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Old 07-05-2013, 09:36 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Herefordshire, UK.
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

OK, I'll bite :)

If we're talking purely about the sound attributes that you identify, then that's easy to replicate through a combination of wood species, bearing edge form, shell thickness, & of course, heads + tuning. However, that's missing out one very big element - tone. Some (certainly not all) vintage drums deliver far more tone into the initial note by means of enhanced shell response. Set aside head sustain for a moment (as it has no body to it, & outside of recording, is largely superfluous), the tone of a drum lasts for around 1 second. 2 seconds would be regarded as an especially long note. That tone is the very voice of the instrument, & frankly, just about the only thing that matters in most applications.

Vintage shells typically respond better at lower dynamic, & deliver more initial tone at mid dynamic than modern shells primarily via two mechanisms.

1/ Number of plies. For a given shell thickness, the more plies you have, the more rigid the shell becomes. Additionally, the thinner the plies, the less like wood they are. Very thin plies have little of the woods structure left intact. This element becomes important in point 2.

2/ Ageing of the wood. As wood ages, the lignin dries & crystallises around the periphery of the sap channels & other cell structures. This creates a complex collection of channels that act as little resonant chambers, enhancing the overall resonance response of the shell. It can take decades for this process to complete in some cases.

As most vintage shells use 3 ply or single ply constructions, they make more of the wood structure & ageing benefits, thus producing a range of playing & tonal characteristics that are very useful in both lower dynamic & higher tuning state applications. Of course, this only applies to ones built correctly and having survived structurally intact. Frankly, a high proportion of them are garbage.

Vintage hardware can only detract in terms of overall performance, unless it's of lower mass than modern equivalent instruments.

As I mentioned earlier, the basic attributes are then formed by application of certain bearing edges, hoops, plus head selection & tuning, & can be applied equally to a modern drum.

It's entirely possible to both replicate & exceed the tonal performance of the very best vintage drums, but that requires appropriate shell constructions that deliver those tonal qualities. Additionally, to exceed vintage performance, a strong attention to overall design is necessary, especially with regard to hardware mass.

Hope this helps.
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