How Are Drums Made?

gear Feb 22, 2023

Ever wondered what's involved in building a drum?

Drums have been an essential part of music for centuries, with their unique sound adding depth and rhythm to music of all genres. Drums are typically made by professional drum companies using high-quality materials and expert craftsmanship to produce drums with a variety of sounds, tones, and finishes. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the process of building drums and explore the different woods, sizes, and finishes that are used to create drums with unique sounds and styles.

Sourcing Popular Woods for Drums

Drum companies typically use a variety of woods to create different sounds, each with its unique properties that affect the tone and quality of the drum. Some of the most popular woods used by drum companies include birch, maple, beech, and oak, each with its distinct sound and character.

Birch is a popular choice for drum shells, as it is known for producing a bright, punchy sound with a sharp attack and a focused tone. Birch is a dense and tight-grained wood, which gives it its unique sound properties. Drum shells made from birch are typically used in rock, pop, and other high-energy genres.

Maple is another popular wood used by drum companies, known for its warm and rich tone, with a natural sustain and a full-bodied sound. Maple is a softer and more porous wood, which produces a more resonant and vibrant tone. Maple drums are often used in jazz, blues, and other softer genres.

Beech is a less common choice for drum shells, but it's known for its strong projection and bright tone, with a punchy attack and a medium decay. Beech is denser and harder than maple, which gives it a brighter and more focused sound. Beech drums are often used in heavy rock and metal.

Oak is a heavy and dense wood, which produces a deep and rich tone, with a strong attack and plenty of sustain. Oak is a popular choice for drum shells because of its durability and unique sound properties. Oak drums are often used in heavy metal, punk, and other hard-hitting genres.

The Drum Building Process

Once the drum company has sourced the appropriate wood for the drum shells, the next step is to cut and shape the wood to the desired size and shape. This involves cutting the drum shell from a larger piece of wood, and then using a lathe to shape the outside of the shell to the desired contour and thickness. The inside of the drum is then sanded and smoothed to ensure an even, consistent tone.

The next step is to add hardware to the drum shell, including the lugs, tension rods, and hoops. Lugs are the small metal brackets that hold the drumhead in place, while tension rods are used to adjust the tightness of the drumhead. Hoops are the metal rings that hold the drumhead in place, and they also help to create the tone of the drum.

The drumheads are then added to the drum, and the drum is tuned to the desired pitch and tone. This involves adjusting the tension of the tension rods until the drum produces the desired sound. The drumheads can be made from a variety of materials, including animal hides, synthetic materials, and composite materials. Each type of drumhead produces a unique sound and character.

Sizes and Depths of Drum Shells

Drums come in a wide range of sizes and depths, each with its unique sound properties. The size and depth of the drum shell affect the tone, projection, and sustain of the drum. The most common drum sizes are bass drums, snare drums, and toms, with each type of drum producing a unique sound.

Bass drums are typically the largest drums in a drum kit, with a diameter of 20-24 inches and a depth of 14-18 inches.

Bass drums are designed to produce a deep, powerful sound, with plenty of low-end resonance and a punchy attack. The size and depth of the bass drum can be adjusted to produce different sounds, with larger and deeper drums producing a more sustained, boomy sound, while smaller and shallower drums produce a more focused and punchy sound.

Snare drums are typically the smallest drums in a drum kit, with a diameter of 14 inches and a depth of 5-6 inches. The snare drum produces a sharp, crisp sound, with a fast attack and a short decay. The snare drum is essential for creating the backbeat in a wide range of genres, including rock, pop, and jazz.

Toms are intermediate-sized drums, with a diameter ranging from 10 to 16 inches and a depth of 8-18 inches. Toms produce a warm, round sound, with a medium attack and decay. Toms are often used to create fills and add depth and texture to a drum kit.

The Finish

Once the drum shells are complete, the final step is to apply the finish to the drum. Drum finishes come in a wide range of colors and patterns, and they can be applied in a variety of ways, including paint, lacquer, and wrap. The finish not only adds to the aesthetic of the drum but also affects the sound of the drum.

A gloss or lacquer finish creates a smooth surface on the drum shell, which produces a brighter and more focused sound. A matte finish, on the other hand, creates a more porous surface, which produces a warmer and more resonant sound. The color of the finish can also affect the sound of the drum, with darker colors producing a warmer sound, and lighter colors producing a brighter sound.

Price - these are rough estimates only - we're not drum builders!

The cost of building drums can vary greatly depending on the materials used, the level of craftsmanship, and the size and depth of the drums. The following is a rough estimate of the cost of building a set of drums for small, medium, and large budgets:

Small budget:

  • Birch or poplar drum shells: $200-$400
  • Basic hardware: $100-$150
  • Budget drumheads: $50-$75
  • Basic finishes: $50-$100

Total cost: $400-$725

Medium budget:

  • Maple or beech drum shells: $400-$600
  • Mid-range hardware: $150-$250
  • Mid-range drumheads: $100-$150
  • Mid-range finishes: $200-$300

Total cost: $850-$1300

Large budget:

  • High-end custom drum shells: $600-$1000
  • High-end hardware: $300-$500
  • High-end drumheads: $200-$300
  • High-end finishes: $500-$1000

Total cost: $1600-$2800


Drums are an essential part of music, with their unique sounds and styles adding depth and rhythm to music of all genres. Building drums involves sourcing high-quality woods, expert craftsmanship, and attention to detail to produce drums with unique sounds, tones, and finishes. By understanding the different woods, sizes, and finishes that are used to create drums, you can choose the right drum for your style and budget, and enjoy the rich and vibrant sounds that drums have to offer.

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