OPINION: Maple, Birch, Ash or other?

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I don't have a preference.
I like all of the wood choices.
I own kits of several woods including Maple, Mahogany, Poplar, Basswood. I have played kits that were made from just about every wood.
I grew up in the 60s. We didn't think about wood and shell composition as much back then as we do now. We just tuned and played our drums of the day.
I can hear the difference in the different woods but I simply don't have a favorite.
If I tune a drum and it sounds good I don't care what it is made from.
 

PeteN

Silver Member
I don't have a preference.
I like all of the wood choices.
I own kits of several woods including Maple, Mahogany, Poplar, Basswood. I have played kits that were made from just about every wood.
I grew up in the 60s. We didn't think about wood and shell composition as much back then as we do now. We just tuned and played our drums of the day.
I can hear the difference in the different woods but I simply don't have a favorite.
If I tune a drum and it sounds good I don't care what it is made from.
Like your logic and I might have had birch as a favorite last year but now I find myself liking all flavors of wood as my tuning skills have improved
 

zarrdoss

Gold Member
I can hear the difference as well but to me it seems tuning, heads, and overall build quality / configuration make more of a difference than what kind of wood the shells are made of for overall sound quality. It seems we have gone shell crazy these days even combining different woods in shells. I also think shell material on the snare is more important/noticeable than any where else.
As far as that goes Maple is my fav next to steel for snares.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I've played all kinds of wood drums and after a while, they all start to sound the same. So I guess I'm a "I don't care what it is" kind of drummer. I was never able to tell any kind of difference until I got into bubinga. I love this certain kind of "boing" I get out of 'em.

A funny story was when people would come up to me and compliment me on the woody tones I was getting out of my solid black Ludwig Vistalites! I had white heads top and bottom and you couldn't see inside.

In the end, it just has to be of high quality with true bearing edges and pretty ;)
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Different woods for different sounds, but as already pointed out, it's only part of the mix.

There's a reason why many have the perception that the wood species is a low priority, & that's because many modern shell constructions simply aren't configured to feature the timber's fundamental tone. Either the shell is quite thick, or has half a ton of hardware bolted to it, or it's painted/coated on the inside, or it has very sharp bearing edges. Each one of these features reduces shell involvement in the resultant sound. Put a few of them together, & the shell material becomes almost irrelevant.
 
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sticks4drums

Guest
Well I noticed a big difference in my shells when I tried them out for the first time at the drum store. They were definitely different then the all maple stuff that littered the drum stores.
 

uniin

Gold Member
depends the sound... my top three are 1) bubinga 2) oak 3) mahogany.

but i also LOVE maple.

birch/ash/other woods are nice, but i've found that bubinga is like maple on steroids, and oak and mahogany have this warmth that no other wood has.
 
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sticks4drums

Guest
depends the sound... my top three are 1) bubinga 2) oak 3) mahogany.

but i also LOVE maple.

birch/ash/other woods are nice, but i've found that bubinga is like maple on steroids, and oak and mahogany have this warmth that no other wood has.
Well if you like all those woods then you should definitely add Walnut to your list. My buddy just got a brand new Bubinga elite kit and his kit sounds just like mine. I think my thinner shells project a bit better.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Well if you like all those woods then you should definitely add Walnut to your list.
Another to add to the lovely low end spectrum species is sepele. Very similar to mahogany, but often with a more striking appearance, at least in younger commercially available timber.

Bubinga is out on it's own as a big sounding species. To my ear, it lacks a certain balance, but makes up for that in presence. No doubting it's a great timber to make drums from. It excites the bottom end of the spectrum with minimal input (very much depending on the construction, of course), & that gives it the ability to sound full at lower volumes. A bit like permanently engaging the loudness control on your home stereo system. That same characteristic also reduces it's dynamic potential imo, in so much as it's sound doesn't get much bigger when you really open the taps, it just gets louder. Again, imo, it claws that lack of dynamic back when used to produce very thin shells.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Another to add to the lovely low end spectrum species is sepele. Very similar to mahogany, but often with a more striking appearance, at least in younger commercially available timber.

Bubinga is out on it's own as a big sounding species. To my ear, it lacks a certain balance, but makes up for that in presence. No doubting it's a great timber to make drums from. It excites the bottom end of the spectrum with minimal input (very much depending on the construction, of course), & that gives it the ability to sound full at lower volumes. A bit like permanently engaging the loudness control on your home stereo system. That same characteristic also reduces it's dynamic potential imo, in so much as it's sound doesn't get much bigger when you really open the taps, it just gets louder. Again, imo, it claws that lack of dynamic back when used to produce very thin shells.
I guess I like them all depending on tuning and head combinations,but I would love to hear a maple/sepele shell.My Taylor guitar has a sepele back and it sounds beautiful.In fact a lot of acoustic guitars out there use sepele in their guitar bodies.Some of my favorites though are vintage 3 ply maple/poplar/mahogany or maple/poplar/maple lay up.I also love my 70's vintage Tama Superstar birch shells.

Steve B
 
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sticks4drums

Guest
I have never heard of Sepele. Were does it grow? Is it a rare wood?
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I have never heard of Sepele. Were does it grow? Is it a rare wood?
It's not rare, but as with any timber, getting good quality stuff is a time consuming occupation. Some basic detail I lifted, because I'm lazy :)

Sapele (pronounced sa-peel-ee) is a hardwood which comes from eastern and western Africa, and grows in a range of climates from the Ivory Coast to the Cameroons, and eastward through Zaire to Uganda. Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) is of the family Meliaceae which includes mahagony. Although some may refer to it as sapele-mahogony it is not a member of the genus Swietena and therefore is not considered a true mahogony by purists.

Sapele is a wood with numerous kinds of figuration; pommele, quilted, fiddleback, striped, blistered, wavy and has pieces which exhibit combinations of these effects. The best boards have a fabric-like 3 dimensional appearance. The color is similiar to African mahagony and it's strength is comparable to oak. Sapele exhibits a salmon-like color when cut, turning medium to dark red-brown as it ages, and is fine and even textured. Sapele glues and finishes well and has good natural lustre.
 
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sticks4drums

Guest
Thanks KIS. It is pretty but almost looks man made, like a fiberglass. Not much variation in style.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks KIS. It is pretty but almost looks man made, like a fiberglass. Not much variation in style.
Actually, there's many variations in grain style of sepele. Extract from my previous post detailing grain styles:

pommele, quilted, fiddleback, striped, blistered, wavy and has pieces which exhibit combinations of these effects.

The picture is of striped grain pattern. As you move the shell, the stripe intersection moves accordingly. A very unique & fascinating effect. Quilted & fiddleback are my favourites. Each board is unique, hence it's popular in individual instrument making such as guitars. It's not that known in production drum kits, as to make a whole kit match, you have to obtain/select book matched boards. That's more expensive/time consuming and not volume manufacture friendly, as the picture in your brochure is unlikely to match the product.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
When I originally saw those shells,I thought it looked familiar.I just looked at the back of my Taylor(which I never really look at) and its the same pattern.Do you have any sound samples,and would you consider a maple/bubinga/sepele shell?I'm thinking warm and woody with nice bottom end,but clarity and projection as well.Beautiful stuff those shells.Now you have me thinking about sell off some stuff..LOL.

Steve B
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
When I originally saw those shells,I thought it looked familiar.I just looked at the back of my Taylor(which I never really look at) and its the same pattern.Do you have any sound samples,and would you consider a maple/bubinga/sepele shell?I'm thinking warm and woody with nice bottom end,but clarity and projection as well.Beautiful stuff those shells.Now you have me thinking about sell off some stuff..LOL.

Steve B
Sorry Steve, but we (Guru Drumworks) only make stave & solid steam bent shells. We could mix 3 timber species in a stave construction, but I'm dubious of the sonic benefits. I personally don't subscribe to the mixed timber benefit position. It's popular with standard construction multiple ply builders, on the premise that it's the inside ply that contributes most to the resultant sound. Another view I don't subscribe to.

Many see mixed species being used in other acoustic instruments, but that's because each species have properties that benefit the specific application within the instrument. For example, it's common to see different species used in the back, sides, & soundboard of a guitar. There's a strong rationale for that, but not in a drum shell, which is essentially a single resonant element.

I believe in selecting a timber species for it's natural acoustic properties, then constructing the drum to bring out the desired mix of abilities required for the application. That way, you get the behaviour you want, with the instrument speaking with a defined voice. Nature has a pretty good track record of getting things right.
 
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