• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theatre and More

Jase George - The Phantom Of The Opera

Jase’s setup for a performance of The Phantom of the Opera from the Encore Theatre’s Company at the Launceston’s Princess Theatre in Tasmania, Australia.

The work has a very orchestral scoring with percussion being covered by two players in the original Broadway run. It’s all in one book now (layered with kit parts on a click track for a few sections that call for it), but it still asks for 18 different instruments: 2 Timpani, Suspended cymbals (small, medium, large), Clash Cymbals, Snares (regular, military, tenor), Triangle (preferably on a Miller Machine!), Tambourine, Bass Drum, Glock, Xylo, Vibes, Marimba, Tubular Bells, Bell Tree, Woodblock, Gong (regular and deep), Guiro, Finger Cymbals (also preferably on a Miller Machine!).

This can create a challenge for amateur percussionists since the work is coming to increasingly smaller theatres and there often isn’t enough room for all the gear to be laid out in a row, whilst also affording the space required to cluster instruments as you’d like to manage some of the frantic changes that are asked for in between pages of rests. In my case I was asked to fit all this gear into the corner of an already small pit that possessed no workable space under the stage. My biggest problem came from pitched percussion as I couldn’t get my hands on a MalletKAT, so I had to drop the Vibes to the keyboard part and also substitute the Marimba on a low octave xylo, which works OK since it only plays one note. I also had to choose a single Gong & add a modified cajon pedal to the Bass Drum so I could cover the Clash Cymbal/BD part in Masquerade. Lastly, I chose a Pearl Philharmonic snare that offers 3 different snare setups and can be coerced into sounding like 3 different drums with a combination of variable dampening & mic setup. Being in a corner doesn't help the acoustics, especially with the low resonant instruments like BD/Gong/Timps, but you can get around this if you work closely with the sound guys. The overall effect of having a full acoustic sound in an open pit came across really well and goes to show what can be reproduced even if you’re highly challenged for space.

My last comment is the need to choose sticks carefully and have a few options on hand to manage the rapid changes. Some double end SD/Timp sticks help and a Miller Machine is a great idea so you don’t have to go throwing a triangle beater into your mouth as you reach for timpani sticks - chipping your teeth along the way ;)”