Drums & hardware back in the day

dwforever

Junior Member
So older drummers, what were they like back in the day? Tell me about the heads, the pedals, the stands, everything!

The reason I ask this is because I just finished watching an old video of Ginger Baker soloing and his drums sounded like carboard, and his cymbals sounded like dull discs of metal. Were they all like that?
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
So older drummers, what were they like back in the day? Tell me about the heads, the pedals, the stands, everything!

The reason I ask this is because I just finished watching an old video of Ginger Baker soloing and his drums sounded like carboard, and his cymbals sounded like dull discs of metal. Were they all like that?
No. I think you were listening to a bad recording. Technology wasn't so great back in the day, but in a way it was, because there were alot of great recordings made as well, it just wasn't as easy to do as it is today.

But depending on when the video you were watching was made, Ginger could've been using actual calf heads, which were very temperamental due to the weather (imagine that), but in the right conditions, calf heads (if you can afford them) still sound great. As far as hardware goes, if you look at the new DW and Gibraltar flat-based stands, those are pretty much the modern-day equivalents of what would've been available back in the day and they're not that different from stands made 40-50 years ago. Pedals were alot lighter, and I think, more responsive - when I played the old Ludwig Speed King, or the Slingerland Tempo King pedals, I don't feel like there's a piece of gear between my foot and the bass drum - I think that's the biggest difference. I play my Iron Cobra and although it feels great, I know its there. When you play a pedal that doesn't feel like its there, you feel more connected to the drum!

However, modern drum equipment is made better and built better, that's just a fact. It's the drummer's job that hasn't changed.
 
My first new kit was a Rogers blue sparkle in 1959 and was a great improvement from a old 50,s kit. The heads were skins and had to be adjusted all the time based on the weather. The Rogers kit had the New plastic heads wow what a difference. The hardware has greatly improved most of the stands were made of white medal and when they broke in the rubbish .The playing style of old was mostly rythmn on the snare and base drum. The use and quality of cymbals had not really arrived yet. The comming of Rock& Roll made a big change in drums and cymbals to help drive the music. I think the drums of today are great and I,m glad to be able to play at 70 young. I.m still living the dream of Rock& Roll and Jazz & Blues make life great. jz.
 

criz p. critter

Silver Member
Bo pretty much addressed all your questions. I just wanna make a comment on Ginger Baker's drum sound.

First of all, if you want to hear better examples of his drum and cymbal sound, just listen to all the old Cream records, or stuff like "Had to Cry Today" or "Do What You Like" by Blind Faith.

Back then it was common to tune drums to be pretty open, and to have unported kicks, so the sound was a lot different than most of what we've heard since. Guys like Bonham and Baker were tuning drums the way big band drummers did, before them. It seems to me that a lot of modern drummers can't stand Baker's sound, because it's literally so old school. But I grew up with that, and I've always really dug it.

One thing I really like about Baker was that he often had two kicks, tuned to two different notes. Don't know if that was by design, or accident, or sheer laziness, but I think it sounded really cool.
 

criz p. critter

Silver Member
.....I.m still living the dream of Rock& Roll and Jazz & Blues make life great. jz.
Hey Jack, welcome to the forum! Glad to hear you're still living the dream. I hope I'm still playing at 70!

To DWForever: Jack makes a really good point. Guys like Baker were literally on the cusp between all the old school big band and r&b drum tuning/style, and what came after. They were re-inventing everything and moving it forward to the next step of a louder and more drum-centered R&R.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
Drums and cymbals sounded great. Most tom mounting "systems" were very bad. There were single-ply, double-ply, and "dot" heads. Stands were thin. There were no clamps nor boom arms. I am talking late 60s, early 70s here. Bass drum pedals were lighter too, but mostly good (no double pedals).

If I ever buy any old drums, I will ruin the vintage aspect of them by using modern tom holders because almost all of the old ones are awful. Peace and goodwill.
 

groove1

Silver Member
I started with calf heads. Changes in humidity changed the tension. Loosening
both heads when you were done playing was common and then tuning them before the next
time you played. We really got to learn how to tune drums by doing it all the time! When plastic heads became available (I think it was around 1957 or 58 but not sure) the price of
plastic was twice calf so I stuck with calf for a few years. When you bought a calf head, you
bought it already tucked onto the hoop or untucked and you put it on the hoop yourself.
By about 1960 (long time ago, I may be off a year or more) the price of plastic (dropping)
and calf (rising) equalized and many of us switched to plastic. At the time we all agreed that
we preferred calf for snare heads with brushes over the plastic that was then available.

(It's been so long ago I can't recollect playing brushes on calf compared to playing them
on some of today's textured heads. It would be fun to do that side by side.)

In marching band we didn't have legrests for the "field drums" and tied a shoelace around
a lug and our leg. Our legs became black and blue but we toughed it out for the parade.

I prefer some of the older hardware (like the 1960's flat base ludwig cymbal stands) over
what we have today. Today's hardware is just too heavy for my taste. Some things are much better today, like the drum thrones, pedals etc.

While I love the old K's as much as any jazz drummer does, it is easier today to walk
into a store and find really good sounding cymbals that anyone can buy. Back then, the cymbals were so cherry picked for the pros by store owners that the younger guys ended up with cymbals that generally don't compare with what is available right now. My opinion and experience anyway. Maybe it varied regionally. There are a lot of varied opinions about this.

Lastly, I wish I had kept all my older stuff because it is worth quite a lot now!
 
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harryconway

Platinum Member
Tell me about the heads
Evans was first to come out with mylar heads. Remo, second. The Pinstripe came out around 1974. Before that, if you wanted muffling, you figured out a way, yourself. DIY. Felt strips and homemade richie rings were popular items, to work single and double ply heads into something "more".​
the pedals
There were good pedals, and bad. And a lot of in between. The Ludwig Speed King was a very popular pedal. And still made today (almost unchanged). A huge number of "rock" drummers used the Speed King, and it really was unchallenged until the Camco chain drive pedal.​
the stands
Early stands were light weight. When this newfangled rock music started getting popular, drummers started hitting things harder. Stands (and hardware, in general) weren't up to the task. Guys were stomping harder on pedals. Stands were getting knocked over. Tom mounts weren't holding up under the punishment. The Ludwig Atlas and Hercules lines addressed the issue, somewhat. The Rogers Memriloc (introduced around 1976) threw down the gauntlet, and everyone else had to up the ante. Hardware, from America and Japan, grew in size, strength and weight.​
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
My first kit was a 4 piece Slingerland from the mid sixties.
The drums sounded great! Head choices were somewhat limited but the drums could still be tuned and played without issue.
The drums had internal adjustable mufflers that worked well.
Cymbals also sounded great. There were far less choices though.

~Hardware is another story~

The rail tom mount just plain sucked.
The flat base snare stand would rock like a loose fence post.
The cymbal stands were the same as the snare stand.
The leather strap driven bass pedal had limited action and I broke the strap a few times.
The hat stand was also a bit sluggish.
Bass drum spurs sucked and the drum would walk.
The chrome became pitted on the hardware no matter how you took care of it.
Shell wrap would discolor and crack with age.
Drums thrones were not even close to the quality that we have today.
There were no memory locks.

~Today I can buy an entry level kit with better hardware~
About 6 months ago I bought a new Ludwig 2012 Club Date kit.
I wanted to create a modern vintage kit.
I set the kit up with todays equivalents of vintage hardware including a rail mount for the high tom and two bass drum mounted cymbal holders for my ride and splash.
I just ordered modern flanged 2.3mm stick saver hoops for the toms that resemble the cast Slingerland hoops of the past.

The kit is a dream come true for me. I have a modern version of the classic kit from my youth that performs far better than I ever expected.
I know that the vintage guys like the charm of the old hardware and I don't fault them for it.
I simply prefer the new gear that is available today.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
So older drummers, what were they like back in the day? Tell me about the heads, the pedals, the stands, everything!

The reason I ask this is because I just finished watching an old video of Ginger Baker soloing and his drums sounded like carboard, and his cymbals sounded like dull discs of metal. Were they all like that?
Firstly,I'd like to address your comment about Baker.Out of all the top drummers around at the time,Bakers open tuning,and use of non traditional sized drums and cymbals made his kit sound very un- cardboardy.His Zildjian 50's - 60's cymbals ranged from 8" splash up to 22" Rides.I would kill for his hats and that old ride,which he still used today.

His cymbals always sounded great,with a wide range in size,weight and tone mounted on stacked stands.He was also the pioneer of flat mounted toms.

He also used two different custom sized bass drums ,20x11 and 22x11.Both tuned wide open,Jazz style and both to different notes.

You must have been listening to a bad piece of audio.Try listening to Live Cream,or the Wheels of Fire album.Studio recordings were very different in the day.

Baker like Bonham,Ringo,and more that a few other drummers also used Rogers Swiv-o-matic hardware and tom mounts which I think even today,holds up well,and was the first successful ball and socket design.

As far as pedals,the Ludwig speed king,was king,But the Rogers swiv-o-matic was a good pedal,the Ghost pedal,Gretsch floating action and the best kept secret was the French ASBA Caroline pedal.There were NO double pedals.

Drum heads were single or double ply mylar,and made by Remo,Ludwig,Slingerland,Rogers Gretsch.Priemer, and Evans.Remo ambassadors and Ludwig weathermasters coated were the most popular.

Ludwig Atlas/Hercules and Rogers swiv-0-matic "swan leg" stands were the most popular,with varoius makers "Buck Rogers" snare stands.

So re listen to some of the other stuff out there,and remember,some of it is 40-50 years old,and recorded on analog 4 channel reel to reel 1/4" and 1/2 and one inch machines,and various cassette and 8 track tape machines.

Steve B
 

dmacc

Platinum Member
~Hardware is another story~

The rail tom mount just plain sucked.
The flat base snare stand would rock like a loose fence post.
The cymbal stands were the same as the snare stand.
The leather strap driven bass pedal had limited action and I broke the strap a few times.
The hat stand was also a bit sluggish.
Bass drum spurs sucked and the drum would walk.
The chrome became pitted on the hardware no matter how you took care of it.
Shell wrap would discolor and crack with age.
Drums thrones were not even close to the quality that we have today.
There were no memory locks.
.....

I know that the vintage guys like the charm of the old hardware and I don't fault them for it.
I simply prefer the new gear that is available today.
I share the same perspective on hardware. I do think though most stuff is way over engineered and as a result is too clunky in the other direction. Pedals have become stupid heavy and the idea of chains on any pedal (bass drum or hi hat stand) nauseates me.

Overall, there's never been a time I can recall where the entry / mid level stuff - aside from the junk - has been so well made. Shells and hardware alike. Much, much better than back in the 70's.

I do prefer a few vintage drums over today's but I'd never be able to afford them.

Cymbals - more consistently made today - even the true hand made stuff. Much more consistent than the vintage K's. I own vintage Z's along with the more modern Turkish stuff.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Things I remember most from the '60s were Ludwig (and various copies) rail tom holders which were horrible. As said, Ringo and others substituted the Rodgers hardware. Flat snare stands that you set the snare ON rather than held it in place. Bass drum legs that would hold it up but do nothing for it creeping forward. Look at old photos and you'll often see these spike things on the bottom of the front hoop. Amazing that it took so long to come up with the simple swivel out legs we have now. That and stands that wouldn't stay. A common trick was to take two sticks, clamp the wing nut between them, and crank for all you're worth to get the stand tight. Even lightweight modern stands have clamps that stay in place with just a snug twist of the wing nut.

Until the direct pull hi-hat stands, most of them were pretty weak and sluggish. Again, the direct pull is so obvious I don't know why it took so long.

Bass drum pedals were far more adventurous and had advanced engineering. The Speed King and Ghost with the hidden springs. The Rodgers with the whole spring arrangement pivoting to where you set the rest angle was way ahead of it's time. Kind of amusing that one of today's most modern popular pedals was derived from the old Camco strap pedal that was considered really low tech then.
 

boltzmann's brain

Senior Member
my first set was a premier four piece, with the obligatory calf skin heads. they sounded great, but it was AMAZING how they changed with the weather. kick could go from flapping, to super tight overnight. the hardware- ugh. my next set was a sonor four piece, much better (i still have that set, made in 1963). then the ludwigs in the seventies. plastic heads were a godsend, and the hardware was "better". heh. the sonors i got in the nineties really impressed upon me the importance of good hardware (i still have that set too. what a terrible beating they've taken). i still have a rogers "swiv-o-matic" bass pedal, and it is amazingly light and fast (i used that with my first sonors). hardware now is lighter, and just as strong as the heavy duty stuff from the 80's/90's. some of the early hardware was hilariously under built. it made up for it by being under engineered as well. the drums sounded great, though. cymbals were hit and miss (pun intended). you NEVER bought cymbals without hearing them first, no matter what brand. my first zildjian ride sounded ugly. just ugly. the counter point to that are the newest cymbals in my collection, sabian hhx. i bought them based on what i heard at a music store, and recommendations of complete strangers. they're everything i hoped for. as a matter of fact, they're my primary cymbals now, regardless of genre. that would never have happened in the "good aulde days".
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
So older drummers, what were they like back in the day? Tell me about the heads, the pedals, the stands, everything!

The reason I ask this is because I just finished watching an old video of Ginger Baker soloing and his drums sounded like carboard, and his cymbals sounded like dull discs of metal. Were they all like that?
That's what mine sounded like. I don't remember anyone tuning their drums. We pulled the bottom heads off and threw them away.

I saw Ginger Baker's roadies nail his kit down before the show . I was like "Damn! He has TWO bass drums!!"

I thought, "this is going to be awesome" and, in my unsophisticated mind, it was. I was 15 and it was my first concert (Cream). It might have sucked for all I know.

Musicians are much more educated and sophisticated now days. The evolution and devolution has been interesting to witness.

Also, unrelated but interesting, a used kit was about $300 in the mid/late 60's and is about the same price now.


.I would kill for his hats and that old ride,which he still used today.
He is still alive???? I would have thought he would have perished some time in the 70's. He seemed totally tweeked in the 60's
 

B-squared

Silver Member
Unless I missed it, I don't think anyone has mentioned those old internal felt pad dampers. My drum teacher called them mufflers. Whatever they were called, I always thought it was funny that they were so universally unpopular that drum makers just quit making them. I never used mine. I used my wallet on my snare, felt strips on my bass drum, rings for my toms (held down with duct tape), and now I use moon gels. All of them worked better than those awful internal dampers. Today, you occasionally see them on vintage drums, but I bet they still aren't used much by their owners.
 

AZslim

Senior Member
I still have my old Slingerlands. It's a five piece with TWO 8X12 rack toms. Yes, they mad it that way. You tuned them differently. They had this awful clip thing on the bass drum. They hung on this and you could only tilt them up and down. The cymbal stands were rickety. The floor tom had these straight legs and were wobbly as hell. The bass drum pedal had a leather strap that would break and the hi hat stand had one as well. the bass drum had little legs that telescoped out. It would walk something awful. I nailed a peiec of 2x4 to my drum rug to keep it from moving.

In short, the hardware totally sucked. The drums were pretty good though. I took the bottom heads off (it was the 70's). But I was smart enough to save all the hardware. I didn't have a clue about tuning. Now that I know something about it, they sound pretty good. the first thing I did when I decided to play them again was put the toms on RIMS mounts, I bought DW flush base stands that work real well and got and good pedal and hi hat stand. I use them in the rehearsal room.

The cymbals back then were good, but not very consistent. I still have a set of new beat hi hat cymbals I bought in '74.

As far Ginger baker goes, he at least kept the bottom heads on his drums and sounded OK I think.

I now have DW's and modern Zildgjian K's, a few A's and other assorted cymbals. The new stuff is way better IMO.
 
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