What's with ash?

opentune

Platinum Member
I hear of lots of talk on different wood types, but I don't hear (too) much about ash. I know Gretsch has the Catalina Ash, and a few high end snares use steambent ash.

What are its acoustic properties for drums - say on the spectrum from birch to maple to mahogany to bubinga to purpleheart...etc.
Warm? bright? Deep?
I gather ash has a strong grain and/or properties that make it less desirable.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I find ash to be about halfway between maple and birch, tone-wise. My set has more lows than my all maple DW's, with good attack. I feel it offers a pretty balanced palette. I'm crazy about the tone personally, I love it. I have a set of ash drums. Craviotto is making a set of drums where the top half is ash, the bottom half walnut. My point is Johnny Craviotto could have picked any wood he wanted, and he chose ash. Andy also likes ash quite a lot. I never had any experience with ash until the Guru kit I got from Andy. I really like the collection of frequencies it produces.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
thanks. Between birch-maple would seem to be a good tonal range to be in. I'm presuming if Gretsch was making Catalinas from it, its not exotically expensive either.
Its got a very strong grain, I can see that turning off some eyes, but I think it looks great with a nice stain. If you're gonna have wood grain drums, why not show that grain.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The grain may not be to everyone's liking. It is a very bold grain pattern. So some will prefer it, others may not. I prefer woods that are not super hard like ebony and bubinga. Maple and birch are right in there as far as my personal preference in tonewoods go. If I had to pick between maple, birch and ash, based on tone alone, I would go with ash. I am in love with my Guru ash snare. Not detracting from the other drums, but ash makes a wonderful snare tone.
 

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
I could be wrong, but I always felt Ash was closer to an Oak kind of sound.

One of my Yamaha's has Ash outer plys and it has LOTS of attack and can sometimes be hard to get a good amount of lows...

My cousin also has a GMS 100% Ash kit and again, LOTS of attach, but lack the rich warm tone of a Maple, or even the darker attack of a Birch.

For this reason he and I use thick heads to kind of "warm out" the tone more.

if anything I say Ash is in between Birch and Oak. It's loud and bright.
 

mike wittman

Junior Member
I make full stave kits from Ash . It is a very good material for drum shells.Its very strong,and rot resistant ,it has a bright tone similar to birch but a bit more mellow. The big open grain structure of the wood lends itself to a loud drum that projects very well and is easy to tune. Ash will stain to almost any color and takes topcoats, and even wax finishes very well. It also a very hard wood and will use up cutting tools and sandpaper in a hurry.
A stave constructed Ash snare drum is a tonal masterpiece ,tuned low they can make the perfect fatback snare, stretch em tight and they will give the best metal snare a good run for the money. Put it somewhere in between and you can play any style needed.
Allow me to make you one.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Where in the world did you find an ebony drum? It's hard enough finding guitars with ebony fretboards!

Assuming it wasn't just a single veneer, that is.
Picture 1: My early series Guru solid ebony stave.

Picture 2: In-Tense series segmented English ash & ovangkol.

Picture 3: In-Tense series steam bent English ash.

Most ash sub species have a similar sound spectrum. English ash is a little more mellow than American swamp ash, but like all wood species, the sound is very dependent on shell construction. In a standard ply layup, ash tends to be a little flat & bright. In a steam bent shell it really comes to life, with much more character showing through. It has more highs & lows than maple, but not as bright & cutting as birch. Ash responds well with a very clean low end, but it's talents really lie in it's balanced midrange. Critically, in the right construction, it has a considerably longer fundamental than either birch or maple, & is easier to excite at low dynamics. As for appearance, English ash is typically slower growing than Asian or North American varieties, so it's grain pattern is a little tighter. Lighter in appearance too.

Hope this helps :)
 

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mike wittman

Junior Member
This is a snare I made from wormy laurel oak .This one was tricky. After the machining I vaccum bagged it with some hi strength 2 part epoxy which filled the voids and channels left by the worms. The result was a strong, very unique 1 of a kind snare which sounded great. Point is that it sounds just like the ash snares, with just a bit more ring.
 

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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Most NA & Asian ash (but not all) sounds close to oak in some respects, but not in others. English (& most European) ash is quite far away from oak. It produces more lows, less biting highs, more midrange spread, & a much much longer note than oak. Depends on constructions too. Ash does well with thin constructions, as it makes the most of it's longer note. You also benefit from very low mass hardware to keep that long fundamental prominent.

By comparison, oak does well with vertical grain constructions that favour a shorter note, less dominant midrange, & balanced lows.

Hi Andy,

How thick is the ebony stave shell? How would you describe it sonically? BTW, it is beautiful!

Thanks,

Barry
Sorry to inject this drum into this thread, but dwsabianguy did ask the question. Shell on this one is 3/4" thick. It's unashamedly a one trick pony. Short, sharp, sensitive, & hyper articulate, but has it's own special tone. Here it is on one of our earlier videos. Of course, a completely natural capture (no EQ, processing, etc) http://youtu.be/SgSpQJE-XSo?t=1m59s
 

RickP

Gold Member
I picked up this 14 x 7” Ash SS snare by Noble and Cooley yesterday . It is my first ash snare drum and I must admit I am very surprised by the sound of this snare . I had always been led to believe through my reading that ash would be dry and less resonant than maple or birch . This is kit the case with this particular drum . It is more articulate than maple . More mid range than birch . As stated earlier it has similarities to both maple and birch . This particular shell was sourced less than 20 miles from the Noble and Cooley Factory in Granville Massachusetts. The grain pattern is not atypical of some ash snare you see .
 

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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Ash is a very hard wood. Think baseball bats. Haven't heard one but I'm thinking bright.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I’ve got a hollow log ash kit. Very thin shells. Very bright and loud and cutting at high tunings. Extremely thunderous and loud at low tunings. It’s Canadian ash, so it grew in a cold climate and grew very slowly and is extra-hard.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
On a related subject, ash dieback is a serious threat to English ash in the UK currently, and is responsible for wiping out significant swaths of stock across Europe. There is work ongoing to develop a resistant strain, but it will be decades before that yields results in our forests, even if successful.

On sound, I refer to my comments in this thread from nearly 6 years ago.
 
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