Does figured grain sound any better than non figured grain?

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
This one of the best snare drums I've played including metal, so does figured sound better. hell yeah! While I value all your opinions I/m calling BS.. P1011551.jpeg

Vintage Old School

Gold Member
I have a few snares with figured wood that all sound great. I purchased each of them on the merit of sound, not the cosmetics.
But there is a backstory on one of these snares that has led me to a new realization.

The snare in question is a beautiful steam bent Birdseye Curly Maple. I found this particular snare online and noticed it had been sitting on the shelf at a particular drum shop for a really long time. I contacted the manufacturer and asked him why it hadn't sold. Was something wrong with the drum? He told me he couldn't figure it out. He had built a few of them with the exact same size/specs, but that this one I called about sounded exceptional. A drummer doing a clinic used that snare I ultimately ended up purchasing (note: he owns an identical snare to mine that he had purchased from the same manufacturer years prior). I was told he couldn't believe the difference in tone and overall sonic quality between the one he owned and the one he used for that clinic. I'm surprised he didn't purchase it on the spot and sell the one he already owned. Mama didn't raise no fool: I scooped it up.

Simply put, I think there are just some snares that "have it." Call it magic, call it mojo, but whatever it is, there are snares even though they are one of many made by the same manufacturer to the same specs, rise to the top and just sound better than their counterparts.

Acclaimed bassist Leland Sklar also tells the story behind his Frankenstein Precision Bass he custom built. He went to a shop that had a pile of raw Precision bodies. Lee suspended each one of them by a wire, struck it with his hand and listened. Out of 30 "plus" bodies only one of them resonated and sounded better than all the others. That's the one he walked out with and the rest is bass history.


Platinum Member
A burl in wood is usually from an injury-some infection, insect, mechanical injury. The birds-eye in maple is similar to a burl but I think it's some weird biological/genetic/environment reaction the produces the defect. But really it's a defect in the normal structure and yet it garners the highest value for it's interest and beauty. Sonically I wonder if the "burl" defect makes it denser or harder? I'm curious drums made of spalted woods-they are partly rotted from fungus but I think maybe mineralized in some cases to-they often look darker? Seems like it would be less dense but I guess if mineralized more dense? But hey I'm dense and daft on the subject really.
I would like to build a wooden snare and then seed a special fungus to grow through the shell-then have special trained termites, to the fungus, to eat the fungus infected wood. Initially it will be random but the goal would be to mutate the fungi to see if produce different patterns. Or just train the termites to eat wood in certain patters-maybe implant a nano chip to control the colony. Like Ant man. I might get a No-Beall Prize for this one. LOL.Yeah my Mom had three sons-I was the defect. So the burl the most prized and beautiful to look at. ROFL
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"Uncle Larry"
For balance, my maple segmented Guru..the grain is pretty straight overall. And that drum has some real mojo.

A good solid maple drum, Like Johnny Craviotto says, is the best place to start. Then go from there.

I would choose my segmented maple if I had to rescue just one drum.

It just really speaks to me. I just can't believe some of the things that come out of this drum's mouth! For shame!

Right from the start I wanted Andy to steambend me a birdseye maple set. That didn't happen, big sad face.

I'm glad I twisted his arm to build me a maple snare and a 20" bass drum at what turned out to be the last minute

They are exquisite sounding to me, and I have 4 other Guru snares that are no slouches to compare to.


Platinum Member
Larry I think you got the better as a drum build-inherit defects in anything, like burl, just don't distribute forces evenly. Then to the rarity of the burl pattern runs up costs. But defects in the walls of blood vessels produces turbulent flow and I would imagine a defect in wood would alter it's resonance responses. But I guess a grain of sand produces a defect we call a pearl.
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Silver Member
From a website dealing with wood grains & woodworking:

"When we speak about a particular cut of wood, the shape of the grain and the pattern it makes are referred to as its figure. Since all wood has a grain pattern, this makes one definition of "figured wood" rather meaningless; if "figured wood" means "this wood has a figure", then all wood is figured wood!
Like saying "proteined meat" or "salty ocean", the adjective isn't helping its noun out too much. So let's define figured wood instead as wood that possesses an interesting and desirable figure."

Since 99% of awesome looking kits have just a thin veneer layer, this would only apply to solid shells. Something most drummers don't have the coin to possess.
I loved the Bird's Eye maple of the Pearl kits back in the 80's, but learned it was just a veneer.


Platinum Member
Yes the veneer-aren't we all the same-beauty is all on the outside. That integument still makes the largest organ of body. I never thought about the angle of cutting wood producing patters in drum making but absolutely so. I had students examine longitudinal and cross sections of various species of plants-some woody ones. You can see the structural differences between pine, maple or balsam.


Administrator - Mayor
Staff 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.
I always painted my soap box derby car black, and prayed for a hot day.

Captain Bash

Silver Member
I have a Jarrah Stave 14x 7 with fiddleback figuring running horizontal to the stave length, sound marvellous to me. Whether or not it’s sonically better than a non figured counterpart is beyond the depth of my wallet. A4C251C3-D050-4C58-B273-9A28D6CB776C.jpeg


Platinum Member
Since this is a silly wood discussion, would a stave or segmented drum built out of plywood sound better than a ply drum? I've got some 3/4" Finnish birch plywood just waiting to have something done with it.

"proteined meat" or "salty ocean"
Color crayons is my favorite. My wife says this. As opposed to what, clear crayons?


Well-known member
Cray-ons. She says it right. She is from Alaska though, perhaps they have clear ones there?

She dont say no cray-ins like the restuvus inna souf.
Good to hear. I think "cray-ins" is an acceptable southern pronunciation as well, since it's still two syllables but with that southern "twang".
I had no idea people pronounced it differently (wrong! ;)) until a few years ago when someone was saying "crans". Sadly, more than one person in the room thought that was correct.


Senior Member
My experience with birdseye maple goes exactly opposite what Andy said; I had a Strat which had a gorgeous birdseye maple neck, and it was the worst piece of junk; figuring is often a disease in the wood, and in the case of my neck, made for a much more flexible piece of wood compared to a normal non-figured Strat neck. It did not stay in tune. I sold that guitar, and don't miss it.


Well-known member
Many reputable guitar builders are hesitant (or even refuse) to use some types of figured maples in a neck, and even Leo Fender was said to be against it. -edit- although he may just have said that because the figured stuff was more expensive. :D

My experience with birdseye maple goes exactly opposite what Andy said; I had a Strat which had a gorgeous birdseye maple neck, and it was the worst piece of junk; figuring is often a disease in the wood, and in the case of my neck, made for a much more flexible piece of wood compared to a normal non-figured Strat neck. It did not stay in tune. I sold that guitar, and don't miss it.
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