• Drum Set and Percussion Setups from Musical Theater and More

Peter and the Starcatcher - Regional - Brad Wetmore


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Brad Wetmore's setup for South Bay Musical Theater's production of Peter and the Starcatcher.

"Between the Music Director/Piano player and myself, we covered just over 60 instruments."

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Creaking ship/metal gears clanking. A small wooden box that contained a metal pawl/gear and a small lavalier microphone, along with a long thin wooden large-toothed saw.

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Peter and the Starcatcher is a play with music, with just two musicians providing some music (piano and percussion) and lots of foley (sound effects). Between the Music Director/Piano player and myself, we covered just over 60 instruments. I wanted to go mostly acoustic, but used a 3-octave malletKat as there was not enough room for, or time to switch between, the bigger instruments. For example, these quick switches between timpani and chimes in #17 ‘Swim On’ (see image above) requires some dancing on the malletKAT pedals. I assigned the timpani to controller 1 and chimes to controller 2, and used the Hang Mode/Sustain 2 pedal to quickly switch between instruments.

I used a GigKAT for the sound source, and a Behringer Ultratone K3000FX amp which is heavy but gives a nice sound across the frequency ranges.

As you can see in this setup (and in Deane Prouty and Jeremy Lowe’s setups), that many instruments mean space is often very constrained. This theater also serves as the Saratoga City Council's Chambers, so everything had to be struck each week. No balcony views for us. I only had a space about 6 feet deep, as the ‘pit’ and the emergency exit aisle is positioned between Row A and the stage. I was able to place the bass drum in the proscenium next to the exit door, but most of the small stuff lived on stage on a dual-level table we built, along with the large ship's bell. Everything else was arranged as vertically as possible on the floor.

To maintain the all-important sight lines for both myself and the audience, I was kept as far as possible on audience right: the only place that made sense to avoid introducing too many ‘Obstructed View’ seats.

A couple quick notes about instruments we made/used, since we had similar questions when we were designing the show:
  • Whip ‘whoosh’ and ‘slap’: a 3' thin mulberry branch from my tree and a riding crop striking my leather drum stool.
  • Fight Bell: a decommissioned school fire alarm bell and a Musser 2-step brass mallet.
  • Bubbles: a 2' x 4' x .035" sheet of HDPE (Flexible High Density Polyethylene) from Tap Plastics, kept rolled up until played.
  • Creaking ship/metal gears clanking: a small wooden box that contained a metal pawl/gear and a small lavalier microphone, along with a long thin wooden large-toothed saw. (See image above)

Instruments left to right (approximately): rain stick, thunder sheet, cuica, hi-hat, ride cymbal, mulberry branch (whip ‘whoosh’), riding crop (whip ‘slap’), snare drum, detuned violin, malletKAT (marimba, xylophone, crotales, timpani, chimes, glockenspiel, pitched claves (‘tick/tock’), distorted electric guitar (for a ‘Ukelele Smee’ riff when Smee tells the prisoners who ‘Black Stache’ is), assorted block hits for the Stache/Slank fight), kick bass drum, small triangle, cowbell, splash cymbal, small/large woodblocks, ship's bell, triangle, bongos, djembe, floor tom, plastic sheet (bubbles), log drum, rattles, slide whistle, castanets, claves, duck call, temple blocks, cabasa, ratchet, boxing ring bell, metal bars (sword fight), bell plate, crash cymbal, bulb horn, and concert bass drum.

A lot of fun, and not much rest for the weary in this pit."

Photos courtesy of Barbara Heninger.

January 2018

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Deane Prouty's Broadway setup for Peter and the Starcatcher.
Deane Prouty's Off-Broadway setup for Peter and the Starcatcher.
Jeremy Lowe's Tour setup for Peter and the Starcatcher.
11/7/18