Why are we addicted to vintage drums?
I've wondered this very thing for a long time. Now, I get to have a bunch of different opinions on the subject :-)
I'm sure there is probably a similar thread on here somewhere...it's either buried deep or so old it's not worth resurrecting. But, I think this will be a slightly different take on the subject anyhow. I'll explain:
Years ago, I first heard Buddy Rich and his big band play. Wow! When I finally got over his chops and musicianship, I noticed the sound of his drums...and I loved it. Since then, I've gotten acquainted with Max Roach, Joe Morello, Jo Jones, etc. No matter what I listened to, I always thought the sound of those drums were yummy.
When it was time to get into a new kit (honestly, when is it NOT time), I wanted a vintage kit. I'm not a spontaneous or superfluous person by any means so I did what I always do with decisions like these...RESEARCH!
I learned everything I could about vintage drums in terms of what contributed to making them sound the way they do. How were they constructed? What woods were used? What hardware was used? Now, anyone who's taken a stab at learning about vintage drums knows that the amount of diverse information is staggering. I was overwhelmed with it all. There is not a great vintage drum market where I live so actual specimens are hard to find but I did manage to try out an old Radio King snare, a round badge Gretsch, some B/O and Keystone Ludwigs. Weeks turned into months. I felt I was getting nowhere. I liked it all but which one to search out and buy? Was I a Gretsch guy? A Slingerland guy? A Rogers guy? I had no clue. I just knew that I wanted that great vintage sound.
I became quite frustrated with the whole endeavor, not to mention that once I had decided on what make and model, then the idea of trying to hunt down my prey one drum at a time was starting to give me a headache. I know many drummers love the "thrill of the chase" and all that, but I'm not wired that way. It was making me positively nauseous lol.
I nearly gave up when I had an epiphany. I was looking for that "sound"...not that drum. So then I began to consider what the vintage sound REALLY is...the qualities in the tone that make it vintage sounding. I went back and listened to my jazz standards and realized that the vintage sound is a particular set of attributes. Generally, vintage drums have a mellow, round tone with a softer attack, shorter sustain, and a quicker decay as compared to modern drums. Now of course there are variations to this formula but by and large I think it holds true when you look at vintage drums as a whole.
Armed with this new perspective I began searching for drums that would give me those attributes. I renewed my efforts toward vintage drums but quickly decided that I needed to look at modern drums which had those attributes.
Which finally brings me to the question of this thread. Why do we want vintage drums specifically? Vintage drums were inconsistent, quirky, troublesome, and some were just downright bad. Wonky hardware. Shells out of round. No two drum heads were alike. For that matter no two shells were alike. They got it right some of the time, but compared to today's methods and standards, they were woefully inadequate. So why do we want them? For those shells and bearing edges? I've seen many drummers buy vintage drums, strip them down to the shells, and upgrade the finish and hardware so it looks like a modern kit. And of course the other method of "retrograding" a kit so that's its all original. Either way of doing things seems strange to me. I want the vintage sound, not the vintage experience. At the same time, it seems a little sad (I'm a little teary-eyed actually) to cannibalize a vintage drumkit for the sake of resurrecting it as a modern kit with really old shells.
There are modern drums that speak with a vintage voice. As Bill Cardwell put it in a video, those drums back then were new drums, not vintage drums. I'd be a complete liar if I said I didn't drool at the thought of a Max Roach replica...right down to the crappy bass drum spurs and cardboard box snare. There is nostalgia in those drums, even though I'm too young to have seen them in their hayday. But now I recognize that I want the sound, not the drums and all the headaches that come with them.
Anyone here feel differently (or the same) and why?