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Ask the Drum Guy: Putting together a Frankenkit in….. Italy!

Our good friend Andy lives in Italy and is trying to put together a great sounding drum kit without breaking the bank. ┬áVintage USA made kits go for crazy money in Italia, so we’re trying to help him pull something together without breaking the bank.

1) What’s the general deal with building a frankenkit by slowly acquiring individual pieces; can they usually be tuned into agreement or do you need to be careful with shell types, sizes, etc.?

My experience is that the rack tom and floor tom need to match, at least somewhat. However, “matching” sometimes has more to do with head selection and tuning than make and model.

I’ve put together a dozen or more “Frankenkits” in the studio- I put all the drums available for the session in a room and grab a stick and a drum key and start whacking stuff. A lot of what sounds good on any given day is based on how worn heads are and what they’re tuned to. Generally, though, I’d say try to grab two toms from the same manufacturer and era. I always seem to find rack and floor toms together in corners of junk shops/pawnshops/garage sales. Ludwig made a million drums in the ’60s and twice that many in the ’70s. Find two toms that work together and then find an old kick.

Once the toms match, a kick is a kick is a kick. Find a drum you like the sound of for a kick drum and let the toms be their own thing. The relationship between the snare and the toms is also not as important as finding a snare you like the sound of.

So, in summary, kick and snare can be their own thing, but it’s nice for the toms to match.

2) Tips on choosing a bass drum? Do you prefer Maple?

I prefer BIG and shallow: 24″ x 14″ is perfect, but that’s just an aesthetic thing. If I’m putting together a Frankenkit for live use and I stumble across a 26″ marching bass drum, I’m all over it.

My journey as a drummer is ongoing, and for years I was a Maple aficionado. Then several things happened in my life to make me a lot less dogmatic. I have discovered that drums made of several different woods are some of the most revered drums for recordists and players alike- the Ludwig 3-ply drums of the ’60s and ’70s are mahogany/poplar/mahogany or maple/poplar/maple, depending on the era and was laying around the factory. The Gretsch Jasper 6-ply drums are maple and gumwood. Slingerland Radio Kings are all mahogany shells. The Rogers 3-ply shells are maple and poplar. So, in answer, I don’t necessarily prefer maple. I like maple on modern drums because it’s a loud, hard wood, but I also like birch.

How’s that for a non-answer answer?

3) You know anything about good/bad Sonor kits?

Sonor kits are generally pretty great sounding drums. The Faiz Zeppelin kit that I played was a Rosewood Sonor kit and it was AWESOME sounding. Like every drummaker, they have their dogs, but most of the Sonors I have played have been pretty good or great. That said, they tend to have very practically sized kick drums, which is a little boring.

4) I saw these. Apparently they’re birch Ajax shells with Rogers hardware. No idea how they sound.

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That Rogers kit looks cool, but the hardware is the “Bread and Butter” lugs, which split. They’re chrome plated brass and the brass is not machine brass. They were made to handle the tensions of calfskin heads, not mylar, so they break. Avoid. I reckon it’s why that kit is so cheap.

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You don’t want to hit this thing too hard.

Andy’s quest for a new drum kit is ongoing and I’ve suggested that he shoot me cell phone photos of the pieces that he runs across in pawn shops or whatever. We’ll create new entries as he finds stuff!

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