Little Boy Blue, Come Play Your Drums

Drums_Set.jpgIf this were a movie, the prologue would be set about thirty years ago, with an elementary-aged boy (not to give too much away, but it's me) playing an organ. It's an electronic organ -- not anything funky like a Hammond B-3, but a full-fledged organ with two rows of keys, pedals, stops, and foot pedals for the volume. What makes this scene slightly more remarkable is that I'm doing it at home on an organ that my dad built.

That's right, my dad built an organ.

It was from a kit, and I don't remember much of its construction. But I remember taking lessons, all the way through high school and three cross-country moves. At some point -- probably after I went off to college and my family was prepping for a fourth long-distance move -- we donated it to a church and aside from staying in the sanctuary until the organist finishes the postlude and an irrational appreciation of Saint-Saens' Symphony #3, I don't travel much in the organ world anymore. And I never picked up much of my dad's engineering skills. (His graduate degree = nuclear physics. Mine = not.)

Roll opening credits, flash forward thirty years. We've noticed that Little Boy Blue spends a lot of time drumming. With his silverware at the dinner table, with his toothbrushes in the bathroom. (It's not for nothing that we put "D Is For Drums" on his birthday playlist.) "Let's get him a drum set for his birthday," I say. "You should make him one," my wife says.

Now perhaps this sprang from having recently seen Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem in concert here in town. Rani's husband, drummer Scott Kessel, doesn't play on a standard trap kit -- he calls his set the "Drumship Enterprise" and it's entirely made of recycled materials. You can watch them in concert at Kindiefest here -- yes, that's a suitcase being used as the kick drum. It sounds pretty awesome, actually.

Or maybe we were just trying to save money and find something that wouldn't echo through the house like a full-fledged set would. I don't know, but in any case, I started collecting boxes and other recycled materials for use as a drum set.
Drums_CenterWithCymbal.jpgThis is the center of the set -- a big cardboard box sitting on some wooden legs that were once curtain rod holders attached to the box with duct tape. (Technically, and brand-ically speaking, Duck Tape.) On the top is an additional round piece of cardboard meant to be the actual drum head, attached with duct tape. On the side is a poster tube attached to the box via velcro with a Marie Callendar's pie tin playing the role of cymbal via a pencil poked through. If you want to do this yourself, the cheap puns (see below) are optional.


Drums_Bass.jpgI call this a "bass drum," but the truth is I don't really know what to call this. I knew I wasn't going to attempt to build a kick drum, so I wanted to build another drum that would offer a different drumming approach. I took another cardboard box, put a flat cardboard box on top of it and tilted it a bit using another couple curtain rod holders. I should note, by the way, that duct tape was selected by Little Boy Blue himself, though of course he had no idea why. That "tie-dye" version is kinda cool.

Drums_Bottles_Pots.jpgFinally, I knew I wanted some different drumming sounds, and this milk container, soda bottle (a very rare occurrence in our household, to be honest), and old flowerpots, attached again via velcro, did the trick. I used velcro in cases where I thought it was possible that the drum material (e.g., the gallon of milk) would degrade over time or where we might want to swap something out in the future. That's right, folks, this thing is modular.

And there you go. Total cost of the project was around ten bucks, and that includes the five-dollar pair of junior drum sticks from the music store down the street. We'll see how long Little Boy Blue plays with it, but yesterday morning he kept saying "I can't believe it..." and he was duetting with his sister as she played "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the piano this morning.

But no way am I building them an organ.