One of the highlights of a Royal Australian Navy parade is the Navy Band marching down a main street with their front row performing stick drill on side-slung drums embellished with drag ropes which nod to Navy’s past.
On Anzac Day, the Royal Australian Navy Band debuted their unique new side-slung snare drums in marches through Melbourne and Sydney and at services in Villers-Bretonneux, France.
The difference between the band’s new drums and the ones they’d replaced was instantly felt and heard by all.
When the band was looking to replace their old, worn drums, it made sense to move away from the heavy, imported, factory-produced instruments they’d previously used and look locally for quality materials and expertise.
The old drums weighed around 6.5kg and had work health and safety implications for drummers who wore them slung over one shoulder for long periods of time while standing on parade.
Petty Officer Musician Lucas Kennedy said the process of finding the right supplier was a long and arduous one, which took many hours of research over many years.
The challenge was to find drums that would suit the Navy Band’s unique requirements.
“In the end, we decided that the only way to get what we wanted was to have someone build them for us.
“I approached a few companies to produce a prototype drum and the drum produced by Steele Turkington of Kentville Drums in Kurrajong, NSW, was by far the best.
“What was even better was that they were going to be all Australian, made from all Australian materials,” Petty Officer Kennedy said.
“The drums were also very cost effective, with the price much less than buying new drums from Premier Music in the UK and having them shipped to us from overseas.
“The end result is an amazing sounding drum, weighing less than 3kgs, that is designed for the harsh Australian conditions and will save our drummer’s backs for years to come,” he said.
Steele Turkington provided the designs and skills to manufacture a new set of rope-tensioned drums which are also much lighter than all metal-ware drums.
The shells are made of Queensland Maple, chosen because of its light weight and rich sonic properties.
West Australian Jarrah was chosen for the hoops because of the strength and density needed.
Because of its natural strength, kangaroo hide was used for the lacing on the leather buffs used to tension the drum skin.
The band also decided to move back to traditional rope-tensioned drums, a design which had been in use for centuries but overlooked in recent decades in favour of off-the-shelf, all metal-ware drums.
The new drums also feature the Royal Australian Navy’s Coat of Arms, and are updated with Indigenous references and traditional red, white and blue stripes on the hoops, which were painted by Sydney artist Amelia Golding.
The drag ropes are taupe instead of white, a reference to native colours. The snare wires were custom built by Australian company Black Swamp Percussion.
After many months in planning and construction, the band proudly took delivery of the new drums just in time for Anzac Day.
The drummers felt honoured to revive an old Navy custom, returning to the forefront of the band and the Royal Australian Navy on the Anzac Day marches.