Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Drum Making in the 21st Century

The modern drum set is approaching its 100th anniversary. When I say ‘modern’ I'm thinking of the full complement of drums ... the assemblage of cymbals, hardware and paraphernalia that didn't exist before, say, the 1930s. It's interesting that what must be the oldest instrument known to mankind has taken so long to perfect. And there's still room for improvement.

So the way I see it, there are no rules and no one way. Just look at the proliferation of snare drums, cymbals, bass pedals and custom drums on offer these days. And even though there appears to be enough variety to satisfy every drummer and every situation, the companies, big and small, just keep coming up with more.

Part of this is in response to the ever-changing nature of music. New music often requires new sounds, and players are always looking for new sounds. And then there are the old sounds, the ones that used to be in favour years ago. Note the number of new cymbal lines branded as "vintage".

These changes are driven partly by need, partly by fashion, and partly by technology. It's much easier today to create new products. For example, when cymbals were made totally by hand, a new model might take weeks or months to develop. Today automated cymbal factories can churn out prototypes in a matter of hours. True, it might take a while to get it just right, but the process is a lot less painful.

We're also seeing so-called custom drum brands popping up all over the globe. Anyone can purchase quality parts on-line and create drums in a workspace no bigger than a walk-in closet.

The result of all this is that we drummers can choose from an astounding array of options and at any price point. Anything goes. And in general, the quality of the products is as high as it's ever been. The only downside that I can see is that we can't "have it all". Where would we put it?

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