Making entry level sets sound better. How?

Alright i play a tama imperialstar and probably won't be able to upgrade for months, maybe even a couple years, and playing on a kit that sounds bad is downright discouraging at points. I've lost count of how many times i've heard people say u can make an entry level set sound much better than it should, but no one i've seen ever says how. New heads is obvious, and i just bought new resos and batter last week (G2 clear, EC2 clear w/ sound rings, respectively), but i still can't get even what i consider to be a decent sound out of them. Always too gongy. Tried remOs they kill the sound imo. So what are some of the things that u guys have done/seen done that really made them sound better.

Right now there are 4 problems w/ the set but that doesn't explain the bad sound on all the drums. 13" tom has a chip missing on the outside above the bearing edge. 13 tom also has some tiny pinholes in bearing edge that i would have no idea ho to fix. 16 FT has a slightly warped hoop on bottom(don't ask how, i assume it was done by a prior owner) and bass drum needs 2 new lugs.

I'm not sure the chip is even affecting the 13 since its on the outside, and the warped hoop only ensures the reso head stay a bit tighter than i'd like. Bass drum does NEED those lugs tho. Saw a set of lugs on ebay i may be getting soon.

So my tuning style is pretty loose. Is there a good chance i just need to have someone else tune them, or does loose just simply not work on a poplar set? Should i have edges rounded, redone or anything like that. I obviously don't know the answers to this so i'm coming here to try and get them. So answer the questions, make suggestions and so on. It would be greatly appreciated.
 

RollingStone000

Silver Member
The bearing edge issues, although important, shouldn't really ruin the ability to tune the kit and make it sound good. I'd probably suggest to raise your tuning up. I've got an Imperialstar Snare and I tried tuning it low to get a nice deeper pitch, but it just didn't sound that great. It's noticeably better at a high pitch.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
New heads, of course, like you did. Tune them up a little higher than you usually do, and they should sing better. Try to find the tuning that makes EACH DRUM sound good on it's own, then put them together and make sure they sound cohesive as a kit. The problem with my first kit was that the 12" tom sounded good lower, and the 13" tom sounded good higher, and they were so close in tuning that I couldn't use both. Yes, they only had the one sweet spot...

Hope your situation works itself out. :D
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
you'd be surprised how "gongy" (resonant) a tom needs to be to sound good in a live band setting. i discovered this by making lots of live recordings of me playing gigs with my band. i now use no muffling on any drum except for a hand towel in the bass drum. it sounds like you have good drum heads, so that's probably not the problem. if the ringing still bugs you and o-rings are too much, you could try putting moongel stickers on the tom heads near the edges. that will deaden them as little or as much as you want.
 

rastaron

Member
Hahahaha, I remember I could only afford a Pacific 5pc kit, and some used cymbals, and I played a full gig at the world renown World Cafe Live.

I deadened the crap outta the kick, got halfway decent heads, and made sure I spent a lot of time getting my snare sound right.

Kit sounded perfect.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
I had an entry level kit for a long time and got it to sound much better by doing some simply things.

With the heads off, measure the diameter of your toms along several different angles to make sure they are perfectly round, otherwise tuning will be impossible. If they arent round apply some pressure and bend them back into round. This is most prevalent in cheap steel snares.

Do this with your hoops too, batter and reso! Make sure they are not out of round. Hoops can also get bent out of flat. Lay each hoop on a flat surface and make sure it doesn't wobble back and forth. If it does, bend it so it lays flat on the surface.

When you change a head, clean the bearing edges and hoops thoroughly. Dust and stick debris can get stuck in there and distort your head.

I got a candle and coated my bearing edge with a thin layer of wax. This will make the head sit better on the bearing edge. And if you have any dings in the edge, you can fill them with wax.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
A good set of new heads is indeed the place to start. Then you have to learn how to tune them. This takes time and practice to get right. Two helpful resources:

The Drum Tuning Bible
http://home.earthlink.net/~prof.sound/

Bob Gatzen's YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/user/bobgatzen

After a while, you learn how there are many different things that affect the sound of the drum. For example, you can get a very different sound just by moving your kit to a different room.

With some time and effort, you can get a low level kit to sound quite good. The place to splurge for the quality gear is on a good snare and good cymbals, so I would advise upgrading those before the rest of the kit.
 

eamesuser

Silver Member
I rehearse on our guitarists Imperialstar,I found them to be good drums and the poplar shells are lively and bright sounding drums,and tuned too high they are indeed "boingy"with single ply clears on them,and don't have a lot of low end built into in them.I have had the best luck tuning them medium low to med high, they seem to be in thier sweet spot when they become fatter sounding,but still really responsive to low volume playing.You might try single ply resos with either the G-2's or EC 2's as batters.That might cut down on the brightness,but still keep them lively and resonant enough to sing and retain some tone.
 

ERiX

Junior Member
Okay, let me see if I can help.

- Pix of the chip and bearing edges, please. If your head comes into contact with it, then it is contributing to the sound- good or bad. Let's address the damage, then have a look at the profiles.

- The warped hoop is absolutely killing your tuning. Get a new one. While you are at it, check the rest of them.

- Check to see that the bearing edges are flat. Flat - like on a piece of glass - and look for light gaps. Granite counters work, too... but you get the point. Flat is far more critical than round, unless your shell is really whacked -- your hoops will pull it sufficiently round, in most cases.

- Head selection. I would not use a 2 ply on the reso. They are likely choking shells that are probably not all that resonant to begin with. Entry level import kits have a lot of mahogany-like timber in them, because it's plentiful in Indonesia, etc. Maho is rather porous, which is what you are seeing on the bearing edges. A G1 will sound far better, in any situation. G2's on top are fine, if you like that sort of feel.

- Once you get here, tune everything up and have someone else play your kit while you are in the audience. That gong - or ring - is more often than not, your friend at listening distance.

If you are asking a mediocre kit to step up, then these are things that need to be "according to Hoyle." These are things that money buys (at least we hope so.)

Hope that helps.

Eric
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Agreed with most thats been said except about bearing edges.The bearing edge MUST be true and flat .Not actually flat as it is cut to an angle where it contacts the drum head and be the same all around.Try putting the drum with heads removed on the flattest and smoothest surface you have(not the driveway as some one once did)Now dim or turn off the lights in room and with the bearing edge on the flat surface ..shine a flashlight inside the drum.If you see light bleeding out the bottom,you might have to get the edges recut.The bearing edge is critical to tuning and MUST be true and have the same amount of drumshell contacting the head.Disreguard all the above with Vintage drums..That Bob Gadsen is excellent and help you with your tuning problems since hopefully,thats all you have.Good luck and post photos.

Steve B
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
Is this the only kit that sounds bad? What about the type of sticks you are using? How about the position of the toms? Could they be too high or low and the angle of your strike is too extreme?

How about the mounting system? Does it isolate the toms from the hardware and therefore the other toms?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
This is an over-posted clip, but ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyO7lvzfw5Q

Without contradicting any of the suggestions about tuning, tweaking (Bob Gatzen's videos are great) or drum construction, sticks etc the Dave G vid tells me that you can coax a decent sound out of anything. Low end gear is just less forgiving with a smaller sweet spot, but everything hittable has a good voice somewhere if you can find it.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Please post some audio samples so that we can help you.
Im positive that your drums can be tuned to sound great.
Dings in the bearing edges or not. The drums can be made to sound great.
Poplar drums sound a bit like vintage drums from my long time experience.
In own and play a poplar kit. I tune it tight like my other kits.
Loose tuning sounds bad in a live band mix without mics.
 
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Frost

Silver Member
I have an entry level pearl kit, it sounds best with the heads much tighter, I saw that mentioned earlier in the thread and I agree, it seems to put more of an emphasis on the attack, and less on the resonant qualities (the defining point of a good or bad kit).
 

john gerrard

Senior Member
Let me make a suggestion. I agree with all that has been said about the bearing edges have to be true. But no one has told you how to correct them. I have done this on several cheap sets with very good results. I read an article in Modern Drummer many years ago that explained this proceedure.
1. Find a flat area. A large mirror. A flat counter top. A glass covered table. etc.
2. Buy some med grit sandpaper. Tape it in a circle the diameter of the drum you are working on. Make sure that you don't overlap the sandpaper. You don't want lumps in it. You need to keep it flat also.
3. Take the heads off of your drums. Now take a Magic Marker and very carefully mark just the bearing edge. Set the drum on the sandpaper and twist it in circles with very little pressure. Do about 8 rotations and look at the bearing edge. If you see areas that still have Magic Marker you know that you have low spots. Keep working with the sand paper until all of the marker is off. If you had to remove very much of the original edge you will have flat spots. Now take a piece of med sand paper and remove the flat edge on the inside of the shell. Try to get the contour of the bearing edge the same all the way around the shell.

Believe me this is not rocket science. You would not want to do this with a high end drum set,but it will make a huge improvement on the drums that you have if the edges are not even.

4. Once you have the edges trued up go ove them with some 0000 steel wool to smooth them out. Then coat them with some wax to polish them and seal them.

Hope this helps. John
 

Frost

Silver Member
That was a really good guide, thanks John!

Let me make a suggestion. I agree with all that has been said about the bearing edges have to be true. But no one has told you how to correct them. I have done this on several cheap sets with very good results. I read an article in Modern Drummer many years ago that explained this proceedure.
1. Find a flat area. A large mirror. A flat counter top. A glass covered table. etc.
2. Buy some med grit sandpaper. Tape it in a circle the diameter of the drum you are working on. Make sure that you don't overlap the sandpaper. You don't want lumps in it. You need to keep it flat also.
3. Take the heads off of your drums. Now take a Magic Marker and very carefully mark just the bearing edge. Set the drum on the sandpaper and twist it in circles with very little pressure. Do about 8 rotations and look at the bearing edge. If you see areas that still have Magic Marker you know that you have low spots. Keep working with the sand paper until all of the marker is off. If you had to remove very much of the original edge you will have flat spots. Now take a piece of med sand paper and remove the flat edge on the inside of the shell. Try to get the contour of the bearing edge the same all the way around the shell.

Believe me this is not rocket science. You would not want to do this with a high end drum set,but it will make a huge improvement on the drums that you have if the edges are not even.

4. Once you have the edges trued up go ove them with some 0000 steel wool to smooth them out. Then coat them with some wax to polish them and seal them.

Hope this helps. John
 

Frank

Gold Member
- The kit probably sounds better than you think. The worst seat in the house to hear your kit the way the public hears your kit is - your throne. Serious. Get someone to play your kit, and walk away. You'll hear a very different kit.

- I'm no wood work specialist, but for the the dings and pin holes, it's probably safe to wipe
some wood glue over those spots, let dry, and then lightly sand. I had a crack in between plys at the bearing edge in a drum once, and my buds at Precision drums told me to sparingly wipe wood glue over it, clamp it, let it dry, and lightly sand.
 

Average

Senior Member
This is an over-posted clip, but ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyO7lvzfw5Q

Without contradicting any of the suggestions about tuning, tweaking (Bob Gatzen's videos are great) or drum construction, sticks etc the Dave G vid tells me that you can coax a decent sound out of anything. Low end gear is just less forgiving with a smaller sweet spot, but everything hittable has a good voice somewhere if you can find it.
Polly,
Agree bigtime. Playing different drum sets is like petting different cats. If you have a super good understanding of cats and what they like, you can probably pet any cat. But if you are just learning what a cat is, you're going to get scratched a lot.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
So as someone who's been burdenned with an entry level kit, here are some general tips:
1. As many have said, entry kits sound better when they are tighter.
2. If you want the bass drum to sound good, put as many pilows/blankets in as you can. it will make it sound better, trust me
3. Replace the cymbals as soon as you can. I didn't do this and now I have two warped as hell cymbals
4. You may want to replace the heads as well.
5. Use one of your own pedals, not the one that comes with it

Hope this helps!
I'm sorry but stuffing as many pillows as you can in your bass will make it sound like SHIT. I play on a Percussion Plus kit, with a completely open bass, and it sounds great!

I've been to a show where someone had a bass stuffed to the brim like you suggest..
1. it sounded like crap.
2. you couldn't hear it. at all
3. it looks ridiculous.

I can't urge you enough not to stuff your bass full of stuff. Muffling is fine, and sometimes necessary, but NEVER over do it.
 

Skwerly

Senior Member
i have a pearl export, which is what i would consider an entry level kit, and have many of the same issues. lately, i've had the opportunity to play with things and got it sounding a lot better.

1. LESS muffling in the bass drum, but quality front and rear head.

2. also stepped up to a DW 3000 pedal, but that's just good stuff, has nothing to do with the kit.

3. if the kit sounds dull, get thinner, brighter heads. if it's too bassy and goes whomp whomp whomp try coated heads. tuning is everything. it's not as easy as some make it.

4. you mentioned you tightened the head on your bass drum as tight as it will go. they are supposed to remain rather loose. i agree completely to get an evans batter head and see what she'll do. amazing heads. :)
 
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