People often ask me for tips about buying drums. Here’s some advice to give you a head start.
Great places to buy drums:
You can call Drumskull and ask them any question(s) you want about their drums. I have been dealing with them for 20 years and their drums are always spot on.
It is really important to get a drum that is “rigged” right. Rigged means how it is set up with rings and rope. I prefer a drum that is very tight with only a bottom or the verticles (the ropes that go up and down) with out horizontal knots (the “S” snaps) in it so I have plenty of room to tune up the drum myself as time goes on. You will always have to tighten the drum by the S snap techniques so ask someone to show you.
Ideally, you will learn how to rope and skin the drum yourself. These days, most drum makers use a pulling machine to make the drum tight. Instead of pulling with all their might with their arms and a modfied metal bar (tire jack) they step on a puller with a mountain climbing snap and it makes the drum tighter faster and they use their body weight instead of arms and back.
This machine can save your body, which is great, but my personal experience is that drums with heads (skins) pulled on with the step machine do not last as long as the skins put on completely by hand. This is because, in my opinion, when the skin is pulled too tight at first it loses some life.
You need really high quality rope, and a great skin. I prefer skins from West Africa. This is because what the goats there eat makes the skins tough in a certain way. This is just a personal preference. Some people go as far as liking only spotted skins or all white or black. I do not know if it really makes a difference though. Make sure that the skin is not pulled down more than an inch to an inch and a half. If it is, it has been over-pulled.
One really important thing that many people do not know about is the rings. There are two hoop systems (the metal ring inside the skin and the outer ring that sandwhich together to pull the drum head down) currently used: double hoops and triple hoops. I prefer double hoops with the skin pulled over the rim. I like this because it gives my hands a little added protection instead of directly hitting the exposed metal of a triple hoop system.. Again, this is personal preference. The three most popular woods used are Lingue, Rouge and Hadi, and again, the choice is a personal preference. I have drums made out of each of these woods as well as mango and shea butter tree.
I like the Rouge or Redwood if I am playing standing up as it is generally much lighter then the other woods, but it really depends on how the drum was carved and other factors. Each and every drum is different. As mentioned previously, I often buy used drums, as I know what the sound is like because it is already broken in, it is easier to find out the history of the drum, and I can see if there are any cracks in it.