Category Archives: Drum Building
A drum is any cylindrical or other shaped object (shell) or object with an open top that has a membrane stretched across it, this is known technically as a membranophone. The drum is struck on the membrane which vibrates to produce a tone.
What are drums made of?
Drum shells can be made of any material that can be formed or carved to meet the above description, however in contemporary construction of drum shells of reasonable quality the main materials used are wood laminates commonly made from Maple, Beech, Birch or Mahogany; budget kits generally are made of lauan (normally called select hardwood); top end drumsets can use more exotic hardwoods such as jarrah, Ironwood etc. Specialist drum makers can make shells constructed from solid pieces of wood either glued together as staves or in the case of true solid shell construction, hollowed from a single log. Less commonly, drum shells can be formed from plastic or fibreglass. Metal and metal alloys are also used for shell building but are more prevalent with snare drum building although some manufacturers do make drum kits using metal shells.
What causes the tone?
A drum is fitted with either one or two heads over the open ends of the shell, with drum kit this is Mylar, with drum corps Kevlar and on 'traditional' instruments any one of a range of animal or fish skins. The head is struck which generates vibrations that are modulated within the drum and radiate out from it. These vibrations are perceived by the ear as a fundamental note plus harmonics & overtones. The shell and head properties dictate the timbre and tone respectively in a manner which will vary in line with many factors but mostly dependent on the properties of the shell design viz. bearing edge, diameter, thickness, depth, internal construction, number and type of laminate plies, internal shaping and also by your choice of heads and how you have tuned the drum.