Shell Fittings: Rims, Lugs and brackets By shell fittings we mean the metal rims, the tension brackets (also called elugs’), the tom mounting brackets and floor tom leg brackets. That is, any item of hardware n usually metal n secured to the shell. While separate stands and pedals can be replaced and upgraded, the actual shell fittings are not so easy to change. In particular you’re most unlikely ever to change the tension brackets, and this is an area of concern. One way manufacturers can reduce costs is by fitting fewer brackets/lugs to each shell.
This is still seen on the very cheapest starter kits, which are actually a step back from the earliest Export blueprint. So, on a 22” bass drum, you get just six brackets per head, whereas I really think the minimum requirement is eight. (Pro drums usually have ten.)
The pattern will be copied across the whole kit. The snare and floor tom will have six where they should have at least eight. Small toms will have four or five, where they need five or six, etc. Six brackets on a full size bass drum or snare drum is not really enough. It makes it virtually impossible to get a decent sound. The snare drum in particular will always sound crude and uncontrollable. The drums will still be playable, but the gap between each tuning point is too big to allow you to establish accurate and even tension.
You’ll still get plenty of volume, but as soon as you try an eight-lug drum you’ll realize how much easier it is then to get a controlled and evenly tuned sound. Now, I do believe there is a place for these bare-necessity kits, which offer a start where money is tight. They are available for less than $200, and sometimes much less.
So don’t get me wrong, the cheapest kits work and they are amazing value: try buying a flute for that price. But they’re definitely for youngsters testing the water. (And talking of youngsters, there are also ejunior’ kits, which are undersized versions of the same type of kit. These obviously have few tension brackets and primitive hardware, but in this case they are fully justified. These kits are designed for children and are great fun. You’re never too young to start.) For me the serious beginner market starts with the next level of kit, which has eight tension brackets on the bass drum, snare drum and large tome and five or six on the mounted toms.
This level of kit may only be around 25 cent more expensive: say, $250 upwards. And the good news is that, as standards are steadily driven upwards, six-bracket kits are becoming increasingly scarce. However, there are still lots of them around on the secondhand market. You have been warned. Earlier examples of the starter kit will have separate brackets with a similar design to the early Pearl oblong lug. By the 1990s some kits sported ehigh-tension’ brackets, i.e., single brackets that spanned the full depth of the shell. Now the fashion has moved back towards smaller top and bottom elow mass’ lugs.
To some extent you can date kits by their lug/bracket style. There is one other shell fitting which is very vulnerable on cheap kits. This is the snare drum strainer and throw-off. Because this is a moving mechanical part it takes a lot of pounding. The mechanism itself is often quite rudimentary and stiff. They have been known to fall to bits. However, they are not expensive and replacing only involves a couple of small screw bolts. The next thing to consider is the tom tom mount. This is the chunky centrally mounted receiving block whereby the two small toms are mounted on the bass drum.