BY GENE D’AMICO
Let’s look at some minor changes that can enhance the sound and performance of your kit. Some may require a qualified technician, but you should be able to handle most of them. Before we even start — change the heads! It is the most basic and important thing you can do to improve the overall sound and performance of your kit.
1. WAX THE BEARING EDGE
Don’t melt wax and apply it to the drum. Simply use a piece of wax (beeswax is best, otherwise use a candle or paraffin), and rub it over each bearing edge. This will reduce the amount of friction between the head and shell, and improve the contact and head vibration.
2. CHECK BEARING EDGES FOR FLAT SPOTS
While there can be a variety of reasons why a drum doesn’t tune properly, the bearing edge is the first place to look. A bearing edge should have a uniform shape all the way around the drum. Run a finger over the surface to check for a dip or flat spot. If you find a problem, take the drum to someone who is qualified to cut a new bearing edge for you.
3. MAKE SURE HEADS FIT PROPERLY
If you own an older drum, you might have trouble making contemporary heads fit correctly. This often happens because the shell is oversized and/or the drum is covered in plastic, making it thicker than usual. Trim back the plastic covering incrementally until the head is free to vibrate. Be sure not to nick the bearing edge in the process.
4. EXPERIMENT WITH STICK TIPS
Whenever people tell me they don’t like the sound of a particular cymbal I ask what kind of stick they use. Next time you’re at your local drum shop, try out different stick tips on the same cymbal. You’ll find that there is a drastic difference in sound with each tip.
5. INCREASE YOUR FLOOR TOM SUSTAIN
Some floor tom legs are designed so that the foot can be twisted to expose either a metal point or a rubber foot. We found that floor toms sustain longer when the rubber foot contacts the floor. Check the type of feet you have on the floor tom legs. If they are made of plastic or are missing altogether, replace them with rubber feet.
6. ADJUST YOUR BASS DRUM BEATER
The beater on your bass pedal should strike the head as closely as possible to the center in order to maximize the drum’s resonance and tone. You’ll find it easy to adjust the beater to hit in the center of the head if you play a 22″ bass drum. But if you play a bass drum that is 20″ or smaller, or 24″ or larger, you may find it difficult to achieve a dead-center hit. You can try adjusting the height of the beater rod, but probably will have to sacrifice some of the pedal’s responsiveness to do so. But there’s good news for drummers who use small bass drums. Several companies have introduced cradles that raise them off the floor enough to allow the beater to hit the head in the center.
7. ALIGN YOUR SNARE WIRES
The snare wire should be attached so that it is centered on the snare-side head, not pulled to one side or the other. Unevenly mounted wires can choke the sound of the drum and minimize the activation of the snare wires.
8. CUT DOWN RIDE CYMBAL OVERTONES
Try placing a 3/4″-wide piece of duct tape underneath the cymbal. It will dampen overbearing cymbal wash and focus the cymbal’s ping sound.