The modern history of the drumset

ZLeyba

Senior Member
Hey everyone,

I've always been fascinated with the history of the drum set, but i feel there isn't much discussion about it passed the late 80s to mid 90s.

With that in mind I began to write a series of articles about the more recent history of the drum set and I would like to share.

You can read them here. I welcome any criticism or disagreement, I just want to talk about the era of drum equipment I grew up using.

I'm currently working on another installment, and if there is any interest I would like to talk with folks a little older than me about trends in drumming from before I was born (I'm 26, for the record).

Anyways, please let me know what you think and I look forward to discussing this stuff with y'all!

Cheers,

-Zach
 

Zero Mercury Drummer

Senior Member
I think it's well-written. I don't disagree with anything there.
Liked the photos. It was interesting how Stewart Copeland brought small drums back into vogue.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Good job. I've truly enjoyed what you've written so far. I want to laud your choice of photos to accompany your tome .

Keep going. You have my attention!

GeeDeeEmm
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Good for you to devote so much time and energy to this. Keep it going.

I was not drumming in the 70's but I have always been curious what led into (and out of) ' the concert tom era'.
 

ZLeyba

Senior Member
Thanks everyone! I'll let you guys know when the next installments are up!


Good for you to devote so much time and energy to this. Keep it going.

I was not drumming in the 70's but I have always been curious what led into (and out of) ' the concert tom era'.
I actually learned a lot from this site by Drummerworld mod Bermuda. He's got a more in depth look at the trend there :D
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Good for you to devote so much time and energy to this. Keep it going.

I was not drumming in the 70's but I have always been curious what led into (and out of) ' the concert tom era'.
I was drumming in the seventies and I remember distinctly where the concert tom era came from: it resulted from the wave of idiots - myself included - who removed the bottom heads from their toms after seeing other people do it. Who knows who started it. I suspect it was a bunch of drummers who broke their batter heads and simply used the resonant head instead of replacing the broken one.

Like today, everybody did what everybody else did. George Martin threw some towels over Ringo's drums and the "dead tom" sound was born. Somebody else used deep toms and everybody had to have deep toms.

Most of us musicians are not innovators. Monkey see . . . . And every trend that came along (and comes along) is justified by saying, "They sound better that way." :) Unfortunately, nobody knows how a drum is supposed to sound!!!!

GeeDeeEmm
 

ZLeyba

Senior Member
I was drumming in the seventies and I remember distinctly where the concert tom era came from...
I actually disagree with this on a number of levels. I wasn't alive back then, but from my understanding, manufacturers had offered concert toms in their orchestral divisions for years. Innovative session drummer Hal Blaine, who was fond of using a set of timbales next to his toms decided to build a kit utilizing numerous concert toms. At the same time kits with more than 3 toms were starting to appear and between the ease of tuning, louder sound, and easily controlled tone, concert toms became really popular with many of the day's pro drummers.

Now much like the 4-piece craze in the early 2000s, economics probably played a factor in why a lot of people used or converted their drums to concert toms. But I'd argue that sonic aesthetics are the primary reason for their rise to prominence.

As for the notion that folks didn't know how drums were "supposed to" sound, I find that sort of silly as percussive sounds don't necessarily have to posses any sound characteristics except for the percussive sound itself. That is to say there is no inherent way a drum set is "supposed to" sound. It's all dependent on so many factors and the dry 'thud' of a concert tom is just as acceptable as a wide open modern maple shell with 45° bearing edges.

For example the drummer with LCD Soundsystem, Pat Mahoney, used one concert tom and a two headed floor tom. This enabled him to get a very tight, almost electronic sound out of his drums and beautifully served the aesthetic of LCD Soundsystem.

I'm currently using my Vistalite rack tom without a bottom head for several reasons. 1) it projects better, especially given the shoddy bearing edges from 70's era Ludwig. 2) It offers my kit the ability to give a distinct sound from each of the drums on the kit, the snare a loud tight pop, floor tom with its wide open rumble, the kick with its chest-shaking boom, and the nice staccato crack from my rack tom. 3) I'm a poor college student and buying new heads will be out of my budget till semester's end.

tl;dr concert toms have a bad rap but in all actuality have their place in music.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
The article is OK, but the view point is somewhat narrow, therefore I can't really consider it the definitive Modern History, since it completely ignores parallel developments on many continents. These developments are actually especially important given the world wide access to recordings and equipment. Furthermore new developments in manufacturing are likely to be made in Asian or South American countries. Which were completely ignored in the article, except that bit about tack head toms, or timbales being incorporated into the set...
 

ZLeyba

Senior Member
The article is OK, but the view point is somewhat narrow, therefore I can't really consider it the definitive Modern History, since it completely ignores parallel developments on many continents. These developments are actually especially important given the world wide access to recordings and equipment. Furthermore new developments in manufacturing are likely to be made in Asian or South American countries. Which were completely ignored in the article, except that bit about tack head toms, or timbales being incorporated into the set...
Thank you for your criticism!

Those are all things I want to address in depth, but honestly I'm still reading and trying to learn about this stuff.

Also this is just one article of many I'm working on. Additionally, it's not meant to be entirely comprehensive at this time, its a serious WIP and I've only been working on it for a few months.

Anyways I'd love to discuss some of the topics I'm not covering or don't know about so that I can include them in my research.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Most of us musicians are not innovators. Monkey see . . . . And every trend that came along (and comes along) is justified by saying, "They sound better that way." :) Unfortunately, nobody knows how a drum is supposed to sound!!!!

GeeDeeEmm
Thanks for the info. I figured at some time people had regular toms but did use no reso just to save some money.

The decision of manufacturing of no bottom heads/lugs was the original curiosity. Bermuda's concert toms site was useful in this regard. Just think of all the lugs and bearing edges manufacturers DIDN'T have to make during the concert tom era!

Many on this site would disagree that we don't know how a drum is "supposed to sound ". I think we surely all know what we like, and of course that is subjective anyway.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Thank you for your criticism!

Those are all things I want to address in depth, but honestly I'm still reading and trying to learn about this stuff.

Also this is just one article of many I'm working on. Additionally, it's not meant to be entirely comprehensive at this time, its a serious WIP and I've only been working on it for a few months.

Anyways I'd love to discuss some of the topics I'm not covering or don't know about so that I can include them in my research.
I know it's difficult to research these various cultures, but you need to contextualize your view point, otherwise. IE the modern history of commercialized English speaking drumsets.
 

ZLeyba

Senior Member
I know it's difficult to research these various cultures, but you need to contextualize your view point, otherwise. IE the modern history of commercialized English speaking drumsets.
I'm certainly not trying to argue that further context is needed, but I'm also curious as to what sorts of influence these outside cultures had on an instrument that was specifically developed to play western music. All of the elements that comprise the drum set as we know it come from other cultures, but it was American music and industrial capability that cultivated and assembled them as they are now used. It follows that many uses of the drum set outside of a geographically western context are often to emulate western styles at most and sonic aesthetics at the very least.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I'm certainly not trying to argue that further context is needed, but I'm also curious as to what sorts of influence these outside cultures had on an instrument that was specifically developed to play western music. All of the elements that comprise the drum set as we know it come from other cultures, but it was American music and industrial capability that cultivated and assembled them as they are now used. It follows that many uses of the drum set outside of a geographically western context are often to emulate western styles at most and sonic aesthetics at the very least.
I don't think the modern western musician is all that in touch with the crafters that are making there instruments. Usually they just pick from whatever is in the show room floor.
 

ZLeyba

Senior Member
I don't think the modern western musician is all that in touch with the crafters that are making there instruments. Usually they just pick from whatever is in the show room floor.
I sort of agree, but I don't really feel these drum makers were really influencing the market so much as supplying the observed demand of players. The drum kit is an exceptionally western instrument that was only possible after the industrial revolution. While innovations made by eastern manufacturers have permeated the market, I feel it was largely in response to western market needs.

If you have examples of how my assertion is mistaken, I would definitely love to hear about them!
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Actually, Stewart Copeland didn't get everyone into smaller sizes. Throughout the 80s (also into his time with Animal Logic), he used a standard Tama kit with 8x10/8x12/9x13/16x16/14x22 sizes. The Police Reunion tour in '07, he had slightly deeper toms and a longer bass drum, but that was it.

Weckl did that wacky thing of 8x8 and 10x10 rack toms, and probably sold it to quite a few Weckl clones back then, but many players discovered those sizes didn't work out unless you were mic'ed up all the time. Even Weckl has abandoned that kit and is using more traditional sizes.

Your info is pretty good, but Geoff Nichols' The Drum Book covered alot of the evolution of the kit as well. However, I will say you probably don't hear alot about interesting new trends in drum gear beyond traditonal - concert - power toms - because the music hasn't changed enough to warrant any huge changes in equipment. You figure after Gibson and Fender did their thing to guitars, Tama (via Billy Cobham) did a big thing with drums. Since then, we haven't seen any fundamental change in the music that fuels the changes. I mean, there are guitarists trying to push the envelope by using more strings and faster and faster chops, but that's a minority. Tama changed the hardware industry for sure with the invention of the multi-clamps, but that's about it.

I would say the biggest innovation seen these days is in shell construction and actual acoustics. Or, maybe, for that matter, a retro-ing of shell construction techniques, or using new innovative techniques to provide the sound of an aged drumset from 60 years ago. Which could be very appropriate because nobody is doing anything new music-wise ;)
 

bigd

Silver Member
If you're truly interested in learning about the history of any percussion instrument your time would be better spent over at the percussive arts society site. You'll learn a lot from people like Bill Moersch over there. Truly genious minds there.
 
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