The origins of your perfect drum sound

keep it simple

Platinum Member
One thing that links all musicians together, is our perception of a perfect sounding instrument, & in our case, it's drums. I know it's all about the playing, & in many cases our sound requirements change according to the job that's to be done, but those considerations aside, there's a defined ideal sound impression in our brain.

My interest here is not to know what your perfect sound is, but to discover the references used & influences to come to that conclusion. I'm interested in genre specific answers, but also from those who seek individuality.

Take the classical musician as an example. Most players idea of a perfect sounding instrument is very much linked to the past master makers, & commonly to a keynote performance. Are jazz sound choices predominantly of the same conservative school of thought? Maybe rock too, & commonly linked to a specific artist such as Bonham.

Then there are current sound references. Even drum sounds that have changed according to the technical requirements of the genre, such as triggered drums in some metal forms.

There are those who cast all historical references aside, & seek new sounds that pay little homage to the past.

Aesthetics and stereotype influences are, of course, at play. Nevertheless, you've made your equipment choice, then that moment comes when you sit behind that new (or new to you) kit for the first time. You begin the process of tuning & tinkering, & all the while you have your perfect sound goal in mind.

Please, I'm extremely interested to know how that perfect sound impression formed in the first place, & how those reference points subsequently influenced your instrument choice.
Mr. keep it simple - Andy!

You have made an interesting & profound question, beyond the realms of drumming...just to put a big smile on you...coming from a passionate hobby drummer as I am!

My major reference / benchmark to an endless improving to achieve that actual perfect drum sound are - John Bonham and Ian Paice.

Bonham: The Bonham Feel (ringing true & heavy) - high tuning on the resonance heads - high spring tension on the bass drum pedal - bright & open - all ears!

Paice: Clean and tidy sound - bright snare and deep toms - to avoid that muddy, boxy feel.

...Thanks!...brilliant and clever thread.


Platinum Member
Interesting. Andy, I've never thought of the ideal - the perfect sound. Ever. I have this thing where I take total responsibility for the sound so, if it doesn't sound right, then it's about what I did rather than the instrument.

I think it came from having a refugee father who was so insecure that he was afraid of spending money and a mother who came from a rough, working class family. So I've always tended to try to do the best within my environment rather than improve my environment - and that includes instruments (and bands). I am always amazed at how people have a vision for improving things around them because I don't really have it, except for ride cymbals. I don't know what qualities I look for, other than The Perfect Sound doesn't jar me.

There are a couple of ways of going about it, aren't there? You can either find something that touches you and try to emulate it - as per Ian's post - or you might have come across a range of things in your travels that blend into your own personal vision. There will always be influences of some sort, though.

Andy, do you know where your influences came from?


Gold Member
The origins of my sound have been influenced by many. Starting out I remember not knowing how to tune so, OFF with the bottom head. Hello duck tape. Then Remo made these cool dead ringers the plastic frame with foam ring to put under the batter. That was a cool sound I heard on a friend's monster Ludwig kit and I wanted that sound! I remember later being told "your Rogers are the best sounding drums I've ever heard". It was not until later when I heard this cat's Acrylic Sonors at a skate party one day. That is where I heard the most beautiful sounding drums in my life. This guy was the oldest brother to some cats I was rolling with back in the day. He showed me how to tune toms with BOTH HEADS! Woohooo! It was like dying and going to Nirvana. Later in life I found that studio engineers also were in love with this idea of warm sounding toms that produced controlled resonance. How can the Engineers be wrong ? IDK, just when you think you've got it figured, the last Engineer told me. "be sure to take your reso head off your kick drum when you come for your session" What the heck! Does this guy not know that I already have "the perfect sound"? After the session, I was again reminded that I don't know everything about getting that "perfect sound".


Silver Member
Well, one could theoretically bring in the nature vs. nurture debate, though I doubt anyone is born with an idea of a perfect drum sound. It is most likely shaped by experiences listening or playing certain instruments that lead one to conclusively arrive at a "perfect" sound.
That being said, I would like to think that my individual sound is entirely my own when, rather, it is largely copped from players that I admired and, perhaps unknowingly, borrowed sounds from.

Maybe I'm overthinking it. This type of thing is interesting as hell to me.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
As an impressionable child, I was taught by the proprietor of Pro Drum Shop, Bob Yeager, how to tune a drum. I was a littler guy and didn't look like I knew anything so this man was nice enough to show me how to tune a drum (this was just before he passed away and his two sons, Stan and Jerry were already running the shop, so he had time to show me how to do it right).

Oddly enough, he didn't say anything about what the sound would be good for. He didn't say this is what you do for jazz, or rock, or whatever, he was more interested in getting the drum to sing as long as he could. Then he tells me that an audience member ten feet in front of your kit isn't going to hear all the ringing anyway, and he was right. So this perfect sound was technically just a drum in tune with itself, singing at the pitch it sounded right at. He showed me that if you tuned it too high, it would choke at a certain point, and if it was too loose, it would just flap. There is a certain range that you must find that the drum will sing at, and then the drum would be good for anything.

To this day (and this lesson happened to me over 25 years ago, I think I was 14 at the time) his words ring true. Find the range of the drum and make it sing. Different heads will affect this, but you want it to sing. He's probably the one that got manufacturers to offer kits with two inches difference between toms (much to the chagrin of the 12" and 13" tom crowd, or even Tony Williams who used 13", 14" rack toms, then a 14" floor tom along with 16" and 18" floors).

So I guess my perfect drum sound is just to get the drum to where ever it needs to be to sing on its own. Very utilitarian, eh? He said it would be easier to tone down a singing drum than to get more out of a muffled drum, so don't work backwards. Make life easier so you're playing easier. It was quite a 15-minute lesson that day!


Gold Member
I can't quite place where my Ideal Sound came from. I've been a lot of places and heard a lot of drums, and a lot of styles of music. Maybe what I aim for is just the product of all of my experiences I've had so far. I like a bass drum that's a little more felt than heard, nice, big, singing toms, and a sopping wet snare. If I had the money I'd have a wet snare and a dry snare on my set.

When I got my latest set of heads (Coated Emperors over Clear Ambassadors), I finished tuning my floor tom, then played it a bit to hear it. I was pretty pleased with how it sounded, and apparently my friend, who was watching me at the time, liked how it sounded too: "That floor tom sounds like sex." I've tended to stick to that tuning since then.

Nowadays I tune for what Bo talked about, trying to find that point at which the drum sings, and it works for me.


"Uncle Larry"
It's more than how the drum is tuned, it's how the player touches the drum. I'm with Bo, just give me an unmuffled drum that is round and true, in tune with itself, and unleash someone on it who knows how to take that sound and make compelling rhythms with it.
I'm very picky about drum sounds so I must be satisfied because I don't feel like anything is lacking with my own personal kit.

Drums can only sound so good. After you get an acceptable resonant sound, that's about as good as it gets. The rest is what the player does with the drum. Like it's about 20% good drum tone, the other 80% comes from how the player works the drum.

I don't have an ideal drum sound in my head, one tone does not fit all situations. I basically simplify it, do I like this particular tone for this particular song/band/gig or do I not like it? If I like it, then that's done and it's time to READ THE LYRIC SHEET. JK couldn't resist.


Platinum Member
I've had to think about this a couple of days, because I hadn't really thought about it. Plus, my ideal sound has evolved so much through the years. To complicate things, some of my favorite drummers don't have drum sounds that I want to emulate, anyway.

When it comes down to it, I think Roger Taylor with Queen was the first person whose drum sound really jumped out at me. His sound was just HUGE, with sustain and warmth, yet the drums sounded real. His backbeat was fat but present, you know? He got a fat snare sound without resorting to the gated reverb of the 80's.

Interestingly, for years I hated Bonham's sound, though I loved his drumming. I've come around some, but other sounds are more pleasing to me ear still.

In addition to Roger Taylor's snare sound, I also really love a bright ringing sound, not too high pitched.

Hope that helps, Andy.


Platinum Member
Kenny Arnoff on "Scarecrow" and "Love and Happiness."

Mike Portnoy on "A Change of Seasons."

Those are often my main reference points, and adjust from there.

Of course, different songs or different situations might call for something completely differently, in which, I go with that.

Something Steve Jordon said in a recent Modern Drummer interview, which I think holds true, is too many drummers get caught up in trying to have their "own sound", when in fact, the sounds chosen should best suit the songs.