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By Phil Hood

Yamaha Drums’ 50th Anniversary Party was a serious throw-down of gear and grooves at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California, taking place on Saturday, September 30.

More than 300 drummers made their way to the invitation-only event to sample Yamaha’s lineup of electronic and acoustic drums, meet the designers behind the products, and hear a blistering set of clinics by Larnell Lewis, Tommy Aldridge, and Dave Weckl.

Visitors were able to play any of seven different Yamaha DTX drums that were set up in the rehearsal and teaching rooms at Musicians Institute. Other rooms were devoted to Tour Custom and other Yamaha acoustic drums. After testing drums, guests were invited into the MI auditorium for a three-hour drum fest. Joel Tetzlaff of Yamaha was the emcee for the event, which featured a Q&A with top drum designers from the US and Japan, plus the three clinicians.

Larnell Lewis performs at Yamaha Drums’ 50th Anniversary Party; photo by Twinfolk Creative.

Larnell Lewis performed to several tracks, playing in both traditional and fusion jazz styles. Then he performed a tour de force on his Yamaha pads, showing off several pitch-bending tricks that had the audience asking, “How did he do that?”

Next up came the legend, Dave Weckl, whose clinic was both ferocious and enlightening. He played a funky set that showed off his considerable dexterity.


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After Weckl played, top pros Bill Gibson (Huey Lewis & The News) and Rick Marotta (Steely Dan and others) were presented with special appreciation awards by Yamaha for their considerable achievements and long relationship with the company. Both drummers commented that they needed to retool after watching Weckl, with Marotta commenting, “I wish he’d slow down so I could steal some of those left-hand licks with the tom and hi-hat.”

Tommy Aldridge, who is one of the most exciting performers you’ll ever see on any instrument, closed the show. For a taste of how to finish a show with a flourish, check out the 20-second clip below.

Before we leave the topic of Yamaha’s 50th it’s worth looking back at some of the key things the company did over those decades.  As the largest musical product manufacturer in the world Yamaha is the only company to compete in virtually every instrument category.  And they are among the leaders in many of them from horns to pianos to drums. They have remained relevant through tight relationships with partners, some of the world’s greatest musician endorsers and by periodically reinventing Yamaha drums with  innovations in hardware, electronics, and many facets of drum design. Hats off!

New Recording Custom (left), Yamaha PCM-1 from 1986.

  • 1967: Launches D20 drum set utilizing the Air-Seal System
  • 1972: Signs Al Foster as their first drum artist
  • 1975: Introduces industry-first hideaway boom stand
  • 1977: Introduces innovative tom ball mount and the YD9000, the precursor to Recording Custom
  • 1986: First electronic drum kit launch: Yamaha Electronic Percussion System
  • 1988: Super Rack System debuts
  • 1989: Rock Tour Custom drum set is launched
  • 1991: Introduces Maple Custom and small-body lugs placed at the shell’s nodal points
  • 1993: Unveils YESS mounting system, along with locking hi-hat clutch system
  • 1996: Launches Stage Custom
  • 1998: Absolute series debut
  • 1999: First HipGig working drummer’s compact kit
  • 2002: Manufactures first 100-percent oak shells for Oak Custom series
  • 2003: Releases Nouveau Lug, the precursor to the Hook Lug
  • 2008: Introduces the PHX series, the pinnacle of Yamaha drum making
  • 2016: Relaunches the iconic Recording Custom in collaboration with Steve Gadd
  • 2017: Celebrates 50 years with limited-edition drum sets and new Tour Custom launch

Visit Yamaha Drums at www.yamahadrums.com.

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