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Understanding Drum Sound

When you hit a drum, the head vibrates much the same way as a guitar string vibrates when you pluck it. And like the electric guitar when it’s not plugged into an amp, there’s not a lot of sound coming out of the head itself, which is where the shell comes in handy. The shell acts like the amplifier that your friend uses with his or her guitar n only you don’t need to plug it in. So, you hit the drum, the head vibrates, and the sound bounces around inside the shell. This motion makes the shell vibrate too. All the sound is then projected out of the opening in the drum and, voila! The result is the sound of sweet music. Amazingly enough, this all happens in a fraction of a second.

How the drum sounds depends on the circumference of the head, how tightly it’s tuned, and the size, shape, and hardness of the shell. All of these factors determine why drums can sound so many different ways and still be just a head, a shell, and some hardware. Without getting too technical, the size and tension of the head dictates the drum’s pitch (how high or low the drum’s tone is) while the size, shape, and hardness of the shell controls the volume and timbre of the drum. Timbre is a fancy word for the quality of sound produced by an instrument. This is why not all acoustic guitars or violins cost the same amount. For these instruments, the better the timbre, the higher the price. Luckily, this idea is not necessarily true for drums.

I can go on and on about how the relationship between the head and the size and shape of the shell creates particular sounds, but doing so won’t help you play the darn thing. So, the important thing to remember here is that the larger the diameter of drum, the deeper the sound, and the longer the shell, the louder the sound. As always, there are some exceptions, but for the most part you can count on this idea being true.


drum_techniuqes/basic/understanding_drum_sound.txt · Last modified: 2007/07/26 12:19
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