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Drum Center of Portsmouth Blog

  • 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!

  • 5 Best Drum Tuning Devices for 2019

    So you've got your drum kit ready to go, complete with amazing cymbals and a snare you're in love with. However, it seems like after a few jam sessions your sound isn't the same as when you bought it. You probably need a quick tuner that you can rely on anytime your drums sound flat.

    If you need a new drum tuner, Drum Center of Portsmouth is the biggest independently owned drum store in the entire world, and we can help you find the perfect tuner! We're experts in all things drum related, but we know not all of our customers can spot one of the best tuners when they see one. So, we made this buyer’s guide to help you find the best drum tuners of 2019.

    Without properly tuning your drum, your set will sound clunky and unprofessional. While some decide to tune their drums by ear, it is far easier to use a tuner to help you get the perfect sound. Tuning helps you adjust the frequency of your drum to avoid unwanted tones. You'll get a professional sound regardless of the quality of your set.

    Whether you are a seasoned professional or a beginner, a drum tuner is a must-have piece of hardware! Tuning devices speed up your tuning process, are easy to use, portable, and help make your drum sound amazing.

    Check out our five favorite tuners that we think are the best fit for you!

    Quick Look at Our Favorite Drum Tuners

    • Tune-Bot Gig: 5/5 stars
    • Tune-Bot Studio: 4/5 stars
    • Tama Tension Watch: 4/5 stars
    • Drumdial Drum Tuner: 3/5 stars
    • Drumdial Digital Drum Tuner: 3/5 stars

     

    1 Drumdial Drum Tuner: Best Device if You’re on a Budget

    Pros

    • Silent tuning
    • Extremely accurate
    • Easy to tune in a loud environment
    • Compact
    • Affordable
    • Comes with a 1-year warranty

    Cons

    • Lower quality
    • Have to set tuning range manually
    • Difficult to tune certain kinds of drums

    This is the one of the cheapest tuners available at Drum Center of Portsmouth. Even though it has a lower price, this Drumdial device is still a great purchase! Drumdial is one of the most trusted brands in the business, and all of their products are quality devices. This classic device is loved by drummers of all kinds, and we are sure you will love it too.

    By measuring your drums timpanic pressure, the Drumdial Drum Tuner will tune your drum with great accuracy! We love that you can use this tuner without ever having to hit your drum head, so it is easy to tune in loud environments. This is a major benefit if you are used to tuning your drums by ear.

    The Drumdial Drum Tuner comes with added features that make it a great bargain! For a low price, you will receive the drum tuner as well as:

    Product specs:

    • The DrumDial edge gage
    • A foam lined box for protection
    • A lug back for excellent handling
    • A locking bezel to mark your tuning range

    This is definitely the best option for those who are looking for a cheaper tuning option! However, it's still used by many professional musicians, as it still will tune your drums better than even less expensive choices. Check out the price of this tuner on the Drum Center of Portsmouth website today!

     

    2 Drumdial Digital Drum Tuner: The Best Device for New Drummers

    Pros

    • One touch calibration
    • Easy to read digital screen
    • Precise tuning

    Cons

    • More expensive than the classic Drumdial tuner
    • Short battery life
    • Does not come with a warranty

    Another beloved Drumdial product had to be featured on our list! This device has all of the great qualities of the Drumdial Drum Tuner - but in digital form! This puts it at a higher price, but it comes with more features.

    The Drumdial Digital Drum Tuner is a great option for beginner drummers! The digital face allows you to easily read the tuning settings and get an exact measurement for your desired sound. One thing to watch out for is the battery life on this device, however. We suggest you carry spare batteries along with this digital tuner just to be on the safe side. This tuner is extremely easy to calibrate and read which is why we think it is the perfect pick for less experienced drummers.

    This digital Drumdial product comes with great features that both new and old drummers will appreciate! When you order the Drumdial Digital Drum Tuner, you will also receive:

    Product specs:

    • A foam lined case with a hard-protective shell
    • An edge gage
    • A drum key
    • A useful tuning chart

    If you want a straight-forward tuner, we definitely recommend the Drumdial Digital Drum Tuner! Start getting a better sound with your drum in no time when you order this product from Drum Center of Portsmouth online.

     

    3 Tune-Bot STUDIO Electronic Drum Tuning Device: The Best Device for Multiple Drums

    Pros

    • Increased accuracy
    • Can save multiple drum pitch settings
    • Small and portable
    • Easy to read display
    • Multiple display options

    Cons

    • Higher price
    • No warranty

    Tune-Bot STUDIO is another great tuner option! We think the best part about this tuner is that it can save pitch settings for 10 drums on up to five drum sets! That means it can save a total of 50 individual drum settings! This is perfect for studio technicians or professional drummers who have multiple drum sets.

    Tune-Bot is another trusted tuning device company that professional drummers love. They specialize in digital tuning and provide some of the most impressive features on all of their devices. If you are looking for a product that is a little more advanced, then Tune-Bot is definitely the place to start.

    The Tune-Bot STUDIO Electronic Drum Tuner has a lot of great features and add-ons that make it one of the most popular tuners on the market. When you use the STUDIO you can also experience:

    Product specs:

    • A small, portable drum tuning device
    • Four color display
    • Easy to use keypad
    • Portable plastic case

    The Tune-Bot STUDIO tuner is one of the best tuners on the market! If you want to use one tuner for multiple drum sets, this is the perfect device for you! Even though it is one of the higher priced devices available, you are certainly getting the quality you pay for. This life changing device is available on the Drum Center of Portsmouth website!

     

    4 Tune-Bot Gig: Best Device for Experienced Drummers

    Pros

    • Lots of different settings to help you get the perfect sound
    • Detailed instructions
    • Easy to read display

    Cons

    • A large amount of settings can make this devise confusing
    • No warranty

    The Tune-Bot Gig is a fantastic, slightly cheaper option if you enjoy the digital interface of Tune-Bot products. This device will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to tune drums! It is not as easy to use compared to some of the other tuning devices featured in our buyer’s guide, but we love the clearly professional sound you get after using the Gig!

    This model provides more features than you can find on most tuning devices! Tune-Bot loves to provide drummers with as many customizable options as possible, and the Gig definitely delivers on this. It can be difficult to use if you are a less experienced drummer, and it can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed when using this device.

    The special features on the Tune-Bot Gig make it one of the most versatile tuners available! When you use this device, you can not only tune your drum but also use:

    Product specs:

    • Pitch measurements
    • Frequency modes
    • Lug pitch measurements
    • Overtone filters
    • Tuning charts

    We suggest this product for more experienced settings because of the patience this device requires. It is important to sit down with the instructions before you start using it. Beginner drummers will not likely need all of the different measurements featured on the Tune-Bot Gig. If you are looking to get a more precise sound on your kit, this is the device for you! Tune Bot Gig is available at Drum Center of Portsmouth, and you can get fast shipping!

     

    5 Tama Tension Watch Drum Tuning Aid: The Best Device for Accuracy

    Pros

    • Classic design
    • Easy to use
    • Dial face is very easy to read
    • Extremely accurate and consistent

    Cons

    • No special features or add-ons
    • No warranty

    The Tama Tension Watch is a no fuss tuner for the drummer who likes to stick to the basics. It features a classic dial reading system, so you won’t find any digital features with this device. Even though it may not be as high-tech as some of the other tuners on our list, it is one of the most professional and accurate drum tuners available. We love the classic style and easy to read dial on this Tama model!

    Unfortunately, there are no special features with this device. It is simple, straight forward, and easy to use. Despite there being no special features, the dial on this device is the most accurate out of all the products featured! This tuner will get you the perfect sound time and time again.

    If you are not interested in all of the bells and whistles that come with digital tuners, the Tama Tension Watch is the perfect fit for you. Get precision and accuracy without all the fuss when you purchase this device. Drum Center of Portsmouth always has excellent deals on Tama Products! You can order this timeless drum tuner today and receive it in just a few days!

     

    What to Consider When Buying Tuning Devices?

    Ask yourself the following questions before you start looking:

    • How many drums am I using this for?
    • Do I prefer a digital or classic tuner?
    • How much money am I willing to spend?

     

    Where You'll Play

    It is also important to consider the type of environment you will be tuning your drums in. If you typically go through the tuning process at home or in another quiet location, you can choose from a wide variety of drum tuners. However, if you suspect you will have to tune in loud locations from time to time, you will want to consider a tuner that does not require you to hit your drum.

     

    Classic vs. Digital?

    When it comes to the question between classic and digital drum tuners, this is truly up to personal preference. Both types of tuners can provide accurate readings and will help you get the same level of consistency. If you are interested in trying out special features or will be using the same tuner on multiple drum sets, a digital tuner is likely the way to go.

     

    Reviews of Popular Tuners

    We also always suggest you read reviews of devices before purchasing them. Ask other drummers what devices they enjoy using! Considering other drummer’s opinions may help you find a device you didn’t even know existed! Drummers and store experts may even let you test out a tuner before buying it, so you can get a feel for it.

     

    How Do I Know I’m Ready to Buy Tuning Devices?

    We suggest that every drummer, regardless of skill level, gets a drum tuner! Tuners always will give you a better sound from your drum. While it is true that you can tune by ear, this often takes a lot of time and practice. It also requires you to play the drum on the spot, which is not always going to give an read depending on your location.

    There are so many benefits to buying a tuning device! At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we believe drum tuners are as essential as a guitar tuner is for a guitarist. Simply put, these devices help you:

    • Tune your drum to perfection
    • Speed up the tuning process
    • Save your favorite tuning settings
    • Tune your drum anywhere

    Whether you play professionally or are just about to start taking lessons, we highly suggest that you purchase one of these devices. All of the devices featured in this guide are available at Drum Center of Portsmouth and come highly recommended by our staff!

     

    How Much Should I Expect to Spend?

    A quality tuning device can cost anywhere between $50-$100. The pricing varies based on the type of device and the special features it may have. Digital devices are typically more expensive but come with more tuning features!

     

    Which to Choose?

    At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we always have great deals on our tuning devices. Our experts can help you find the perfect tuner in your price range and point out discounted tuners you should be aware of. You can always view our prices and products online at our website.

    Bottom line, we'll always make sure you take home the one that will give you a great read, no matter the gig!

  • Tama Star Bubinga Limited Edition Red Viking Drum Set

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is Celebrating our 10th Anniversary with this extremely limited edition Tama Star Bubinga Red Viking Drum Set! We've got the only 3 available in the United States!
  • Best Drum Sticks of 2019 Review

    Would Van Gogh be the artist we know and love today if he had used crayons? Would the drum break in In the Air Tonight be as impactful if Phil Collins had use tree branches? Not likely, right?

    If our tubs are the canvas we paint on, then our drum sticks are our brushes. Paired with a crisp snare, a quality drum stick can do a lot for the clarity, warmth, and feel of your sound. Every drummer prefers different stick sizes and types, but there are always a few stand-out models that work for almost everyone.

    Here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, we want to connect every drummer with great sticks that feel and sound excellent. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best drum sticks of 2019. Let’s rock!

     

    1 Vic Firth American Classic Drum Stick 5A – Best Drum Sticks for Beginners

    Pros

    • Best all-around option
    • Medium-high durability
    • Good for drummers of all skill levels

    Cons

    • Not suitable for very heavy drumming
    • May not be specialized enough for advanced players

    The American Classic Drum Stick 5A is perhaps Vic Firth’s most well-known and beloved drum stick. The vast majority of drummers start learning on a pair of these. They’ve been voted time and time again as some of the best drum sticks out there – and for good reason.

    With a medium taper and a teardrop tip, 5As are well-suited for producing a range of different sounds depending on how they’re held. Their hardy hickory construction means these sticks will last a long time, though metal enthusiasts might find they break with heavier drumming.

    A set of Vic Firth 5As is never a bad choice, though. They’re high-quality and well-made, all for an unbeatable price. Whether you’re looking for your very first pair or just want a good all-around set to always be there for you, the 5As got your back.

    Product specs:

    • Length: 16”
    • Diameter: 0.565”
    • Tip shape: teardrop
    • Taper: medium
    • Material: Hickory (including tip)

    Why we love it: The Vic Firth American Classic 5A drum sticks are a drummer’s best friend. Versatility, great quality, durability, and a low price make these the perfect everyday sticks for drummers of all experience levels.

    Available for online purchase? Check them out on our online store but hurry – these gems are in high-demand!

     

    2 Vater Mike Johnston 2451 Hickory – Best Drum Sticks for Hard Rockers

    Pros

    • Barrel tip gives more ride cymbal definition
    • Suited for heavier playing without sacrificing precision
    • Great for live performances

    Cons

    • Thickness and weight make them slightly too big for use in light and fast playing
    • Some find size can be uncomfortable
    • Tips may wear down relatively quickly with hard playing

    We love the Vater Mike Johnston 2451 Hickory sticks because they’re designed for heavier drumming and good control. That means you’re free to bash your tubs like a metalhead, but still able to fine-tune the sound like a precision swing player. The barrel tips are especially suited to producing clear, distinct sounds on your ride cymbals.

    With a slightly thicker circumference between 5A and 5B, lots of people love the way the 2451’s just feel in hand. Some may find them clunky, but it’s really a matter of preference. Their size gives them added durability, so lots of musicians use them for performing live.

    The 2451’s are versatile and reliable. Are you prone to breaking sticks but still want a good, dependable all-around pair? Then these Vater Mike Johnston 2451 Hickory sticks can keep up with you.

    Product specs:

    • Length: 16”
    • Diameter: 0.580”
    • Tip shape: barrel
    • Taper: medium
    • Material: Hickory (sugar maple option available)

    Why we love it: Be loud, be bold, and be precise with the Vater Mike Johnston 2451 Hickory sticks. These heavy-duty bad boys are thicker for hard use. Fortunately, their distinct tip shape and balance give you more finesse than you’d think.

    Available for online purchase? You can find them in our online shop, but they sell fast.

     

    3 Promark Hot Rods – Best Drum Sticks for Acoustic Sets

    Pros

    • Designed for low-volume settings
    • Comfortable and easy to use
    • Warm, consistent sound

    Cons

    • More expensive than other single-pair sticks
    • Playing cross stick not possible due to shape

    What happens when you bundle together 19 birch dowels and wrap them in flaming red plastic? You get the Promark Hot Rods. Are they pricey? Yes. Are they the gold standard for playing acoustic or in small venues? Also, yes.

    Birch isn’t a super popular material for drum sticks. But here, birch makes for a solid, sturdy stick. The Hot Rods are meant to give you the feel of a regular drum stick while toning it down for a brush-quiet sound. The wrap near the neck further modifies the sound and provides reinforcement for added durability.

    If you’re a beginner, don’t feel intimidated by the unusual shape and construction of the Hot Rods. They’re easy to hold and use. The quiet sound also means these are great practicing sticks – no need to worry about disturbing the neighbors. While these can be used by drummers of any skill level, they’re particularly loved by experienced musicians working in professional settings.

    Product specs:

    • Length: 16”
    • Diameter: 0.550”
    • Tip shape: other
    • Taper: n/a
    • Material: Birch

    Why we love it: Sometimes you don’t want to be ear splittingly loud. The Promark Hot Rods feel like traditional sticks but provide a warm and low sound for acoustic sets or practicing at home.

    Available for online purchase? Check out our online store for deals and discounts.

     

    What to Consider When Buying Drum Sticks?

    Not all drum sticks are the same. It’s important to choose the right sized sticks and the right type for your style of playing.

    Before we get into the details, it’s important to know that everyone has different preferences when it comes to drum sticks. Use whatever size and type feel best to you – there are no rules saying what you can and can’t use!

    If you need a little help picking out your sticks, you can always give us a call. Drum Center of Portsmouth experts will help you figure out what pair may suit you best.

     

    Sizing

    There are three components of drum stick sizing: weight, diameter, and length. What size you get will depend on your style of playing and your individual preference.

    You might think length depends on your hand size, but it’s really more about the feel. Shorter sticks will feel stiffer, while longer ones give you more bounce and flexibility.

    Weight and diameter are represented by that number-and-letter combination you often see in the name or product description. It’s a little complicated, but each manufacturer gives a different meaning to the numbers and letters. Some will use the numbers to describe the weight or the circumference of the stick tip. Some will use the numbers to describe thickness or even what musical setting they work best in.

    In general, light and thin sticks work best for light and fast playing, like in jazz. Heavier, thicker sticks are used for hard rock and metal. Of course, make sure you check the product specs of each pair before buying – that way you know exactly what size you’re getting.

     

    Materials

    Drum stick makers use tons of different materials for their creations. Wood, metal, plastic, rubber, carbon fiber – you name it, someone has made a stick out of it. Each material produces a different sound, has a different feel, and boasts a different level of durability.

    Hickory is the most common stick material. It’s incredibly versatile and pretty durable, too. Hickory sticks are best for beginners or those exploring different playing styles. Oak is very durable and shock-absorbent, but oaks tend to take some experience to handle. Maple is springy and light. That makes it nice for jazz but not well suited for heavier playing.

    Non-wood sticks certainly have their applications, but they tend to cost more than wood. Overall, those looking for a dependable and versatile everyday stick can easily rely on wood.

     

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I know when I’m ready to buy drum sticks?

    Well, did you break your last pair recently? If so, you probably need some new ones!

    Actually, it’s always a good idea for any drummer to have multiple pairs of drum sticks in their kit. As you practice, you’ll come to prefer different sticks for each genre you play. Having a variety means you can experiment and figure out what works best for you.

    So, if you’re wanting to try something new or just feel like your current sticks don’t “feel” right, then it’s time to pick up a new pair.

     

    How much should I expect to spend?

    Drum stick prices vary according to material and craftsmanship. Some cheaper options may wear out faster, so you’ll have to replace them more often.

    Individual pairs can run between $3 and $25. They can also come in packs of 10 or 20, often from $15 to $30. Non-wood types can vary wildly in price depending on the material and durability, so they should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

     

    Bottom Line

    As drummers, we spend a lot of time putting together the right kit – so don’t leave your drum sticks out of the equation!

    If you have any questions about selecting drum sticks, don’t hesitate to contact us! Our goal here at Drum Center of Portsmouth is to get you set up with the tools you need to make great music. We can give you more information and help you pick out a pair or two.

    Visit our blog for helpful reviews about specific drum products and parts. Or just give us a call at (603) 319-8109 or swing by our store.

  • Sabian / A&F Ankh Hi-Hat Cymbals Review

    Ankh cymbals are the brainchild of two recognizable names in the drum world - Ramy Antoun from A&F Drum Company and SABIAN's Mark Love. The first offering in the ANKH Instrument Series is a limited series of Brass (14”&16”) and Bronze (16”) Hi Hat creations that are different from anything we’ve experienced before.
  • Pearl Masters Maple Gum Drum Set Review

    New for 2019, the Studio Recipe will be available for a limited time as Masters Maple/Gum series drums.
  • 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!
  • Easy Drum Set Tuning Techniques

    Like all instruments, drum sets need to be tuned in order to be on pitch. There are no right or wrong ways to tune a drum set. The right way is simply whichever way you prefer to get the sound you want.

    In this article, we'll go over some of the most popular techniques and how they can benefit your sound.

     

     

    Tuning Basics

    1. Replace the Heads

    If you are installing new batter (top) heads, the first thing you are going to want to do is to remove the old head and to replace it with this new one. After the fresh head is on, put the rim over it and hand tighten the tension rods.

     

    2. Check for Wrinkles

    Place your fist on the center of the head and press down. Notice the wrinkles on the drum's skin. You are going to want to remove these wrinkles by further tightening the rods.

     

    3. Tighten the Rods

    For the proper method of tightening the rods, think of it like changing a car tire. Start with one tension rod and give it a half turn. Then move to the rod directly across the head and tighten that one a half turn.

    Then go clockwise from the original and give that a half turn, followed by the rod directly across that. Continue this pattern until you've tightened all the rods and eliminated all the wrinkles.

     

    4. Seat the Head

    In order to properly seat your drum's head, press its center with your palm. By doing this, you are pulling the flesh loop into the rims' channels. The head is now conforming to the drum's bearing edges.

    Tap the skin and check its pitch. If you notice that it is producing a lower pitch than before, that means your head needed to be seated. Repeat the process of tightening and seating until the pitch remains constant.

     

    5. Muffle the Sound

    Take the drum and place it on something like a clean towel or rug. The head should be upwards facing.

    This not only muffles other sounds that might emanate from the drum but also allows you to easily spin the drum around, giving you quicker access to the lugs.

     

    6. Tap the Head

    Using either your drumstick or finger, give a tap on the heads of each of the rods.

    Note which areas of the drum sound high and which sound low. Typically, where one part of the head sounds high, the opposite end will sound low.

     

    7. Adjust the Rods

    For all the rods that sounded low, tighten them by giving them 1/8 turn clockwise. Tighten the ones that were high by turning them 1/8 counterclockwise. Reseat the head.

    Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the drumhead gives a uniform pitch all the way around.

     

    8. Tune the Bottom Side

    Turn the drum over and tune that side using steps 1 - 7.

    Now, let's get into more specific tuning.

     

    Tuning a Bass Drum

    Tighten the batter head to right above the wrinkle. Make sure that the beater sinks in. It shouldn't rebound easily. This way, you can stop any unwelcome double-strokes. After this, you can start tightening and loosening the tension rods until it sounds right to you.

    Keep in mind that you usually need to muffle bass drums in order to get a good sound. Common items for muffling include things like blankets, pillows, clamp-on devices, and foam. Whichever way you choose to muffle your drum is up to you.

    Some drummers prefer to cut a hole in the front-facing head. The bigger the hole, the less "boom" sound you get. The smaller the whole, the bigger the boom.

     

    Tuning a Snare Drum

    For the snare drum, tune the batter head as you would regularly tune a drum. When you get to tuning the snare (bottom) head, you have a few options. You can either tune the snare to match the top head, to be higher than the top, or to be lower than it. The most common method is to tune the snare head tighter than the batter.

    It is generally a good idea to tighten the snare head until it starts to sound a little choked. When you hear that, loosen the rods about a 1/2 turn or so. It may be helpful to mute the snare wires while you tune. This can be accomplished by sliding your drumstick underneath the wires. Just be careful—you don't want to pull too much on the snare-side head.

     

    Tuning Toms

    Tune your Tom's batter head until it is on pitch. From there, you can tighten and loosen the tension until you get a sound you are happy with. Turn over to the snare-side head and tune that one to be one tone higher than the batter. This should be the general relationship between the two heads. Check every so often to make sure they are tuned accordingly.

     

    Use a Drum Tuner

    If you are concerned about pitch-perfect tuning, you may want to consider purchasing a drum tuner. These devices supply drummers with a visual representation of each lug's tension. Although most drummers still prefer to tune by ear, drum tuners can often be found in recording studios.

     

    Maintenance

    It is a good idea to check your drums every time you take them out of the case. Give them a good whack and check that they sound alright. How often you need to tune your drums is related to how hard you hit them and how often you play on them.

    It's best to check them constantly like this so you can fix minor issues quickly instead of ending up with a completely off-pitch drum.

     

    Want More Drumming Tips?

    Check out our site, Drum Center of Portsmouth, for more informative articles on everything drums.

    We have tips, guides, and all kinds of reviews on the latest drumming equipment and techniques. Have a question? Feel free to contact us today to learn more!

  • How Your Snare Drum Can Define Your Kit

    In almost all areas of Western music, the snare drum produces the leading “voice” in a drum set. In styles like rock, funk, pop, and hip-hop, it delivers a backbeat that screams through walls of vocal and instrumental sound. It’s what anchors the rhythm of a tune.

    These roles are just another chapter in the snare’s storied history. This single item in a kit has evolved greatly since its invention. With a start as a medieval tabor drum to military side drums that amplified the commands of military leaders, the snare has been a major player for historical and musical reasons.

    These early examples of the snare led to it being an essential part of any modern drummer’s setup. Without the snare, the drum kit as we understand it wouldn’t exist. From our pros here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, here’s a look at how the snare evolved over the last 140 years and how those changes defined the drum sounds of their respective periods.

     

    The Transition from Wood to Metal

    As recently as the late 1880s, it was typical for drummers to double drum. This is a style of playing both the snare and bass with sticks. Double drumming can be seen as the first step toward the modern drum kit.

    The snares of this time were rather simple in design. Usually, they featured single-ply shells that were steam bent with T-rods, single tension lugs, and wooden hoops. Only one drumhead could have the tension adjusted. Snare strainers did not feature levers to engage and disengage the snare.

    The one exception to this was a prototype metal shelled drum. John Philip Sousa’s drummer Tom Mills had this model specially made by Sonor. It featured a 6.5x13” welded shell made of brass with separate tension lugs and metal hoops. It created a timbre from the revolutionary design. In time, this drum caught the eye of a Leedy drum salesman named William Ludwig. He kept pestering Mills until he finally sold the snare to Ludwig.

    Ludwig hoped to convince his boss to look into manufacturing metal snares. However, his boss didn’t warm to the idea due to thinking metal wasn’t a suitable material for making snares. That’s when Ludwig went into business with his brother. They began selling metal snares among other percussion instruments. Their innovative designs became the standards of the industry. They are still the leading name in snare drums today.

     

    Early Iconic Snare Drums

    Drum technology kept evolving in the 1920s and 30s. During this time, two snares were developed that would impact snare design to this day: The Slingerland Radio King and Ludwig DeLuxe “Black Beauty”.

    Ludwig brought out the Deluxe line in 1926. It came in an assortment of depths with 14 and 15-inch diameters. This masterpiece also was available with hand engraved ornamentations and several colored enamel options. There was even a gold-plated version called the Triumphal. Their gunmetal black version became the most popular. In fact, it was so popular that Ludwig began to reissue the snare in the 1970s.

    Despite the rising popularity of metal snares, wooden snares were still popular in big band, orchestral circles. This led to Slingerland creating their solid maple shelled snare known as the Radio King. Made famous by Gene Krupa, this snare had sleek, streamlined lug casings, eye-catching sparkle, pearloid wraps, and an adjustable snare system. This drum provided a boxy, warm sound that came with a level of sensitivity that would captivate drummers for decades.

     

    Rise of the Supraphonic

    Ludwig began producing the Super Ludwig snare line in 1941. These boasted some of the newest innovations in drumming technology. They were built around a 14” nickel-plated brass or reinforced mahogany shell in a variety of depths. The key improvement was the parallel snare system. This provided even tension to each snare wire and self-aligning lugs that wouldn’t strip if the head wasn’t placed on the shell evenly.

    By 1963, Ludwig had switched to making snares with a seamless spun aluminum shell to cut manufacturing costs. Ludwig also began offering drummers their choice of two different snare systems: the standard P-83 version, which was the Supraphonic snare, and the parallel snare system, renamed the Super Sensitive version.

    These snares had a bright, dry snap. They were immediately popular among the leading musicians of the 60s and 70s. From Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell to Led Zeppelin’s timekeeper John Bonham, these snares produced great sounds. This line of drums popularity led to it earning the distinction of being the most recorded snare in history.

     

    Back in Black

    Other manufacturers struggled to keep up with Ludwig. However, the brand managed to stay on top with their constant innovations. One of these was with the re-issuing of the Black Beauty snare in 1976.

    The reissue came with some modern updates. It featured the Art Deco look of the Supraphonic snare, ten imperial lugs, and a seamless beaded shell. Again, this snare proved to be a hit with recording artists. Many session drummers began using this model while promoting their use of other brands’ snares.

    Currently, most every drum company has a variation on the Black Nickel-Plated Brass snare from Tama’s Trackmaster to Pearl’s Sensitone and the Collector’s Series by DW. Ludwig continues to produce this model with newer options like hammered shells, die-cast hoops, and tube lugs. It’s one of those all-time favorites that can be found in studios and stages around the world.

     

    How Much Is Too Much?

    By the 1970s, most snares were somewhat standardized. This changed in the 80s with the move towards bigger and more powerful drums. Shells became thicker to the point where there were 8x14 inch snares on the market requiring 12 lugs.

    This movement was the result of the increasing popularity of metal and rock drummers. Their rise was thanks in part to MTV and the added importance of image over substance in rock music. Still, wooden and smaller snares remained popular in jazz and fusion circles.

    This affinity for power maxed out with the advent of the free-floating snare. This design had two aluminum rings that functioned as the bearing edge. This ensured that the lugs were tightened against each other but wouldn’t require a hole to be made in the shell. This type of snare was most popular among marching bands drummers. However, they found a home in drum sets owned by drummers wanting a snare that sounded like a thunderclap.

     

    Tama Recreates the Black Beauty

    The 1980s also saw Tama create a snare that featured sand cast drums. With this design, the metal was poured into a casting made of sand to produce the shell.

    Called the Masterclass series, these snares provided a deafening rimshot, a bronze shell, unparalleled sensitivity, and controlled musical overtones. It became a favorite in rock and pop circles. It has been called the modern-day Black Beauty. It can be heard on many of the most popular musical recordings made over the last 30 years.

     

    Picking Your Perfect Snare

    Snares have quite the dual nature. On one hand, they are constantly moving forward as innovations arise. On the other hand, they also are always looking back at their past to incorporate what has shown to work.

    Picking the right snare is the key to having your own unique sound and look. Jazz drummers may opt for wooden snares and the warmth they provide. A metal drummer might go with a Reissued Black Beauty to get that bright, sensitive sound so popular in the ’80s. Regardless of their choice, the snare will help define their sound. It will provide a way for you to be identified by your choice of snare.

  • 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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