for gospel artist Fred Hammond, Marvin McQuitty is a driving
force in the urban praise and worship movement. With a style
that combines in-the-pocket grooves with subtle, expressive
ornamentation, hes sometimes ranked alongside drum legends
such as Omar Hakim and Vinnie Colaiuta.
did he get there? My dad was a drummer, McQuitty
explains. He was into the jazz scene, but he was also
the drummer at church. At one point, we had a nine-piece drum
set in our living room instead of furniture! He first
gravitated toward the drums at age three and began playing
in earnest on his own set when he was four.
up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the 70s, McQuitty absorbed
a broad range of cultural and musical influences. Its
a college town, so youve got lots of different kinds
of people, he explains. There were a lot of musical
genres going on, between jazz and funk and Motown. But what
really influenced me the most was the music at church.
is quick to point out that playing in church can be as cutthroat
as playing in clubs. I grew up in a really competitive
churchthere were like nine drummers waiting to play!
Its the survival of the fittest. Who has studied their
craft enough to be the one that gets the first call?
concluded that the best way to secure his position was to
cultivate a unique style. I needed to challenge myself
and give myself an edge, so I came up with some different
ways of doing things, he says. For example, my
kit configuration is weird: my first tom is the 12 and
the second is the 8. Its partly a showman thing,
and partly to give myself a different sound. Depending on
how you place the toms, you can take a traditional roll, and
it doesnt sound traditional anymore.
days, McQuitty plays a Yamaha Birch Absolute kit. I
have 8, 10, and 12 rack toms, 14 and
16 suspended floor toms, and both 22 x 16
and 22 x 18 kicks, which I alternate depending
upon where were playing. If were playing an arena
Ill use the 18 depth, but I like the punchiness
of the 16 a lot. For smaller gigs, Marvin takes
fewer drums. Ive done club sets and taken just
one tom, he says. But hitting that one tom, the
way it sings right back to youman, thats all I
I have a ton of them, laughs McQuitty. One
of my favorites is still one of the first ones I bought, a
Yamaha Dave Weckl signature model. Its 13 x 5
maple with dual strainers and gold hardware. Ive also
used the new Steve Jordan signature. Its made of environmentally
friendly material and man, it has got so much crack, its
crazy! It sounds excellent on ballads, funk stuff, everything.
Another snare Im partial to in the studio is this 51/2
Paul Leim signature chrome-over-brass snare. The side stick
on that thing is nuts. It bangs, man!
who has favored birch drums sine 1991, recently ordered a
Yamaha Absolute Beech Nouveau kit as well. Beech has
the punchiness of birch and the warmth of maple, he
explains. Im anxious to play it in a recording
setting to see how it sounds, because when Ive played
live with it, its great.
Yamaha drums is like driving your dream car, says McQuitty.
Its that exhilaration of it doesnt
get any better than this. Theyve allowed me to
get the best out of my playing; Im a better player because
the drums just sound great. They work onstage, in the studio,
everywhere. And these drums are so versatileyou dont
have to poke and pry them to make them sound good.
matter how perfect the instrument, McQuitty says, man cannot
live by drums alone. When I play, whether its
gospel-oriented music or totally secular pop, I feel like
I have to give back the gift thats been given to me.
Its about bringing to life the spiritual connection
between creation and creator and making it a reality. It might
be the last time I get to play, so I make sure I give everything
Ive got when I get on the kit, every time.