It’s All About That Beat: Women and Drumming

As a woman, I thought it appropriate to open this blog with how it relates to the research work I’ve done with metal music and gender. It is, after-all, what got me inspired and brave enough to think about drumming as a recreational hobby.

It was back in 2009-2010 that I picked up a copy of She Shreds – a Pacific North West magazine that focuses on female guitarists & bassists in the music world. My husband and I had found a copy of it in a tiny little art store in Portland, OR while vacationing and thought it was cool to see its focus on female musicians. If you’ve noticed, commercial magazines worldwide tend to focus on male musicians and only have “special” issues devoted to female musicians, where the women are often foregrounded in sexualized ways. So, in my mind, seeing a magazine focused on women musicians was refreshing.

At the same time, I was marinating ideas on what to research for my final thesis in graduate school. I had gotten the Ethnomusicology bug and was itching to study music and subculture. And, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a copy of Tom Tom Magazine at the same time as She Shreds when I got back to NY.

Through talks with my husband about gender and music, it became a matter of inquiry for me to research how women in the tri-state area participate in the local EMM (extreme metal music) scene. From my fieldwork, I ended up meeting my fair share of female musicians with a surprising number of them identifying as drummers. This was something that I knew happened, but not a lot. At the time, I couldn’t really name any female drummers that stuck out to me in either metal or rock. And truthfully, this was probably due both to my lack of knowledge of drummers in general and the lack of female representation in commercially-known magazines like Drummer’s World, Drum! Magazine, or Modern Drummer.

While my thesis focused on performativity and participation of the women I interviewed in NY’s EMM scene, the idea of learning to drum percolated on my back burner of “someday” projects.

Ultimately – to make a long story short – I finally got that “someday” project. As a wonderful gift from the hubby for both Christmas and finally finishing my goddamn second Masters, he bought me a Pearl Roadshow Drum kit. It’s a 5 piece set, complete with cymbals (hi-hat and crash/ride combo), three toms, a snare, a bass drum, sticks, and a throne. Even better, it came in earlier than expected so we spent our Sunday afternoon, the week before Christmas, putting it together.drumkit

As you can imagine, constructing the drum kit was fun, especially when you have an over-excited four-year-old in the house. It was actually a great learning experience and we ended up watching a ton of YouTube videos on how to put your kit together as well as how to tune the drum heads – something that was completely (and still a bit) foreign to me. I liked the physicality of using the key on the screws and getting the drum head surfaces all nice and smooth. Coupled with the feel and sound of the actual drums, putting the set together was quite satisfying! Here it is with a gift of Andes Mint cookies that I baked for the hubby as a small gesture of thanks.

drums

The current plan is to see how much myself and my daughter can pick up from self-instruction, but we’re definitely going to look for lessons in Spring. This blog will ultimately serve as a place in which I can document my learning and share insights with my experience of drumming and my relation to it as a woman.

So as this is the first post – I hope you enjoy the journey with me!