Depths: Science or Clever Marketing?

Mikecore

Silver Member
After revisiting the depth x diameter debate, I got to thinking how ridiculous it has been over the years, having played drums since the early 80s, and how much I really don't like "power" toms nowadays.

Of course, power toms were hot stuff back when I was a kid looking at drum catalogs, and I was into it because that was what was going on and I didn't know any better. I thought traditional toms were cheesy and "old". I wanted to be modern and ROCKIN'!

Since then, we have all kinds of variations, all claiming to add this or that to your drum sound if you would only buy from them. Short Stacks, F.A.S.T., square, golden ratio, Hyperdrive, traditional and "power" are all looking for a bite out of your wallet. Meanwhile, I have tried most of them out, including my own present kit made out of short stacks, and I'm not sure if I notice any difference. My inner skeptic says all of this noodling around with tom depths is a lot of nonsense and that we would have been fine with traditional sizes all along (though there is a case to be made for shorter floor toms now that we are not so chintzy about longer floor tom legs).

What do you think?
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
I tend to agree for the most part, only on my bass drum 22x20 do I notice any difference between my kit and standard. My toms are all slightly shallow, but they are just as full as standards. The extra air inside the big base drum adds both some sustain and makes it slightly less responsive, but even that difference is negligible and would be entirely lost in a live situation. On the plus side it is even bigger and shinier.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
My shallow toms perform just as well as my deeper toms and the shallow toms are easier to lug around and position.
 
A

audiotech

Guest
I never really cared for the "power" tom thing. I always went after and played the sound that was in my head, and that just wasn't it. Here again, the short toms also do nothing for me. Give me an old 12 x 8 or 12 x 9 and I'm happy with those dimensions. I was never one to jump on the band wagon with something just because it happened to be popular or the craze at the time, I'm an individual.

Dennis
 

ChaosDecides

Senior Member
If they are trying to sell it based on getting some big name drummers sound then I'd say it's more likely clever marketing.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
My inner skeptic says all of this noodling around with tom depths is a lot of nonsense

What do you think?
For the most part, you're totally correct. In the general mass drum market, depths are used to almost dictate a genre, & hence a fashion, but hold the press for one moment, as that's not the whole story.

These days, power toms get a bad rap, that, IMO, is not completely deserved. I'll explain more later. But do you remember in the early 80's when standard depth toms got the same bad rap but in reverse? Blinded by marketing hype & fashionable genre peer pressure, it's easy to subscribe to the prevailing BS of the day, but what's the real deal, where's the truth?

Well, here goes, & I'm not expecting this to be universally popular;

To those who say depth makes little or no difference to the sound of a tom or bass drum, do you also think that applies to snare drums? Really? You're telling me you can't hear the difference between a 4" & 6" deep snare drum, or even a 5" & 6" snare drum? If there is a difference on snare drums (even excepting the difference as a % of overall depth may be greater), then why not on all drums?

Here's the deal as I see it, & yes, we've done extensive A-B testing to come to this conclusion. Depth does make a difference to a drum's sound, all other elements being equal. The biggest issue is this, any good drum should have every element of it's construction designed towards a specific goal. For example, taking a 12" diameter x 8" deep tom, then, without any other changes, make it either 6" deep or alternatively 10" deep, & expect them to sound good is a real gamble, yet this is exactly what many manufacturers do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, & that's why you get such a wide range of opinions.

It's perfectly possible to design a great sounding deep tom or bass drum, just as it's possible to design a great sounding shallow tom or bass drum, but to get the best result, every element of the design must work in harmony. Changes to the shell construction, thickness, & bearing edges are key to getting it right.

So, to quote the thread title, Science or Clever marketing? The answer is both, but that depends on what you buy, & the attention to detail that went into the instrument, or maybe you just got lucky :)
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
To those who say depth makes little or no difference to the sound of a tom or bass drum, do you also think that applies to snare drums? Really? You're telling me you can't hear the difference between a 4" & 6" deep snare drum, or even a 5" & 6" snare drum? If there is a difference on snare drums (even excepting the difference as a % of overall depth may be greater), then why not on all drums?
This is a really good point :)


By the way, it's funny how a lot of those power tom kits in the 90's had piccolo snares. (Vinnie, Weckl, Erskine, and so on). I bought a piccolo snare in the 90's. I used it for my last gig.

I love unfashionable gear, especially when it sounds good!
 

motleyh

Senior Member
When I got engaged before my first marriage, a jeweler gave me a lecture on the difference between fashion and style. Fashion is of the moment -- it's what's hot, what's in, what's current. Style, on the other hand, is comparatively timeless -- it's classic, it's long-term, it gets respect even when it's not in fashion.

In drums the trends take years or decades to appear and fade out, so lots of times young drummers don't see them for what they are. But in the long haul there's very little that's new, at least for significant trends. Deep drums or shallow drums appear and disappear on the scene with some regularity. The same with the designs of shell thickness, bearing edges, lugs, finishes, and even materials.

Meanwhile, there are some classic choices that have never been "out" but have been seen as valid right through all the fads and fashions.

Not to say one approach is better than another, but everybody has choices.
 

Netz Ausg

Silver Member
I have been intrigued by the short-stack/HD toms concept lately - in no small part because of Tama's ability to market their products and concepts incredibly well.

One of the big attractions for me was the ability to position the toms low in your set up without spreading out the kit too much. I played a rockstar with pretty deep toms (11 x 13 for instance) until I recently switched the 13 out for a 8 x 10 and was always frustated with the need to angle them to get everything compact/low enough for comfort.

Since then I've done a lot of reading and spent time thinking and have decided that the best option for me is to opt for a more standard tom depth - 8 x 10, 12 x 9 - and combine this with a 18 x 20 BD to have that flexibility of positioning.

That being said, though - until I part with cash and buy something there's always the possibility that I'll change my mind again (those marketing Bastards are GOOD at what they do, no?).
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
But do you remember in the early 80's when standard depth toms got the same bad rap but in reverse?
The problem there was that virtually every company's shells had become thicker, and standard depth toms didn't sound good anymore, so they added depth do 'warm' them up. Same with the kick. Prior to 1980, you'd almost never see a 16" deep kick unless it was a custom order.

Well, everything was going along fairly well, until maybe the last 10-15 years when the purity of thinner shells was recognized again. But the toms remained deep, and the kicks became even deeper, presumably to replicate the low end heard on recordings. The result is that toms didn't breathe or sing anymore, and the kicks got too woofy.

There's a trend among many drum makers and majors to revisit traditional sizes on toms & kicks, and they're turning lots of heads (and ears) of drummers who forgot or never knew how great those sizes are for thin-shelled drums.

Almost all of my new drums are traditional sizes - 14" deep kicks, 8x12 tom etc - and I never have a problem getting punch, life, resonance, and power from the toms, and all the low end I want from the kicks.

Bermuda
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Andy nailed it with the snare drum example. It does matter.

In the mid '80s at the height of the deep tom craze, I bought a Tama Superstar with deep toms (12x11, 13x12) and there was a very noticeable difference not just in sound, but how they played. I found that I could tension the heads up quite a bit and not lose that low end oomph. Since the shells were relatively thick, they also projected quite a bit. I liked that.

But what I didn't like was how hard they were to position and reach. I either had to angle them toward me at some ridiculous angle, or sit uncomfortably high.

The kit I have now has standard sizes (12x8, 13x9) and while the shells are comparatively thin and resonant, the action off the head isn't quite as nice, IMO. There's more bounce back from the reso head being that much closer. The note also feels shorter. Just the same thing one notices when going from a 6.5x14 snare to a piccolo. I never cared much for shallow snares like that as they tended to be unforgiving and with a much higher snare sound to shell sound ratio that I find unnerving. They just don't breathe as much. Same for toms.

I'm torn on what my next kit will look like. I think a 13x9 is fine, but I'd take a 12x9 over a 12x8.

Bass drums are a different animal, though. For those I prefer a 14 depth because I want that shorter note and the enhanced action of the batter head. That extra ooomph on a kick comes at the expense of articulation.
 

rmandelbaum

Platinum Member
I have recently restored one of those older thick shelled TAMA superstar kits, it has standard toms, I love the way this kit sounds, while it is not the same sound as one of my newer DW kits it is still a great sounding kit.

I still have another kit worth of those Superstar shells left to do, they are the dreaded power depths. I am going to cut them down to FAST sizes. I will report back at some point when I am done how they sound.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I still have another kit worth of those Superstar shells left to do, they are the dreaded power depths. I am going to cut them down to FAST sizes. I will report back at some point when I am done how they sound.
How are you going to do that? The 12x11 is going to be a 12x9, right? So do you take an inch of both ends? What about the lug casing holes? You might have plug and redrill. Or maybe there's a way to take two inches off one side that will allow you to cut out one of the lug casing holes, and making the existing back hole the new front hole? Interesting... I'd be curious to hear how you're going to do it.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
The kit I have now has standard sizes (12x8, 13x9) and while the shells are comparatively thin and resonant, the action off the head isn't quite as nice, IMO. There's more bounce back from the reso head being that much closer. The note also feels shorter.
For me its the opposite. I cut down my 12x10 tom to 12x8 and I couldn't be happier. The increased reso head action is incredible, and this puppy sings like nobody's business. But, to each his own.

I definitely agree that depths matter. Bermuda's take on this was enlightening. I never thought to factor in changes in shell thickness before.
 

Too Many Songs

Senior Member
The problem there was that virtually every company's shells had become thicker, and standard depth toms didn't sound good anymore...
I'm trying to reconcile that with my own personal experience. I have a 1962 Slingerland (12x 8; and 13x9 on the rack) - thin 3-ply shells with re-rings. Sounds great.

I have a late 70s Sonor phonic. Same sizes (diameter and depth) on the rack and VERY thick 9-ply beech shells. Sounds different but also sounds great. And those drums were very popular back in the day (as were the Slingerlands) and had some very heavy weight endorsers who cared about sound (I'm thinking of Jack DeJohnette in particular).

I have to say I'm not convinced that there is such a direct relationship between shell thickness and depth but I certainly don't have the range of experience or knowledge of 'Bermuda'.

I suspect Andy (KIS) is closer is saying you have to look at the whole picture. Which doesn't help me decide whether to cut down a spare 16x16 Phonic to 16x12. Why to 12? Well because all the other drums have a relationship of depth = 4" less than diameter. And I thought there would be an obvious continuity there. Thoughts?.
 

AndyMC

Senior Member
Don't think in the 4" smaller idea, truthfully you want to think about the ratio of diameter to depth across the drums. So if you have a 14" FT thats 10" deep, making your 16" at 11.5" would keep it in the same ratio. Though you can see its not very far off as is.
 

Too Many Songs

Senior Member
Don't think in the 4" smaller idea, truthfully you want to think about the ratio of diameter to depth across the drums. So if you have a 14" FT thats 10" deep, making your 16" at 11.5" would keep it in the same ratio. Though you can see its not very far off as is.
Fair point. At the moment:

10x6.5; 12x8; 13x9; 14x10 and 16 x ??? (it's like one of those IQ tests you used to do as a kid). Not sure your precise ratio thing works exactly for the whole sequence (I'm too lazy to test it out).

I have a 16 x 16 on the floor and that is a fine drum and I'm keeping that. I'm just not sure whether to go 16 x14 with the spare or be radical and go 16 x 11.5 (or 12) :)
 

Fuo

Platinum Member
I have been intrigued by the short-stack/HD toms concept lately - in no small part because of Tama's ability to market their products and concepts incredibly well.

One of the big attractions for me was the ability to position the toms low in your set up without spreading out the kit too much. I played a rockstar with pretty deep toms (11 x 13 for instance) until I recently switched the 13 out for a 8 x 10 and was always frustated with the need to angle them to get everything compact/low enough for comfort.

Since then I've done a lot of reading and spent time thinking and have decided that the best option for me is to opt for a more standard tom depth - 8 x 10, 12 x 9 - and combine this with a 18 x 20 BD to have that flexibility of positioning.

That being said, though - until I part with cash and buy something there's always the possibility that I'll change my mind again (those marketing Bastards are GOOD at what they do, no?).
I went through the exact same thing, but I went the other way. I had a Rockstar, wanted to upgrade and wanted easier positioning for lower/flatter toms. My original plan was to get a kit w/ 20" bass, but NO ONE stocks those, so you have to order them... And I was impatient, so I got a superstar/hyperdrive (they ARE stocked and its the same 2" height diff, the 2" is just removed from the toms instead of bass).

I like my kit a lot, but lately I'm starting to think the whole low/flat thing isn't all its cracked up to be, for me anyway... When I got the kit in the summer I positioned everything as low and flat as it would go (and it was a noticable difference from the Rockstars). Then a few weeks ago, at my lessons on my teachers kit, I noticed that I was having an easier time hitting the rack toms with them slightly higher and angled (like they were before); the toms were closer, it was less of a stretch. So I went home and changed accordingly.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
The problem there was that virtually every company's shells had become thicker, and standard depth toms didn't sound good anymore, so they added depth do 'warm' them up.

Bermuda
And that's reinforcing exactly the point I made about shell thicknesses, as well as all other factors needing to work together.

There's a trend among many drum makers and majors to revisit traditional sizes on toms & kicks, and they're turning lots of heads (and ears) of drummers who forgot or never knew how great those sizes are for thin-shelled drums.
Bermuda
Exactly, for boring reasons I won't go into now, shallow drums work well if the shell material is more resonant & faster to respond to input.

I have to say I'm not convinced that there is such a direct relationship between shell thickness and depth but I certainly don't have the range of experience or knowledge of 'Bermuda'.
The relationship is absolutely there, but other elements feed into the equation too. That doesn't mean to say there's a "better", but the certainly is a "different".

Bass drums are a different animal, though. For those I prefer a 14 depth because I want that shorter note and the enhanced action of the batter head. That extra ooomph on a kick comes at the expense of articulation.
Usually, yes, but not necessarily. It's perfectly possible to design a bass drum with the sonic articulation of a standard depth, and the sonic profile of a deeper drum, but it takes a focussed design to achieve it.
 

illustrator X

Senior Member
Smaller diameter toms never worked for me when the shell was deep. Muddy, and inarticulate. It looked cool in the 1980's, but tonally was a byatch to deal with.
Standard depths are easier to tune and get a nice tone out of.
Seems 8" is a magic depth for a 12" tom.
However larger diameters work with deep shells. I love my 14x14 floor tom.
 
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