.” Therefore, the beautiful cymbals used in jazz and rock, he says, were a product of war. This fact may account for the lust that a large number of drummers have in common for bona fide Turkish bronze, and the older the better.

The San Diego Drum Shop started as the end result of a road trip. Paul Scott, of North County, who is not a drummer but is instead a bassist took his son Chris on a cross-country driving tour of drum retail and build shops. When it was over, the elder Scott returned to San Diego, found a location, and financed the drum shop for his son. But retail was not Chris Scott’s métier and he quit to run a rehearsal facility next door where the walls have been triple-insulated so that multiple drummers can pound the skins without disturbing each other or anyone else.

Standard issue drum kits in a rainbow of glitter finishes, made by Gretsch and Sonor and DW and Ludwig are stacked in the shop floor to ceiling. There are lesser known makes as well in the showroom, including Page drums. Invented and manufactured by David, uncle to a local singer/songwriter named Gregory Page, the distinctive design was perfected when Page the uncle lived in North Park. He now lives near the La Mesa/Lemon Grove border and his drums are manufactured in Los Angeles.

But surely the hardest part about being a drummer, second to learning to operate each extremity independently of the other has got to be in the finding a of a place where one can cut loose and practice without disturbing the peace, which is to say impossible. For years, a local drummer solved the noise problem by setting up his entire kit under the Friars Road /Mission Center Road overpass weekday evenings during spring and summer. His hammering was barely heard over traffic.

Then there is Kofi (son of Ginger) Baker, who once lived in an industrial shop in Orange County with his girlfriend Cinnamon and his mammoth kit. The shop was outfitted with a sleeping loft and a couch and a stove and was located right next to an auto body shop. Oren gives a knowing smile.

“Our practice rooms next door are beginning to pay off.”

There was another such drum-centric music store in Vista, but it closed to the public. “When they shut down, it created a huge vacuum.” The single most reliable source of new customers for the San Diego Drum Shop is the big-box music discounter Guitar Center. Oren says an investment group headed by Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney bought the chain and promptly drove it to new lows in customer service. “A lot of working drummers don’t want to run the Guitar Center gauntlet.”

These days Oren describes the shop (he drums with Roman Holiday and Gypsy Jazz guitarist Patrick Berrogain ) as something of a community center for drummers. Tuesday evenings, percussionists of every stripe are invited to try out new gear, or to have drum-offs with their contemporaries, or to lie about and watch old drummer videos on the wide screen plasma in the office.

“It’s like bowling,” he says, “but for drummers.” Image

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