The Trees we Cut From, By David Blampied
A modern theory attributes tree growth during a time of unusually low solar activity during the Maunder Minimum "Little Ice Age" from 1645 to 1750 for temperatures throughout Europe to be much cooler causing stunting and slower tree growth with unusually dense wood. The wood harvested from the forests of northern Croatia Antonio Stradivari used to make his violins.
an image of the Croatia forest in Europe
The Chances are good that when you get your first drum set (or Violin) the last thing you think of is what kind of wood there made of. It's more about look, how cool do the drums look? That's the real concern. But you reach a point when you start to consider what gives a voice to the instument you play. The instrument you have become to know so well from hours of practice.
I have drums made from wood, maple, birch, mahogany. I also have drums made of steel, plastic, and copper. They all sound good or pretty good for what they are. But what is it that really seperates the sound from a maple shell, from a birch shell. If you really want to know, go to your local music store, and play them. Hear for yourself what the difference is. The difference can really be heard in toms. Find a 14" x 12" tom made of each wood and play them both side by side. If you shop at the same music store I do chances are good neither drum will be tuned at all and they with both sound like a wet sock being thrown at a concrete wall so bring your drum key with you.
We've all heard terms like basswood, luaan, maple, birch, beech, falkata, Philippine mahogany, African mahogany, etc. Most of us can relate to common woods like maple, birch, beech, and we even have an idea of what "color" mahogany is. But do we really understand why these are used? We (drummers) really don't put the role of the wood in perspective.
Sound is subjective. The marketing concept used by manufacturers, coupled with finish and function leads all of us to believe that more expensive is better. In reality the manufacture puts together a package designed to being a drum to market at a price point.
Having already owned drums made from maple, birch, and every other wood as well as "wood like" drums the idea of having a great quality maple kit just seemed to be the most sensible and sound choice. The idea of having a birch drum set was temping given the woods reputation for recording, a maple kit just seemed to be more diverse in its performance. (Birch is often referred to as a naturally "EQ'd" drum set. This came from its popularity when used in recording studios where the attack portion of the sound was an important ingredient in recordings dating back to the late 60's. It made it easier to get the drums to cut through the mix with minimal effort).
100 % Maple shells. With a thickness of less than 1/4" (5.5mm), 8-ply maple shells produce a deep and resonant note. Considered the "industry standard" for professional level drums, their full-bodied response is accompanied by lasting sustain. In addition, 100% Maple shells provide a great blend of attack and low end which is favored by many of today's top drummers.
a maple drum shell
Here's the real kicker, after spending hours researching drums, and the woods they make them from, and what suits your needs the best. Finally making an intelligent decision. You'll end up in a recording studio where the engineer will insist on using a new "fantastic" drum plug in for pro tools. And blending 80% of your actual drum sound out of the mix and his "plug in" in it's place. Making all of it quite moot. All of my recordings are my real drums, no "plug in"! If it was good enough way of recording for The Who, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles…then it's good enough for me.
Tags: Wood Shells