How do YOU define a "quality" drum sound?

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Watching the Guru video links on this website along with other drum manufacturers, I noticed that there's quite a variety in the "quality" of a drum's sound. Not the inherit timbre of a particular make or model, more-so some drums have a pure and musical quality over other drums.
Maybe it's heads and tuning or EQ tricks on some websites and Youtube videos, but to me some drum just sound better to my ears than others in terms of their tone quality.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Watching the Guru video links on this website along with other drum manufacturers, I noticed that there's quite a variety in the "quality" of a drum's sound. Not the inherit timbre of a particular make or model, more-so some drums have a pure and musical quality over other drums.
Maybe it's heads and tuning or EQ tricks on some websites and Youtube videos, but to me some drum just sound better to my ears than others in terms of their tone quality.
Well, duh. That's like saying that a ferrari will have better quality than a honda. It's a given. One is a lovingly hand-built machine designed in every respect for the best performance, the other is a tool to get the same job done in a more money-efficient manner. That said, if someone who loves to drive can afford a ferrari, I don't think they'd call it overkill.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
combination of Specie of Wood, Stave, Plies, Steambent, Hollow shell, thickness of shells, Hoops, Heads,Tuning, Snares, nothing you don't know about but just getting the right combination.
That's my non-professional, non-drum builder opinion gathered by information I have found here and other sites.
 

drummerman42

Senior Member
Different types of woods, the way the grain is going will affect the sound of the drums, not only those characteristics but also the type of heads and tuning. The biggest one would be the player most importantly, how you play the drum will affect it's sound too.
 

pdtpercussion

Junior Member
A "quality" drum sound?

Personal tastes prevails. Higher quality instruments, better results. Individual's experience make a tremendous difference. I play: Jazz(large/small groups), cover/rock/r&b/commercial, symphony, International Music, Musical Theater. I have a degree in Performance/Education. All my drums heads are tuned to pitches. I vary batter and resonating sides depending on where the drum sounds best. I have 4-drum sets, (Sonor, DW, Tama, Yamaha, 7-snare drums) for use in different situations without much retuning. I go for full resonating sounds. When the drums are "in tune" they sing naturally. My $.02.

Patrick.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
..... but to me some drum just sound better to my ears than others in terms of their tone quality.
A book by Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music") goes quite deeply into timbre and pitch and how we perceive them. What we like in these areas as good 'tone' is deeply personal. For me, its depth and warmth in a drum sound. 'Quality' as a word I don't associate with tone, but rather with construction.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I just thought of something that may help or hinder. My son speaks at a tone level that is hard for me to hear at normal levels. Other people I hear fine at conversation levels. Drums may very well be the same thing. I've never seem what the level of different drums may be but it's quite possible that some sound is lost on hearing differences. If this makes no sense, just throw rocks at me.
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
Watching the Guru video links on this website along with other drum manufacturers, I noticed that there's quite a variety in the "quality" of a drum's sound. Not the inherit timbre of a particular make or model, more-so some drums have a pure and musical quality over other drums.
Maybe it's heads and tuning or EQ tricks on some websites and Youtube videos, but to me some drum just sound better to my ears than others in terms of their tone quality.
We have to consider that when drum company makes videos of their products, they use professional engineers, great mics and mix them to be as full-sounding as can be. They certainly aren't going to use a ZoomQ3 5 feet away from the kit to sell their product, but honestly that's the most "honest" way. Obviously the best way to find a good-sounding instrument is to play it yourself with your own ears and hands. I chose the Silverstar because, to my ears, they sounded better than drums costing 3 times as much or more. I was BLOWN AWAY by the "pre-EQ'ed" quality which is expected from 100% birch shells. This was with the crappy stock heads on them!

That said, I was fortunate to see Vinnie with Jeff Beck years back and had backstage passes. While I didn't get to meet Vinnie, unfortunately, I did catch the tech tuning up and getting his drums ready and I have to be honest, I wasn't blown away by the sound of his Gretsch kit at all. Surely the outdoor acoustics contributed to that but when you hear a record, you have to take into consideration that what you hear has been through the ringer of many layers of EQ and mixing tricks and processing. A lot of people also think that Bonham's drum sound was "pure" and "unadulterated" which is not true. "When the Levee Breaks" was just a couple of mics but there was plenty of reverb and compression added to get the sound to mix well when the other instruments are added.

This brings me to the current epoch of music production which is, for lack of a better term, a mess of LOUDNESS and fuzz. I was extremely disappointed when the new Van Halen record came out because any time the whole band was playing, it was all Eddy and his kid and Alex's drums were buried in an overly dense mix of loudness and peaked noise. The current obsession with getting mixes as loud and dense as possible sacrifices clarity and dynamics. After listening to "A Different Kind of Truth" I put on "Van Halen 2" and there was a REAL mix. Everything could be heard clearly. It's truly sad that all the time and effort goes into mixing drums and then the whole thing gets squashed by the "loudness wars" in the mixdown and mastering phase.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I just thought of something that may help or hinder. My son speaks at a tone level that is hard for me to hear at normal levels. Other people I hear fine at conversation levels. Drums may very well be the same thing. I've never seem what the level of different drums may be but it's quite possible that some sound is lost on hearing differences. If this makes no sense, just throw rocks at me.
I just threw a large meteor sized rock at you, it should be arriving in Fla shortly. Your post made perfect sense to me but I just wanted to throw something large at someone, and your post provided me with the opportunity for me to do so.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Here's my own personal description of the perfect tom tone:

Lots of attack, lots of sustain, no muffled qualities Watso-ever, a good balance of highs and lows, very clear and crisp, tuned not loose, with a well defined note that envelopes my body in warmth and clarity, and a definite afterglow of overtones as it decays. There.
 

porter

Platinum Member
A book by Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music") goes quite deeply into timbre and pitch and how we perceive them. What we like in these areas as good 'tone' is deeply personal. For me, its depth and warmth in a drum sound. 'Quality' as a word I don't associate with tone, but rather with construction.
Great book- highly recommended. I agree with that last sentence too- quality as anything more than a highly generalized opinion is so subjective that it's silly to argue about.

I like pure & clean tom sounds with a lot of shell in the mix- a bit counterintuitive, then, that I chose a Superstar with coated heads, over a Renown with clear heads...
 

keepitgreen

Senior Member
A lot of people also think that Bonham's drum sound was "pure" and "unadulterated" which is not true. "When the Levee Breaks" was just a couple of mics but there was plenty of reverb and compression added to get the sound to mix well when the other instruments are added.
Not only that, but they also recorded that song in a castle. Bonham's sound engineer put the drum kit at the bottom of a stairwell in the castle, and then put the mics at the top of the stairs.

I actually read somewhere that only played When the Levee Breaks a couple of times live, and then eventually gave up on it, because even they couldn't recreate that sound.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
Snare drum: Like a rifle crack

Bass drum: Boom like thunder

Toms: High toms should sing, low toms should growl, all with clear voices.

Cymbals: Clear, musical sounds, with no hint of "clang" to them.



The thing is that for such supposedly simple instruments, we don't really have vocabulary that clearly describes the sounds of a drum kit. It may be because in contrast to tuned instruments, each drum or cymbal has a sound that is a composite of many different notes.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Here's my own personal description of the perfect tom tone:

Lots of attack, lots of sustain, no muffled qualities Watso-ever, a good balance of highs and lows, very clear and crisp, tuned not loose, with a well defined note that envelopes my body in warmth and clarity, and a definite afterglow of overtones as it decays. There.
That's what I'm talkin 'bout.
 
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