Video: Jimmy Chamberlin on Crafting His Pumpkins' Drum Sound and "Tonight, Tonight"

Achieving the right drum tone is a far more nuanced process than you might expect. It's not just about putting together a kit that's powerful and deafening. In fact, as Jimmy Chamberlin states in the video above, the kit he's taken on multiple Smashing Pumpkins tours isn't even particularly loud.

That's because a kit's tone is far more important than its overall volume. If your drums exist in the same frequency spectrum as another instrument in the mix, you're not going to cut through in any meaningful way and all of your articulation will be buried.

That's why it's particularly important to consider what kind of music you're playing with what sorts of other instruments before you choose what kind of drums to use.

This brings Jimmy to the process of writing drum parts for each song. As he has as gotten older, Jimmy has moved away from trying to string together linear ideas in favor of drumming for a specific feeling. He makes sure that each drum part he writes reinforces the content of the song.

When Jimmy writes, he likes to not only hear the actual music, but to have the lyrics in front of him as well. This way, his drum part will not only compliment and support the music, but will also emphasize the lyrics. Sometimes this is done by adding accents to the song, but often it is done by eliminating components of the music to give the lyrics more space in which to have more of an impact.

Lastly, Jimmy reiterates how important imperfections are. Much of his work with the Pumpkins was recorded without using a click track and at times, the number of takes got up into the teens. The slight mistakes, accidental hits, and added pauses from those takes help keep the song real and grounded. They give the performance something that you just can't add in postproduction – authenticity.


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