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Gear Review – Vic Firth Tala Wands

PhotobucketThese are Tala Wands. The top one is the smaller and more sticklike bamboo version and the bottom one is the bigger birch model and feels more like a rod in the traditional sense of the word. These things came into being when Steve Smith started getting into indian rhythms. He started playing with giants in indian music like his current favorite drummer Zakir Hussain.PhotobucketHe noticed that the drum-set, when played with sticks, was overpowering the other instruments. So he switched to rods. Problem with rods were that they lacked rebound. So he says “I need a rod with bounce” and no later than he uttered those words he was presented with not one but two models of rods that fit the bill.

The Tala Wands are basically rods but the wood dowels are wrapped around a foam tube. The foam tube reduces the weight of the wands and adds rebound to what would be otherwise be a bundle of very non-bouncy wood cylinders. The wands give a very light “pitter-pat” kind of sound to the drums that sounds allot like indian percussion instruments. This is especially true if you turn you snares off. In terms of sonic quality I like the wands over traditional rods which give this “BLAP” sound to the drums. The “BLAP sounds good (to me) when you’re playing really slow but at higher tempos (assuming that you can handle the things at higher tempos) they sound like you’re playing with really shredded sticks. Not a sound I like. The Tala Wands sound like you’re drumming on tablas at higher speeds (a sound I do like.)

Both models of the Tala Wand share a couple of features, the first of which is the handle. The handle of the tala wands is a thin rubber (probably the same stuff they use on the heritage brush) that goes about half way up the wand. About two inches above the end of the handle is another patch of rubber that acts as a binder so that the dowels don’t go off and do their own thing at the end of the wand. On top of that second patch of rubber is a even smaller patch of black rubber. Maybe it’s there to act as reinforcement, maybe it’s a weight distribution thing, maybe both, maybe neither. I don’t know. What I do know is that the little binding patch IS NOT MOVEABLE. do bother trying to adjust it like it’s a hot rod. That thing stays where it is. The fact that it’s not movable leads me to believe that it’s a very large player in how the stick bounces. So for the sake of getting a consistent bounce out of the wand they just locked it in one place.

The butt end (we’re back down at the handle again) is capped off with a large black rubber cap. If you flip around the Tala Wand and play with the butt end you’ll find that it’s like playing with a stick with two butt ends. I imagine that toms and tom grooves would sound great when played with the butt end of the wand. If you do choose to play these flipped around you will totally negate the rebound that comes from the foam core and you’re going to feel allot of vibration with each hit. So keep that in mind if you want to play this thing backwards.

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