The sound of the drum is within the heads

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
This whole thread makes me want to try to tune ALL my drums the same. See how narrow of a range I can get them all in, 10" - 18".
Okay that was an epic fail. Couldn't even get the 13, 16, 18" floors to sound the same. The 16 and 18 I could get real close, but there is still a roundness to the drum that cant be changed. If I try to tune to the 13, I fear for the 18 and the 10 goes splat. Fun waste of time for sure.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I mean there are differences but they are so slight. Do you think anyone in a live situation would hear a difference?

Just so we are clear, I completely disagree that only heads matter in the sound. I’m just posting this video to show how anything can be manipulated to make it fit a specific narrative.
I don't agree that all the differences are slight - some are fairly significant, many are slight. Expand the range of heads demonstrated and the differences would be even greater.

In a live situation unmic'd, or primarily through overheads, yes, I'd hear a difference. In a recording situation, I'd certainly hear a difference. In applications with all close mic's on a loud live stage, especially with additional dampening and / or substantial processing, then no, the head type becomes almost irrelevant.
 

Al Strange

Well-known member
I don't agree that all the differences are slight - some are fairly significant, many are slight. Expand the range of heads demonstrated and the differences would be even greater.

In a live situation unmic'd, or primarily through overheads, yes, I'd hear a difference. In a recording situation, I'd certainly hear a difference. In applications with all close mic's on a loud live stage, especially with additional dampening and / or substantial processing, then no, the head type becomes almost irrelevant.
What’s your stance on tacos @Andy? 🤔
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
If this was directed to me, I wasn’t mocking anyone or the video. It was more a comment about TuneBot getting you to where you want to be faster. Mud or otherwise. In other words, the user is in control.
Not directed at you at all and nobody in particular. You're awesome and I wouldn't want to give the impression it was aimed at you. I appreciate your views.

It's a general feeling on a lot of threads relating to the idea that if it's the drummer and not the drum, then the drum doesn't really matter, and if anyone puts too much thought into it (judged by someone else) then they are accused of being fussy and wasting time thinking about something that is frivolous.
Similar to the idea that if a guitarist plays a prs guitar and not a tele, they're laboring under a delusion of ego going too far with diminishing returns.
 
Let’s not misconstrued TONE for SOUND...

Maple. Birch. Cherry. Mahogany. Oak. etc...
They all produce a different tone.
yes you can create a “sound” that is similar. But let’s be clear, each wood will never naturally be what the other one is and vise versa.
 
Last edited:
What is the difference?
To me I’ve always differentiated the two as the following.

Sound.
Many times in movies, sound designers will create a sound. Watch a cartoon and hear a tomato being thrown from the sky and goes splat on the ground, we both know they’re not using a real tomato to create that sound, nor does a tomato sound that way. So the sound they’re looking for is to enhance what the picture is portraying. What do they use? A rolled up wet rag, that hits the ground from 10 feet from the ground.
Another example is triggers. Many times claps and 808/909 snares are placed to trigger when a drummer strikes a snare. Why? Because it’s a sound that goes with the song and plays to the feel.

Tone.
When you’re playing in the studio or even a session, a mixing engineer will try to enhance the frequency levels of what they’re trying to pull out from a specific drum, guitar or any wood based musical instrument. (Of course the same goes for electric, but being that we are talking about wood I’ll stick to this example.)
so on the topic of drums, a drum made of maple/mahogany will not have the same high end frequencies that a cherry, birch or standard maple will have. You get lots of low end. So all of a sudden they have to look for a tone to bring out and it’s going to be unnatural given that the character of the wood doesn’t generally play into what is trying to be enhanced.

and yes..... at some point after compression, gate, reverb and frequency manipulation on the mixing board takes place, you really can’t tell a difference of the drum tone, but you just get a sound. And truthfully there is a specific standard “sound” we hear in modern drumming that is light years different than the drum sound we heard back in the 40’s, 50’s, 70’s and 80’s.
I’d say once we hit the 90’s a certain standard was met in many of what we take as “the drum sound”.
 

dboomer

Senior Member
So you are making a distinction between processed and non processed sound. OK. But I believe the discussion is about the non processed sound of a drum. So I‘m not understanding your point.
 
Last edited:
So if you close your eyes and hear something, how do you determine whether you are hearing “sound” or “tone”?

I have no idea how your assertion has to do with this discussion???
If you close your eyes after a mixing engineer has processed the sound, and other instruments are playing, you really may not know the difference.
Tone will be captured by the drum by itself. That’s really the only time.
There are some musicians who don’t really care about woods, it’s more the feel and color and brand.
I think my discussion is centered around the initial video posted about how all drums sound the same.
my thought on this is really 50/50.
From the perspective of a drummer, yes you can hear a difference.
from the audience perspective listening to an album, no. You won’t hear the difference because the sound has been manipulated.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I don't agree that all the differences are slight - some are fairly significant, many are slight. Expand the range of heads demonstrated and the differences would be even greater.

In a live situation unmic'd, or primarily through overheads, yes, I'd hear a difference. In a recording situation, I'd certainly hear a difference. In applications with all close mic's on a loud live stage, especially with additional dampening and / or substantial processing, then no, the head type becomes almost irrelevant.
I agree with what Andy says here. And I'll add this:
I have played a lot of backline drum sets and a lot of other drum sets that were owned by other drummers. There are three things that have the most influence on the sound of the drums. And they are: the age of the drum heads, tuning of the heads and dampening of the drums (over dampening).
There are other things that I have found that can create some pretty ugly sounding drums. Poor construction, very cheap and damaged wood shells, bad bearing edges and out of round shells and hoops.

.
 

dboomer

Senior Member
If we go back to the first video (by REF), I don’t think he is saying there as absolutely ZERO difference between drums based on the wood used for their shells. I believe he is contending that any difference is so small as to be inconsequential as to matter (at least to him). So let’s not argue about absolute zero.

If you watch the Ford video from NAMM (
) I think the consensus is that there is very little difference between the drums. So you are listening to a dozen drums made from different materials and with different shell thicknesses and again, I hear very little difference in the “tone” of the dozen drums. Yes, they have the same heads and they are tuned fairly close (although I can clearly hear some variation in fundamental pitch. Of course they have been out in the hall all day for anyone to hit. I was there and I personally did the test along with hundreds of others. There’s always gonna be some slight variation in the heads even though they are all the same type due to manufacturing tolerances. And of course he didn’t hit each drum with exactly the same force and in exactly the same place. There are also some small differences in distance to the mic for each drum. So setting up a lab quality test, this is not. I though about doing a null test which will show only the different between drums but again there are so many variables that it would be pointless. But allowing for the inconsistencies between these dozen drums, there is only a very fractional difference between them.

Does anyone think after listening to all twelve and then listening to only one of them out of sequence they could pick it out by ear ten times out of ten?
 

TK-421

Senior Member
Does anyone think after listening to all twelve and then listening to only one of them out of sequence they could pick it out by ear ten times out of ten?
From a crappy cell phone video? In a very loud room at NAMM? No.

In person inside a studio where you can hear all the nuances? You bet!

I’m not certain I’d be 10/10 every time, but in this scenario I’m sure I’d be close.
 
Last edited:

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I like a good sounding drum for ME. Yes, in the audience, it probably doesn't matter much after the mics if I play a high dollar or a low dollar kit. Heck I can make an 18" BD sound great under mics. I can't deal with the stage sound of an 18, (assuming no monitors) but the miced sound is fine. I want to hear a good stage sound with my toms that have full 2 seconds of afterglow after the strike, so I can feel comfortable with the length of the note and the surrounding tone. Bass and snare are shorter notes. It's all for me. If I'm happy, I'm confident that the audience is happy too.
 

Griffin

Well-known member
I agree with what Andy says here. And I'll add this:
I have played a lot of backline drum sets and a lot of other drum sets that were owned by other drummers. There are three things that have the most influence on the sound of the drums. And they are: the age of the drum heads, tuning of the heads and dampening of the drums (over dampening).
There are other things that I have found that can create some pretty ugly sounding drums. Poor construction, very cheap and damaged wood shells, bad bearing edges and out of round shells and hoops.

.
I’d add the original point wasn’t there is no difference or even that sometimes the difference doesn’t matter. The point was the level of hype some marketing puts out around shells and some drummers buy into is silly. Especially when it pushes inexperienced drummers to shell out way too much for things that don’t matter for them.

I love expensive gear. I love exotic woods and finishes, but I also know I can get the job done with “cheaper” (not necessarily lower quality gear) and recognising that wood isn’t the most important factor in sound highlights this point. Good heads, good tuning but most importantly... good playing!
 

bearblastbeats

Senior Member
I love the discussion we are having with this topic! Seems like the majority of the community have contributed to this as well!

Consider cars in the winter, I often bring this up. You don't need a 4x4, awd, SUV, or a pick up, to drive in the new England winter. All you need is driver experience and a good set of winter tires. Sure, you'll get better handling with the former but if you slide off the road you'll likely end up deeper into the shoulder. Ive driven a Hyundai elentra with stock tires in winter and did just as fine as my old Subaru and even my Q7.

Now, As @Griffin had mentioned, I too love good gear. Not so much expensive gear. I've had both ends of the spectrum. For the past few years I've been gigging a stage custom, after I sold my Gretsch and N&C to put more money down on a house.

I get so many compliments on the little 12,14,20 stage custom on its sound. I use new heads and tune it up nicely and try to get the best sound for the room. So, a good set of heads and driver experience and you have a good sounding kit.

Sure, I'm saving up now to purchase a new pro model kit by their distinction, but my stage custom has made me more money than any of my gretsch, ludwig, or yamaha oak customs ever had.
 
Top