Isn't poplar a sub-par tone wood? If so, why does Gretsch use it?

Drumolator

Platinum Member
I have owned drums made from poplar (and basswood) that sounded fine. My Pearl Export bass drums sound quite good, and the shell is poplar. As was said above, drummers never knew or cared what drum shells were made of until the late 70s. Peace and goodwill.
 

RickP

Gold Member
Hey PPGuy,
Where did you get the spreadsheet you pasted in your thread ?
Did you include the section that states made by Taye ?

I have never heard that Taye was OEM for Gretsch's offshore lines before.
I am not doubting it, just never saw it in writing before.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Hey PPGuy,
Where did you get the spreadsheet you pasted in your thread ?
Did you include the section that states made by Taye ?

I have never heard that Taye was OEM for Gretsch's offshore lines before.
I am not doubting it, just never saw it in writing before.
I borrowed the pic from another thread on here.


Thanks for everyone's answers! :)
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Poplar is liked by many people.

Wondering if anyone will get the terrible pun/joke,
8Mile
 

belairien

Silver Member
I prefer poplar over other tone woods in drums. The kit I first started on was poplar. The shells were true and edges where perfect, which was lucky considering it was a Rockwood kit.

No kit I've had since had as awesome of a kick sound. That thing shook the house and punched you in the chest no matter the room. The other kits I have had, no matter the tuning or heads, had the thunder it brought. I've even had a basswood kit who's 14 inch floor tom sounded bigger and meaner than my current birch 16.

As long as it is built right, poplar/basswood/luan can sound amazing.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Poplar is liked by many people.

Wondering if anyone will get the terrible pun/joke,
8Mile
I didn't. Could you break it down for me?

Oh wait. I just got it. Poplar is close to popular, hence, why it is liked by so many people.

That's not so terrible. Art has done way worse than that lol.

I still can't shake the mental picture of his head on that nice young female body.
 

V-Four

Senior Member
Wood used in drums rarely has anything to do with the tone of the drums.... I know .... I know there is all types of Marketing hype out there concerning wooden drum materials and how they sound...




... and produce good sounding drums.
Lots to think about there (didn't quote the whole thing..well cuz there was so much there, and it's right there).

You guys should see the "tonewood Discussions" over at TalkBass. Gets pretty hardcore. On a bass player website no less. ;)

I hear it gets very serious (and outa control) on some guitar forums though. At least we're grown ups here at DW.


T.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
in reality the type of material chosen to make drum shells has little to do with drum sound.

What happens when we glue various lamination's of wood plies together?
You're correct to point out that lamination diminishes differences in tonal influence between wood species, and also that physical attributes are far more important than wood species in delivering a quality instrument performance, but your assertion that wood species choice has little or no influence on tonal delivery in all cases is floored.

In examples where lamination is not used, the audible differences are much greater, but still often only a low - medium contributory factor in overall delivery. Drum shells, or more accurately, the entire instrument construction (including shell mass / hardness / rigidity), can significantly contribute to the resultant sound by resonance influence of the heads, in much the same way the materials (not just the structure / shape) of a speaker enclosure can influence the sound of a speaker.
 

motleyh

Senior Member
Man, there are a lot of theories in this thread.

Poplar is a hardwood, but at the softer end of the hardness scale. It is softer than mahogany. Sound-wise, that means plenty of low end, but minimal high end attack, giving it a warm, mellow sound with limited projection and definition. So yes, some ply shells have a poplar core to help provide that "vintage" sound.

Poplar is known as a utility hardwood. It's inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to work with. The biggest downside for drums, besides the limited tonal range, is that it's really not pretty. It generally has a grayish-tan color with greenish streaks and looks overall like something that has been dragged through a swamp and then dried. Stain can't rescue it, IMO.

I use poplar for prototype builds and tests of tooling setups. To my taste, it doesn't have the tonal range to make it useful as a solid wood, and I don't like mixing species (which to my ear is a compromise of tonal clarity rather than a best-of-both end result). But for those using low-frequency inner cores like luaun, gum, basswood, etc., poplar can be a good choice.
 

Lee-Bro

Senior Member
Drum shells, or more accurately, the entire instrument construction (including shell mass / hardness / rigidity), can significantly contribute to the resultant sound by resonance influence of the heads, in much the same way the materials (not just the structure / shape) of a speaker enclosure can influence the sound of a speaker.
This is a great example/way of explaining it. I've seen/heard a side-by-side comparison of JBL PA speakers. One genuine JBL, the other a clone box (particle board) loaded w/ identical JBL components. Same dimensions and covering. The clone sounded ok until the real JBL was turned on. Night and day difference. If I remember correctly, the JBL box was birch. Up until then, I had always (and wrongly) thought, "a box is just a box."
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Man, there are a lot of theories in this thread.

Poplar is a hardwood, but at the softer end of the hardness scale. It is softer than mahogany. Sound-wise, that means plenty of low end, but minimal high end attack, giving it a warm, mellow sound with limited projection and definition. So yes, some ply shells have a poplar core to help provide that "vintage" sound.

Poplar is known as a utility hardwood. It's inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to work with. The biggest downside for drums, besides the limited tonal range, is that it's really not pretty. It generally has a grayish-tan color with greenish streaks and looks overall like something that has been dragged through a swamp and then dried. Stain can't rescue it, IMO.

I use poplar for prototype builds and tests of tooling setups. To my taste, it doesn't have the tonal range to make it useful as a solid wood, and I don't like mixing species (which to my ear is a compromise of tonal clarity rather than a best-of-both end result). But for those using low-frequency inner cores like luaun, gum, basswood, etc., poplar can be a good choice.
Funny about the grain and color of Poplar, for drums. It may not be the best looking for the exterior ply, but I use it a lot for picture frames and other things in my woodworking. I can also say the Poplar I buy is much harder than some other Poplar that is very soft.
The box, is Oak sides and Poplar top and bottom. Not bad grain. The start of my kitchen wall with Poplar barn board cuts like butter. So as mentioned above, there is Poplar and Poplar.
 

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dboomer

Senior Member
This is a great example/way of explaining it. I've seen/heard a side-by-side comparison of JBL PA speakers. One genuine JBL, the other a clone box (particle board) loaded w/ identical JBL components. Same dimensions and covering. The clone sounded ok until the real JBL was turned on. Night and day difference. If I remember correctly, the JBL box was birch. Up until then, I had always (and wrongly) thought, "a box is just a box."
I guess it depends what you are looking for. But particle board for identical speaker enclosures will result less loss of low end. But it is heavy and doesnt hold up to being bounced around as well as (birch) plywood.

Back to topic at hand. While some have characterized poplar as having more low end, I believe what is happening is that it loses more highs compared to harder woods sich as maple.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
I have a poster on the wall of my studio that says, "Your ear is the only endorsee that matters."

I get it...some woods are better quality than others. But the bottom line is how does it sound to your ear?
I choose the mahogany shelled Gretsch because I wanted the harder, brighter wood to get the sound I was after.

Some want a warmer tone & this is where the softer stuff suffices.

Sit and play as many different kits as you can. You might be surprised by what you hear.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I have a poster on the wall of my studio that says, "Your ear is the only endorsee that matters."

I get it...some woods are better quality than others. But the bottom line is how does it sound to your ear?
I choose the mahogany shelled Gretsch because I wanted the harder, brighter wood to get the sound I was after.

Some want a warmer tone & this is where the softer stuff suffices.

Sit and play as many different kits as you can. You might be surprised by what you hear.
+1

I'd add that knowing exactly what you are after, to the "T", and making a decision about it, could be the hardest part. When you know exactly what you want, (or exactly what you think you want) the rest is really just logistics in this information loaded society.

Of course nothing guarantees immunity from the "I thought I was gonna love it, but I didn't" thing.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
As someone sort of familiar with plant and tree taxonomy (and carpentry), the term "poplar" is worse than meaningless to me.

Same as "mahogany", the word poplar is used to mean completely unrelated trees. I've never seen true poplar (Populus sp.) in a lumber yard. What they do have, especially if you're looking at turnings, fancy millwork, or architectural details (aka gingerbread) is "tulip poplar", Liriodendron tulipifera. This could be a regional thing, but I've moved around the country a lot.

The poplar at the lumber yards is usually greenish to grey, and will hold sharp detailed cuts better than pine, for example.

I'd like to know what "poplar" is being used in drum shells, but I doubt that will happen.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Who knows the initial reason? It might have been to same money, but...

Sounds petty nice, no?
I had read that it was because Poplar was cheaper, but didn't have a good appearance.

With Poplar sandwiched between Maple, they accidentally invented the drumming equivalent of a corked baseball bat.

FWIW, I play an MPM George Way.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
Another thought about poplar as a tone wood: Fender strats are commonly made of poplar (tulip poplar, not any of the real poplar species).

Poplar may have a bad reputation because some of the true poplars are extremely soft.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
Another thought about poplar as a tone wood: Fender strats are commonly made of poplar (tulip poplar, not any of the real poplar species).
Stratocasters have historically been made with alder and ash. Which Strats are made of poplar? As far as I can tell they only used poplar bodies when they couldn't get alder in the early 90s. My '96 USA Lonestar Strat has an alder body.

I do know that the EBMM Steve Morse signature has a poplar body, and the original Petrucci guitars have basswood bodies, and they're both great sounding guitars.

Anyone who says the wood doesn't make a difference isn't listening hard enough IMO, but the wood isn't the biggest factor in the sound of a drum. I've heard plenty of great-sounding poplar Exports, but they don't project the same way my birch Yamahas do. In the case of Gretsch, I think the poplar is there more as a historical throwback than anything; they used maple/poplar shells in the 1950s, and they're bringing that shell back with the current Broadkaster kits.
 

Ghostin one

Senior Member
Yes, I should have said "Fender strats were made from poplar for some years...". I looked it up, it seems most of the 1990's strats were poplar, then poplar with alder veneers, then no poplar around 2001.

This site says the American Standard Strats were poplar 1990-97 (around the time I stopped working in a guitar store... I just remember them existing)

http://www.edroman.com/techarticles/betterstrat.htm
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Probably has more to do with durability than anything. Not louder in a pound for pound bake off, but if you hit hard enough they probably won't break.

I would prefer guitar top tone woods for my shells, like western red cedar, spruce, etc...
 
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