I’m about to reveal to you the greatest set of drums I’ve ever played. Without a doubt, I know these drums will “blow away” any other drum kit out there. Don’t even try to change my mind on this, because I’ve played every kind of drum set made. All of the greatest drummers play them too. OK… Ready?! The best drums ever are “……………..” What? You say you couldn’t hear me? I said, “……………..” They really are amazing. You must get them or you’re just not the most hip, cool, “up to date”, stylin’ cat out there; like all of the other really happenin’ drummers who play these drums.
OK, OK, STOP!!! For those of you that know me, you know I don’t get into these kinds of discussions. There is no “greatest drum set ever.” I’ve even worked in several drum shops through the years, and this was always part of the common shoptalk. “Oh, man, you should really get these!” or, “What? You’ve never played those drums? They’re the best!” It didn’t take long for me to realize that the art of drumming is much more than what drum set you play.
My favorite equipment recommendation is to play what you love and what inspires you. It doesn’t matter if it’s Yamaha, Pearl, DW, Gretsch, or any of the other great drums out there. Play the drums that make you want to play! When you play “that” drum kit, then you’ve found your instrument. And don’t let anyone “mess with your head” about it.
What makes drums sound great is a great player, making great music, with a great team, when everything technically comes together. Now, that can be a very complicated thing, but let’s stay focused on the drum issue.
In all drum making, even with custom-built drums, there are some concepts that apply to everyone. I know there are a thousand variations in the small details, but we’ll focus on the big issues. Types of wood, the sizes, the rims, and the tom mounting system of the kit are probably the biggest factors of drum sound.
First, all-maple drums will probably be the first item in every company’s catalog. I happen to play a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute series kit with aluminum die cast hoops. A 22” kick; 10”, 12”, 14” & 16” toms (all standard depths); and a 14”x5” snare. (I do have other kits and about 15 snares, but this is my primary set up.) Yes, I think they’re awesome, and I’m thrilled with the sound they create.
Maple, in general, is a very hard wood, but it is also very resonant. I don’t know all of the technical reasons, but they are “punchy” and have a lot of tone. In some settings maple drums can be a little too big sounding. So, if you want a little more focused or dry sound maybe you should try birch, or other drums. There are tons of options.
Besides types of wood, there are also variations in size and thickness of the shell. Deeper drums will sound fatter, and maybe darker. Shorter drums will be punchier. Thinner shells will sound brighter than thicker shells, and so on. If the drums have die cast hoops rather than machined steel they will probably have more of a snap, or cutting sound.
I also look for the tom mountings to be some kind of suspension system. Even on a cheap kit this can make all the difference in the resonance of the toms and how easily they will tune. Mountings that attach to the shell or go through the shell will usually distort the sound or choke them. Unless you want that old-school tom sound, you have to have isolation mounting for the toms.
I hope this helps keep your mind at ease if you’ve been wondering if your drums aren’t the best drums in the world. Or maybe this will help you in your journey if you’ve been thinking of a change in kits. Test drive a lot of drums, and get your ears tuned in to what’s out there.
Happy drum hunting! Oh, and remember, don’t worry about finding the best drums in the world. I think they’re in heaven with Buddy Rich. Ha!