• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theatre and More

Brad Wetmore & Dori Shimer - Funny Girl

Percussion setup for the Spring 2013 production of Funny Girl at the South Bay Musical Theater in Saratoga, California.


“After looking over the many gorgeous percussion setups on the Miller Machine website, I hesitated sending these pictures because I have nothing as flashy to contribute.  "Funny Girl" is a pretty basic show, just two players with drum set, timps, vibes, xylophone, chimes, bells, a bunch of atonal toys (wood/temple blocks, triangle (on a Miller Machine, imagine that...), 2nd snare, cymbals, cowbell, whistles (parade/slide), siren, tambourine, and some other sound effects during the Magician's scene (duck call, train whistle, pop gun, etc.).

However, what is interesting is the incredibly small space for the pit, especially percussion.  Our theater is a City Hall auditorium.  The pit is about 6 foot wide and stretches end-to-end directly in front of the stage.  At the end of each weekend, most everything has to be struck and the City Council equipment restaged.  No permanent setups or gear hanging from the ceiling!  On the positive side, we get to see most of the show when not playing, and various percussive bits can be added that can't be easily done without a video feed from the stage. (top photo - note the proximity to audience and blue lights which demarcate the pit)

We were allocated a space about 6' x 7' (1.8m x 2.1m), so obviously fitting in all the specified instruments is simply not an option.  In the past, to conserve space we've played vibe parts on bells and marimba parts on xylo using soft mallets.

Last December, I finally broke down and got an electronic setup. The MIDI mallet keyboard is a 2 octave malletKAT Express from Alternate Mode (with two 1-octave extenders, only one shown here.)  The MIDI sound source is their GIGKAT, essentially the sounds from a Kurzweil PC3 Keyboard. The GIGKAT is very convenient (plug/play) and inexpensive, but there are other (more expensive) options out there.  The amp is a Behringer Ultratone K3000FX piano amp, and sits under the MalletKat. There's some definite differences when playing it compared to the acoustic instruments. But when you're looking at $1-10K for each acoustic instrument plus the footprint in our pit, this works really well.

Switching instruments is a breeze.  (Almost cheating, in fact.)  Each instrument is programmed as a user kit (aka patch), and all the instrument changes are linked together as "chains."  The show opens on timps (chain 1-01/kit 43), then switches to xylo (chain 1-02/kit 47), then back to timps (chain 1-03/kit 43), and so on.  Once the instruments (kits) and changes (chains) are programmed, it's simply a matter of starting the Overture at chain 1-01 and advancing through the chains. If you'll notice the two pedals in the top photo:  the right is the normal sustain pedal, but one tap on the left advances the chain (i.e. switches instruments).  If you forget to tap, well...that nice vibe part gets played on the timps.

The sounds are quite good: I had many musician friends looking in vain for the timps/vibes/chimes.  There is a steep initial learning curve, and this setup will never match the real instruments, but it's close.  Plus tuning timps has never been easier, and my stick stand only needs a bare complement of stick/mallets.

P.S.  Note the nice Miller Machine by the set:  it got exactly *ONE* note of use each performance.  But a very convenient one note for the drummer keeping time.”