How to Make a Drum Set
Have you ever contemplated building your drum set, but hesitated because you don’t know how and where to start? Learning how to make a drum set can help you save a few bucks. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on a branded drum kit, you can build your drum set.
Moreover, there are crafty and practical musicians who feel that they can build their drum kit do so not just for the savings that they can get. These DIYers pursue a customized drum set to accomplish the sounds they never seem to produce when playing with an ordinary drum kit.
Pros and Cons of a DIY Drum Set
There are many advantages of making a DIY drum set. One is that you are free to build anything that you want to. Unlike in decades past, drum modules and components are sold individually, so you will be able to create the drum set of your dreams. There are lots of online stores where you can buy drum spare parts, conversion sets, and individual parts such as trigger foams.
But there are also disadvantages. You need to have excellent manual skills so that you can put together a drum set. If you’re building an electronic drum set, then you should be good at electronics. If it’s an acoustic drum set that you would want to build, then you need to have basic carpentry skills.
Another reason why a lot of drummers aren’t fond of building their drum sets is the time and effort that they will have to put into it. They’ll have to look for design, look for a workspace, and then spend time in building the drum. We haven’t even talked about the tons of patience that a builder needs to have, especially if it’s his first time to make a drum set.
Additionally, building your drums isn’t a cost-saving move especially when you take into consideration that there are specialized tools that you will have to invest in.
Drum Building Methods
There are several drum building methods, each with its pros and cons. These are ply, stave, segmented, steam bent, and solid.
The most commonly used method among big drum makers is the ply. It is economical as it requires the use of few special tools. Shells can also be turned out quickly and easily once the mold has been made. This drum building method is best suited for mass production, which explains why it is the preferred method of drum manufacturers.
For custom builders, the stave drum is the most commonly preferred method. In this approach, wood pieces with beveled edges are arranged to form a circle. Stave drums are built like a barrel. The method is best suited for creating thick shells. But the problem with this method is that it is very costly as wood is more expensive than ply.
The segmented drum is similar to a stave drum. Small, horizontal pieces of wood are glued together and clamped to create a fine shell. Like stave drum, a segmented drum is more costly to build. Aside from wood being more expensive than ply, it requires more special tools.
Another drum building method is steam bent shells. These are made from a piece of wood. The wood is placed inside a special box to control moisture. Once the ideal moisture level is achieved, the wood is taken out of the box and wrapped around a mold.
Lastly, a solid wood drum is very difficult to create. It is made from a tree trunk, hollowed out and created into the shape of a drum. There’s no glue used in this type of drum.
Because of the simplicity of the method, the ply drum set is the most widely employed method of building a drum.
How to Build a Snare Drum
So how do you build a snare drum? The snare drum is perhaps the most ubiquitous percussion instrument best known for its staccato sound. Arguably the most important part of a drum set, the snare drum gives a drum kit the “crack” sound.
In making a basic snare drum, you’ll need the following items:
- Handheld router
- Layout Mat
- Tape (painter’s blue)
- File tool
All of these tools can be bought online. The shell gives the drum its general appearance. It can be made of wood such as birch, mahogany, and Bubinga.
Pull the shell and cut it to size, depending on the wrap which you intend to use for the shell. Then cut the wrap too, according to the correct side. Ideally, both the shell and wrap have to be sanded before gluing them together. Glue both pieces and roll the wrap and shell together to create a stronger bond.
Seal the seams once the gluing of the shell and wrap are done. Sealing the seam can make the drum strong and durable. With the use of a handheld router, trim the excess wrap.
Using two different router blades cut the edges of the shell four times. This will produce an outer 45-degree cut with an inner counter-cut which connects the edge of the shell with the contour of the head. This edge should facilitate the vibration transfer from the head to the shell.
Apply tape to strategic parts of the shell where lines and drill points can be marked. This way, it can be easy to drill through the shell with minimal splintering.
Use a file tool in finishing the contour of the bed. Once the contours of the bed are finished, you will then have to direct your attention towards the edges. Use a sandpaper to make the edges as smooth as possible. You should also sand the insides of the shell.
Now comes the hard part—laying out the hardware. This is where a layout mat can come in as it would help you determine the spacing of the lugs, as well as the air vent placement and strainer layout. There are free layout mats that you can download on the Internet.
Place the outer veneer seam to a point where it can’t be seen, like near the place directly beneath a lug. Use a fine point marker to mark the shell.
Use a painter’s blue tape that won’t leave any residue and will be easy to remove without causing damage to the finish. Put a strip of the tape around the shell’s perimeter and using a T-jog, mark the lug spacing. Then mark a vertical line down the shell.
Measure the depth of the shell, then divide this by the space between the mounting holes of the plug. Adjust the t-jog to half of the shell’s depth, and allow half of the mounting holes space to both sides. Then mark the spaces where you will drill the lug through its mounting holes.
Now it’s time to drill the lugs into the drum shell. For this part, you should use a drill tool or even a drill press. If you’re using the latter, make sure that the drilling platform is secured on a table. The drum’s shell must sit right on the platform and supported underneath where there will be drilling holes.
You should also use a backing piece of wood so that the wood on the inside of the shell won’t burst out. Use sharp drill bits. You should also ensure that the hand drill you’re using has a good brad point bit. In installing the lugs, make sure it is not overly tight.
Once the lugs have been installed, you can then place the hardware particularly the batter head. This can also be bought online.
To finish the project, you can either wrap the drum or paint it or apply a high gloss finish. Both have its pros and cons. If you’re applying a high gloss finish, it can take weeks to build up the clear coats and for the shells to dry. Wrapping won’t take up that much time, but the material for wrapping will cost more.
How to Build an Electronic Drum
You can also build your electronic drum kit, which you can use to practice your drumming skills without disturbing the rest of the household and your neighbors. An electronic drum set is also a bit expensive, so you’ll be glad to build your own using a few basic components.
Some of the things you will need are:
- Tools— soldering iron, screwdriver, drill, hacksaw, wire stripper, etc.
- Other items like metal bar, sheet metal, a couple of 2×4 pieces of wood, duct tape, foam rubber, and tin snips
The electronic drum module serves as the brain of the drum kit. You can order one online, or pick up a unit from a neighborhood music store.
There are many choices of drums that you can use for your DIY electronic drum set. You can buy mesh heads on drum shells and rubber pads. You can even make your pads if your creative juices are flowing. For the cymbals, you can search online for practice cymbals.
For the triggers, the simplest you can make is one from a piezo transducer which you can buy from an electronics vendor online or at the mall. It usually has a red wire that is soldered to the central crystal, and a black wire that is joined to another metallic ring.
Once you have gathered the major parts of the electronic drum kit, prepare these for assembly.
To begin the process, create a base made out of wood that can be fastened to the bottom of the batter-side of the Tom. An alternative way of doing so is to use a section of a wooden bass drum hoop as a support and anchor to the pedal. This can be done by fastening the section via long bolts to the base edge of the drum.
Loosen the nut and washer on the lower end of the two lug screws so that you can place the L-brackets on the kick drum and the snare. Fasten the L-bracket and remove the washer and nut before tightening it down.
You now need to measure and cut the metal bars which will be used as crossbeams for the kick and snare drums. The simplest way to do this is using a hacksaw and vice.
Carefully mark the bar, ensuring that it is aligned with the L-bracket hole. Drill a hole in the middle of the bar, and three smaller holes around it so that the T-bolt can be accommodated, with the three screws reinforcing the assembly.
Using tin snips, cut out the metal discs to mount the two piezo for the snare, and for the kick drum.
Create foam rubber discs that will fit under the piezo’s. These would also insulate the washers.
Next, up is mounting the bar to the L-brackets. Make sure that the snare beam is the center, and that of the bass drum will be across the top section of the said drum. Install the T-bolt in the center of the snare and kick drum, with the t-bolt protruding upwards.
Now it’s time to focus on the triggers. Start by soldering the leads to the piezo’s. Glue the metallic side of the piezo’s down to the bronze discs, and use a double sided tape for the cone over the top of the piezo’s. The leads of the sizes should protrude out the side.
Glue a quarter of an inch thick of foam rubber on the t-bolts of both the snare and kick drums. Glue the disc/piezo-cone assembly, too, and make sure that it is secure. The cone must protrude about 1/8 of an inch above the edge of the drum. This will pave the way for the mesh head having a bit of pressure.
Solder the piezo leads to the corresponding jacks or directly to the cable. You should also find a way to manage the cables. This can be done by securing them to a rack with Velcro, or if feasible, installing the jack directly into the shell.
For the finishing touches on the drum pads, slide auto tubings over the rims of the toms, snare and kick drums. This should cover the circumference of the instruments. Then glue the ends together, with each edge neatly and completely padded with the rubber surface.
Finally, it’s on to the hi-hats and cymbals.
Hi-Hats and Cymbals
As mentioned earlier, you can use a set of practice cymbals for your DIY electronic drum set. Glue a layer of foam rubber over the striking area of the cymbals, and then solder a pair of piezo’s to a ¼ inch jack.
Stick out a part of the piezo to the bottom of each cymbal with a thin and double-sided tape. You can also opt for two or three pickups so you can incorporate more sounds in your performance. But make sure that the module you will use will have enough inputs to handle it.
You should also remember that the variable hi-hat input of a drum kit brain may require certain resistance value so it can work properly. That value isn’t definite and can vary between manufacturers. To accommodate the requirements of the module you’ll be using; you may have to modify its fader or potentiometer. This may involve soldering a resistor in parallel with the fader.
Once you have the cymbals and hi-hats assembled, you can then attach them to the frame. You can utilize brackets to mount your pads should you use a ready-made frame. In case you’re using a customized frame, use the U-bolts, clamps, and fashion mounts to attach the cymbals and drums.
Finally, it’s time to look for the brain of your electronic drum set. Electronic drum kit modules can range anywhere from $150 to $2,000, which is a brand new unit. If you’re on a budget, you can look for a pre-owned model. But if you’re looking for a feature-packed module with effects, loops, and lots of preset kits, then you should look for a newer model.
When shopping for a brain, you should look for things like the number of trigger inputs and variable hi-hat control. You’ll also need to look into the number of preset sounds as well as its compatibility with electronic kits.
For more flexibility, buy a brain that has stereo inputs for dual triggering through just one jack. This means you can make multiple triggers from one sound source.
Building a customized snare drum or electronic drum kit can take some time. Don’t expect to finish it in a matter of days or weeks. Make sure that you are determined to create your own because the complexity of the project could eventually turn you off if you’re not exactly dogged about this project.
Fortunately for you, there are tons of online resources and forums where DIY drum builders share inputs. You can read online to get more tips on how to go about your creation.