Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In Praise of Big Drum Companies

I’m a big fan of custom and artisanal drum makers, but that does not diminish my enthusiasm and admiration for the big companies. Where would the small drum makers be if the big guys hadn't done so much of the groundwork over the years. Reliable bass drum pedal? It started with Ludwig. What about double bass pedals? Well, the 1927 Sonor catalogue shows one. In fact, most of what you see on modern drums was invented, refined, promoted, and/or championed by a large company.

Big companies bring a lot to the table, not the least of which is machinery. They have all the tools needed to create stuff: tube cutters, metal benders, lathes, and the like. Plus they have a lot of research and expertise derived from years and perhaps generations of drum building. They also have a pretty good idea of what won't work. Oh ... and they have some talented bodies and significant R&D budgets to play with.

Team Work
Pretty much since day one, companies have leapt at the chance to work with drummers, and perhaps the greatest contribution the big companies made was to listen to the players. Particularly during the first half of the 20th century, drummers asked for changes, and the companies made those changes. Gene Krupa wanted dual tension toms. Leedy made them for him. Big band drummers asked for larger, more powerful cymbals. Zildjian enthusiastically obliged.

Field Testing
An important part of the process is making sure it works. A big company is in a good position to hand out prototypes to see how they function and how they're received. This is a process that all the big companies follow. The artist would make a request. They would make the item and then the artist would field test it. Not quite right? Here are a few more to try. This field-testing and tweaking process was responsible for the broad range and high quality of instruments and hardware that we have today. 

A good idea is just an idea if nobody hears about it. A marketing budget can easily include that hot new product, and then get the message out to drummers who have been looking for a solution.

Quality, Price Points & Guarantees
The big guys have experience with quality control and pricing. They can create products that perform to a predetermined level, and can cater to just about any budget. And their items invariably come with a guarantee.

So I guess the final word would be Thanks!

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