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The Prof is in. Virgil Donati

Posted by Gareth Makin on

An article in the July edition of DRUM magazine has prompted this weeks 'Cymbals of the Greats' blog as it reminded me of the first time I saw this drummer perform.

Virgil Donati

It was on one of Virgil's first visits to the UK when he was endorsing Premier drums (that night he was playing their birch 'Genista' model - he's now with dw) and the clinic tour (which he was sharing with pipe band legend Jim Kilpatrick and then 'Take That' drummer Steve Washington) called at my home town of Warrington (UK).

Jim Kilpatrick opened the show and admirably demonstrated why he has been crowed solo pipe band snare drumming champion so many times!  His technique was perfect and each stroke was so precise that to a beginning player (which I was) who hadn't been exposed to many rudimental players, it was hard to take it all in (and I still haven't).

Steve Washington then set up behind his 'Signia' series kit and found the pocket very quickly (he kept it for the rest of the night).  Groove was the order of the day and 'finding drum parts to perfectly fit songs'.

 There was some buzz around Virgil Donati's appearance, articles have been read, but no clips had been seen (no YouTube here people) before the clinic.  I knew he was Australian, he could definitely play the drums (!) and was no stranger to an odd time groove or three (and a half).

No article or clip or blueprint (or medical assessment) could have prepared me for what happened next.  From the moment he took the stage, jaws collectively dropped as he tore apart (metaphorically speaking, he's very respectful of his instruments) his kit with blistering (and thoughtful) playing, innate (internalised) independance and yes, a command of odd time signature grooves that was just staggering.  He spoke falteringly (this was early in his clinic career) but he let his time behind the kit speak musical volumes.  Any phrase or pattern that came into his head was immediately communicated on the kit.

He has gone from strength to strength and he is continually pushing the boundaries of how we see kit playing (in a musical context).  Check out his new (and yet untitled) record of his new band 'Icefish' when it finally hits stores later this year to see what I mean.

But, I digress (!), how do we find his cymbal set up these days?  Well I'm glad you asked because I have the information right here!

He has used Sabian for some time now (check out his Saturation and HHXtreme crashes - two of which I regretably sold in one of my many 'clear outs') and favours many eclectic models in their range to create a diverse sonic palette to pull from.

14" Artisan Hi Hats

19" Saturation Crash

18" HHXtreme Crash

12" HH Mini Chinese / HH Splash stack

18" AAX Saturation Crash

12" HH Prototype Hi Hats (book that trip to Canada now as you won't find these in the shops)

22" HHX Custom Shop Ride

20" Prototype Crash (yes, for this one too)

10" HH Splash

Virgil is one of those unique players who show you what is possible (even if it might take 'some' time and serious study to replicate), even if at first it seems palpably impossible.  There are many who say 'but it's not really foot tapping music is it?'  Hmm...it is free expression (you wouldn't ask Turner to draw a picture of your cat in crayon) and it is this which drives us into uncharted waters where new ideas are born.

Until next time Cymbomuters, keep the feel, but keep it quiet. 

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