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We need to look at the different parts of a drum set and the various conditions in which the drums are played and stored. A drum kit has many different mechanisms and materials, ranging from a floor tom to a crash cymbal. The longevity of each piece directly stems from planned usage and the consequent maintenance that comes with it.
We all want to avoid replacing our equipment as often as possible, right? When it comes to drum kits, there’s good news! A good drum set can last forever if you maintain the parts properly.
Looking at every piece of the drum set on a somewhat regular basis cannot be emphasized enough.
How Long do Drum Heads Last?
First and foremost, let’s consider the drum heads since this is the critical piece of the set as a whole, being that it’s the skin on the drum that gets directly hit. When it comes to drum heads, it is commonly recommended to change your drum heads every time, before you start recording if you plan to record your music.
If you plan on merely practicing and playing recreationally, then replacing drum heads every six months is advised (thevault.musicarts.com).
Freddy Velasco reiterates this point when referencing his own experience as an avid drummer.
“A player who practices daily will want to change his drum heads, the skin that you physically hit, probably every six months.”
This specific time frame, between six months and a year, is when drum heads tend to become stretched out, causing the sound to feel out of tune and just plain irritating to listening ears.
How Long do Cymbals Last?
When it comes to cymbals, as long as they’re not cracked or dented, you can keep them for a lifetime as long as you maintain them with some brass cleaner. Keep in mind that depending on how loud and hard the drummer plays will influence if the cymbals and sticks break on a more frequent basis.
How Long Do Drumsticks Last?
When thinking of the drum set as a whole, sometimes we forget the importance of the drumstick. The weight and durability of a drumstick play a huge part in how a drum sets sounds as a whole. Depending on how loud and hard the drummer plays, the sticks have a chance of breaking somewhat frequently so their longevity can vary. “Wooden drumsticks last on average 3 to 5 hours. Carbon Fiber Drumsticks last up to 10 times longer” (https://www.kuppmenmusic.com).
Do Drums Sound Better With Age?
Many drummers have various opinions on the matter of if drums sound better with age. Sonically speaking, what it really comes down to is preference. “No doubt that the timber dries out, which must certainly affect the tone,” user John says on Vintage Drum Forums.
Some drummers are partial to a dryer and more “worn-in” sound, naturally coming from a more beat-up drum. Some drummers prefer aged parts of the drumset, such as cymbals too. Other wooden instruments are also thought to age well.
Wood is more natural to define as the plies settle, dry, etc., and the same goes for solid shell snares. Brass and aluminum are perhaps different. Activity matters too. For example, many musicians prefer a newer drum head on their set if they plan on recording.
This provides a much more fresh and crisp sound for playback. Again, the sound that each drummer favors in their instrument comes down to a matter of preference. Yes, various parts of the kit can sound different with age, but they really depend on the kinds of tones and timber you prefer.
How To Make Your Drum Set Last Longer
The key to elongating your drum set’s life as long as possible is in how you maintain and store your kit. It is imperative that you maintain your equipment if you want to increase its lifespan, which can mean actively cleaning or replacing parts or simply being conscientious about storage conditions.
Shells, especially if wooden, need to be kept at a steady temperature, avoiding cold spots if you have a cold winter and kept away from water, which includes humidity. Humidity can cause wooden shells to warp or lose sound quality if exposed to too much moisture (https://www.storagedirect.com/blogs/storing-drum-set/).
“The worst thing that can really happen to the actual shells is if it’s left in the sun in a hot car, the raps on the shells will warp. So the coloring/ design of the drums will start looking funky. But yea it’s really like any piece of wooden furniture or another instrument. If you treat it nicely, it will last,” says Freddy Velasco, Session Drummer, and drummer with Great American Ghost.
Metal, if not treated properly, can be a tricky material that needs to be kept on high alert. Make sure rust doesn’t build.
Drum kits also have a higher chance of last long if each component is stored correctly, meaning you should stack drum heads and drum bodies, store cymbals in padded cases, and fill negative space with packing paper or bubble wrap (https://www.storagedirect.com/blogs/storing-drum-set/).
Are Some Woods Better Than Others For Drums?
There is a multitude of wooden shells and sticks for every drum set. Birch, Cherry, Oak, Mahogany, Walnut… the list goes on. Which wood is the best for a drum set, though? It’s important to look back at the history of these instruments. Different woods for drum shells have been used over the years.
Overall, the wood and the stick’s size were “very dependent on their application” (The Drum: A History by Matt Dean). The kit’s actual wooden shells and hardware will last as long as you want them to. When it comes to aging, it doesn’t significantly matter the type of wood, as long as it’s in a “room temperature” area of the house.
In reference to sound, on the other hand, some woods might be more favored than others. When put to the test in YouTube video “DW PURE A/B – Maple, Birch, Cherry, Oak” by user DW Drums, the musician compares and contrasts different wooden sets.
With the independent variable being different woods and the dependent variable being different sound, Grammy Award-winning engineer Manny Marroquin recorded Trevor Lawrence Jr. at Larabee Studios in North Hollywood, California to compare and contrast four different Pure Kits: Maple, Birch, Cherry, and Oak.
These drum sets were tested with a consistent room, temperature, mics, drummer, and same drum sizes in each kit. There were subtle differences in the sounds; for example, oak sounded on the rough side while the maple and birch were described as “clean.” “The decay makes the notes seem more connected,” Manny says of the maple and birch.
Manny and Trevor conclude their video stating that the tonal differences can elicit different emotions and that no drum is “better” than the other in terms of quality. Still, each wood draws emotion due to its natural decay that can vary and be favored depending on the individual’s proclivity.
You can elongate any drum set’s lifespan if you properly care for the equipment. This means conscientiously maintaining and storing your drum kit in proper temperature conditions, proper cleaning regimens, and reasonable replacement times when parts become worn, and sound is affected in a way that the musician does not favor.
Whether your drum shells are oak or birch, played for a metal genre or jazz, each piece of your drum set will age at its own pace, and it’s really to the user’s discretion if they enjoy the sonic outcome that natural age brings on each mechanism. Clean and store your drum set accordingly, keep an eye out for dents and sounds that may seem warped, and, most importantly, have fun!
“Do Drums Age After 20-25 Years?” VintageDrumForum.com http://www.vintagedrumforum.com/showthread.php?t=51409, Accessed August 12, 2020
“The Drum: A History” Matt Dean, Accessed August 10, 2020
“DW PURE A/B – Maple, Birch, Cherry, Oak (additional playlist in description)” YouTube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVY4bJaCc58&t=22s, Accessed August 9, 2020
Freddy Velasco (Session Drummer ex: Great American Ghost), Accessed August 11, 2020
“Frequently Asked Questions” Kuppmenmusic.com, https://www.kuppmenmusic.com/frequently-asked-questions/, Accessed August 12, 2020
“How Often Should You Change Your Drum Heads?” Nick Cesarz, The Drumming Review, https://drummingreview.com/replacing-drum-heads/, Accessed August 9, 2020.
“How To Properly Store a Drum Set” StorageDirect.com, https://www.storagedirect.com/blogs/storing-drum-set/, Accessed August 11, 2020
“How To Tell If You Need New Drum Heads” thevault.musicarts.com, http://thevault.musicarts.com/tell-need-new-drum-heads/, Accessed August 13, 2020.