The sound of the drum is within the heads

dboomer

Senior Member
I'll use my old analogy. Think of the drum shell as a speaker cabinet, and the heads as the driver cone. It's the driver cone that produces the sound, but the sound delivery is greatly influenced by the cabinet - not just the form of the cabinet, but also it's material of construction.
Nice analogy, but a little misleading. Having designed 50 or more commercial speaker systems I would clarify it by saying ... greatly influenced by the cabinet - mainly by the form (size) and by the rigidity of the materials of construction.

And while I’m thinking about it, I’m gonna guess that a speaker cabinet influences the cone speaker by several orders of magnitude more than a “normal” drum shell does a drum head.
 
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Hey guys,

here’s my take on the matter.
I think everyone makes good arguments but let’s face it, you can only hear the frequency range of what the microphone is capturing.

if I place a Neumann U87 with a great preamp, it will pick up on all the nuances that the particular drum you hit contains, hence why listening to many of these videos with good headphones will give you a different depiction of what the recording really is.
Thats why in a studio setting you can achieve so much with a great drum kit because you have options when mixing the drums against other instruments in the album. If a drum kit doesn’t have the characters you want or need, then you are going to do more harm by pushing the Drums frequency range in the mix of the song because it’s not a natural sound.

less than a year ago I visited DW and spoke to John Good, had him on my podcast and we spoke about this very subject. I visited the drum room many times at DW and from first hand experience there is a VERY CLEAR difference in “tone” when you play a Almond drum set, Cherry/Spruce, Cherry, Maple etc etc etc. the tones you hear from behind the kit are different.

When watching a video by Ford Drums, it’s funny how they make mention of “all drums sound the same”, yet they were selling 10 different type of wood shell configuration. If “all drums” sound the same, why not make 1 drum, endless amount of finishes and sizes and call it a day???

And yes, on one hand we have to realize this simple fact. If you take any drum set, place it center stage in a 20,000+ seat arena, the sound will absolutely get lost the most musical instruments you place against it. All you’ll be left with is attack, which will sound the same at some point, in which I can say the same for virtually all instruments.

Back line kits are pretty much maple, it works. It’s been a standard set up in the industry since forever now. Will that change? Who knows. Maybe the more options we have the more we are going to adapt and create a sound of our own...
 
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paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
All drums sound the same is now a marketing theme as most would be on the "yeah' spectrum.. no specifics they've got you where they want you.. of course pot metal lugs hoops and screws aren't even mentioned.
 
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TK-421

Senior Member
When watching a video by Ford Drums, it’s funny how they make mention of “all drums sound the same”, yet they were selling 10 different type of wood shell configuration. If “all drums” sound the same, why not make 1 drum, endless amount of finishes and sizes and call it a day???
If you look closely, you'll notice they were at the Sonor booth hitting Sonor toms. But regardless, I feel strongly that shells/shell material does make a difference. And that cell phone video at NAMM doesn't prove a damn thing. Of course all of those toms are going to sound the same when recorded by a tiny cell phone mic in a loud environment.

If you think that shells don't matter, then go on Craigslist, find the cheapest CB-700 or whatever tom from the 80s or 90s, put on good heads and tune it up well, then see how that sounds next to a Guru tom or a Gretsch USA or Sonor SQ2 tom with the same heads and tuning. The pitch should be about the same, but literally everything else will sound different, from the overtones to the sustain (or lack thereof), to the frequencies emphasized within the tone of the drum.

Will they all "sound like a drum"? Of course, why wouldn't they? They're ALL drums, so I really don't get that argument. It's like saying "does a B8 Pro sound like a cymbal?" Of course it does... but that doesn't mean that all cymbals sound alike. A B8 Pro and a K Custom crash couldn't sound more different, yet they all sound like cymbals.

Back to drums. How much the tone matters within the mix of a full band is debatable though. In nearly every studio recording, the drums generally sound good, regardless of brand/shell material. However, every once in a while you hear a studio recording where the drums sound incredible. I guarantee that in every one of those instances, the kit being played isn't a CB-700.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
When all is said and done...this!! (y) :)
And it's a commonly overlooked fact. Many complaints about sound can be traced to deficiencies in technique. How and where you strike the head makes a mammoth difference. For example, I've seen guys tape the hell out of their snares to kill overtones without recognizing that their strokes are all over the place and that they're rarely making contact with the sweet-spot. Precise playing means cleaner frequencies, plain and simple.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Nice analogy, but a little misleading. Having designed 50 or more commercial speaker systems I would clarify it by saying ... greatly influenced by the cabinet - mainly by the form (size) and by the rigidity of the materials of construction.

And while I’m thinking about it, I’m gonna guess that a speaker cabinet influences the cone speaker by several orders of magnitude more than a “normal” drum shell does a drum head.
I completely agree with that. My analogy was deliberately simplistic, merely to highlight the relationship.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
This guy managed to squeeze 7 minutes of information into a half hour.

I'm not smelling what he's stepping in, but to each his own.

I hate the thought of a fellow drummer never experiencing a kit that rattles you to your core, a kit that inspires you to play and get better just so you can hear what the kit sounds like when played better. Or never finding that drum set that speaks in the way that finally matches the sound you've had in you head for years but never achieved until right that second. To play that kit that when miked up sounds like God himself is ripping the sky open. Good lord, to sit back and just say "It's all in the heads" and "all drums sound pretty much the same" is really, really sad to me.
 
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Ruok

Silver Member
Here's my take on this. I think it is true that the heads are the main sound coming from a drum and the way one plays it. Like the guy in the video said, listen to a roto tom. There is no shell, but it still sounds like a drum. He doesn't deny that there are sound differences in the shells, but that the differences are indeed subtle.

He also said he heard a big difference in the sound of his drums by changing his hoops to wooden hoops. So he isn't claiming that you won't hear or notice differences in various drum kits. Just that the majority of the sound is in the heads. Sometimes a subtle change in sound can be a big change to us. I know that may seem like a contradiction. What I mean is, a little difference in sound can have a big impact on our impression of an instrument. Think in terms of changing sticks. All of a sudden, a drum, or especially cymbals, may produce a very different sound just from different sticks, though the change could also be minimal. Sometimes a very small variation in sound is enough for someone to fall in love with an instrument, or make one say, meh....
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
He doesn't deny that there are sound differences in the shells, but that the differences are indeed subtle.
I think this is the primary idea where I disagree. I can hear major differences between my 12” Tama Rockstar tom from the 1990s and my 12” Pork Pie USA 12” rack tom, even with the exact same heads, tension, etc. To say that the sound differences are subtle is extremely understated IMO, ESPECIALLY in a band situation unlike what he said. Maybe I’m missing a point or something. I don’t know.

I do like that he’s trying to save young kids money in saying that sometimes it doesn’t make a difference when they are starting out. I have nothing against this guy at all, but he comes across as someone who has it all figured out, and these people bug the b’jesus out of me. I’m coming up on my third decade of playing, and the more I find out about drums and playing, I feel like there’s so much more to learn. I feel like this guy figured it out years ago, and I tend to not get along with the unteachable. Maybe it’s the professional educator in me. And once again, I’m open to being wrong as well.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I agree with the above. Just about every word. Also, I don't think roto toms sound like drums to me at all. They sound wrong to what I think of as a drum.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I agree with the above. Just about every word. Also, I don't think roto toms sound like drums to me at all. They sound wrong to what I think of as a drum.
I promise I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but he lost a little credibility when he said that roto toms sounded great. I mean, to each his own and all, but unless you are Alex Van Halen, I don't want to hear them. Some people love them, and that's cool too. I'm just not one of them.
 

Al Strange

Well-known member
I think this is the primary idea where I disagree. I can hear major differences between my 12” Tama Rockstar tom from the 1990s and my 12” Pork Pie USA 12” rack tom, even with the exact same heads, tension, etc. To say that the sound differences are subtle is extremely understated IMO, ESPECIALLY in a band situation unlike what he said. Maybe I’m missing a point or something. I don’t know.

I do like that he’s trying to save young kids money in saying that sometimes it doesn’t make a difference when they are starting out. I have nothing against this guy at all, but he comes across as someone who has it all figured out, and these people bug the b’jesus out of me. I’m coming up on my third decade of playing, and the more I find out about drums and playing, I feel like there’s so much more to learn. I feel like this guy figured it out years ago, and I tend to not get along with the unteachable. Maybe it’s the professional educator in me. And once again, I’m open to being wrong as well.
I guess there isn’t a right or wrong answer as we all have our own opinions based on our individual wants and needs. Beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder though. Yes, your Bentley is beautifully built and lavish in its style, but there are guys who will be just as happy or can only afford to reach their destination in a reliable Toyota. I don’t want young players to think they can only achieve great things on high end gear, that’s simply not true. Whilst I think there’s an element of truth to what he’s saying, I think we should all just enjoy the ride, however we choose, or are able to travel!!(y):)
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
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dale w miller

Silver Member
All I know is I hear a difference in my drums when I use the same heads and tune them as close to the same as I can. I know engineers do as well as I’ve had them tell me
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Really seems a silly argument since all drums are membranophones it makes sense what you initially whack will vibrate to initiate the sound-so the primary source of the sound. But given the huge number of different kinds of membranophones (tympani, djembe, etc) with differences in sounds obviously after the whack the sound can be altered in novel ways to make blissful sounds from all the noisy frequencies (it isn't a pure tone standing wave instrument). Sort of amazing actually. I've often wondered why toms weren't fashioned like little kettle drums with hemispheric or parabolic bowls? It’s like statistics and the degree of significance where their might be a slight difference but meh. But I’d also add not everyone “sees” the same ( some enhanced color others color blind) and hearing same (women can hear higher frequencies I seem to recollect). It’s all in the head and my head hears differences so in the end I agree “ it’s all in the head” lol
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I don’t want young players to think they can only achieve great things on high end gear, that’s simply not true.
In addition, I don't want young drummers, or any drummers, to succumb to the misconception that they need four shell packs, eight snares, and three sets of cymbals to possess a complete arsenal of equipment. Such thinking is far more indicative of gear obsession than it is of a genuine interest in drumming. If you want to be a well-rounded drummer prepared to conquer any playing situation, practice more and shop for equipment less. Buying drums isn't an achievement; enhancing your ability to play them is.
 
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