To the question "what is a good drum", Christophe Deschamps, the emblematic drummer of Jean Jacques Goldman, answered us: "It is simple: it must be beautiful and it must sound...". Despite the formulation that one could think expeditious a priori, this answer is very rich in meaning.
So what is a beautiful drum? It is a musical instrument that we will enjoy looking at, admiring, working on and playing frequently or even daily. It is a drum set that, visually, will express emotions, the personality, the character of the drummer. It is a drum that tells a story, that has a soul, a personality...
At ASBA, we make it a point of honor to manufacture drums with very careful finishing, down to the smallest detail. And as all tastes are in the music, and so that each musician can find the drum which will resemble only him/her we propose a vast choice of finish and colors. For the most demanding, we also make drums that are close to "custom".
A beautiful drum, it is a drum which sounds... There still, one does not have all the same tastes as regards sounds. There are no rules, it is a question of ear and sensitivity. Lovers of old, vintage drums may be more sensitive to wooden drums, the precision of mahogany or the crispness of maple.
On our Origine, Rive Gauche and Révélation ranges, we have reproduced identically the drums produced by ASBA in the 50's, 60's and 70's: direction of the folds, gluing, number and thickness of the folds... and bevelled beech reinforcements at 45°, in order to find the intact sound of the models of the time. Thus our vintage drums are made by assembling 3 plies (3 thicknesses of wood), mahogany/poplar/mahogany - Revelation range - and maple/poplar/maple - Origin and Left Bank range.
The use of poplar in the manufacture of the plies was an originality of the time which allowed the manufacturer to save a little on the raw material, poplar being a more affordable wood at the time. The use of this wood gave the old drums a special soul and a characteristic sound signature.
Lovers of warm and "crunchy" sounds, as some say, will mostly choose maple: a soft and sweet wood with warm and generous resonances. Our Simone range is made with 100% American maple barrels in 6-ply, it combines the versatility and vintage influences of the brand, with the modernity of more open and contemporary sounds, with high quality finishes.
The birch is often reserved for "entry-level" kits, it offers "medium" sounds...
Metal drums were also very popular in the 70's, that's why we have reissued the Metal model created by ASBA for Christian Vander, drummer and founder of the famous French band MAGMA. This stainless steel drum has become the most popular drum kit in the world. Some drum brands also offer kits with drums made of fiberglass or synthetic fibers, plastic, acrylic (transparent) tinted or not. The use of these materials provides more direct sounds, less complex and without harmonics. The transparent drums are also appreciated for their amazing visual aspect on stage (depending on the fashion...). That's why we made for Matthieu Chédid (-M-) a replica of an old ASBA 'sound design' model from the 70's, totally transparent and with an exclusive 'gold' fitting. You can admire this custom made drum set on the 'Lettre infinie' tour where Matthieu appears as the only master of ceremony... Amazing!
There are also metal drums! At ASBA, we have reissued the iconic
created originally for MAGMA, Christian Vander's band.
From one brand to another, and depending on the age of the instrument, its condition, not all drums are equal in ease of tuning. Some require expert fingering to find the right note for each drum, others are more accessible and more versatile, as the specialists say. At ASBA, we have opted for versatility, which means expressive barrels that are quick to tune, whatever the note you are looking for. It's all about the way we work the bevel and the precision we bring to the finish. Each ASBA barrel is checked and corrected if necessary, until it is perfectly flat.
Many dimensions exist on the market. It is a question of making the right choice according to the use of the drum, the space you have, the style of music you want to play... A basic drum kit has 2 or 3 drums (including the bass drum). To this kit will be added the snare drum. The most common diameters for bass drums: 18 inches (often called "Jazzette", a size originally invented to fit in a
conffre of YellowCab in NYC)
20 inches (fairly standard size, both compact and versatile - jazz, rock, funk...)
22" inches (very versatile, equally at home on stage or in the studio)
24 inches (big sound, powerful, rock especially, but also jazz if played with lightness)
26 inches (more rare, especially on vintage drums)
The most common diameters for stand toms (suspended toms): 10, 12, 13, 14 inches
The most common diameters for floor toms : 14, 16 and 18 inches
New or second hand acoustic drums ?
It's all a question of budget, model, if you are looking for a rare model, if you are a beginner, or not... There are nevertheless some advices to succeed in buying a second hand drum kit: think of checking the state of the fittings, the quality of the chromes, the state of the finishing (that's the basis...) but also the tightening screws (see if some are blocked or missing...). On the "vintage" models, some barrels are not in international standards (the inch) but in metric dimensions (the centimeter). A real pain to find good quality replacement drumheads! Another very important point: the chamfers and the state of the screws inside the barrels. Don't hesitate to take off the drumheads of each drum to check the good condition of the chamfers and the absence of corrosion on the screws.
Regarding the purchase of a new drum set, it all depends on whether you really want to invest yourself in your instrument for the long term, or if it's just a test to see if you like learning the drums. In both cases, consider the potential resale value. The first prices in China can be attractive but unsellable on the second hand market... Your progress depends on the quality of your drums! A good drum set will help you to go further in the discovery and improvement of your instrument, a drum set that is too cheap can quickly limit you or even block you.
So to start, when the budget is really very very tight, it is better to buy a good used drum set than a bad new one ;)
The electronic drum in all this ?
Essential when you have no other choice than to play in your apartment, the electronic drum set is a great commercial success. However, even if enormous progress has been made by the Asian electronic manufacturers, we are still very far from the feeling of playing, authenticity of sound and touch of an acoustic drum. To visualize the point, there are as many differences between a synthesizer keyboard and a traditional piano... The electronic drums are an excellent addition to learn and improve, to work on your technique. In no case it is a replacement instrument for the acoustic drums!