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  #1  
Old 07-05-2013, 08:25 AM
Cuttlefish Cuttlefish is offline
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Default 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?
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:36 AM
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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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Old 07-05-2013, 03:44 PM
Cuttlefish Cuttlefish is offline
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Hopefully, I'll still be around when my drums finish drying out :-)

I'm glad you mention the hardware because my understanding is that vintage hardware was lighter. Thinner hoops, pot metal castings, etc. I've never done an A/B between modern and vintage hardware but the vintage drums fully assembled have always been much lighter than a modern drum. I suppose one way to replicate the resonance would be to use aluminum cast hardware all the way around. Strong but light. Incidently, I wonder why they haven't done this before? Cost?
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:10 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by Cuttlefish View Post
I'm glad you mention the hardware because my understanding is that vintage hardware was lighter. Thinner hoops, pot metal castings, etc. I've never done an A/B between modern and vintage hardware but the vintage drums fully assembled have always been much lighter than a modern drum. I suppose one way to replicate the resonance would be to use aluminum cast hardware all the way around. Strong but light. Incidently, I wonder why they haven't done this before? Cost?
Cost is a very big issue. Actually, castings are inconsistent. Much better to make from billet if you can, but again, that's more expensive. Cast pot metal is a horribly weak material, & that's why many of the vintage lugs (& still many used today) are much more bulky than would be necessary with a better quality material.

All of our shell hardware (lugs, brackets, legs, spurs, etc) are made from aluminium, precisely for the reasons I outlined in my OP. Not only that, but the designs are either minimal or zero resonant shell footprint.
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:32 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

I went full circle. I grew up playing Slingerland and Gretsch from the 60's and early 70's.
I began playing modern drums about 10 years ago. I like them just fine and I still play my modern drums.
Last year I bought a 2012 Ludwig Club Date kit. It has characteristics of vintage drums that I grew up with. I realized that I wanted a vintage kit again. I had never owned a 60's Ludwig kit so I searched until I found one that suited me. They are as you say somewhat quirky. I did make some minor upgrades such as adding new hardware that would accept memory locks for the floor tom legs and bass drum spurs. I added wing nuts to the tom rail mount so I could adjust it without a wrench. I removed the internal mufflers because I don't use them. Of course I kept the original parts so as not to devalue the drums. I can put them back to OE status at any time.
The kit that I bought is in collectors condition so it is a good specimen of a vintage kit where they got it right. The shells are slightly not in round because the wrap is scarfed into the shell which is how Ludwig wanted it. There are some minor flaws in the edges on the floor tom but nothing that I can't fix by tuning. Not worth reworking the drum for normal variations that are part of vintage charm where some imperfection is expected due to the manufacturing process of the time.
These imperfections give these instruments their personality. They are not the cookie cutter drums of today. They are each unique.
I like that :)
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:37 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

3 reasons:
mojo
3 ply goodness and its sound
old and more rare
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:13 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Because if it was good enough for Buddy, Gene, Joe, and the rest, it should be good enough for us.

Odd how we lust after these drums, after all the marketing hype of the last twenty years talking about super-sharp bearing edges, isolation mounts, less drilling of the shell, superior ply combinations, etc, etc... then we go buy something that has none of these features and still sounds wonderful!
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:40 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

I don't own any vintage drums currently, but it's not for a lack of trying. The one time I did buy a vintage kit, it turned out to be stolen and I had to give it back to it's rightful owner.

Simply:

I want the connection to the history. Just like visiting a museum, going to a historical landmark, browsing an antique store, or watching "American Pickers" on TV, I dig the history. And being a drummer who's studied the history of the instrument, I'd love a vintage kit just to have that connection to what came before me.

But this would in addition to my current kits, and a future new kit.

I love drums. Old, new, and in between.

Last edited by DrumEatDrum; 07-05-2013 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:47 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

As was already mentioned, for me it's the mojo and what it represents. Like many here I've come full circle and am basically playing the drums I lusted about when I was a kid - stuff from the 70s. Bobdadruma has done the same thing from his era and has his Ludwigs from the 60s.

I've had new kits and yes, they can make the same sounds. But those will be the vintage kits for the kids who are in their early teens now when they hit their 40s ;)
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:11 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alparrott View Post
Odd how we lust after these drums, after all the marketing hype of the last twenty years talking about super-sharp bearing edges, isolation mounts, less drilling of the shell, superior ply combinations, etc, etc... then we go buy something that has none of these features and still sounds wonderful!
So true Al. I still like my isolation mounts though. They do make a big difference to my ear.
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:19 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

If you want vintage sound out of modern drums, then you're limited to just a few choices. There's the Ludwig Legacy ..... probably the best of the lot. Spot on, with 3 ply shells with reinforcement rings. Bit pricey, though.
Then there's the Ludwig Club Date, and the mix of cherry/gum. No, they never did that in the old days ..... but if kinda gets that "vintage" tone.
Next up, the Vintage Mahogany shell Keller makes. So, you gotta either go to a boutique builder, or DIY.
Then there's the Gretsch Brooklyn. Maple/poplar 6 ply shell. 'Bout as close as you're gonna get, from Gretsch.
And that's about it. Yamaha, Pearl, Tama, they make modern drums. DW, I personally don't think they capture the vintage sound. Or try to. They've evolved the thin shell/reinforcement ring too far into today. And I'm not aware of anyone else (drum company wise) playing the vintage sound game.
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

A friend of mine is a very good trumpet player. He owns trumpets and other similar horns from the 1930's because he likes the way that they sound and they are inexpensive. Thats right, there is no demand for vintage trumpets. He can buy them for almost nothing. They have no value. It seems that horn players don't share the same nostalgic feelings as we drummers do.
I find that interesting.
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:45 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by harryconway View Post
I'm not aware of anyone else (drum company wise) playing the vintage sound game.
I'd add Craviotto to the list Harry, & also us, but in a different way. We don't worship or replicate vintage drums, but we do respect their talents, use the best of them as a foundation, & expand ability from there.
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:06 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by keep it simple View Post
Vintage shells typically respond better at lower dynamic, & deliver more initial tone at mid dynamic than modern shells...
Yes. This.

In another thread, somebody had mentioned that you "need" to play drums loud in order to get the tone that you want, or to allow the drum sound to fully open up. I suppose that's why I dig my vintage drums over my modern drums--the tone that's present at all dynamics.

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These imperfections give these instruments their personality. They are not the cookie cutter drums of today. They are each unique.
I like that :)
Yes. Same thing with hand-hammered cymbals. There will be noticeable differences from one kit/snare/cymbal to the next. They each have their own personality and expressive qualities. Getting to explore that is a wonderful part about play vintage gear.

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So true Al. I still like my isolation mounts though. They do make a big difference to my ear.
To me as well. I play a 1970 Ludwig Downbeat kit as my main gigging kit. I experimented with putting a RIMS mount on the rack tom, and it made a world of difference in the sustain. So, it became a vintage-sounding drum with a more modern-sounding sustain. Best of both worlds!
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:21 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

I recently restored a Ludwig Supraphonic that was made one day after my 11th birthday, which was just after the Cubs' last World Series Championship. (Just kidding, I'm not QUITE that old). The drum sounds great, but I doubt it sounds that much better than a new one. It does have a muffler, which I prefer. The new ones don't always have one. Aside from that, I think my love for that drum is purely nostalgic.
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:14 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

The reality is that looks, nostalgia and brand appeal matter. And there's nothing wrong with that. We buy what we want, and there are obviously a lot of musicians who want vintage instruments. Like music itself, it's not supposed to be purely subjective or scientific. If a vintage kit makes you squeal, get it!

That's the whole beauty of it, man. No point in fighting it. They'll make you happy, and there aren't enough things in life that accomplish that, so take 'em when you find 'em, I say.
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

I own more than a few vintage snares and some 60's Ludwig super classics.

To me,their tone is just magic.Not that I don't appreciate more modern sounding drums.

An example of that to me anyway are my 77 Tama superstars.These are the 9600 series 4 ply 6mm shells with re rings ,Japanese birch.All standard sizes,and much rarer than the 80's 6 ply 9mm shells without rerings.

The older superstars have more sustain and a warm vintage tone.

My snare drums range from 40's Radio king to late 70's Tama.Ludwig jazzfest,Slingerland artists,soundkings,Ludwig supras,acros,black beauty,.All are in great shape but just a few are ever so slightly out of round .

All of my vintage stuff tunes up nicely,but does require a little coaxing at times

As for vintage hardware,I've never had a problem with any of it.

To me,it's the sound first,and the look second.How can you not look at a 47 Radio King in WMP only slightly mellow yellow and not want to own one and play it?

I can appreciate modern drums,but I'll always own vintage stuff.I just love the thought of being the temporary caretaker of some pieces of history.

Steve B

Last edited by tamadrm; 07-06-2013 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:21 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by keep it simple View Post
I'd add Craviotto to the list Harry, & also us, but in a different way. We don't worship or replicate vintage drums, but we do respect their talents, use the best of them as a foundation, & expand ability from there.
Indeed. I should have added ..... my list is of drums I've personally played and listened to. I've yet to encounter Guru, or Carviotto, in the flesh. Someday, perhaps.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:04 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Quote:
Last year I bought a 2012 Ludwig Club Date kit. It has characteristics of vintage drums that I grew up with. I realized that I wanted a vintage kit again. I had never owned a 60's Ludwig kit so I searched until I found one that suited me.
I also bought one when they came out. Great little kit. Not the greatest hardware but what can you expect at that price point. But there were some things that annoyed me and it made me think of how irritating it must have been for those classic drummers having to deal with those issues. Video of Elvin Jones struggling to keep his bass drum from creeping away comes to mind. Still, I did like the sound and vibe from that kit and I sometimes wish I still had it.

Quote:
Because if it was good enough for Buddy, Gene, Joe, and the rest, it should be good enough for us.
That's an interesting point too. But did they merely just put up with the inconveniences? If Jo Jones was alive today, would he play a modern kit or stay with a vintage kit?

Quote:
If you want vintage sound out of modern drums, then you're limited to just a few choices
Exactly. In my opinion Ludwig and Gretsch are the only two of the original "Big Four" that still offer a blast from the past...and that's only because Slingerland and Rogers are no more. After them, you gotta go to a boutique company and the problem I often see there is not so much a faithful reproduction of a vintage kit as an "interpretation" of the vintage sound and vibe...cause obviously they want to make their own individual mark that sets them apart from the other boutiques...and nothing wrong with that at all. I agree about DW. Nothing I've heard from them comes close to the vintage sound. Too much attack and resonance.

Quote:
That's the whole beauty of it, man. No point in fighting it. They'll make you happy, and there aren't enough things in life that accomplish that, so take 'em when you find 'em, I say.
Yea, I still want a bona fide vintage kit. But I will take my time with it. It will never get gigged. It would just be my own personal indulgence so I could connect with those great drummers and the exciting times they lived in. I think I was born in the wrong decade lol. For me the sweet spot is late 40's to late 50's. Sooooo much experimentation going on. Bebop, early rock, pop, plus you still have the big bands around even though they were waning.

Quote:
add Craviotto to the list Harry
I played a monoply Craviotto snare that one of the local shops ordered as a tester of sorts for Crav's sound. A fine drum with a fit and finish second to none. But it wasn't spectacular or mind-blowing. Just a really nice drum. I'd could never drop the kind of money they want for their kits though. But all that steambending is labor intensive so I can see why it costs as much as it does.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:05 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

A lot of those drummerd that you mentioned also used calf skin drum heads they are a lot of difference between calf skin and plastic heads.This could also effect the sound.( By the way I own and play a sixties Luwig classic set, but I switched to plastic as soon as they came out, I use Evans G1 and G2's now.)
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:08 PM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Most of my thoughts are just echos of things already said, but I agree that the sound and the "mojo" is what has drawn me to older drums.

I think the hand hammered cymbal analogy is perfect in this case. Vintage drums were not made to the exacting tolerances of today's kits and many were either flawed from the get-go or have quietly self-destructed over the years, but when they were good they were really good.
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:58 AM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by tamadrm View Post



I can appreciate modern drums,but I'll always own vintage stuff.I just love the thought of being the temporary caretaker of aome pieces of history.
I also feel that I am a caretaker. I play and enjoy my old drums but I take care to do no harm to them.
The previous owners kept my drums for 45 years without even scratching them. I can't help but feeling obligated to show respect to them, and the drums by doing the same.
This is a recent development in my character. I have never felt this way about my drums before. Since I acquired these drums my attitude has changed.
Perhaps there is an unseen force that surrounds my drums. I feel special when I play them. Musicians that I frequently play with have noticed a difference in me that was enough for to them to make comments about. Hmmm??? Life is full of mysteries.
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:29 AM
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

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Originally Posted by Cuttlefish View Post
But all that steambending is labor intensive so I can see why it costs as much as it does.
This, & the skills to get it right, plus reliance on high quality board selection, are the reasons why drum companies moved away from this construction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston_Wolf View Post
many were either flawed from the get-go or have quietly self-destructed over the years, but when they were good they were really good.
Exactly, catch a good one, & there's no way a modern multiple ply kit can deliver the same tone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobdadruma View Post
I feel special when I play them. Musicians that I frequently play with have noticed a difference in me that was enough for to them to make comments about. Hmmm??? Life is full of mysteries.
This is great to hear Bob. It's a "coming home" feel, an empathy with an instrument that just feels so right. When ascertaining value, many often underrate the positive affects of this. Can't put a price on that.
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Old 07-06-2013, 06:51 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Why are we addicted to vintage drums?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston_Wolf View Post
Most of my thoughts are just echos of things already said, but I agree that the sound and the "mojo" is what has drawn me to older drums.

I think the hand hammered cymbal analogy is perfect in this case. Vintage drums were not made to the exacting tolerances of today's kits and many were either flawed from the get-go or have quietly self-destructed over the years, but when they were good they were really good.
True.Construction and QC is no doubt way better these days,but if you get your hands on a well preserved and constructed vintage drum,you have a piece of treasure in your possession.

That's how I feel about my vintage stuff,especially my 47 Slingerland Radio King.It's one of the really good ones and is in 9 out of 10 condition.In round,no ring separation or wrap separation.Only a very slight yellowing of the WMP wrap which is just beautiful.

Original snare wires and calf reso head.It even has the rare aluminum reso hoop which Slingerland only used for less than a year and the NOB stick chopper engraved batter hoop.

I kid about being burried with some of my drums,but it would be a crime not to pass this on, to someone who will appreciate the history and value of that instrument.Not to mention the joy of playing a piece of history.

Steve B
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