I was recently asked by a number of people to describe why our shells sound so good when compared to traditional wood drum shells or other composite shells. There is a great deal of science and hard truths learned through trial and error behind why we do what we do. The following is a (rather long winded) general explanation of why our shells produce such a deep, full-bodied resonance.

I started working with wound drum shells in 2002, long before I ever heard of Blaemire. Our family business has been based around composites since 1980, so I literally grew up around glass and resin. Being both an avid drummer and also in the composites industry I suppose it was inevitable that I would blend the two sooner or later. All composites are engineered products. That is, they are designed to do a very specific job. Anyone can make a tube and call it a drum. But it is how that tube behaves that is the difference between a simple toy drum and a true professional instrument.

My father and his partner developed the original fiberglass marimba bars for Musser, so I had a built in resource for the application of composites in acoustical instruments. Through experimentation while developing the marimba bars, my father came upon a few key specifications which dramatically increased the resonance of the bars. The first was the composition of the resin. There are thousands of different formulations for resins and you need to choose a formulation which gives you the correct density & stiffness. Second, the resin needs to be cured in a very specific, controlled manner. This is done with specific catalysts and/or with the proper application of heat. Finally, and most importantly, unidirectional glass molded under controlled, consistent tension.

Of those three key elements I consider the tensioned, unidirectional glass to be the most important by far. The first two can be fudged a bit and you will still get a great drum shell which sounds a little like a Blaemire. But what really sets these drums apart and creates the very distinctive sound is the glass ‘grain’.

I use two analogies to describe why the tensioned, unidirectional glass is so important and creates the effect that it does. The first is the kids game of ‘telephone’.

Everyone reading this, at one time or another in their lives, tied a string between two paper cups and laughed at how you could hear your friend in another room or even around a corner and down the stairs. That works because the string provides a path for the sound waves to follow. Instead of just dissipating into the air the sound waves are transferred to the string through the vibrations of the bottom membrane of the cup (think drum head). The string then carries the vibrations to the other cup where the vibrations once again become sound against the membrane of the cup. Our shells work in exactly the same way.

When the vibration is transferred from the head to the shell the glass directs those vibrations around the circumference of the shell on a very distinct and consistent path. This serves to preserve the vibration of the shell creating a longer and deeper resonance compared to a typical wood shell. If I molded the shells in the opposite direction, and had the glass grain running down the shell instead of around the shell, the vibration would be sent out the top and bottom and you would lose much of the resonance. Send it around the circumference shell on an endless path of glass and it will stick around a lot longer.

The second analogy is a simple guitar string. What does a guitar string sound like if it has no tension? How long does a ‘limp’ string vibrate compared to a properly tensioned string? The answer is fairly obvious and we apply that same principal to our shells. If I eliminated the tension of the glass in our shells they would not have the full body and deep resonance that they do now. Vibrations like proper tension.

Now compare our construction to a typical ply shell, or even a steam bent shell. Wood has a very inconsistent grain which hardly ever runs in a straight, controlled path. Add to that multiple seams across multiple plies, and lots of glue, and you have virtually eliminated any path at all for the vibrations to follow. The result is a shell which loses vibration instead of preserving it.

People most often describe our shells as having a powerful, full-bodied, pure tone with lots of resonance. All of those qualities are directly attributable to our resins, glass and curing process. By preserving vibration you get more resonance and the sound has the chance to fully develop. Do it in a controlled, consistent way and you create a very pure, full-bodied tone.