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Pete PlaysPete Farmer, Founder and Owner

I am a self-taught musician and craftsman. I have been drawn to music my entire life for the way it conveys emotions and thoughts better than words can and the way it draws people together.

My first experience with music was as a trumpet player in elementary school, where I learned to tap my foot to keep the beat. Later, I saved up enough cash to buy an old classical guitar from a pawn shop and feel the satisfaction and joy that comes from making music just the way I wanted it.  After graduating from college a buddy and I hit the road in a refurbished VW van to go where the warm sun lay. That year, spent poking around every corner of the US, was a priceless education and life changing. It gave me the time to hone, and appreciate more deeply, my taste for that older bluesy roots Americana music - especially the kind that encourages knee-slapping and toe-tapping!

Since then, I have turned my hobby and passions into my dream job. Although I spend most of my time in the shop and don't get to play as much music as I would like to, I love knowing that my instruments are helping others find their own sound and engage audiences in new ways. I never cease to be amazed by the talent and diversity of the "one-man-band" community and am grateful for the connections I am making with musicians around the world.

This business wouldn't be possible without the love of my extended family and I am grateful for their encouragement, interest, and unending support in helping me follow my dreams.  My wife and I hope to pass on our love of music to our three young children and look forward to starting our own family band someday.

Some musicians I enjoy and have been inspired by: Mississippi Fred McDowell, J.J. Cale, Beck, Wilco, Bluegrass of all styles, Ben Prestage, John Lee Hooker, Big Bill Bronzy, Yonder Mountain String band, Citizen Cope, Joanna Newsome, Will Oldham, Beta Band, The Kinks, Taj Mahal, Broken Social Scene, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Animal Collective, Snooks Eaglin, Junior Kimbough, R.L. Burnside, White Stripes, Doc Watson, Gomez, Model T Ford, Bob Dylan, Fleet Foxes, John Prine, Toots and the Maytals, Old Crow Medicine Show, G. Love, Davendra Banhart, Pavement, Sun Kil Moon, Mississippi John Hurt, the Shins, Zed Zeppelin, Steve Earle, Rolling Stones, Gillian Welch, John Butler Trio, Furry Lewis, Widespread Panic, Velvet Underground, Neko Case, Mofro, Bela Fleck, Bukka White, Xavier Rudd, Vetiver, The Shins, Radiohead, Earl Scruggs, The Avett Brothers, Cat Power, Bessie Smith, Ben Harper, Blue Scholars, Ali Farka Toure, Ry Cooder, Sun Rah, Bob Log III, Sam Cooke, Black Keys, Two Gallants to name only a few off the top of my head... 

 

 Meet the Farmers

 Founder + Creative Engineer + Visionary

A teacher and historian by trade, Pete is a self-taught musician, craftsman, and businessman, following his passions for music, design, and working with his hands. He is the brains behind all Farmer Foot Drums instruments and singlehandedly took the ideas in his head and turned them into a full-time business. He works with intense focus and dedication and has been known to lose all sense of time and forget to eat when he gets going.

Pete has been drawn to music his entire life and has always enjoyed playing for friends and busking on the streets of Seattle, his home town. Although he now spends most of his time working in the shop and doesn't get to play as much music as he would like, he loves knowing that his creations are helping others find their own sound and captivate audiences in new ways. This business would not exist without the support and backing of his family and friends, and he is grateful for the love and encouragement he receives to see this dream through.

kate farmer

 Operations Manager + Communications

Although Kate has been always been an ardent supporter of Pete and the business, she recently officially joined in and now works alongside him to make this a true family-run operation. The ying to Pete's yang, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of running a small business and gets a kick out of things like spreadsheets and QuickBooks. She wears many hats, from bookkeeping to communicating with customers and getting packages out the door.  

A Michigan native, Kate met Pete while on a glorious adventure in Washington State. They married in 2008 and now have three young children. 

 

The History of Farmer Musical Instrument Company

The Farmer FootDrum, flagship of Farmer Musical Instruments, was first conceived while Pete was listening to John Lee Hooker in his woodshop in 2003. Heearly-foot-drum-1 could hear his feet tapping rhythmic beats to accompany his guitar and voice - but it sounded as if he had a drummer playing with him. Pete wondered if it would be possible for his feet to create a sound richer than simple tapping and he sketched out a design for a foot-played acoustic drum kit with multiple sounds. Using portability, great sound, and durability as the guiding principals in my design, he eventually constructed a crude contraption.

A musical tradition that has no boundries.

Southwest Indians like the Miwok used Foot DrumsSome of the earlier forms of foot percussion have been unearthed by archaeologists in the form of 'foot drums' found in several southwestern and central-Californian US Native American archaeological sites inhabited, or formally inhabited, by the Maidu, Miwok, Aztec, and Hopi Indian tribes.

These drums were often semicircle, cross-sectioned hollow logs laid over wood covered 'resonating' pits positioned according to custom in kivas or dance houses. The foot drums were played by stomping on top of the hollow log with the structure's poles used for steadying.

Modern foot played percussion had a renaissance of sorts in the early-20th century, especially in jazz and dance hall music popular at the time.  It was also during this time that the term "trap set" came into use, being short for "contraption." This was meant to summarize the array of mechanical setups used by a drummer of this era. The photos below offer just a taste of the instruments used in the early years of mass production and innovation.  They were manufactured by companies Sonor, Max Flemming, Duplex and Viktoria.  The "low boy" (or "snow shoe") by the Walberg company (middle photo with cymbals) was one of the few instruments that survived due to the 21st century, albeit in an evolved form.  One will recognize it today as the hi-hat. 

chacha pedal 1956  duplexafterbeat  snowboybooseyth

        Cha Cha Pedal, 1956                  SnowBoy, Boosey & Hawkes, 1934                                                         

triangle pedal cica 1920s  flemming combi pedal  low boy pedal by walberg

        Triangle Pedal, c. 1920          Flemming Combi Pedal, c.1930                  The Original Lowboy

Other traditional forms of foot percussion are more rudimentarily seen in clogging. It's roots are in traditional European, early African American,and traditional Cherokee dancing.  These dancers often had various styles of particular footwear that were used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create percussive rhythms.  These moves were sometimes accompanied by the dancer playing a fiddle, guitar, or banjo.  Clogging later became a social dance in the Appalachia Mountains as early as the 18th century and is gaining popularity today in the folk revival of the 21st century.  Depending on cultural variances, clogging is also known as flat footing, foot stomping, buck dancing, jigging, or other terms.  What has united these styles is the emphasis on the downbeat of the music.

When I started the business of manufacturing and innovating foot-played percussion in 2005, I had no luck in finding anything acoustic and pedal played that was designed to be played by a guitar player.  As I delved deeper into the research, I saw that there was a strong and growing enthusiasm in the 1950s and 60s from folks who wanted to express their inner beat; as seen with Jesse Fuller, Joe Hill Louis, or Hasil Adkins with hi hats, bass drums, and other mechanical contraptions.  I also soon learned that there were many folks out there today who were like me and thought: 'how can I make more compelling rhythmic music?'  While many musicians have resorted to the foot played electric stompbox, or plugged in a porchboard bass to add beats to their songs,others have come up with DIY percussion setups, simply stomp their foot, or rely on preprogrammed beats or loop machines.  

diy-foot-tambourine

However, none of those tools felt to me to be honest, flexible, or dependable in the real world.  While the old standby of finding a reliable drummer to haul his or her gear around is still the most dynamic means to add percussion to your music, it is not always feasible and/or ideal if you seek creativity in playing music when you want, and how you want.  Playing your own foot percussion means that you have much more control over their practice time (no more flaky drummers), can change their tempos, and are able to improvise with ease.  But perhaps the biggest bonus to playing foot percussion is you have MORE FUN and connection with the music you're into!

max flemming combi pedalWhile some people claim they are 'slow learners', adding foot percussion is actually an easy and instinctual thing to do. Oftentimes it is the beat that is the backbone that drives a song and the key sound that prompts even the least musically inclined person to be able to follow your music. If you think that tapping your foot to the beat is difficult, ask yourself how it is we are able to: dance to music with arms, legs, feet, and hands in closely synchronized movements; or why we are asked by music teachers to tap our foot at the earliest stages of music education; or how on earth anyone could learn to actually play something as complicated as a guitar with 6 different stings over 20 or more frets using the coordination of all ten fingers AT ONCE! If the idea of becoming a 'one man band' or 'multi intrumentalist' seems like a turn off to you, consider this: Bob Dylan is considered a multi instrumentalist with a harmonica wired to his mouth and guitar in his hands to accompany his voice.  Musical instrument additions such as these are so common now, you don't give them a second thought.  Bottom line, the acoustics and looks of a Farmer Musical Instrument are timeless, intuitively designed, and as well made as your Made in America Fender or Martin guitar - so try one out, I guarantee you'll get a thrill out of the possibilities of being your own percussionist!  

book  heads  han 4f909c461b4a4If you are curious about the other instruments commonly used by a typical "one man band" or multi instrumentalist, you will be able to refer to the Book of One Man Bands published by Dave Harris of Victoria British Colombia, Canada.  His exhaustive research features the multitudes of instrumentals, DIY foot-played percussion,s and more from across the world.  There are too many past and present musicians to list here.  It is a fantastic resource and an inspiring look at musicians around the world!  

 

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Testimonials

  • Pete! I used the tambo with the DownBeat Pedal all summer on my solo acoustic tour with Jack Johnson. It was a great addition to my rig and my feets sounded like a freight train running! It really added to my show and I can't thank you enough....

    G. Love 
    http://philadelphonic.com
    Philadelphia, PA
  • Your Deluxe Foot Drum is a true piece of art that will inspire you to play in way you never thought of before.  I don't think I've ever had more fun playing a musical instrument as I've had playing these Foot Drums.

    JJ Grey and Mofro
    http://jjgrey.com
    Florida, US
  • The sound of the Stomp Bass Drum and the DownBeat tambourine pedal are a huge upgrade to what I've been playing.  I believe this new combo is going to take me to a whole other level.  It's certainly going to make my one-man act more user friendly with a nice steady "THUMP". The equipment is a work of art.  

    Adam Gussow: Satan and Adam
    Oxford Mississippi, USA