Vibrating stool puts drummers in touch with their bottom end
By Loz Blain
March 28, 2012
The thunderous punch of a bass drum is the time-honored foundation on which all of rock 'n' roll is built. That thud that hits you in the chest and moves your whole body … it taps into a deep and primal place in our subconscious. But while the crowd is enjoying the power of the bass drum amplified through huge sub-woofers, the poor drummer himself is usually hearing a poxy, paper-thin, bassless pop from a tiny onstage foldback speaker. Trying desperately to feel the bass, they often turn the onstage monitors up to ear-splitting volumes, but you just can't get that kind of low end out of small speakers. Enter the BC2 (formerly known as the BumChum) from Britain's Porter and Davies.
The BC2 is a simple two-part system that takes the bass drum signal and literally shakes the drummer's butt with it through a vibrating stool. The vibrations travel up the spine via bone conduction and are heard as sub-bass by the ears. So the onstage levels can be quieter, while the drummer can hear and feel the kick drum the way it's supposed to sound, without resorting to booting the heck out of it. Everyone's a winner!
If I sound sympathetic to the drummer's cause, it's because I was a semi-pro drummer myself for about 10 years back in the 90s. And I can certainly relate to the problem here; a good bass drum sound in the house speakers just … rocks. That's the sound you want to hear when you hit the kick drum, it should be huge.
When you can't hear that full low end onstage, you just don't feel like you're really in the groove. It affects your performance - you tend to start stomping the bass drum harder and harder in search of the feeling you're after. Subtlety goes out the window, along with dynamic variance and you tend to engage 'Animal' mode.
And when you do have access to a big onstage foldback speaker bin with a good sized woofer in it, it's such a surprise and a delight that you tend to run it super loud, to the general distress of the singer and the sound engineer, who now has to deal with huge low-end noise bleeding into every other microphone on the stage.
The idea of putting those low end vibrations directly into the player's ... well ... low end, isn't a new one. Pearl and Buttkicker teamed up to produce the Pearl Throne Thumper, basically a bass drum-triggered vibrator that clamps onto the seat shaft of your regular drum throne.
The BC2 goes a step further and mounts the "tactile generator" directly in the padded seat. The system comes with either a round or a tractor-shaped triangular seat, and a roadcase-mounted control box that sits right beside the drummer during the show.
Setup is simple - you simply run your bass drum mic straight into the BC2 control box. There's a signal splitter inside that runs a clean signal out again to the sound desk, and another signal up into the throne. If you're using electronic drums, there's a line level input as well. And if your sound guy complains for some reason, you can take an XLR feed back from the desk or monitor channels as well.
From there, you set your input levels and butt-shaking output "volume" and off you go. Players report the experience being incredibly natural - there's an instant connection between bass drum action and throne response, and while you can certainly feel the added posterior vibrations, the sensation is much more like hearing the bass drum as if you were out in front of the house speakers.
The system works even better with in-ear monitors, because it allows a huge physical feel while keeping stage noise to an absolute minimum. In addition to convenience, cleaner stages and more consistent stage sound, that's probably one of the main reasons the BC2 is finding favor with top-echelon drummers like the great J.R. Robinson, who's just surpassed Hal Blaine as the most recorded drummer of all time.
The BC2 isn't cheap - it costs £799 (US$1275) as a complete kit from the Porter and Davies online store. But for the touring band it may work out cheaper than hiring big sub bins every night, and it's certainly a lot easier to carry around. From the drummer's perspective, it's an opportunity to make sure you're always feeling the pulse, no matter what situation you arrive in on the night.
A slightly stripped down version - the BC Gigster - has also been added to the range at a price of £599 (US$950).
Great idea, solid, roadworthy looking execution, and an excuse for one of our worst headline puns of all time … nice one guys!