The feel of a drum

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Anything that influences the reaction / behaviour of the head will be perceived as a difference in feel through the stick. Obvious one being head tension, but tension interval between heads, length of vibration, etc. In terms of feel under the stick on a single strike, level of venting is a potential difference from drum to drum all other things being equal, just as it is noticeably on a bass drum. The amount of give in the shell, overall mass of the instrument, and mounting are other factors that affect feel on a strike.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Anybody who has a comment or opinion on a drum's feel, please, speak your mind
Hey Larry,

It's hard to say, but I know that my acoustic kit "feels" better to play than a Roland kit. :)

I don't know if I can define "feel" with drums without including sound. For example, my Pork Pie USA 12" rack tom feels better than my 12" Tama Rockstar rack tom, even if they have the same heads at the same tension. It's almost like I don't have to work as hard to get a great sound out of nicer "feeling" drums. I don't know if I'm making sense or not.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
To me, toms with metal hoops, the only kind I play (diecast or rolled) all feel the same to me Snares, however, ... now that’s when feel comes into play. Something about how the stick feels coming off the head that defines a drum’s character, and how I feel about it, than anything else. I have a pricey cast bronze shell that just feels dead. Can’t get that thick shell to respond the way I wish it would. Ugh.
See I don't get this at all. How a shell can affect head feel I'm not understanding. Stretch a head over a metal shell or a wood shell...The shell isn't compressing, the head is stretching when it's struck. If the shell affected the head feel, in my mind the shell would have to give a little. I don't know if that's right or not. I'm not stating anything, I'm just trying to understand. To me the only thing that affects a drums head feel is the tension and which head is on it. Again, I think I may be missing something.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I know for me, sound has a lot to do with it as well. For example, I played in a room where the club owner over sound proofed his stage area with foam insulation, carpet....you name it. Super dead sounding stage. My drums felt dead and stiff in the room and sounded the same. Sucked, no fun playing at all. The next night was a nice drum friendly room. No change in tuning and the drums felt (as well as sounded) 100 times better. It's as if the sound somehow created the illusion of a different feel to the strike......unless it's not an illusion at all.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
My 2¢

For me, physical feel is about double strokes. Like dribbling a basketball. It doesn't matter how low I can tune a tom and get a clean sound, if I can't get enough energy to DS roll on it, I might as well be dribbling a flat basketball. If the head reverberates so much that I can't DS roll on it (like two people jumping on the same trampoline out of sync), I might as well be dribbling a helium balloon.

This differs from sonic feel, which encompasses the manner in which the notes are enunciated. Pitch bends, duration, decay profile, etc.

Put these two things (Physical/Sonic) together and you have the overall feel of an instrument. "How much energy/velocity do I need, and how do I need to contort my strokes, to get the instrument to enunciate in the manner I desire?".

Heads matter (Thickness, plies, coating, control mechanisms)
Bearing edges matter (break angle affects tension ratio)
Hoops matter in instances where you're using the hoop.
Mass matters
Wood matters in inverse proportion to mass.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I know for me, sound has a lot to do with it as well. For example, I played in a room where the club owner over sound proofed his stage area with foam insulation, carpet....you name it. Super dead sounding stage. My drums felt dead and stiff in the room and sounded the same. Sucked, no fun playing at all. The next night was a nice drum friendly room. No change in tuning and the drums felt (as well as sounded) 100 times better. It's as if the sound somehow created the illusion of a different feel to the strike......unless it's not an illusion at all.
While I can definitely relate to your experience, for this thread the sound that the drum makes isn't a factor. It's the hand/stick feel when struck.

I'm starting to think it's not a thing. Only because no one has stated any definite experiences one way or another.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
For me, physical feel is about double strokes.
I apply that standard to my snare drum uniformly. If double-stroke rolls and related rudimental operations aren't effortless, the drum doesn't feel right. That's the primary reason, among a litany of reasons, I favor higher snare tunings. A pillowed snare drum has always been abominable to me.

As a rule, I don't demand such responsiveness and sensitivity from my toms. They're tuned much lower. I also like the contrast between a high snare and low toms.

My kit, therefore, has a variance of "feels."
 

tfgretsch

Junior Member
For me, the feel of the drum is just as important as the sound. The playing experience is so much more enjoyable when the drum feels right. I like it to have a certain amount of give, but not so much as to feel as though the stick is sluggish. Too tight of a head tension and it feels “hard”. The right feel, coupled with a great sound makes the kit a pleasure to play. Head tension, head choice and playing style all play a part in how the drum feels....maybe even the room acoustics to a degree. These are the first thoughts that come to mind anyway.....
RIGHT ON!!
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I have a REMO Mastertouch kit from the 90s. It came with mounts attached directly to the shell. As soon as I got them I put RIMS mounts on them. I played them that way for almost 20 years. I eventually got other kits, DW, Yamaha, Mapex, Ludwig. During this quarantine I decided to pull out the REMOs and put the original mounts back on. I just thought I would try them the way they originally came. Even though I had gigged with these drums every once in a while, I had never set them up in my current house/drum room. They sounded awesome in my practice room, but more surprising, was how good they felt. I don’t know how to describe it. I think what I’m feeling is a little more rebound at a lower tuning. I think it may be because the Suspension mount gave the drum a little more give. As an experiment I put the RIMs back on. The drums did have a little more low end, but I didn’t like the feel as much. They had more give when I played them. I then played on my DW kit and my Yamahas. They had the same kind of softer feel with the suspension mounts. I put the direct mounts back on the REMOs and while they lost some low end, they feel so much better to play that I am willing to make the trade. This is the only kit I have that has direct to shell Tom mounts. Now I want to know if other brands feel this much better without suspension mounts.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I play my only "rack" tom in a snare stand. I've been doing this so long that I scarcely recall the feel of mounts.

I did encounter a house kit some time a go whose tom was suspended from a cymbal stand. The tom moved quite a bit when struck. I didn't care for that feel at all.
 

notvinnie

Senior Member
The feel of your stick hitting the head will be affected by:
  • single headed concert tom vs. double headed tom
  • the drum head (thickness, tension)
  • the stick (stiffness, flexibility, size, bead)
  • number of tension lugs
  • size of drum
  • how the drum is mounted (how much the drum "gives" when struck)
  • angle the drum is mounted
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
To put a finer point on it, if there are 2 identically sized, headed and tensioned drums, but they are from different makers with different edges...do different drums feel different? That was my take-away from those comments over the years. That some drums feel better than others. I never understood it, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding what is meant.

So what do you guys mean when you say a drum feels good?
I think a matter of kinetic energy mixed with vibration.

When you strike a drum - you get an immediate kick back in tension from the heads - so you'll instantly feel difference in the way the head moves based on bearing edge and the hardware on the striking head.

A rounder bearing edge would likely have a "softer" feel because more head is in contact with the edge and thusly more kinetic energy would be transferred into the shell.

Alternatively - a sharper edge would have less contact - so the head would move more and have a "harder" feel.

If you have heavier hardware - the mass of the shell would increase - so more of that kinetic energy would get transferred right back to the head since it's the moving part of the system and it would transferred back into the head moving which you would feel instantly and especially if you were doing multiple strokes.

So a shell with heavier hardware and hoops with a sharp edge would transfer more energy back to the head and eventually the sticks and would give you a harder "feel" with more rebound.

A shell with less hardware and something like wood hoops would be on the other end of the spectrum because the shell would absorb much more of the impact with the head contact and with the vibrations being absorbed into the shell more than pushed back to the head.

That also all makes sense acoustically since a round edge and less hardware gives you a "warm" or "round" feel and a sharp edge with heavy hardware with gives you more attacked and a sharper/harder feel.

And head tension - but that's a lot more obvious thing.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Wow man that is a really great explanation that makes a lot of sense to me. It's the answer I was looking for.

And it's not like a sharper edge is "better" than a rounded edge...it's just a personal preference what feels good to that individual.

I go for sound first and last. The feel is what it is. But I have a much clearer picture now thank you.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I think a matter of kinetic energy mixed with vibration.

When you strike a drum - you get an immediate kick back in tension from the heads - so you'll instantly feel difference in the way the head moves based on bearing edge and the hardware on the striking head.

A rounder bearing edge would likely have a "softer" feel because more head is in contact with the edge and thusly more kinetic energy would be transferred into the shell.

Alternatively - a sharper edge would have less contact - so the head would move more and have a "harder" feel.

If you have heavier hardware - the mass of the shell would increase - so more of that kinetic energy would get transferred right back to the head since it's the moving part of the system and it would transferred back into the head moving which you would feel instantly and especially if you were doing multiple strokes.

So a shell with heavier hardware and hoops with a sharp edge would transfer more energy back to the head and eventually the sticks and would give you a harder "feel" with more rebound.

A shell with less hardware and something like wood hoops would be on the other end of the spectrum because the shell would absorb much more of the impact with the head contact and with the vibrations being absorbed into the shell more than pushed back to the head.

That also all makes sense acoustically since a round edge and less hardware gives you a "warm" or "round" feel and a sharp edge with heavy hardware with gives you more attacked and a sharper/harder feel.

And head tension - but that's a lot more obvious thing.
I'd have to agree that this explanation is quite compelling. As I said in a previous post, I've never devoted much energy to being a bearing-edge analyst, but I'm sure that feature, in concert with shell density and hardware, plays a significant role in determining the character of a drum, a component of which is feel.
 

Smoke

Silver Member
I would think that the stick translating the energy back to your hand would be the biggest factor in what we *feel.* But what do I know? I'm just a drummer. ;)
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I would think that the stick translating the energy back to your hand would be the biggest factor in what we *feel.* But what do I know? I'm just a drummer. ;)
I like your take. Let craftsmen and physicists figure out the engineering intricacies and kinetic peculiarities of equipment. We drummers should be drumming.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I like to set up my snare to have as much body with rebound or feel that allows me to do single stroke or double stroke rolls as effortlessly as possible but with enough give that allows the feel of hitting a backbeat to have some absorption so when I have a good groove the drum isn't telling me it's too tight or too loose.

I had a Sonor SQ2 14x5 medium birch snare that I could not get a good feel with. If I got a good sound, the trampoline effect was giving fudgy strokes. I got rid of it.

I have a Ludwig hammered bronze 14x6.5 that feels hard and doesn't have the effortless single stroke roll feel, but when playing out with it, my level of excitement or state of arousal is higher and the harder feel works better for pulling off things that I wouldn't be able to do if I had it set up the way I prefer when practicing.

Usually, my feel on the snare is setup for practicing, but live, I pay more attention and need it to be less easy if that makes sense.

I have two distinct sets that I use, Pearl Reference Pure and Sonor Sonorlite. Vastly different. The Pearls sound the same at different volumes and cause me to play them with less force because there's no difference when hitting them harder. The Sonors make more overtones and a little distortion when hit harder so I tend to dig into them more. They benefit from very light or very hard hitting. My feel is sometimes not as nice because I often try to "work" them. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be a reason to hit the Pearls harder because it doesn't really change the tone.
The feel of each set causes me to play them with different dynamics.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
I think SOUND plays a big part in the perceived "feel" of a drum. Sure, the tension of the head and the amount of rebound you get play a big part...but...the speed at which the drum speaks when you hit it can have an effect too.

Some drums have a super fast response (like Canopus drums for example). At the other end of the spectrum, kits like a Ludwig Club Date or C&C respond relatively slowly.

A drum with a delayed response of, lets say 80 milliseconds, will have a slow or sluggish "feel" to it. Whereas a drum that speaks within 3-10 milliseconds will have a crisp and instantaneous feel to it.

Imagine a thought experiment where you have 2 snares side-by-side. They both have identical head tension, identical rebound. They both feel identical when you hit them...BUT one snare has a quick response, and the other has a delayed response. Would they "feel" different? I think maybe they would.

This is just a theory that I thought up in the past few minutes though, feel free to poke holes in it. :)
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Andy mentioned venting, something that mostly probably goes unnoticed. The placement , size and strength of vent and drum dimension/s surely has a whole lot to do with it. eg. Pre serial Ludwig toms, vent hole centered, later on placed higher up towards the top hoop.
 

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