Instruments, Gear & Equipment

As a percussionist who has played musics from many corners of the west african diaspora in the Americas for over two decades, Brandon Marger has accumulated a sizable collection of afro-latin drums and percussion instruments that come from several great musical cultures. But Brandon’s instruments are neither collector’s items nor museum pieces--they are all professional instruments that were built to be played. At times those instruments are played in the traditional context of their own respective cultures. Other times, Brandon brings these instruments to a variety of new musics in novel and innovative ways.


This page describes the instruments and other gear that Brandon uses for some of the various musical projects that are part of his musical career.

Changes In Latitudes 
When performing with Changes In Latitudes Brandon plays a multi-percussion kit that is built around the three central drums of the típica rhythm section in salsa and cuban popular music: conga drums, bongó and timbales. A salsa band would have three separate percussionists playing each of these three types of drums, and each percussionist would play pretty much only that one instrument all night long. But when playing with Changes In Latitudes Brandon plays all three types of drums together as a single kit, switching seamlessly among the different instruments to create the illusion of a full típica rhythm section.

In addition to these drums, Brandon employs a variety of small hand percussion and sound effects that add a variety of musical textures and colors to the music. For each individual song Brandon creates a unique multi-percussion arrangement in which he carefully matches the types of rhythms he plays to particular instruments to help create the grooves, moods, colors and textures that each section of that song requires.

The foundation of Brandon’s multi-percussion kit in Changes In Latitudes is a set of five conga drums tuned in a musical scale. Brandon’s use of five congas together has been most inspired by congueros such as Jerry Gonzalez, Daniel Ponce, Carlos Valdés (Patato) and Giovanni Hidalgo (Mañenguito). His use of percussion for musical texture and color has been most inspired by brazilian percussionists such as Airto Moreira, Robertinho Silva, Paulinho da Costa and Laudir de Oliveira. Other percussionists who have inspired and influenced Brandon’s approach to percussion in Changes In Latitudes include Ralph MacDonald, Bill Summers and Leonard “Doc” Gibbs.

Performing with Changes In Latitudes in Rockland ME in August 2011

Instruments & Hardware


Congas

LP Giovanni 9.75” requinto (LP804Z-AW)

LP Giovanni 11” quinto (LP805Z-AW)

LP Giovanni 11.75” conga (LP806Z-AW)

LP Classic 11.75” conga (LP804Z-AW)

LP Giovanni !2.5” tumba (LP807Z-AW)


Brandon’s congas all have Remo NuSkyn heads.


The Giovanni quinto, conga and tumba are mounted on an LP Triple Conga Stand (LP291).


The Giovanni requinto and The Classic conga are each mounted on Meinl folding stands (TMC-CH).


Bongó

LP Generation III Bongó [7.25”/9” shells] (LP201A-3) with Remo tucked Fiberskyn heads.


The bongó is attached to the LP Triple Conga Stand using an LP Bongo Bracket (LP454) and an LP Camlock Accessory Bracket (LP330A)



Timbales

LP Tito Puente Timbales [14” & 15” shells] (LP257-S) with Remo FiberSkyn heads.


Mounted on the Timbales

Set of 5 LP Granite Blocks (LP1210), modified to accept z-rods for mounting cowbells.

LP High Cowbell ES-2

LP Low Cha Cha Cowbell ES-12

LP Uptown Timbale Cowbell ES-6

LP Songo Cowbell ES=8

Pete Englehart Clave Bell

LP Sambago blocks LP617



Cymbals

A Zildjian 12” splash (A0212)

Sabian 13” AA El Sabor splash (21360)



Hand percussion

LP Super Güiro (LP243)

Meinl Shekere (SH1BK)

Meinl synthetic seed pods (WA7BK & BI7RY)

LP Aspire 10” Triangle (LPA123)

Franco 12” Pandeiro (from Brasil)

LP Double Row Studio Bar Chimes (LP513)

LP Macho Maracas (LP394)

Rhythm Tech Pro Tambourine (RTPRO10)

LP Cyclops Mountable Tambourine (LP175



Hardware

Highly modified LP Percussion Table (LP760)

4 post Pearl Percussion mount (PPS-52) attached to the percussion table’s rack.

An overview of Brandon’s full kit from a Changes In Latitudes show at Tag’s Budweiser Summer Stage in Big Flats, NY from August 2013.

Brandon’s view from behind the kit

Brazilian Instruments


Brandon Marger has a large variety of Brazilian instruments for playing genres that include Samba, Bossa Nova, Forró, Capoeira, Maculelê, Afoxê, Candomble and more. Some of these instruments include agogô, apito, berimbau, caixa, caxixi, cuica, ganzá, pandeiro, pau de chuva, reco-reco, repanique, surdo, tamborím, timbal and xequerê. 

Some of these instruments were manufactured by Brazil’s largest musical instrument companies, such as Contemporanea, Gope, Franco and RMR Bauer. Other instruments were crafted by independent artisans. For instance, the oversized agogô seen hanging from the surdo in the photo was made by Bira Reis, who supplies the afoxê Os Filhos de Ghandi with these distinctive looking and sounding bells. Brandon fabricates all of his berimbaus and caxixis himself, as he has done for more than a decade.

Brandon Marger behind his kit at the Palace Theater in Manchester NH

Storage & Transportation

With such a large multi-percussion kit, storage and transportation of all of those instruments  in a safe and efficient manner is an important logistical consideration. The five congas all travel in individual rigid plastic cases on wheels. The bongó, timbales, all other percussion instruments, and some of the smaller hardware travels in a large red road case nicknamed “Big Red” that was custom built for Brandon by Joe Bennett in 2003. All of the heavy-duty stands and hardware travel in a large blue vintage Anvil road case. The entire kit is stored year-round in Changes In Latitudes’ equipment truck, where it sits ready to be driven to the next venue.

Changes In Latitudes Mini-Kit

When performing with the Changes In Latitudes Mini Beach Band Brandon uses a smaller rig that he specially designed to take up less room on stage and in the truck. This mini-kit is optimized for ease of load-in and speed of set-up. The road crew affectionately calls this the “Lunch Box Kit.”

Drums 
Pearl Travel Congas
11” (PTC-1100)
11.75” (PTC-1175)
12.5” (PTC-1250)

LP Giovanni Compact Bongó [7.25” & 8.625” heads] and mounting post (LP828)

LP Drumset Timbales [12” & 13” shells] (LP812-BN & LP813-BN) with Remo Black Suede heads.

Other percussion instruments
LP Jam Blocks [high & medium pitch] (LP1205 & LP1207)
LP Low Cha Cha Cowbell ES-12
LP Uptown Timbale Cowbell ES-6
LP Concert Bar Chimes (LP449C
Pearl Shekere (PSK10)
LP Aspire 10” Triangle (LPA123)
LP Super Güiro (LP243)
Pearl Beaded Maracas
Rhythm Tech Pro Tambourine (RTPRO31)

Cymbals
12“ Zildjian A Custom Splash
13” Sabian Studio Crash

Hardware
LP Timbales Stand (LP981)
Tama Double Tom Stand
4 post Pearl Percussion mount (PPS-52)
LP Everything Rack (LP372)
Gibraltar Ultra Adjust Snare Baskets (GUASB)
Gibraltar 1.5” Rack Tube & Road Series Clamps

Stage plot of the complete multi-percussion kit

Brandon’s mini-kit on stage right at the base of the slopes of the Sunday Mountain Ski Resort in Newry, ME.

Brandon plays his mini-kit along side Jason Roseman and his steel pans, at Mountain Park in Holyoke, MA.

Puerto Rican Instruments

Brandon Marger has played the music, rhythms and instruments of Puerto Rico with Los Pleneros del Momento, Los Callejeros and other groups. Because of the special relationship between Puerto Rico and Cuba, many of Cuba’s drums and percussion instruments have been assimilated into some aspects of puerto rican music; and Puerto Ricans have embraced genres of cuban popular music such as son, cha cha chá, guaracha, mambo and bolero as their own. But Puerto Rico also has many of its own unique drums, percussion and stringed instruments. Accordingly, Puerto Rico also has many of its own unique musical genres that are entirely distinct from the cuban music that pervades their popular music.

Brandon Marger owns a set of three panderetas de plena fabricated from caoba by Timbas Ismael in Sierra Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Ismael Ramos earned a place in the history of Puerto Rican music by fabricating the great sounding tumbadoras used by Rafael Cortijo with his famous combo. After Ismael passed on his sons took over the shop and continued the family legacy. Unfortunately the family closed the shop a few years ago, and so these classic drums are no longer available. But even though this set of panderetas de plena are now as irreplaceable as a Stradivarius violin, these drums are not kept as mere collectible showpieces--they are played as the professional instruments they were built to be.

In Ear Monitors

When performing with Changes In Latitudes on their large stages, Brandon uses custom molded in-ear monitors fabricated by 1964 Ears in Portland, Oregon. He

uses their four-driver “Qi” model, which features an enhanced bass response on top of a clean midrange and crisp, natural high frequencies. Brandon’s IEMs are also ported, so that he can allow controllable amounts of ambient sound to pass through to his ears. Brandon Marger is happy to be a member of the 1964 Ears family of endorsing artists.