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Marcus's Studio

 

 

 


Tour Timps in the Concert Hall

 

 

 

 


Four Tour Timps fit
in the back of a Fiat

 

 


Tour Timp

 

 

 


Spacer Drum Kit

 

 

 

 

 


Gun metal
snare drum

 

 

 

 

 

 


Busker Drums

 

 

 

 

 

 


Marcus and his
Drum Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Perspex 8 inch Castrato Snare Drum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Newcomen Steam Engine


Ice Making Machine


Generator & Motor


Livesey Museum Dragon


Marble Maze

 

 

 


The Fez Heads
in action

 

 

 

 


Before

 


After

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Main Activities


BUSKER DRUMS
Drum Car

MAKING MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

I have made a wide variety of instruments, but my main production ranges are TOUR TIMPS, SPACER drums and BUSKER drums.

TOUR TIMPS were invented to provide a much more portable and affordable alternative to orchestral pedal Timpani (or Kettle Drums). To meet modern demands it was important that they should have all the functions of timpani, including fully chromatic foot pedal tuning, a clear tuning indicator, compatibility with standard heads and beaters, and of course a strong resonant tone and clear definite pitch.

Tour Timps were specifically designed for those for whom pedal timpani were too expensive and/or too difficult to transport and store. Within 2 years of production starting Tour Timps had sold to every category of player and ensemble for which I painstakingly designed them, now totalling about 800 sales world-wide. They have been praised by many of the world’s greatest percussionists and received the Honeywell / Sunday Times Award for British Innovation.

Many  people are surprised that Tour Timps have a greater resonance and produce an extra fundamental tone one octave below the principal tone of timpani. I therefore suggest that players use beaters 1 grade harder than on normal timpani. The full tone is often desirable, but it can be reduced  by Sound Discs, Tone Arms, finger tip harmonic muffling, and/or EQ to make the tone closer to timpani. This was confirmed by scientific research undertaken at South London Innovation Centre, North Texas State University, and Brunel University’s state-of the-art Acoustic Engineering Department.

Tour Timps comprise two main parts, the drum and the stand/pedal unit. Setting up and packing them is quick and easy. A full set can be carried in a small car, and plane train and coach travel is no longer a problem.

Sound Discs provide an easy way to control the tone and resonance in a way which is not practical with conventional timpani. Sound Discs consist of semicircular discs which rest on brackets which can be fitted to the stands of all Tour Timps then slid down or up the stand to increase or decrease the gap between the bottom of the drum and the disc. When fully down (approx 20cm below the drum) the standard Tour Timps tone is produced, with the fundamental tone and maximum resonance. For maximum definition and clarity the discs are raised. Fully closed gives a hard bright tone which provides great definition on complex phrases; this can sound harsh to players, but is much better at a distance. To get the best “compromise” tone the discs can be set at about 2-3 cm open which gives good definition, rounded tone, and the closest sound to normal timpani. Although some players only use Sound Discs to mimic the tone of timpani, many players and conductors actually consider them to be valuable accessories which permit the sound to be rapidly adjusted to suit the music.

Tour Timps are available in four sizes: 32”, 29”, 26” and 23”. It is sometimes possible to make extra sizes or modifications to special order.

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SPACER DRUMS

This unusual range of drums is a direct descendant of Tour Timps, and shares some of their production processes and materials. The original concept was an attempt to make a quieter drum kit but it turned out to be very loud, especially the Snare Drum which has an astonishing dynamic range and crisp tone. In terms of fulfilling the original design brief they are thus a total failure! However, as a fine and distinctive range of drums they are - accidentally - superb. The Snare drums are in production, complete drum kits are made to special order.

The Snare drums are normally supplied with cast aluminium bearing edges finished in black powder coat, and polished brass spacers, with a choice of snare strainer and heads. The tone is very clear and crisp, and the available volume and projection is exceptional. Furthermore, the drums are incredibly sensitive, with snares responding to the lightest tap.

The Snare drums are supplied with a Snare Damper Bar fitted across the bottom bearing edge which can be used to position foam latex dampers to reduce snare buzz. Magnetised rubber strips can also be easily fitted. A small cloth can be placed inside over the bottom snare head to produce a tone comparable to a wooden snare drum. Also one or two blocks of foam latex can be positioned in the drum, set between the heads. Set at the outermost part of the heads they act as mufflers and control the ring, but if they are moved towards the centre and set in a “V” shape they will produce the tone of a piccolo snare drum.

As well as normal microphone placement options, Spacer drums can also be mic’d from the side. With side mic’ing the tone of the drum can be easily and dramatically varied: a little distance provides a crisp and clear sound, then bringing the mic closer makes the tone deeper and thicker. If the mic is actually placed inside the drum the tone is explosive, like a snare drum, bass drum and cannon combined. Side mic’ing can also be used to improve separation between different drums. Although the Spacer Drums are particularly “mic friendly”, in many situations, inside and outside, they really do not need microphones.

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BUSKER DRUMS

After Spacer drums turned out to be anything other than quiet, I again strove to design a quiet drum kit, and eventually the Busker range evolved. The plan was to make a practice kit which could also be used for small gigs and quieter situations. The drums are about 50% quieter than standard drums, and FAR more portable. The rectangular head shape and linear tensioning provides a surprisingly thick and punchy tone.

Busker drums have been used extensively, and amaze everyone who hears them. By lucky accident they are also especially “microphone friendly”, giving a great sound for bigger gigs and recordings. They have surpassed their design brief by a huge margin.

The Busker kit attaches firmly to the optional Trolley/Rostrum, and can easily be taken from one venue to another fully set up, ideal at Festivals. The Trolley/Rostrum is fairly expensive, but is only required by those who regularly use the Busker kit for gigs and recordings where it contributes enormously to provide a practical, stable and easily transported drum kit. If a Busker kit is to be primarily used as a practice kit, then the Trolley/Rostrum may not be needed.

Busker drums are made to order, based on individual requirements. The most frequent 2 questions asked about them are:

1)  “Are they electronic”, (this often from people standing right next to them, being played with no visible leads or amplifier). Answer:  No. They are totally acoustic, but they do sound great when mic’d up.

2)  “What are the heads made of?”. Answer:  They are made of Polyethylene Terephthalate, like other plastic drum heads.

My own Busker kit has now been seen in use by many thousands of people, and I have answered so many questions about it, how it works, how it responds, why the shape, etc., and to me now all these questions have little relevance. The fact is that the Busker kit works amazingly well and has made a huge difference to my life as a drummer. They are far easier to carry around, and have enabled me to play in places where a normal drum kit would be too large, too awkward and too loud. With the Busker kit I can still play hard yet not drown out the band. Even at bigger/louder venues I often prefer to use the Busker set because it mic’s up so well.

An interesting problem arose when I designed the Busker drums: if the drums are significantly quieter than normal drums then the cymbals and hi-hat would be disproportionately loud. If you use significantly smaller cymbals the pitch and tone becomes unsuitable. Much experimenting, and years of making cymbal substitutes for practising, led me to realise that the diameter of a cymbal has to stay comparable, but the area needs to be reduced to make the cymbal quieter. This is achieved by drilling a large number of holes in its surface. Amazingly, this not only reduces the volume but also greatly improves the tone of even very cheap and nasty cymbals. Although I do not make cymbals, I can provide advice and drill cymbals on request.

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PERSPEX DRUMS

Perspex is an acrylic polymer which has one bad quality for making drums. Although it is strong it is vulnerable to cracking and shattering, so Perspex drums must be carefully made and well cared for. The advantages are: fantastic looking, great sound, and the ability to make for the most gorgeous polished bearing edges...when time permits! I make various Perspex drums for myself and to order, though I remind customers that, like other makes, mine have to be treated carefully.

I have made small snare drums of 8”, 10” and 12” with solid brass tension lugs. The 8” drums are known as “Castrato”, the others Sopranino and Soprano. These are lovely snares with a wonderful poppy sound. Also I make Boo-bams with clear Perspex tubing, some 6” others 8”, a distinct and engaging sound.

Sometimes people ask me about making their own Perspex drums, but this should only be done by those with good practical skills and tools, because Perspex can be a very tricky material to work with.

 

OTHER INSTRUMENTS

Over the years I have made, and continue to make a wide variety of instruments, and I am always happy to consider commissions. Instruments include wind chimes, lujon, vibraslaps, cowbells, tuned percussion, wood blocks, Kodaphone, Cabassas, Crashers, boobams, trigger pads for electronic drums, scrapers, and many, many more.

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PROPS AND EQUIPMENT FOR TV and MUSEUMS

I continue to undertake a wide variety of commissions for TV and museums, sometimes on my own, sometimes as part of a team. 

BBC “What the Victorians did for us” and “What the Tudors and Stuarts did for us”

Papin’s Digester, working recreation of the first pressure cooker
Newcomen atmospheric steam engine, working schematic model
Ice Making machine, using ether as refrigerant
Jethro Tull’s seed drill
Caxton era printing press
First flushing toilet
Halley’s diving bell
Mercator’s globe projector for map making
Velocipede Shower Bath, a pedal powered shower
Steam powered model boats, Rattler and Alecto, one paddle, one propeller.

Discovery Kids

Humane Spider Trap

Brooks Lapping

Rutherford’s Alpha Particle demonstration.

I have made Equipment and inter-actives for The Livesey Museum, Cuming Museum, London Transport Museum, and Brent Museum, including:

Dragon, 10 metres high, steel and canvas with cantilever structure.
Energy Automaton
Modified Clocks
Giant spinning/battling tops
Giant Marble Maze
Puppet Theatre
Activity table and stools
Giant Bagatelle/ pinball
Water wheel and pumps
Wind power turbine

...and many more.

(see www.liveseymuseum.org )

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TOYS, GAMES and AUTOMATA

Many of these were made as a challenge or for fun: 

  • Camera Protea, a large box in which solid objects change shape as a handle is turned.

  • Spring Chickens, based on apparatus designed by Gallileo.

  • London Bus, use a handle to drive a tiny bus around a model city

  • Marble mazes, with gimbals and turn handles, some based on Tower of London

...and many more!

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MUSICAL ACTIVITIES

I play a variety of musical instruments, primarily drum kit, timpani, percussion and soprano and tenor ukuleles. I sometimes play banjo, guitar and keyboards, including a Spinet made from a kit.

I have played in a wide variety of ensembles, including jazz and rock bands, amateur Symphony Orchestras, Musicals and Pantomimes, and now regularly with the Fabulous Fezheads ( www.fezheads.com ). I have made several records, played for BBC Radio 1 sessions, and I also do a moderate amount of home recording. I have played in the smallest dives, at the biggest festivals, and all points between. I mostly play instruments I have made or modified myself, the notable exception being my superb RISA Solid electric ukuleles ( www.risa-music.de ) .

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1963 TROJAN 200 Bubblecar

This was restored from a rusted out shell, with several others doing some restoration work, then giving up. I spent a year welding, hammering, measuring, sanding etc, then various others helped with upholstery, painting and Mike Shepherd re-built the engine. There are only about 100 on the road, so they get a huge amount of interest and curiosity. It does about 65-90 m.p.g. on unleaded fuel, it has hydraulic brakes room for 3-4 people, and - contrary to urban legends - reverse gear and a 4 stroke engine. It can zoom along roads and motorways at over 50 mph, and pays no road tax...the perfect urban runabout!

Trojans were originally designed and built by Heinkel, which was one of the most important German aircraft companies; they made the world’s first rocket and jet aircraft. After WW11 they were not allowed to make aircraft for several years so they started making scooters and then “Cabin Scooters”. When Heinkel stopped producing them Trojan of Croydon bought the rights and machinery and made them for a few more years, by which time the Mini had put an end to the brief post-war popularity of Bubblecars, Micro-cars and Cycle-cars

See www.heinkel-trojan-club.co.uk  

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