Headphones for Drummers

I don’t play very loud, but hearing protection is still a concern because I have a bit of tinnitus from my years of playing in bands without earplugs.

When I have a gig or go to a show I’ll typically wear my Westone ES49 custom earplugs. These are really great, but when practicing for a long time I need something more (and something I can plug into my phone to play along to albums or use a metronome app).

KAT Ultra Isolation Headphones

I’ve been using the KAT headphones for a couple of years. They sound fine and the isolation is pretty good, though I still get a lot of “boom” from the bass drum that causes some hearing fatigue.

The build quality is okay and for $70 I don’t expect a lot more. I’ve had to make some minor repairs, like re-gluing the pads on and fixing a broken clip. Not really a big deal.

My only major complaint with these headphones is that the size of the ear pads is a little small. My ears hurt if I practice more than a couple of hours because they are being pressed on by the headphones.

Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones

The Vic Firth headphones are very similar to the KAT headphones.

The reviews are slightly better for these and they’re just $80.

If I were starting my headphone journey again I’d probably order both and return the pair that isn’t as comfortable.

UltraPhones High Isolation Studio Headphones 

I was recently was given a used pair of UltraPhones by a friend. I’ve been aware of them, but the $200+ price tag kept me from buying them. I wish I had gotten these sooner!

Created by drummer and educator Gordy Knudtson, these are simply the best, featuring 3M Peltor hearing protection headphones fitted with Sony 7506 Studio Monitor components mounted inside.

The UltraPhones are incredibly comfortable and the sound quality is awesome. They also block out more bass frequency than the KAT headphones.

I can’t overemphasize how comfortable these are. I’ve worn them for up to 4 hours and barely knew I had them on.

If you can afford it, don’t hesitate buying a pair of these. You can buy them directly from GK Music.

Advice to young musicians: Protect your hearing. You won’t regret it.

Elvin Jones and Comping

Elvin Jones playing drums

Nicholas Payton recently posted his thoughts about comping on the drums over on his Instagram account. There’s some deep insight that I wanted to share. Drummer George Coleman Jr. also chimed in with some great info.

Nicholas Payton on Elvin and Comping:

“Here’s the thing: The “Elvin thing” most drummers get into, it often ceases to be conversational and becomes filler. You gotta make sure there’s substance and reason for everything you play. Don’t just play noodlely sh*t on the drums because you can.

All fills and accents have to be about creating an energy, moving the song forward, and a dialog. If not with the soloist, a conversation between the kick and snare or the toms. Whatever part of the kit you’re engaging with, make it purposed.

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Charli Persip Medical Fund

Jazz drummer Charli Persip

I just saw this news on the Four on the Floor blog about Charli Persip and want to help spread the word.

Please consider helping out if you are able. You can donate on Go Fund Me or the family will also accept a check if you message them privately. Details below.

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Philly Joe Jones Solo Book

Updated July 2019 – This post was originally posted in 2017. Two years later there’s a new version of The Philly Joe Jones Solo Book available with an additional 32 transcribed drum solos! I’ll list them at the bottom of this post.

The Philly Joe Jones Solo Book is well worth the $50 – $60 price tag. It was transcribed over the course of 10 years by Joerg Eckel, a student of John Riley’s.

There are over 320 380 pages of Philly Joe Jones drum solo transcriptions in the book. Each one includes stickings and lists the album that each solo is on.

You can get a copy at Memphis Drum Shop or Columbus Percussion. I’ve heard that Maxwell’s Drum Shop will be getting some copies as well.


Read on for details, photos and the list of solos included in the book.

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