In this article, we’re going to take a look at the best types of woods for drum shells. There’s a lot of different types of woods used in drum set manufacturing, and they all possess different sonic characteristics that contribute to the drum’s overall tone.
Each type of wood has its own characteristics, tonality, EQ, and timbre. This is what makes some drum wood types more popular than others.
Most drum sets are constructed of multiple plies of hardwood that are formed together to create drum shells. The type of wood, the number of plies in construction, shell size, bearing edge, type of drum head, and tuning all contribute to a drum’s sound.
The rarity and cost of manufacturing will also affect the price of drum wood types. Let’s dive right into the different wood types that make for the best drum shells!
What Is the Best Wood for Drum Shells?
Kicking off this list of drum wood types we have Poplar. Poplar is a fast-growing hardwood that offers a balanced range of frequencies. It’s an excellent wood for drum sets because it provides great tones, and it’s more affordable than most other hardwoods used for drum sets.
Polar is the wood of choice for the best beginner drum sets – delivering a pleasant pop with delightful warm tones. Poplar drum shells provide a well-rounded tone at a great price.
Maple is the most popular choice of wood for drum shells. The drum shells produce a warm, vintage-sounding tone with full low frequencies and balanced mids and highs. Maple is perceived as a premium wood for drum set manufacturing, and it possesses excellent all-round sonic characteristics.
The best drum set brands typically reserved Maple wood for their most expensive drum kits, but it’s great to see Maple making its way towards the intermediate level drum set market too. Maple drum shells excellent across all tuning ranges, and these drums make outstanding all-around performers.
Birch wood is also a very popular choice of wood for drum sets. It’s a dense hardwood that is renowned for its bright tone and short sustain. Birch drum shells traditionally made the ultimate choice of drum sets for recording studios because it offers a wonderful presence and clear projection.
Birch drums have a fast vibratory pattern and are, therefore, very expressive tonally. They produce pronounced bass and high notes with balanced mids. The tone is clear and authoritative, and that makes for beautiful-sounding drum sets!
Beech is a less commonly used drum shell material but it is an excellent alternative used in high-end drum sets. It produces a sound similar to Birch but offers a slightly warmer tone while still being expressive.
Beech drums can be described as having a mixture of characteristics from both Maple and Birch woods. Beech offers a similar openness and warmth to Maple but still has the snappy attack and shell density of Birch.
Mahogany is a very dense wood and was traditionally the most well-regarded wood used in drum set manufacturing. Mahogany drum shells have a powerful low end and a warm tone that is found in vintage drums. The drums project very well and offer an enormous punch.
Mahogany possesses a more resonant and fatter tone than Maple, thanks to the enhanced low end and more delicate highs. Because Mahogany is such an expensive drum wood type, it’s not as commonly used nowadays compared to previous years.
Much like Mahogany, Bubinga is an ultra-high-density wood that is much harder and heavier than Maple or Birch. Bubinga drum shells produce a massive low end as well as deep and dark tones.
Bubinga is an expensive wood and is reserved for professional-level drum sets. It delivers an incredible sonic projection, warmth, and punch that makes it a very desirable wood for drums. It also hosts a range of stunning grain figures that make it very attractive both visually and sonically.
Walnut possesses mellow and dry sonic characteristics. Like Mahogany and Bubinga drum shells, Walnut drum kits have a powerful low end and a darker, vintage tone. But as a hardwood, Walnut is not quite as dense as these woods.
Walnut is expressive and responsive. There is a massive initial attack with a short sustain like Birch, giving the drums a drier sound. Unlike Birch, however, the overall sound is much beefier and fatter with fewer high-end frequencies. These drums suit a low tuning very well.
Oak drum shells deliver big and powerful tones with greater projection than most other wooden drum sets. They produce a huge sound and have a relatively long sustain. Oak is well-known for its hardness and resilience as wood, and the unique combination of hardness and density provides an impressive level of projection.
Oak drum shells have found favor amongst Jazz drummers for their clean and open resonance, while Rock drummers are equally impressed by the wood’s strong tones and loud projection.
Compared to other wood drum types, Cherry is less common. It’s an expensive wood that is extremely versatile. It responds well to all playing dynamics, with a beautiful tone, whether you play soft or aggressively. Cherry drum shells have a lot to offer, both sonically and visually.
Cherry drum shells give off a vintage vibe, and they have a balanced frequency range with a medium sustain. The drum shells are sensitive and dynamic and produce a full-bodied and robust tone with full frequencies.
Ash is typically a wood used for guitar manufacturing and is not so popular for drums. The reason being is that it’s more challenging to work with than most other wood types. Nonetheless, it produces a beautiful and dry sound with excellent warmth.
Unlike other drum wood types, Ash has a unique combination of density and lightness. It’s incredibly resilient despite its light weight. It has a warm drum kit sound overall with a good amount of projection and a medium/long sustain in terms of sonic characteristics.
When considering what the best drum woods are, it’s important to remember it’s not all about wood species. Many other factors contribute to the sound, most notably the quality of the drum shell construction!
The drum’s bearing edge plays a crucial part in a drum’s sound, in addition to the drum wood type. The bearing edge’s angle and execution are responsible for transmitting vibrations from the drum head to the drum shell, and therefore has a considerable impact on the drum’s sound.
Let’s not forget the single most significant contributor to the drum’s sound will be the choice of drum head and the way it is tuned. Yet, of course, well-crafted drum shells will always lay down the foundation for the beautiful drum tones you hear on hit records and live stages around the world.