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"All Composite Drums are the Same".... and other silly comments.

One of the most common questions I get asked is how our drums compare to other composite shell drums on the market. “How do your drums sound compared to a Tempus?”, “Are your drums louder than Rocket Shells?”, or my personal favorite, “I played a set of fiberglass drums once…they sucked.” OK, that last one was a comment more than a question, but all these statements bring up a very important point that I have been itching to write about: it is a disservice to all composite kits to judge them from the same perspective as if they were a single entity. Composite drums can’t, and shouldn’t, be viewed through a single lens.

Equating a Tempus drum to a Rocket Shell drum is about as useful as equating an 3 ply maple Ludwig to a 9 ply Tama Bubinga, they are two completely different animals. They may both be made of wood, but that is where the similarities end. Imagine if you overheard a fellow drummer dismiss the legitimacy of a Tama Bell Brass based on their negative experience with an old Dynasonic? As silly and unlikely a comment as that may seem, I get similar comments regarding composite drums all the time!

The interesting thing about working with composites is that there are literally infinite possibilities. Composites are used to produce engineered products, which is to say that a composite product is made with an exact purpose in mind. Depending on what that purpose is you can mix and match hundreds, perhaps thousands of different materials and molding processes to get the desired outcome. This is both extremely exciting as well as exceptionally daunting. It is exciting because we know that we can create any sound we want; daunting because with an infinite number of variables comes an infinite number of ways to do it wrong.

There is a narrow window of success with composite shells. Merely being able to make a glass or carbon fiber “tube” misses the point entirely. There is absolutely a correlation between factors such as fiber volume, fiber orientation, resin density, resin flexibility, shell thickness, etc., and acoustical performance. Therefore, there is a right and a wrong way to make a composite drum. The history of composite drums is littered with examples of “the wrong way” to make a shell. Some failed solely due to poor acoustical performance, others failed with the additional help of questionable designs. The performance and designs of several were such spectacular failures that they tainted the market to composite shells for years to come! Luckily, the concept has persevered due to the lasting impact of several people doing it correctly. Paul Mason of Milestone/Tempus is an excellent example, as well as the enduring contributions of Allen Blaemire and his famous shells.

Not to belabor the point, but as engineered products composites can be made to do anything that you want them to do, or sound any way you want them to sound. To do it well, you must have an innate understanding of how all the hundreds of variables relate to an acoustical outcome. If a small part of your chemistry or molding process is off, it can mean the difference between a rich, soulful tone and a cardboard box. Miss that narrow window and you could easily end up on the junk pile with the Pearls, Impacts and Stingrays of the world. Given the chance I think you will find that Jerry and I understood where the target was and hit it pretty square.

“Jenkins-Martin is just another composite drum company. Don’t they know that Pearl already tried fiberglass?”

I read that statement on an online forum recently. I can’t help but snicker just a little bit. I mean really, if Pearl couldn’t figure it out, what chance do Jerry and I have? 😉