Lessons from trying to go cheap

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Hey ho everybody!

After lurking around and seeing threads about doing things on a budget, or starting again/need kit/ not a lot of money - I get it. Not everyone has money to pour into an instrument that they may or may not pursue a career with. And that's cool. If you're a beginner, stay under your budget and get your feet wet to see if this is something you'll stick with. But I think this was the year I learned through example that if you regularly play out a lot, you can't go cheap.

Over this past year, as much as I brag about being able to play anything in terms of gear, I decided to really try it and began collecting cheap drum sets that were very cool. I found a 1960s Yamaha 12/14/20 kit, then I found a 1980s-era Pearl Export, and collected other mid-level Pearl drums and put them into kits.

Well, to make a long story short, this year I must've suffered more than the usual breakdowns during a gig. I had lugs literally crack while I was playing. Snare strainers just strip during songs. Lug inserts (the part the tension rod screws into) wold just strip and the head would de-tune). Cymbal tilters slip at the most obvious moment, floor tom leg brackets just give out causing the drum to fall over. I've had an old slinger land tom mount just crack and there went the rack tom rolling across the stage! All incidents were taken with a laugh and worked through. But looking back on this year, this was the only year this has ever happened.

Sure, drum heads breaking, sure, I have spares on a gig. This is normal like when the guitarist breaks a string, so those don't count. But actual mechanical things breaking down from past abuse or old age has just never happened to me before because I've always had somewhat new well-taken care of gear on a job. Heck, I went to see Billy Cobham do a concert, and on the first tune, his snare strainer just died - his roadie broke out another snare and seamlessly changed out the drum and nobody knew what happened. Things like that started happening to me and, unlike Billy, I don't have a roadie to help me out, but the fact that I was diving into my spares didn't sit well with me (even though I have them).

So this culminated into my re-creation of a Pearl kit - a lot of those orphaned shells got new lugs, suspension mounts, and they became my Roger Taylor black kit. The floor toms got new brackets. The Exports with the exploding lugs were sold off. Snare strainers were replaced, or the whole drum traded for another newer model.

At a certain point in your playing career, you're gonna be more worried about performing correctly and making the right impressions. And I really can't afford to use cheap stuff. In some cases, like my tribute band, once we get started, you literally do not have time to "get it right". We're only on stage for a little more than an hour, and any breakdown in the show is just not a good thing to put the audience through who've come to re-live their favorite band by proxy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you how to live. I'm just relating my experiences. Your mileage will definitely vary. But there's a certain pressure you feel when you're faced with a theater that's filled with almost 1500 people and you're playing a beater drum set that key elements may break off during performance. Imagine the pressure if you played for a huge artist and you're in a large theater or stadium? Imagine Queen at Live Aid and the drummer having something break?

I've vowed this would not happen to me again. Vintage stuff? I'm done. If I want a vintage look, I'll buy new kit that looks vintage. Yes, I can literally play any gear that's available, but if I'm representing, best foot forward every time. Just thought I'd put out another thing to think about on our drumming journey.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I had lugs literally crack while I was playing. Snare strainers just strip during songs. Lug inserts (the part the tension rod screws into) wold just strip and the head would de-tune). Cymbal tilters slip at the most obvious moment, floor tom leg brackets just give out causing the drum to fall over. I've had an old slinger land tom mount just crack and there went the rack tom rolling across the stage!
Wow! No fun. But I gotta ask, are you a heavy hitter?

And through all this have you found a line of hardware you prefer?
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
Definitely great advice Bo... Something we all need to consider.

I would only point out that all "vintage" drum gear is not the same.

I have Swivo-matic era Rogers (beaver tail lugs) that I would take anywhere without a second thought. These drums are easily 50 years old and have never had anything close to a catastrophic failure.

I have had failures-cracked lugs, stripped inserts, tom mounts that would not hold tight, tom mounts that cracked, etc. etc. etc. And this was back in the 70s and 80s when these kits were only 10-20 years old. And-this was on American AND MIJ kits. At the time I came to the same conclusion you did-not worth the risk....

Interestingly enough, In the mid-90s I sold an early (early 80s Taiwanese made) Export kit to a friend with a home studio. That kit has been beat on by every week by seasoned players to kids without a clue. To my knowledge not one part has failed or cracked, and other than typical tom mount slippage it has held up very well.
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
Great commentary, Matt.

This is why I am a fan of Yamaha gear; it's just so sturdy and reliable. I carry spare felts and cymbal sleeves, but not much else. I might start bringing extra snare heads after reading this, however.
 

Chunkaway

Silver Member
I hear you Bo, I have had similar experiences. I do want to add, I have a vintage Ludwig kit that has had the hardware updated - all of the lugs were replaced with new lugs, and the bass spurs were replaced with the new Atlas spurs. Because of this, I feel completely comfortable bringing this vintage kit out to any gig. I wouldn't be so quick to rule out all vintage drums.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Swivel nuts (the threaded lug insert) seem to have a shelf life. Every used kit I've owned has had at least one break eventually. They appear to be a cheaply made part that failure is eminent. Seriously, they hold tension. It would be like skimping on the wheel studs on a car. The nuts should be made out of stainless, or grade 8, not some cheap pot metal that's gonna fail because the part is under constant stress.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Swivel nuts (the threaded lug insert) seem to have a shelf life. Every used kit I've owned has had at least one break eventually. They appear to be a cheaply made part that failure is eminent. Seriously, they hold tension. It would be like skimping on the wheel studs on a car. The nuts should be made out of stainless, or grade 8, not some cheap pot metal that's gonna fail because the part is under constant stress.
Swivel nuts are typically designed to be weaker than the lug and rod. This is intentional, like a shear-key on the fly wheel of your lawn mower, so that it will be the first to give in the event of catastrophe.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
Gear with wear and tear on it, or that has been produced on a super tight budget will certainly have a larger share of reliability problems for sure. Most of these can be overcome and will help a gigging musician grow in skill and confidence. That being said, I had a tom bracket strip earlier this year on a 23 year old kit that only I've owned. It was at that time I decided to replace all my tom brackets, RIMS mounts as well as purchase a new set of hardware specifically for gigging so that I hopefully deal with minimal breakdowns.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Swivel nuts are typically designed to be weaker than the lug and rod. This is intentional, like a shear-key on the fly wheel of your lawn mower, so that it will be the first to give in the event of catastrophe.
Okay that makes sense. Id much rather replace it than the whole lug, or even risk potential shell damage.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Okay that makes sense. Id much rather replace it than the whole lug, or even risk potential shell damage.
Indeed. I think that this would be less of an issue if manufacturers would include a couple extra one's with the kit, like the extra rotor shear pins that came with my Ariens snow blower.

If you're a gigging drummer that loads in/out frequently, it might be worthwhile to order some extras 'now' and throw them in your carry-bag, rather than having an ordeal when you break one. I believe they sell for ~$5 for a dozen.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Yah, I keep trying to talk myself into believing how that 1960's MIJ stencil kit on eBay Reverb or Craigslist that looks just like my first kit is such a good buy and would be way cool at a gig, but then I calm myself down and rationalize and think about reliability and could I really afford for my kick drum to have major issues during a gig. The answer is no, so I stick with known quantities that are still way-cool and have some nostalgic appeal while also being reliable: Ludwig Classic Maple kits, Premier kits made in England before 1990, Ludwig Acro, Slingerland 3 ply snare from 60's. I'm even staying away from vintage Rogers with exploding B&B lugs.

In summary: I'm just a marginal drummer - I can't afford to show up at a gig with equipment that breaks or is unreliable.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I think some of those old shells can sound pretty good, but I agree, they probably need to have all the lugs and mounts replaced with newer, reliable and better-built parts.

It’s just a shame that nobody was building hollow log or stave/segment kits back in the day. They would probably sound incredible now.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
Great commentary, Matt.

This is why I am a fan of Yamaha gear; it's just so sturdy and reliable. I carry spare felts and cymbal sleeves, but not much else. I might start bringing extra snare heads after reading this, however.
Not to generalise, but the so praised birch custom I played, had many troubles : cracking lugs on the snare, problem on the yess mount (rattling and keeping unscrewing) , bass drum spurs that didn’t maintain well and bass drum claws distorting... and it is not an old model : 2/3 YO on the road.

To come back on the topic, to have strong and well maintained gear, allows to free your mind and focus on music.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Not to generalise, but the so praised birch custom I played, had many troubles : cracking lugs on the snare, problem on the yess mount (rattling and keeping unscrewing) , bass drum spurs that didn’t maintain well and bass drum claws distorting... and it is not an old model : 2/3 YO on the road.

To come back on the topic, to have strong and well maintained gear, allows to free your mind and focus on music.
Wow. Taiwan-made?
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Indeed. I think that this would be less of an issue if manufacturers would include a couple extra one's with the kit, like the extra rotor shear pins that came with my Ariens snow blower.

If you're a gigging drummer that loads in/out frequently, it might be worthwhile to order some extras 'now' and throw them in your carry-bag, rather than having an ordeal when you break one. I believe they sell for ~$5 for a dozen.
This makes sense if you had time to deal with it. I have the parts, just not the 20 minutes or so it would take to dismantle the drum and replace a part and then put it back together. Carry an extra snare and a bass drum pedal, and an extra hi hat clutch. Those you can immediately swap out. Other than that, you make your repairs at home.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Bo you've played the cheap stuff for years with no problems to. You've been playing along time (a real long time and a lot)-statistically you were due some things go wrong-IS ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT IT! Just because a hurricane blows your house away maybe once in 30-50 years is no reason not to build it back. Long live CHEAP!!!! See if on the other thread the lady singer jumped on a cheap bass drum-well who cares you can ask her to pitch in to buy another one. I think we can ALL AGREE that Bo has been on a good run-we all envy-with the cheap stuff. I wonder if he really wants to influence the used cheap drum market so he can buy more shells for even cheaper to make new drum kits (which dang he's becoming a master of taking a Franken-morph-a-drum and make it sound like a cogent NEW DRUM kit. Yeah a sinister plot to influence the market for his own gain LOL. You talk it down, market tanks, you buy big, market returns, you make off like a fox. Gosh it's brilliant I wish I'd thought of it. So I'm in on it to-wink, wink, wink. Yeah Bo heck with the cheap stuff-buy expensive-even if it's cheap.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo you've played the cheap stuff for years with no problems to. You've been playing along time (a real long time and a lot)-statistically you were due some things go wrong-IS ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT IT! Just because a hurricane blows your house away maybe once in 30-50 years is no reason not to build it back. Long live CHEAP!!!! See if on the other thread the lady singer jumped on a cheap bass drum-well who cares you can ask her to pitch in to buy another one. I think we can ALL AGREE that Bo has been on a good run-we all envy-with the cheap stuff. I wonder if he really wants to influence the used cheap drum market so he can buy more shells for even cheaper to make new drum kits (which dang he's becoming a master of taking a Franken-morph-a-drum and make it sound like a cogent NEW DRUM kit. Yeah a sinister plot to influence the market for his own gain LOL. You talk it down, market tanks, you buy big, market returns, you make off like a fox. Gosh it's brilliant I wish I'd thought of it. So I'm in on it to-wink, wink, wink. Yeah Bo heck with the cheap stuff-buy expensive-even if it's cheap.
OMG I've been found out!

And I just ordered a brand new 13x10 tom for my Reference kit....dang it!
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Vintage stuff? I'm done. If I want a vintage look, I'll buy new kit that looks vintage.
LOL I like that.

I think the only reason to buy vintage instruments or gear is if it was made better than it is now, for example 1980s Made-in-Japan Ibanez RG guitars. Otherwise, to me vintage just means old. As for budget drums, you would probably be okay with new gear vs used. And some brands make better cheap stuff than others, obviously.
 
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