BY BRAD SCHLUETER
Yamaha recently reintroduced its entry-level GigMaker kit with lots of improvements over the original version. The new kit features sturdy hardware, five nice finishes, and lots of subtle improvements that should perfectly suit beginners or intermediate drummers looking for a quality kit that will last them years.
SHELLS AND CONFIGURATIONS
The GigMaker features basswood and poplar shells that were designed to enhance the midrange and low end of the frequency spectrum. The bass drums are 7-ply and the snare and toms are 6-ply.
My review kit featured a 22″ bass drum, 12″ and 13″ toms, a 16″ floor tom, and a 14″ matching wood snare drum. Thoughtfully, Yamaha has made the bass drums in a 16″ depth and also offers another configuration with a 20″-diameter bass drum and 10″, 12″, and 14″ toms, which may be more appropriate for younger drummers or gigging drummers with smaller vehicles.
Unlike the original GigMaker kits, these can be purchased as a shell pack, with hardware, or with hardware and Paiste cymbals. These additions will certainly make a more appealing package for parents bewildered by the plethora of options that can overwhelm first-time buyers. My kit included all these goodies.
These drums are green, too. No, I don’t mean the color, though the White Grape glitter finish is an option. Wood is often treated with chemical preservatives and pesticides during processing and plywood is glued using formaldehyde-based glues. Formaldehyde is linked to many allergies and is a possible human carcinogen. Yamaha uses low-formaldehyde-content plywood for these sets and has certified that all its wood suppliers conform to environmental laws in California and elsewhere, and can guarantee that its drums meet the highest international standards. Bravo!
The GigMaker comes in a choice of five glitter wraps, all of which look excellent. A few are fairly subdued yet tasteful, like my review kit’s Burgundy finish, and a few are pretty wild, like the White Grape (bright green) and Blue Ice glitter. The finish was tightly applied without any ripples. The wood bass drum hoops are finished with the same glitter wrap on the outside and have a satin black interior and are smooth to the touch. Wood hoops are preferred over the metal hoops often found on entry-level kits.
I remember some of Yamaha’s entry-level finishes from several years back that I found unappealing and I’m glad to see the company has put cool-looking finishes on these kits. My younger students couldn’t care less about what kind of wood the drums are made from, and will often try to direct their parents’ purchase based solely on the color and finish. I’m sure these finishes alone will please many such prospective buyers.
The 600 series stands on the kit are all double-braced, sturdy, and lightweight — really professional quality. The snare drum features a ratchet-less tilter for precise positioning. The boom stand is a three-tiered model with an offset ratcheted tilter, good height, and a medium-length boom arm perfect for a crash cymbal. The straight stand has two tiers and is more suitable for the ride cymbal. Though you might not notice it at first, the stands also have large, stylish-looking rubber feet.
The bass drum pedal is a lightweight belt-drive pedal with an old-school felt beater, which is certainly fine for beginners or intermediate drummers disinterested in metal drumming. It felt smooth and fluid and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on a gig. The hi-hat stand has a professional clutch and very smooth action, though the tension is not adjustable. I’m a double bass–pedal player and the tripod base is very narrow and doesn’t rotate, making slipping the slave side of a double pedal under a leg very difficult, if not impossible. I wish Yamaha had made the base capable of rotating for weekend warriors interested in using the GigMaker as a working kit.
I like the lug design and think it adds subtly to the overall impression of quality that the kit gives. The lugs are sleek and stylish and use gaskets to isolate them from the shell, like what you’d find on more expensive drums. The rest of the shell hardware is equally attractive and of similar quality. The tom mounts are attached directly to the shell (no YESS mounts here), but the double tom holder features Yamaha’s ball-and-socket tilters for precise adjustments. This is nice-looking, solid performing hardware with big wing screws and memory locks to remember your tom heights from gig to gig. It would have been nice if the tom hardware had a third hole like Yamaha’s TH945 model to easily add a boom arm, but at this price you can’t have everything.
The snare was sporting a new throw-off. It slightly resembled the Nickelworks strainer that was so popular a few years ago but was noticeably wider. It was quiet and smooth to operate and was mainly made from some sort of black plastic. One of my friends thought it looked cheap. I prefer metal hardware since plastics seem to break when placed in clumsy hands. This seems especially true with a less expensive kit that may be moved without the protection of hard cases. Perhaps the unit’s extra width will add a bit more strength to it.
On the miscellaneous end, the vent-hole grommet looks expensive and even the badge is tasteful. The triple-flange hoops are 1.5mm thick. I wish the snare hoops were thicker since they tended to deform a bit under higher tunings and thicker hoops offer better rim-clicks. The floor tom legs are simple units with small rubber feet that appear dwarfed next to the big feet on the cymbal stands. The foldout bass drum spurs are nice and beefy with retractable spikes and require a drum key for length adjustments. Since the whole kit seems so stylish, the bass drum claws are a bit of a letdown being unlined, stamped-steel units that struck me as cheap-looking and dated but could be described more charitably as “retro.”
My kit included the optional Paiste 101 cymbal package that includes a pair of 14″ hi-hats, a 16″ crash, and a 20″ ride. (Incidentally, it’s pronounced “pie-stee” not “paste” or “paste-ee.”) These cymbals are similar in quality to Meinl HCS or Sabian SBR lines and are certainly a step up from the dent-prone brass offerings found on many beginner kits. I wouldn’t use these cymbals professionally, since they’re not very loud or bright sounding, though that might be a good thing for beginners who don’t know the importance of hearing protection (or dynamic control). The ride had a nice clear and cutting bell tone, and subdued wash and attack. The crash also had a nice bell tone though it, too, was fairly quiet and emitted a bit of a gong-like tone rather than a sudden explosion when struck.
The hi-hats are the best of the group and sounded pretty good, offering a generally nice if slightly dark and muted tone. I could see using them in the studio if you were concerned about the hi-hat bleeding into the snare mike — just add a bit of top end and you’d be good to go. These are decent starter cymbals that will give beginners the chance to develop their skills until they outgrow them.
The drums came with a set of inexpensive clear single-ply heads for the tom and bass batter, and a coated version on the snare. The reso head was solid and black with a Yamaha logo on it.
My review kit came with a clear bass drum batter and felt muffling strip, but that should be replaced with a Powerstroke-style self-dampened head (with an internal muffling ring) by the time this review is published. As it was, the bass drum had a fairly deep tone with a wet attack that sounded suitable for rock. I don’t like felt muffling strips since they lie between the head and over the bearing edge of the drum, but that’s a moot point since Yamaha says it will be upgraded. I’d expect the replacement head to sound even better.
The toms sounded good, delivering a set of nice clear pitches with good sustain. With the stock heads the toms seemed to favor middle or slightly higher tunings. I liked their sound and thought they sounded like they could be from a higher end kit. Yamaha might also consider using a 2-ply head on the toms — not for sound since the single-ply heads sounded fine, but for a little extra durability.
I spent a bit of time tweaking the snare and it sounded a tad boxy and choked with excessive ring. After tweaking the tuning several times I eventually arrived at a decent sound. The drum sounded better with a piece of MoonGel or some other form of muffling on the head to tame the ring. It certainly sounded like a wood snare, with a full and somewhat dark tone, and seemed to lack crispness regardless of how I adjusted the wires, making me suspect the snare bed might be too shallow. The thin hoops made locating the sweet spot for my rim-clicks a bit of a challenge. While a matching wood snare is often considered an upgrade on an entry-level kit, I sometimes miss those inexpensive steel snares once ubiquitous on beginner kits since they can usually deliver a crisp sound easily.
The GigMaker has a lot of great new features to recommend it to beginners or anyone wanting Yamaha quality in an affordable set. Overall, the drums sound good and will only improve as the heads are eventually replaced. The double-braced hardware is of excellent quality and the finishes are very nice. These drums give the impression of being a much more expensive kit at very reasonable prices. I applaud Yamaha for taking the lead in using healthier low-formaldehyde plywood for drums that lots of kids will undoubtedly use.
Shells Low-formaldehyde content basswood and poplar shells; 7-ply bass drum and 6-ply snare and toms.
Configuration 5-piece drum set: 22″ x 16″ bass drum, 16″ x 16″ floor toms, 12″ x 9″ and 13″ x 9.5″ mounted tom, and a 14″ x 5.5″ matching wood snare drum; hardware and cymbals optional. Also available with 20″ x 16″ bass drum, 14″ x 14″ floor tom, 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″ mounted tom, and a 14″ x 5.5″ wood snare drum; available as a shell pack only.
Finishes Burgundy Glitter (reviewed), White Grape, Blue Ice, Black, and Silver Glitter.
Cymbals Paiste 101 series with 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, and a 20″ ride.
Hardware 600 series double-braced hardware including tom holder, CS-665A, CS-651WA, SS-650WA, HS-650WA, FP-6110A.
List Prices Kit with full hardware package and cymbals $1,300 (as reviewed); also available without cymbals and one straight cymbal stand for $1,000; and as a “drums-only” shell pack for $670.
Contact Yamaha Corporation Of America,yamahadrums.com