Before spending hours mixing, compressing and “eq’ing,” the more important aspect of a great sounding drum kit is to get it right at the source. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drummer or not, bad sounding drums & cymbals are simply that—bad sounding. The all-important question is what determines bad from good?
In my experience, I’ve had the pleasure of playing everything from highly expensive kits to cheap, low budget drums. The bottom line: it’s not always about the kind of drums you’re playing. There’s a lot of marketing hype out there telling you why X wood is better that Y wood for recording or why 10 ply shells sound better than 6 ply. Folks, don’t fall into this trap.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about the different tonal characteristics of the woods as well as how the shells are constructed. Gear can be important. Over and beyond all of that, however, the most important aspect of great sounding drums is YOU.
New Gear Does Not Equal Better Sounds
Great drummers can make anything sound good. If you’ve ever seen the group Stomp, you’ll know that these guys (and gals) are making incredible rhythms and sounds out of ordinary junk. How do they do that? For starters, they pick and choose specific sounds that fit the overall tune or rhythmic road map. They are also very careful with how hard or soft they hit things. Using dynamics and choosing sounds wisely is exactly what drummers should be thinking about 24/7.
A drummer’s task is to find a solid foundation within the boundaries of the song and help create a musical journey with the other musicians. Unfortunately, the exact opposite tends to happen, especially with younger, inexperienced drummers. The arms and sticks are flying, smashing the drums and cymbals as hard as they can. I’ve always believed whole heartily that a great drummer can make a Sears Roebuck drum kit sound amazing. I’ve also heard the most expensive and elaborate drum kits ever made sound like tools in a dryer!
No matter your level of expertise, take a step back and look at your drum set. Is it filthy? Are the drum heads abused? Are things falling apart? Is your playing always at one volume? Are you using dynamics? It’s time to step it up and take some pride in yourself and your instrument.
If you want better sounding drums right now, it starts with you.