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Sheila E.’s Drum Kit: 10 Drumming Essentials From Sheila E.

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 15, 2020 • 3 min read

Raised in a family of musicians, Sheila Escovedo is an iconic percussionist who has collaborated with icons like Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie, Herbie Hancock, and Ringo Starr, becoming a megastar after joining Prince for his Purple Rain sessions. Playing on her own version of the classic five-piece drum kit, Sheila has mastered a unique sound and been named one of the all-time greatest drummers by Rolling Stone.

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Sheila E. Teaches Drumming and Percussion Sheila E. Teaches Drumming and Percussion

Legendary drummer Sheila E. welcomes you to the world of percussion and teaches you how to express yourself through rhythm.

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Sheila E.’s Drum Kit Essentials

In rock, pop, jazz, bebop, R&B, and hip hop music, a five-piece drum set serves as the industry standard. A five-piece drum kit consists of a kick drum, a snare drum, a floor tom, and two rack toms. These are accompanied by cymbals, including hi-hat cymbals, a ride cymbal, a crash cymbal, and a splash cymbal. Sheila developed her signature sound, in part through careful selection of equipment. Here she discusses the gear that has enabled her playing style:

  1. DW 9002 double kick pedal (with extended drive shaft): “I play with my double kick pedal on the outside of the hi-hat, so an extended kick pedal rod is crucial to my setup.”
  2. DW claw hook accessory clamp and LP Mambo Cowbell: “The clamp holds the cowbell on top of the kick drum, and that’s where it’s most comfortable for me. If I don’t have that, because of the size and the flatness of the cowbell, it changes how I play.”
  3. Custom-made DW kick drum: “Most drummers play a 22-inch kick drum, but because I’m fairly small, I’ve got a 20-inch kick. I can still get a big sound—I always use a hard-surfaced beater on my pedals.”
  4. Custom-made DW snare drum: “I started using a smaller snare so everything is more compact and easier for me to play. That way I can sit in the position I need to and not hurt myself. Everything is sitting right in front of me so I don’t have to reach.”
  5. DW 9500 heavy-duty two-leg hi-hat stand: “I need a two-legged hi-hat stand so I can utilize the double pedal on the outside of the stand. Sometimes it feels like my legs are a second set of arms, so if I can’t play double kick, I feel like I’m missing an arm.”
  6. DW 9000 heavy-duty air lift snare stand: “A standard snare doesn’t always let you maneuver depth as well as height, but you’re allowed to switch and turn this stand every possible way. That’s important so I can sit down straight and at a safe level.”
  7. Zildjian Platinum series cymbals: “I use 13-inch hi-hats, 17- and 18-inch crashes, a 20-inch ride, and a 14-inch China. I adjust my cymbals as tight as they can go on the stand. If they’re loose, I’ll cut my fingers because of the way that I learned to play.”
  8. Remo Emperor clear drumheads: “The last thing is the drumheads, but they are very important to what sound I’d like to convey. I used to use Remo Pinstripes for more of the muted funk tones, but the Emperors are my favorite drumheads right now.”
  9. Roc-N-Soc Nitro Hydraulic Throne: “When my back went out, I had to change my whole setup, and this seat saved my life. It takes some of the pressure off of the sciatica, the lower back, and I’ve been using it since the early ’90s. It’s amazing.”
  10. Zildjian drumstick wax: “It’s wax that goes on my sticks so I’m able to grip them. I carry it wherever I go because if I don’t have it, I don’t feel like I’m Sheila E., literally. It’s like wax you put on a surfboard—it almost smells like I’m on the beach.”

Want to Learn More about Shredding on the Drums?

Snag a MasterClass All-Access Pass, pick up your sticks, and find the beat with exclusive instructional videos from GRAMMY-nominated drummer Sheila E. (aka the Queen of Percussion). Once you master the timbales and congas, expand your musical horizons with lessons from other sonic legends like Timbaland, Herbie Hancock, Tom Morello, and others.

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