Omar Tavarez: Pounding and Programming Big Beats With Pitbull

By Phil Hood Published December 18, 2009, 2009

Photography by Robert Downs.

Name: Omar Tavarez
Age: 26
Plays With: Pitbull, T-Pain, others
Drums: Pearl Reference, MCX Series kits
Cymbals: Sabian HH, HHX, Artisan
Sticks: Pro-mark Omar Tavarez signature
Heads: Evans Drumheads
Accessories: HQ products
Pedals, Hardware: Pearl Demon Drive, all Pearl Hardware
Other Hardware/Software: "I use both Mac and PC software for programming, as well as drum machines and other gear such as [Ensoniq]ASR-10, Akai MPC 3000, and my new method is using two Pro Tools and loading my favorite samples and playing them live on the pad with drumsticks. So much fun!" p>

What's your current project?
Currently I'm touring the world with Mr. 305 himself. Pitbull. Which also includes recording, producing/programming, and musical director roles within "Team Pitbull". Chico (Pitbull) encourages his team to wear multiple hats, which in turn allows us to grow with a business mentality in many different settings.

Right now what has me excited musically is all the touring I'm doing with team Pitbull and most importantly how our stock is slowly rising. I started this gig 2 years ago and my playing has changed tremendously as well as my confidence behind the kit, so to see ourselves progress this far two years is really big for my musical endeavors.

You slide between different styles, backing artists from dance and jazz to hip-hop and pop. What has helped you be versatile while still bringing authentic sound?
With a gig like this it helps to be versatile, we play a ton of different music in one set and it varies from rock, to merengue, salsa, other Caribbean rhythms and of course traditional and Miami booty bass hip-hop. Miami is such a big melting pot that you have to be proficient in every style and be ready to play the gig no matter what genre it is. Very important!!!!

Learning about jazz music and jazz history is something that really helped my playing, and my growth as a musician. I started off playing in a rock band when I was 12 but I was always listening to jazz but never took it seriously till my later teens. Everyday I listen to some form of jazz, I'm just hungry for it.

You've done some recording. Is there a cut you're particularly proud of?
That's a tough one. I haven't really come on to the recording scene that heavy yet and I'm comparing myself to L.A. and Nashville-based cats, but if I could name one it would be Pitbull's Rebelution album. I recorded two tunes and it was really gratifying. But my first real studio recording was with former cash money records producer, "tmix". It was for birdman and Lil' Wayne's rock remix of "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" on the Like Father Like Son album. It was recorded in Studio A at the hit factory Miami, Criteria studios, and was the best experience to date, but I never received credit for it. I have aspirations to move to Los Angeles. someday to record and produce but for now I'll stay on my grind in south Florida recording with Pitbull and others.

What do you like better, the studio or the road?
I would have to say that the road is by far a better grind. Besides the high energy shows we do every night, the road lends itself to meeting so many different people, and I'm talking about other road managers, artists, musicians, security guards, production, sound engineers, etc., and depending on what your mission in life is, some of those people can help you.

Besides meeting new people I would have to say traveling to foreign countries and within the U.S. can be exciting. I have had the travel bug from a very early age and it's what I have always looked forward to doing in my musical career. I myself am a road warrior. The road is not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of maturity and responsibility to do this job and to do it as constantly as we do here at team Pitbull. There is no room for comfort on this gig. Like my road manager "Purple" always says. "at this point on our grind, u should be aight, never comfortable, but aight".

What advice do you give other drummers in terms of balancing their skills on drums and on programming?
With technology these days it's not hard to balance between both but you definitely need to have a tremendous amount of self-discipline. playing a high profile gig every night and traveling with a laptop computer set up for recording and programming is basically how we do it out on the road. When I say self-discipline, I mean It's up to you to decide weather you want to go back to the hotel and put in a few hours on programming the next hit track or going to some afterparty. I would tell other drummers/musicians to first master playing drums and then get involved in programming. Learning drums will open up your ears to a new world of creativity and most importantly developing your sound and your production signature.

When you're on the road do you do anything special in terms of warm-ups or keeping in shape?
Nothing out of the ordinary, I do stretch a lot and try to swim in the pool at the hotel or go to the gym. before the show I go through a couple of rudiments with a pad and on multiple surfaces like a speaker or even a couch pillow. Just to keep my muscles guessing. Recently I've been trying these muscle confusion workout videos and it really helps my playing even though a lot of what we play as drummers is muscle memory. And drink a lot of vitamin c and green tea!!! Keeping your immune system up to par is so important out on the road and our road manger, pit, and head of security personnel are always stressing that.

What kind of setup do you go on the road with for Pitbull? Is it the same as in the studio?
My setup with Pitbull is just for the Pitbull gig. It's been modified a little bit. It's basically a fusion setup 10",12",14",16" toms, 22" kick, two snares, a bunch of thin cymbals and FX cymbals, small splashes and small Chinas, and a Roland SPD-S pad machine. Recently we have been doing a ton of shows with emo, indy, and commercial/pop rock bands, and it has inspired me to consider revamping my setup to a bigger sound. This next year I'm going to go with bigger drums because my FOH (front of house) engineer for Team PItbull, Wiberto Madera, has pointed out to me that when I tune the drums low, it allows him to make my drums sound gigantic out front. So after winter NAMM 2010 I'm going sit down with the team at Pearl to work on a configuration that best suites the Pitbull gig.

I play very heavy and I really dig into the drums, so instead of whackin' a 10" and a 12" rack tom-tom first, I'm most likely going to use a 12" by 8" and a 13" by 8" as my racked toms. They're bigger and beefier, similar to what my drumming idol, Tony Williams, used. In fact I might even get them in yellow with black hardware as a tribute to him. not a bad idea right? [Omar—we agree. Go for it.]

In the studio it depends on what genre your recording and who you are recording for. I'm not gonna bring a jazz setup to a rock session, you feel me? Lol! I do own a set of vintage drums that I use for recoding in the studio, it's a total hybrid kit, mixed with different brands and configurations. The studio is all about the best sound quality and a bunch of different snare drums.

Anything you'd like to add?
I would like to thank team Pitbull, Nappy Boy Ent., all my sponsors, the team at Pearl Drums, and master photographer Robert Downs for believing in me and contributing their input and guidance to my musical career.