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  • Are Tuning Devices Reliable?

    If you’ve been playing the drums for a significant amount of time, you may have had to tune your drum, or replace your heads. You may have also realized that you can’t use any kind of tension on your drums—you have to tune them correctly so they sound the best they possibly can. Most people use a tuner to help them adjust their drums.

    The question is: are these tuning devices reliable? And if they are, what are the best tuners out there? How can I tune my drum with the aid of a tuner? Our experts at Drum Center of Portsmouth are here to help any skill level of drummer become the best percussionists they can be. Let's start by setting you up with the right tuner.


    What’s the answer?

    The simple answer is yes: tuning devices are, in general, reliable. However, you should learn the best way to properly tune your drum, and invest in the best quality drum tuner you can. This will ensure that you get that perfect sound every time you play.

    Using an aid to help your tuning can also help sharpen your ear. Memorizing exact pitches is a useful tool when you need to tune on the fly. Nothing is truly more reliable than your own ear when you train it often.

    So how do you tune your drums, and which tuners are the best on the market? Drum Center of Portsmouth is here to give you some tips. 


    Why should I tune my drums?

    Tuning your drums is important to help you achieve the right tonality for your music. When you know how to tune your drum correctly, you can adjust them according to your genre. If you record in a studio, producers may also ask you to tune your drum a certain way.

    Learning to tune your drums can also help you create more depth in your music, depending on the intervals you use to tune your kit. Percussion takes more music theory than meets the eye! This is why it’s important to keep up with the tuning on your drums and honing your tuning skills as much as you can.


    How does drum tuning work?

    There are many guides online for how to tune your drum set specifically, depending on your brand. However, let's go over the standard steps:

    • When you tune your drum, place the tuner somewhere on the rim (depending on what kind of tuner you have.)
    • After the tuner reads the pitch of your drum head, you use a drum key to adjust tension rods around the head. Each head on each drum must be in tune.
    • Then, the batter (top) and resonant (bottom) sides should be in tune with each other.
    • Finally, you should tune each individual drum to the set as a whole.

    The batter side and the resonant sides are often tuned to different pitches. This is based on preference, and can be any interval you like. For example, you may tune your batter side to a C and your resonant side to an A, giving the sound of your snare more depth.

    The kit as a whole doesn’t have to be exactly the same. It’s best to choose tuning that complements each drum. For example, a snare tuned to a C dominant can complement a kick at an F tonic. In turn, the toms can be tuned to other notes on an F major scale.


    Which drum tuner should I buy?

    There are many excellent tuners out there on the market. Different percussionists have different preferences for what they need their tuner to accomplish, but most agree that this list comprises some of the best tools out there for any drummer.

    1.  Tune-Bot Studio Electronic Drum Tuning Device This digital drum tuner is able to clip on to anywhere on your set—you can even keep it on your kit all the time if you want. You can place it anywhere on the rim of your drum, and it will automatically tell you which tension rods you should adjust. It also has space for memory, so you can save specific tunings for quick access to whatever you may need.

    2. The DrumDial Precision Drum Tuner (Analog) This tuner is different from most mainstream tuners in that it measures the tension of drum heads, not the tension rod torque. This means that it can more accurately tell the pitch of your drum head. It is also quick to take measurements and easily portable.

    3.  Tama Tension Watch v2. This tuning device is unique because it has a flat design. This means that you can read the tuning by looking at it overhead, rather than to the side. It’s just like the average tuner, but it pays more attention to ergonomic design.

    4.  TB001 Overtone Labs Tune-Bot. This is another digital tuner. It automatically tunes your drum, and it shows you the note of the pitch of your drum. This way, you can easily tune other instruments to that pitch as well.


    In conclusion

    If you invest in a high quality, accurate tuner for any of your instruments, it will be a reliable tool. When you’re learning to tune your drums, you should always use a tuner for the most accurate results. Though many of us can learn by ear, there is never anything wrong with using a reference to help your drumming sound better.

     Ultimately, you should be working to be able to tune your drums naturally, by ear. You can become your own tuner with hard work and dedication. Otherwise, a great tuner will help you on your way to making your drums sound great.

  • Some of Our Favorite Snare Drum Brands

    It’s no secret that the snare drum can be the centerpiece for a great drum set. The instrument’s sharp, staccato sound makes it easy to pick apart from any other drum in your arsenal. That’s why it’s important to pick a high quality snare drum from brands you can trust.

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is here to help you consider the best and the brightest drums in the industry. We are a leading provider of drums and drum sets, and we’re dedicated to providing only the best snare drums for our customers. Here is a list of our favorite snare drum brands.



    Pearl is, of course, one of the most popular drum brands in the world. Katsumi Yanagisawa, who began selling music stands in 1946, founded the company in Japan. By 1950, the company switched gears to supplying percussion instruments, and in particular, the drums.

    Every Pearl drum is constructed using SST, or “Superior Shell Technology.” The shell is heated against the plies, making the shell incredibly tight around the drum. This then makes it able to withstand much more pressure than an instrument made under the average circumstances.

    Pearl’s history and unique manufacturing techniques allow the brand to make snares that are unlike any other. They consistently have a tight sound, which is best demonstrated by their Pearl Steel Piccolo Snare Drum, 13x3. This creates a higher, tighter sound than the average snare. The Pearl brand is great for beginners and experts alike. Their products have excellent craftsmanship and a sound that can’t be beat.



    Ludwig is an extremely long-running brand, first established by two German immigrant brothers in 1909. They began crafting their snare drums in 1916. It was the largest manufacturer by 1923, and continued to rise in popularity throughout the 20th century.

    One of the most iconic moments for the brand was when the Beatles endorsed them in the 1960’s. Ringo Starr displayed his Ludwig brand kit on the Beatles’ American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Starr picked the drums because he liked the oyster pearl black color. Sales doubled to $13 million after this fateful television program.

    Ludwig drums have been steady throughout history. They have set the standard for every company after them, even until today. From Jerry Allison of Buddy Holly and the Crickets to Tre Cool of Green Day, Ludwig has continuously proved to be one of the top competitors in the drum manufacturing game.


    Noble & Cooley

    Noble & Cooley is the oldest drum manufacturer in the United States, established in 1854. They began making marching snares to provide for the Union Army. This makes their history in crafting snare drums specifically longstanding and unique.

    Noble & Cooley also has an interesting history. They aren’t promoted like most other brands out there. Though they are incredibly popular among many musicians, the company doesn’t use paid advertisements from celebrities. Instead, famous drummers speak of Noble & Cooley’s instrument quality of their own volition.

    Instead of putting their name up on every drum they manufacturer, they instead point to actual music tracks with their brand in them to demonstrate the quality of their product. Phil Collins, Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead, and John Fishman of Phish all use these drums.



    Canopus comes from Japan and are renowned as one of the world’s premier bespoke drum makers. Their founder Shinichi Usuda started the business in 1977, with the vision to create the best quality drums possible. Their drums are all handmade from the finest materials, using innovative techniques that make them both functional and desirable.

    Their Zelkova solid shell snare drum made a splash in the industry. This drum is a tree trunk that’s got a scooped out shell of zelkova wood. Coming in 5x14, 6.5x14, and the super popular 8x14 size (which we prompted them to make) this brand is one of our top choices, especially for snares.

    They also make hardware and accessories that are lightweight and practical, making them a standout for many drummers. In particular, we always recommend their snare wires for anyone in search of wires for their snare drum.



    Yamaha is another long-running drum brand that has been around since 1967. They manufacture electronic drum kits, acoustic kits, accessories, marching band equipment, and other hardware.

    They have manufactured a wide variety of products through the years. Drum Center of Portsmouth carries both current and vintage brands. For example, the Tour Custom models were introduced in the 1980’s and reintroduced in the 2000’s to have maple shells and a rounder tone.

    They also have great vintage lines of drums, like Recording Custom. Though it was introduced in the 1960’s, it is still popular to this day, and is constantly being reinvigorated with new colors like solid black and surf green. The snares are perfect for anyone looking for the vintage look with a modern high quality tonality.



    Gretsch Drums operates under the larger Gretsch Company. These kits were founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1883. It began as a small company with a German immigrant, Friedrich Gretsch, as its company head. After his passing, his son inherited the company and began to make Gretsch into the great international brand it is today.

    Gretsch creates sturdy products that can last a long time. Though they’ve been around since 1883, you can’t call these snares old fashioned. They specialize in all kinds of different snares and entire kits for beginners, rock musicians, and people who love retro looks and sounds.

    The USA Custom snare is a favorite inside this favorite company. With a 6-ply maple shell, this drum looks impeccable and always provides that “Great Gretsch Sound” the company has been famed for for over 100 years.


    Buy Your Snare Drum Today!

    Drum Center of Portsmouth carries all of our personal favorite brands, and many more that we haven’t mentioned in this article! Whether you crave a vintage sound from an older company, or need a snare on a budget, we can provide any style drum you need for any genre.

  • Tips for Marketing Yourself as a Session Drummer

    Do you dream of becoming a drummer, but you’re not sure you want to just work with one band of musicians? You don’t just have to work with one group—you can market yourself as a session drummer. These expert drummers find themselves recording and performing with many different bands and artists.

    Drum Center of Portsmouth wants to help you get hired as a session drummer. We are the leading company in drum sets and accessories, and are dedicated to giving you everything you need to know to reach your potential as a session drummer.


    What is a session drummer?

    A session drummer, or more generally referred to as a session musician, is a musician who is hired to perform live or at recording sessions with a band. While many musicians only play with one band, session drummers are hired to play with many different bands. This means that they are professionals who need to have working knowledge of many different genres.

    Session drummers can be as popular as any drummer from any single band. Famous session drummers, like Hal Blaine, get to work with a ton of different famous bands. Blaine himself recorded with the Ronettes, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, and many other excellent groups from the 60’s.

    But how can you begin your career as a session drummer, and how do you market yourself to be able to work with many different bands?


    Learn different genres

    The best session drummers are flexible in their approach to drumming. The more genres you know how to play in, the more gigs you will be able to book. Just make sure you’re proficient in different styles before you market yourself that way, because you don’t want to have false advertising.

    You may also learn different instruments to broaden your scope in the industry. There are a huge number of drums and percussion instruments, so if you practice things like the marimba, the bongos, or the cowbell in addition to the drum set, you can find yourself recording more tracks and playing more shows.


    Have a signature sound

    Though you should learn different genres, having one sound that makes you stand out from other musicians is the way to get a good reputation. That means more people will come specifically to you when they need the sound you make.

    If your preferred style ever goes out of fashion, that’s when it’s also good to have different genres under your belt. You can easily adapt to the musical environment while also honoring the natural progression of your interests and evolution of style.


    Get the right equipment

    Another thing that can help you show the world you’re a professional musician is investing in quality equipment to use. This means getting high quality drums, cymbals, and sticks. Here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, we sell this kind of professional equipment at low prices. That means that getting good equipment, even at the beginning of your career, is absolutely attainable.

    Buying a wide variety of equipment also helps. This means you could produce different sounds for each gig you do, further demonstrating your versatility in expertise in the drums. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different instruments!


    Be active on social media

    Use social media platforms to your advantage: advertise your drumming expertise. Posting drumming videos online can help get you exposed to the right people, and land more gigs through them!

    This isn’t just a way to show off your drumming, though. You should also act like a real, humble human being. If you show people the likeable, friendly sides of you in addition to your music prowess, it will help you get jobs and more importantly, make friends!

    Keep up with people regularly, and don’t let the endgame of getting gigs getting in the way of making meaningful relationships. You friends will be able to give you encouragement and advice, which will help your health and your career in the long run.


    Make a website and portfolio

    Your website, on the other hand, can be a place where you can be charismatic and show off your musical chops a little. Make a website that highlights the great things about you, and has an archive of as many shows you have recorded. This can give people a glimpse into your style and what you’re like to work with!

    You can even set up a way to book appointments with you online. That way, there is a fast, easy, and convenient way to get in contact with you. If you’re easier to reach, the easier you will be able to get jobs in the industry.


    Be open to feedback

    As a session drummer, you should know that the way you play a song initially isn’t always going to match the group’s vision. You should be able to adjust what you’re doing to fit the needs of the people who hired you. This doesn’t mean you stifle your own creativity and become a doormat, but working with different people allows for so many opportunities for collaboration.

    The best session drummers are excited to try new, innovative beats and rhythms. On the other hand, they’re also grateful for simpler drum parts—anything to create musical cohesiveness with the rest of the band.


    Bottom Line

    Becoming a session musician is a great way to get in the industry while also doing what you love—drumming. The life of a session drummer is exciting and spontaneous. Marketing yourself as such means you should be willing to be flexible, friendly, and professional!

    You should be willing to work hard in this sort of career. Moving to cities with famous music scenes, like Nashville, Los Angeles, and New York, can also help you get more popular as a session drummer. Put yourself out there as a great person to work with, and you’ll be booking shows in no time.

  • Top 7 Mistakes Beginner Drummers Make

    Learning an instrument, especially when you’re learning the drums, is a fun and rewarding experience. The road to becoming an expert is long, but you’ll be able to do it with patience and lots of practice. But beginner drummers can make mistakes that form into bad habits—and these can prevent you from practicing well!

    We at Drum Center of Portsmouth want to help beginner drummers know how to correct their mistakes, and learn from them effectively. Here is a list of the top 7 mistakes that beginner drummers make:

    1) Having an incorrect grip

    Though gripping the sticks is one of the first things you should learn when playing the drums, it is easy to hold them incorrectly. There are many different styles of grip, and each of them have basic principles to guide drummers. One of the most common mistakes with any of these different styles is that drum novices will hold the sticks too tight.

    When you hold your sticks, you should be able to feel them rebound from the drumhead freely. If you grip your sticks too hard, the sticks won’t bounce. You’ll also use more energy to move your arms when you play, rather than your wrists. You shouldn’t have to use your arms to play at all—the sticks should make a natural arc to hit the drumhead.


    2) Hitting the edge of the drum

    If you’re not precise with your hits, you can end up hitting the edge of the drum rather than the center. While this is sometimes appropriate, depending on which genre of music you’re playing, it is often not necessary. You will always achieve better sound clarity when you loosen your grip on your sticks and hit the center of the drum.

    Make sure that your drum set isn’t too close or too far away from your drum throne. This can cause discomfort and the inability to hit the center of your snare or tom. Place your stool so that you can hold the sticks to your side and hit the drum comfortably.

    You should also tune your ear to the different sounds each drum makes when they are hit on the edge rather than in the center. This will allow you to better identify when you are playing them incorrectly.


    3) Not using a metronome when practicing

    If you are a new drummer, it is essential that you practice with a metronome. Though you may have a naturally good sense of rhythm and beat, you can never be too good at keeping a beat. Using a metronome can help you hone your drum skills.

    You can start with the metronome clicks on every beat. From there, you can get into more advanced settings to help you improve the way you play. One of the ways you can do that is by reducing the speed on the metronome. For example, if you play at 120 beats per minute, or bpm, reduce it to 60bpm so that it clicks on beats 1 and 3. You can reduce it by half again, and have it only play on beat 1 of each measure. Eventually, you will not need to rely on a metronome to keep a steady beat.


    4) Having incorrect bass drum form

    When you first start off incorporating the bass drum into your rhythms, it can be difficult to use your hands while also keeping the correct form! The most common mistake in learning the bass drum is completely lifting your foot to stomp on the pedal. This creates a loud, unpleasant sound that can eventually damage your feet and muscles!


    Rather than stomping on the pedal, there are two main ways to play the bass correctly:

    • Heel down method. This means that your foot, from toe to heel, stays on the pedal the entire time you play. This gives you the most control and ability to play quietly. It will also create a more open sound, and allow the mallet to return to its starting position quickly after hitting the drum.
    • Heel up method. This is when your toes hit the pedal without putting your heel down. This method is preferable when you are playing in the rock or pop genres, or you need a bigger, louder sound. You exert more energy from your legs when you play this way, and the mallet rests on the bass drum after striking it before returning to its original position.


    5) Sitting with bad posture

    Whether at a desk or a drum set, slouching is never a good thing. Keeping a good posture while you play the drums can help you control your movements better, and it keeps your back and neck healthy and straight. Slouching will eventually hurt your spine, and make drumming hurt.


    6) Never practicing exercises

    Though basic exercises can seem repetitive and boring, they are essential to help you keep the beat and have a good playing technique. Sticking patterns, learning beats, and putting every rhythm in your muscle memory is what really makes an excellent, versatile drummer.

    Exercises in beginner drumming books can also help you learn to read music. Many drummers may think that it doesn’t require knowing theory, but this can’t be farther from the truth. If you become fluent in reading music, you will be able to pick up any piece of music available to you.


    7) Only playing fast

    When you’re first starting out, you should learn to keep a steady beat at a slow pace so you know you’re hitting the drum on each count. If you’re not able to play slowly, there is no way to tell whether you have control over your sticks yet. Experts can play at any bpm.


    Bottom Line

    Drumming is a hard skill to learn, so it’s only natural that beginners will be making plenty of mistakes. Once you are patient, and you learn how to break bad habits and learn from your mistakes, you can become an expert drummer.

  • Finding the Best Solid Ply Snare Drum

    At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we carry dozens of solid ply snare drums from over 10 different drum makers. In our latest shootout, we compare 10 solid-ply snare drums from 10 different manufacturers.
  • Why Choose to Play Drums?

    Drumming is a form of musical self-expression that humans have engaged in for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations made drums from animal skins and used the instruments for ceremonial events. More recently drums are a stable in rock bands. They're used by the military, meditators, scientists, and people from all walks of life.

    These versatile instruments remain popular to this day, but why do so many people enjoy playing drums? Keep reading to learn about some of the fascinating benefits playing the drums can bring to your life if you've ever considered buying your own set.


    Versatile Instrument

    When many people think of playing the drums, they consider them to be loud and cumbersome. But not every drum is meant to make loud sounds.

    Today drums come in all shapes and sizes. They can even be nearly silent. If excessive noise is a concern for you, then consider using an electric drum in which the sound is transmitted through headphones. You can still benefit from the soothing sound of rhythm in your life at a level that's more comfortable.

    If you get bored with one type, you can switch and choose a different style. It's easy to keep up with the latest innovations in the drum world to choose from with our helpful reviews. You can learn more about which are the best single hand drums, traditional full drum sets, and anything in between. The possibility for playing the drums is endless with so many types from around the world.


    Reduce Stress

    While you are playing the drums, you don't have to think about anything that may be troubling you in your life at that moment. For a short period of time, you don't have to worry about overdue bills or familial troubles: you can just focus on the beat. Drumming is a fantastic escape for many people, and extremely stress-reducing.

    Research has even shown that the act of creating music can release endorphins and immediately elevate your mood. Having a hobby that isn't related to your day job can help you live a happier life.

    If you only think about work and your obligations, you will burn out. Having something fun like drumming to turn to will give you motivation to take a break from work and ultimately perform better in the long run.


    Enhance Coordination

    Playing the drums requires fine-tuned motor skills and intense concentration. Through practice, you can improve skills that will help you to become a better drummer. Drum practicing will also help you to excel in many other aspects of your life that involve rhythm, memorization, and hand-eye coordination. Drumming can help you become a better student, partner, and employee.

    Learning to play the drums well can also help you to play other instruments as well. When you play the drums, you need to focus exclusively on the rhythm because there are not different notes. Therefore, your drum practice will help you focus on the cadence when you go back to playing another instrument.


    Get Fit

    The physical nature of drumming can actually help you to burn calories. To exert the energy needed through constant, controlled arm motions, you need upper arm strength. Drumming builds muscle in this area. Over time, it becomes easier and less tiring to play.

    Compared to the process of playing many other types of musical instruments, drumming is one of the most physically active. If you drum with a foot pedal, you strengthen leg muscles too!


    Express Yourself

    Drumming gives people a creative way to express their feelings. You can make the rhythm reflect how you are feeling and use it to help you process your emotions. You even have the ability to create music that speaks to you, which you can choose to perform for others.

    Instead of engaging in an unhealthy activity such as violence or substance abuse, you can bang on the drums for a while to help you work through intense emotions. Having a constructive outlet to release negative emotions can help you to maintain healthy relationships with your friends, family, and even yourself. Turning to the drums instead of something nefarious will give you a safe coping mechanism.


    Develop Confidence

    As you work on your drumming skills and become better, you are also very likely to become more confident as well. When you work hard to excel at a certain activity, it can help you realize that you can excel at anything that you decide to put your mind to. Additionally, drummers are in charge of keeping time for all other musicians they are playing with. When you realize that people can count on you, you understand that you can count on yourself.


    Join a Community

    When you decide to take up drumming, you will suddenly find that you have something in common with millions of people throughout the world. It gives you something to bring up in casual conversation or delve into deep discussion with other interested people. You may even be able to find clubs or meet-ups in your area that celebrate other drummers and will help you to build new connections and make friends.


    Make Extra Money

    If you get good enough, you could eventually take your drumming from a hobby to a source of income. Drummers are always in high demand for bands and musical functions. You could start playing gigs with a band or on your own at local bars or at weddings.

    Another option is to set up a microphone and record drum tracks that you could then sell online. You could also make a YouTube channel, and if you get enough of a following, you could monetize your videos. There are many creative ways out there to make a full-time living through drumming, or just a couple extra bucks.

    No matter whether you want to drum just for the fun of it or you want to make it big, you are sure to get something out of taking up drumming. Drumming reflects our heartbeats and helps us immediately connect with the sounds of the world, and each other.

    There are so many benefits of drumming that are just waiting for you to discover if you give this wonderful activity a chance. What are you waiting for? Give it a try today!

  • How the Material of a Drum Affects Its Sound

    A lot goes into making sure a drum kit has long and healthy life. Aside from proper care, finding the right shell material is just as important.

    The heart and soul of the drum is the shell. This is its main feature, and every sound starts here. Whether it is a wooden shell or metal shell, every factor of the shell makeup effects the final sound.

    There are many types of drum materials that produce a wide range of sounds. To understand drum shells and their sonic properties, let's dive into the types of shells you might encounter and what each mean.


    Wood Types

    The common shell type of a drum kit is the classic wood design. Wood shells produce a wide range of sounds, ranging from warm tones to sensitive sonic sounds. These wood shells include:

    • Maple is an all-purpose shell type capable of producing a nice level of high and mid-level tones that are slightly warm.
    • Mahogany is a classic drum shell with resonant and vibrant sounds. The highs can be rather muted but there is a smooth midrange and a rich/warm low tone product.
    • Birch boosts frequencies with a reduced midrange and a good punch on the low-end. The overall sound is cutting and loud.
    • Oak provides a lovely soft high, good midrange option, and warm lows. Oak drum shells are all-purpose and tend to decay quickly.
    • Walnut creates warm and big sounds. Walnut shells are equal across a low, middle, and high sound range.
    • Beech is capable of focused and sensitive sound. The low-end range gives a punch and has mid and high with pronounced products.
    • Cherry gives off a sensitive and bright sound with a boost for the highs, punch in the midrange, and an average low end.
    • Bubinga is punchy and sensitive with an even product between middle and high, with a very rich low-end sound product from this shell.
    • Poplar has a smooth sound that is warm with a soft middle and high sonic product.
    • Ash has a warm and throaty sound when used as a drum shell. It is a distinct and pronounced sound.

    Wood shells present infinite options for drum sounds because there are so many species of timber to use. Choosing the wood for a shell largely depends on the type of music you are looking to produce. You might also choose a non-conventional shell on purpose to make your sound unique. For example, while maple and birch are the most common choice for genres like jazz, the more unusual poplar or ash will be unexpected for listeners.


    Metal Drum Shells

    As you might imagine, metal drum shells produce quite a different sound than wooden counterparts. Metal drum shells are typically welded, cast, or hand-spun. We will get more into construction later. For now, learn a little bit about the most common metal drum shells and the sounds they produce.

    • Carbon Steel is all-purpose as a metal shell. The sound tends to bring an average midrange and very clear high-level sounds.
    • Aluminum drum shells have sensitive and colorful sound quality. The midrange product is open and warm with crisp highs and a low-end product.
    • Brass shells are vibrant and warm. The lows, mids, and highs are all open.
    • Copper is both powerful and loud when used as a drum shell. Copper brings muted highs, a low-end sound, and a distinctive midrange.
    • Titanium drum shells are focused and clear in terms of sound quality. It has a box low end with a clear middle range and highs.
    • Bronze shells are also responsive and warm with a powerful midrange and muted high range.

    Similar to wood shells, metal shells are limited only by the number of metal alloys to choose between. Once again, think about the sound you are looking to produce. Beginners might want to buy carbon steel and then play with adventurous sounds like copper and brass.


    Synthetic Drum Shells

    In the past thirty years a new shell option has entered the market. Synthetic shells are capable of very clean and focused sounds. In many cases, they are rather versatile. Three common synthetics are carbon fiber, acrylic, and fiberglass.

    • Carbon fiber is used for a dry and controlled sound. It is even in the across the high and middle range and warmer towards the end.
    • Acrylic drum shells have a strong presence and a powerful attack. They are warm across all levels of ranges, including low, middle, and high.
    • Fiberglass is focused and controlled. Similar to acrylic shells, these are even across all ranges and known for consistency.

    Most players don't explore synthetic shells as much as wooden and metal ones. However, their unique quality is not to be overlooked.


    Hybrid Shells

    A final type of shell to consider is a combination of synthetic, metal, and wood. These combinations can be a hit or miss as not all types mesh well. Each type of material produces a sonic quality that can sometimes clash with other sounds.

    Hybrid shells cannot be combined without careful consideration of what the end result might sound like. The experts at Drum Center of Portsmouth can guide you through the hybrid collection before you settle on a final purchase.


    Shell Construction

    After breaking down the different materials to choose between, it is important to understand how construction can influence the sound that is created. Similar to the above, let’s go through the different materials and the construction options. You'll see how much shell construction affects the final sound.


    Wood Construction

    • Plywood construction results in a long sustainable sound and a varying pitch. Plywood shell gives a lot of volume. These shells are formed from thin layers of wood that have been laminated together. The number of layers will also play a role in the final sound.
    • Stave construction is similar to barrel construction. Pieces are laid vertically and the edges bevelled for the circular shape. Stave results in a high pitch and a short sustain.
    • Steam-bent shells have a vibrant sound product with a fundamental pitch. As the name implies, the shell is formed through steam technology.


    Metal Shell Construction

    Metal drum shells are formed through three methods: cast, spun, and welded.

    • Cast metal drum shells involve a lot of labor that starts with pouring metal into a drum shell cast. The craftsman then shaves away metal until the proper shape and thickness is achieved. The final result is a high fundamental pitch and long sustain.
    • Spun construction is similar to cast, but it involves drilling the shell to the desired shape. Spun shells also produce fundamental pitch and vibrancy.
    • Welded construction fuses metal together in the desired form and thickness.


    Try as Many as Possible

    Material, thickness, and construction are three important factors in the formation of a drum shell. With such a wide range of materials to choose from comes endless possibilities for playful shell experimentation. The eclectic nature of shells is what makes them so unique - have fun trying a few out!

  • A Look into the Drum Manufacturing Process

    People have been playing drums for thousands of years and the drums are important aspects of religious ceremonies, military events, and modern music compositions. These percussion instruments have been experimented with and refined through time, and the drums we use today continue to be tweaked so each instrument plays at a perfect pitch.

    Despite the varying sizes, shapes, and materials used for past and present drums, one consistency has remained: all have a drumhead that is held in place by a solid foundational frame.

    Today, we will discuss how drums are made to produce meaningful beats in a variety of social, functional, and cultural settings, and how the manufacturing process affects the sound each drum makes.


    Understanding Drums' Parts

    Before diving into the manufacturing process, it is important to understand each part of a drum.

    There are a variety of types of drums that both novice and expert musicians play, such as snares, kettledrums, bongos, congas, and djembes. All of these have the basic framework of the tom-tom, which is the simplest drum in terms of structure. All drums also include these basic structural components:

    • Head: The drumhead is a stretched membrane that is tightly secured over the drum shell. A head can be placed at either one or both ends of the drum. The player strikes it with sticks, mallets, or hands to produce vibrations that resonate throughout the instrument and produce beats. Pitched percussion instruments, such as timpanis, need to have properly tuned heads in order to produce the correct notes. Unpitched percussion instruments, such as snares, do not need to have tuned heads but their heads still need to be properly tightened.
    • Rim: The rim, also known as a hoop, is what holds the head in place. It is tightly secured around the shell.
    • Shell: This component is the basis of a drum. The shell, which is cylindrical in shape, is the drum's easiest part to spot. When a player strikes a drum, the sound originates from its shell.
    • Tuning screws: Tuning screws are small, rod-like parts that are placed around the rim. Tuning screws, also known as tension rods, allow the musician to tighten or loosen the head and change its tone and pitch.
    • Lugs: Lugs are larger bolts that keep the tuning screws in place.


    Drum Materials

    The components of a drum can be made of a variety of materials that include wood, metal, and synthetic materials like acrylic or carbon fiber. Some parts are composed of a hybrid of materials to increase durability, lower cost, or produce a specific sound effect.To learn more about how specific materials affect a drum's sound, refer to this article.


    How the Process Works

    Now that you are familiar with the parts and materials that drums are composed of, let's take a deeper look into the manufacturing process:


    The Shell

    An entire portion of the manufacturing process is dedicated to the creation of the shell. While shells are sometimes constructed with different materials, they are usually created with woods like maple, birch, or beech, and two or three-ply plywood is typically used. The actual process looks like this:

    1. Shells are made with anything ranging from six-ply to ten-ply plywood. The process begins by determining how many two or three-ply plywood pieces will be needed.
    2. The plywood is prepared by carefully selecting and cutting each piece. The outermost piece is set so that its grain runs horizontally, while the inner pieces are placed so that their grains alternate horizontally and vertically.
    3. An adhesive is applied and the molding process begins. The wood pieces are pressed tightly into the manufacturing mold.
    4. An airbag is inserted into the center of the mold and forces the plywood pieces against the mold. This allows the wood to be formed into a perfectly round cylindrical shape.
    5. After the adhesive-covered wood is stable in its mold, it is placed into a microwave oven. Here, it is given time to dry and permanently maintain its round shape.
    6. Once dry, it is cut to the required size of whatever drum is being produced.

    Additional notes:

    • In drum kits with multiple shells, the same plywood is used for each shell to keep a uniform physical appearance and to maintain consistency.
    • The molding process must be performed quickly, as the adhesive dries quickly.


    The Beautification Process

    Once the wood is cut, the drums go through a beautification process to finish the wood and enhance their aesthetic appearance.

    1. A machine is used to sand the wood various times. The initial sanding process is completed with a final sanding done by hand.
    2. The painting process commences at this point and an initial coat of paint is applied. A rag is used to apply this initial coat in order to bring out the wood's grain.
    3. The shell is sanded, another paint coat is applied, and another sanding takes place.
    4. After painting, a machine polishes the shell.

    Additional notes:

    • Sometimes, shells have intricate designs that can't be created through painting. In place of paint, polyvinyl chloride or polyester sheets with adhesive backings are used to give the shell its singular and intricate design.


    The Hardware Additions

    At this point, it is time to add the hardware additions to the drum. These additions will vary depending on the specific drum type.

    1. Using precision drills, small holes are drilled into the shell. These holes allow the hardware parts to be securely attached.
    2. The lugs are screwed into the drumhead.
    3. The rim and tuning screws are secured, and the head is put into place.
    4. Quality control is conducted to ensure the drum meets visual and sound standards.

    Additional notes:

    • All holes are drilled as small as possible in order to not negatively interfere with the drum's sound.
    • Sometimes, the heads are not placed on during the manufacturing process in order to minimize damages during the transit process.

    That's it! Now you know all there is to know about how drums are made. Knowing about the manufacturing process will help you choose a drum with parts built to capture the sound you're looking for. You can always read up on which drums have the specific parts your sound needs in our latest drum reviews on our blog!

  • Pearl DCP 10th Anniversary Sensitone Brass Snare Drum

    In honor of Drum Center of Portsmouth's 10th anniversary, the good folks at Pearl designed a limited edition version of the Beaded Brass Sensitone that features gold-plated lugs, hoops, throw off, and butt. There are a small number of these available, and we don't expect they'll last long, so make sure to get your hands on this limited piece before it's too late!
  • How to Care for Your Drum Set

    When many drummers start out, there’s one thing they don’t anticipate: the amount of instrument care involved just to perform well. No other musician has to use as many different mechanical devices as drummers do. Even the most basic performance on a drum set can cause stress on the instruments. In time, this stress can cause the mechanical parts to fail. Often, this will happen at a time that will create the most chaos.

    What does this all mean? Well, it all equates to an adage many percussion instructors will tell their students. “If you care for your drum set, then your set will take care of you.” In other words, you want to make sure to keep your drum set looking and sounding good. This will ensure your drum set will stay free of most mechanical problems that could negatively impact your performance.

    The following are tips from our expert drummers and staff here at DCP. These are some of the different ways that drummers can take care of their set to keep it in the best condition possible.


    Cover Up Your Kit

    The appearance of every drummer’s drum set is a deeply personal matter. This is why there are as many different finishes for drum sets as there are drums. Still, there isn’t a drum finish that looks good if it is dusty or dingy.

    This is why you should regularly dust and cover your set. Simply draping a bed sheet or painter’s lightweight drop cloth will be more than sufficient for the task.

    This is of utmost importance if you leave your kit set up in a venue with poor air quality. Sure, cigarette smoke is mostly a thing of the past in restaurants and bars due to bans on indoor smoking. However, there is still the problem of grease in the air. This can lead to your set developing a thin coating of grime. The grime can destroy the finish on your set rather quickly. The easiest solution is to cover your drums when they aren’t in use.


    Wipe Down Your Drum Set and Avoid Scratching the Finish

    You should always wipe your kit down when you are done playing it for the night. Wipe your set down with a soft clean cloth and a bit of Windex. This should help to remove any grease or film that may build up on your drums or hardware. However, this shouldn’t take the place of giving your set a thorough cleaning from time to time.

    A deep clean requires you to dismantle your entire set down to the lugs and rims. That way, you can clean the individual small parts. It also enables you to polish the drums.

    If your drums have a wrapped finish, you will be cleaning a plastic surface. In contrast, lacquered finishes will have you simply polishing the lacquer. Rarely will you work on a natural wood surface. Regardless of the coating, care should be taken to ensure that you don’t scratch the surface.


    Lube the Bearing Edges and Clean the Tension Rods

    These are all jobs you will want to do when you have your entire set broken down. You can do them one-by-one as well.

    When the heads are off their shells, you should inspect the bearing edges (the part of the rim that is in contact with the head) for wear. As long as they aren’t damaged, you can just put a light coating of beeswax on to keep them in good shape. If some damage is starting to appear, then you should contact your nearest drum smith. They can check how much damage has been done.

    You also will want to clean the tension rods when the heads are off. All it takes is a thorough wiping down. This will remove any dust or particles that may have become stuck in the threads of the lugs. After cleaning, add a drop or two of 3-in-1 oil. This will keep the rods moving freely when you are tightening the lugs.


    Replace Your Heads as Needed, Even the Bottom Ones!

    Before putting your drum set back together—but after a detailed cleaning—inspect all of your drumheads. Drumheads aren’t designed to last forever. Once they wear out, they won’t sound great. If the batter head (the one you strike) develops pits or the coating has worn away, you will want to replace your old drumheads with new ones.

    You won’t want to forget about the resonant head (the one you don’t strike) either. The best way to check this drumhead is when you reassemble the drum. If the drum won’t tune evenly or the resonance isn’t what it once was, you probably want to replace the resonant drumhead.


    Don’t Forget the Cymbals

    The last part of your set that you will want to regularly clean are your cymbals. Contrary to common opinion, the cymbals are one of the easiest parts of your set to clean. All it takes is to apply a cleaner like Nevr Dull or Bar Keeper’s Friend. Add a little water to wet the cymbal and gently rub a soft cloth over the cymbal you are cleaning.

    Be careful if you like the logo on your cymbals. These cleaners will remove the painted logo. Once you have covered the cymbal with the cleaning material and water, you can gently wipe them off. They will sparkle like new, especially under the lights of a club.

    Once you have bought the drum set of your dreams, you will want to keep it looking its best. This will ensure that it also sounds its best as well. While it is a bit labor-intensive to do, giving your set a thorough cleaning is well worth the effort. Regularly cleaning your entire drum set and spot cleaning it between performances will keep your set in the best condition it can be.

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