Does figured grain sound any better than non figured grain?

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I love curly maple, birdseye maple, quilted maple...aside from looks, and I know this is a hard question to know the answer to, but does figured grain sound better? I want to say yes, but I suspect it's no.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
I hear you on the looks. Those type of wood grains a beautiful. Perhaps due to the patterns created by the wood, the fibers are more closely or tightly wound giving the drum a more pronounced punch or clearer pitch?

Birdseye maple:
birdseye-maple-wood-sample.jpg
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Or perhaps it could be so non-uniform as to sound...non-uniform lol.

Is that glass half empty or half full?

I've always wanted a birdseye set.
 

porter

Platinum Member
I dunno, but my curly maple inlays certainly look fantastic :) Birdseye is a classic look as well.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
A simple question with a complicated answer that's so full of caveats & unknowns it's almost impossible to nail down. I'll have a go :)

Forget this applying to ply shells/veneers, because it doesn't. So we're talking solid shells. Generally, what we describe as figuring is something that steps away from the expected grain structure of the species, or can be the result of infestation, etc. Where there is a departure from the usual grain structure (an extreme example would be burls), you can expect different sonic characteristics, as such forms usually equate to higher mass, & in the case of vertical grain shells, a deviation from the normal lines of vibration transmission. In the case of birdseye maple for example, there is little change to the overall mass and grain distribution, therefore there's little - no change in characteristics other than the expected variation within a defined set of parameters.

Not always, but very generally, figuring equates to higher mass, & sometimes increased hardness. That in turn usually raises pitch (all other elements being equal) & brightness of timbre. If that's a personal feature of "better", then maybe there's something in it. The flip side of that is, in forms where grain form is substantially interrupted (i.e burs), it's typical to find a much less well defined fundamental. Again, that can be viewed as a negative or a positive. Finally, a lack of uniformity can equate to a less well defined sympathetic resonant envelope, & that in turn can make the shell more difficult to excite, & that equates to less low dynamic resonance & usually a shorter fundamental. Again, if you're after focus & volume, that can be a good thing. If you're after greater dynamic tonal involvement, then it's a negative.

To sight an extreme & understood example (all other things being equal) Walnut produces a warm tone with deep low fundamental & few higher transient overtones. Walnut burl produces a bright tone with lots of high overtones.

Hope this helps,

Andy.
 
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paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
The guitar and mandolin guys are always debating the merits of this conundrum. One quote that comes to mind from one of them is God is good to ugly wood as far as tone goes. I don't know either way if jewelry wood sounds better than plain wood over all. But what I do know is that my solid birds eye snare is one of the best I've heard. I'm thinking really it comes down to the piece of wood, not if it's figured or not.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm bumping this thread to ask the new crowd the same question. Andy gave a great response, probably answering the question.

I think it's a cool debate.

I suspect straight grain would resonate more evenly.

Would it be a sonic factor I could hear? I dunno
 
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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
My limited 3-4 years of woodworking tells me that the figures are different in density, plus or minus, would cause a difference but not to the point of my or your ears being able to hear it. Again, limited educationor knowledge on this other than knowing the density matter.
 
My limited 3-4 years of woodworking tells me that the figures are different in density, plus or minus, would cause a difference but not to the point of my or your ears being able to hear it. Again, limited educationor knowledge on this other than knowing the density matter.
I’m of similar thinking. Within the same specie , probably not much discernible or detectable sound different. From one specie to another (maple to walnut) there is gonna be . Geographical location makes a difference from country to country ( maple just for example. I’m sure within the specie it makes a difference even from state to state and or which side of a mountain it comes from within a state and other location factors within a given geographical range, but not in any discernible /detectable difference to the human ear .
Pretty interesting stuff . I wonder too the age of a wood or tree at which manufactures select or not or if it even gets that deep lol ! So many sub discussions about wood for drum to be had for sure .
Again interesting and fascinating stuff to me , but in the end I just care that they sound good to me and that I get to play em 😉🙌🏻.
Ooops got a bit off subject ( easy to do with this topic), but I’m gonna not much discernible difference if any 🤔
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Wood painted from left to right sounds better than wood that is painted from right to left.
Totally.

A $1000 Birds Eye Maple snare is going to sound better to the owner than a $500 maple snare of the same everything else. That extra $500 spent has to mean something, right?

Just like putting "special" spark plugs in your car allows you to feel the 20+ HP gains that you dont really get.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Back to my 2014 answer. In the context of a veneer on a ply shell = zero difference. In the context of certain solid shells, and wood at the extremes of figuring, then possibly audible nuance in a direct A-B comparison, but nothing that's going to appear in your bar gig.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I thought the answer was C it doesn't matter because the sound is in our heads. So if you have calf-skin heads how do those feathered ones compare to non-feathered? Move on from shell minutiae and expand our "heads'. These pressing questions have to be answered-right now I'm going with Andy's response-so when someone searches DW they find this thread and the answer. We've got burning questions-bring marshmallows or hotdogs.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think it’s dependent on how much more you spent for it. Obviously with a lot of manufacturers, that really figured wood cost more than a kit wrapped in plastic, so I would yes, it does sound better 😉
 

fess

Senior Member
Black drums are more resonant than white drums because black drums absorb light which heats them up, causing the wood molecules to become excited and vibrate, which adds to the resonance. Unless of course the vibration caused by the heats is out of phase with the normal vibration, in which case they are less resonant. In any case, blue drums have a lower fundamental than red drums.....nobody knows why.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
IMHO, The advantages of figured wood versus uniform wood is almost entirely in the cosmetic realm. Any large planner area springs to life with variation, asymmetry, and natural beauty.

The sonic consequence of any break in material uniformity is going to be a loss. Whether it is even perceivable is up for debate. Whether the loss is perceived as beneficial/detrimental is in the eye/ear of the beholder. (ie: A control top head cuts sound, but is often perceived as beneficial and desirable).

Last note is the structural consequence. Birdseye, Burl, and highly figured slabs often have gaps in integrity. This typically limits their use to veneers, outer plys, and non structural components (electric guitar tops, table tops).
 
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