OK, I’m going to show my age here, but for those of you who always seem to complain about finding the right gear (I read a lot of drum forums), I just say, “Shut up already!” Really. If you are in your 20s or 30s (even 40s), you probably have no idea about how good you have it today when it comes to the availability and quality of new instruments.
Looking Back In Time
Back when I 1st started playing drums 50(!) years ago, your drum & percussion selection was limited. Unless you lived in NYC, LA, or Chicago (where the major TV, radio, and recording studios were), there was no such thing as a drum store with a big selection of gear to look at and buy. It was mostly mom & pop music stores, with maybe 5 drum sets, a few snare kits, a few cymbals, and some accessories (like wood blocks, tambourines, & cow bells) in stock. If they did a lot of school business, they might also have a xylophone, timpani, and other related small percussion. That was it!
And the selection was usually limited to 2 brands (Ludwig & Slingerland or Rogers, Zildjian cymbals), possibly 3 (add Gretsch or Premier, maybe Paiste cymbals if a Ludwig Dealer, K. Zildjian if a Gretsch Dealer), in each store. And with drums, there wasn’t all the selection of fancy woods (like bubinga, ash, etc), or different shell configurations. Most drum companies had 2 drum lines: professional & student. They both used the same shells, but the student drums had smaller sizes and less hardware, like single center lugs, to keep the costs down. Available drum sizes were limited also. Pro: 12/13/14/16/18 Toms, 18/20/22/24 BD. Student: 12/14 toms, 20 BD. And they all came in 1 standard depth, like 8X12. That was it!
1967 Ludwig Super Classic – Pro Kit (13/16/22/snare)
1967 Club Date – Student Kit (12/14/20/snare)
Move ahead to today
Today you can buy just about anything imaginable! In drums, you can choose not only size, but types of wood, number of plies, type of bearing edge, and select from an amazing array of finishes. And some drum lines allow you to choose the type and finish of your hardware.
It’s the same same with cymbals. It used to be crash/ride/hi-hat/Chinese. Now there are more sizes and types of cymbals than you can count. I actually counted Paiste’s offerings a while back, and they offer more than 500 cymbal types & sizes! Thats a lot of choice from just 1 company. Now add 10 or so other cymbal makers, and there are thousands of cymbals to choose from.
And again, it’s the same thing with heads. Back then, it was coated REMO or Ludwig heads in a thin (orchestra) or medium (band) weight. And calf skin was still an option. Today there are hundreds of head types and weights available.
We also have drum only stores, mega music stores, big box stores, and the internet. If you can’t find what you want at a local store (or don’t live close to a store), you can easily mail order from another store, or places like eBay and Reverb. And if you’re looking for some obscure part for your old 1967 Ludwig, you can probably find it on the web. Not too bad.
The Quality of Today’s Gear
Probably the most important thing today, next to the availability of everything, is the exceptional quality of everything out there. Even today’s student drums offer very high quality for the price paid. If you buy a Pearl Export, Yamaha Stage Custom, for something similar; you get a great sounding kit, with great hardware that will not only sound good, but will last. It’s the same with cymbals. There are some great sounding student cymbals being made today. I’m not afraid to gig with any student gear.
And there is also electronic percussion and ethnic percussion from all over the world. I remember back at university in the 70’s, how difficult it was to buy gongs, bells, and other ethnic percussion. I had no idea what a djembe was then. Now you can find them in gift stores. 20 years ago, who even knew what a cajon was? Now they’re everywhere!
So the next time you get bummed out about finding the perfect snare drum or ride cymbal, don’t. Take a minute to look around you, and realize that you are very fortunate to live in an age when so much excellent, and affordable gear, is readily available to you.
We live in a percussion paradise.
Articles Origin: A Bit of a History Lesson