There are multiple different ways of making drum shells. How they are made affects their tone, resonance, and ultimately their price. If you’re fairly new to buying drums, you probably don’t think too much about how the wood of a drum is constructed.
However, it’s good to learn more about different drum constructions, as this affects the overall tone and sound produced. And solid shell drums are without a doubt some of the best sounding you can get!
We’re going to look through all the ins and outs of solid shell drums in this article. They’re not the most widely available, but solid drums are excellent drums to consider getting.
What Are Solid Shell Drums?
Solid shell drums are drums that are made with a single solid ply of wood. Drum manufacturers will take a sheet of wood and round it out to create the shell. They’ll then smooth it over and very often add things such as reinforcement hoops to make the shell more durable.
To get the wood boards to a pliable state, they need to be soaked for weeks or months and then steam and pressure are applied to them. As the wood gets reshaped into the shell, the edges then need to be glued together. This rounded structure becomes the new shape of the wood, meaning the edges won’t bounce back if the glue disappeared.
Not all woods are able to handle this bending process, so only particular woods are used for solid shells such as walnut, beech, oak, maple, and birch. Luckily, these are all your most common woods that drummers have their kits made from.
Many custom drum companies love using exotic woods, but a few of those aren’t great for making solid shell drums.
What Are Stave Drums?
You may also come across drums referred to as having a “stave design”. These are solid shell drums that haven’t been steam bent. Instead, they’re made from blocks of solid wood and are edge-glued, yet they use a lot less glue than ply drums.
No stress is applied to the drum shell to get it in place, preserving the tone. Ultimately, solid stave drums have a superior sound to ply and solid shell drums that have been steam bent.
The process of making solid shell drums is more intense than making standard ply shells. This is why solid shells aren’t as commonly found.
How Solid Wood Drum Shells Affect Tone
The biggest benefit of making a solid shell is that you get purer tones. You use a lot more glue to create other types of shells, and that glue ends up affecting the tone. With almost no glue being used, the wood plays a larger role in how the drum ends up sounding.
Solid drums have better projection, meaning they’re a lot louder. If you’ve never played one, you’d be amazed at the difference. You don’t need to hit solid shells hard for them to produce a bellowing sound.
The purer tones mean that you get a greater connection to the type of wood that is being used. With ply drums, a maple drum may sound quite similar to a walnut drum when you take tuning and drumheads into account. With solid shell drums, the difference between woods is much clearer to hear. Most of the sound comes from the shell and not the tuning or drumheads.
The level of craftmanship is much higher on a solid shell drum, which is why you’ll mostly see custom drum companies making them. The tones are focused because there’s a lot less stress on the drum from other factors. It’s a single piece of wood that gets molded into a drum shell.
However, only one type of wood can be used to make a solid shell. You don’t get the benefit of combining woods to get unique tones. If you’re particular about what you want and you’re looking for a blend of maple and birch, for example, you’d need to get a ply drum shell.
Getting a Solid Shell Drum
Most drummers end up getting ply drums as they’re the most common type. So, it’s usually a premeditated decision to get a solid shell drum or drum set. They’re specialty drums that you need to seek out as not all drum companies make them.
The question of whether you should get one or not depends on your buying requirements. Solid shells take a lot longer to make than ply shells, leading them to be more expensive. Because of this, most drummers end up getting solid shell snare drums instead of entire kits. A solid shell kit can easily cost upward of $6000.
So, it would be best to look for a snare. Also, buying just a snare drum is less of a commitment than buying an entire drum set. You may find that you prefer ply drums to solid shell ones, and getting a snare is a great way of not spending too much outright.
Another great thing about solid snares is that they sound incredibly unique. While toms can be easily tuned and muffled to sound however you want them to, snare drums have richer sounds. This is especially true with solid shell snare drums.
Pros and Cons of Solid Drum Shells
- Excellent resonance and projection. Solid shells are quite loud, and they don’t need to be hit hard to achieve high volumes.
- The tones are pure. Not much glue is used to hold the shell together, protecting the original tones of the wood being used.
- More tone comes from the wood than from the drumheads.
- Solid shell drums are seen as luxury drums.
- Solid shell snare drums are incredible.
- Solid shell drums are expensive. The process of making them takes a lot longer than making other types of shells, raising the cost of production.
- They don’t have the benefit of mixing woods to achieve unique tones.
- Since they take so long to make, they aren’t mass-produced.
Solid Shell vs Ply Shell
With ply shells being the most popular type of drum shell available, it’s good to know what the differences are between them and solid shells. If you search for any drum kit that costs under $1500, chances are high that it’s made from ply shells.
You can tell it’s a ply drum set if the description states that the shells are made from multiple plies. For example, a Pearl Decade Maple has 6 plies of maple wood for the shells, showing you that it’s a typical ply drum set.
The biggest benefit of ply shells is that they’re cheaper to buy. Most of them are mass-produced, lowering the cost of production. The other huge benefit is the ability to mix plies of different woods to get varying tones. Drum companies will also add plies as needed to match snare drums with the toms.
The downside of ply shells is that more glue is used to hold them together. This eliminates some of the purity of tone from the wood. They’re also not as resonant as solid drum shells, having much less projection.
However, some drummers prefer ply shells to solid ones. It comes down to personal preference, and you need to play both kinds of drums to develop your own opinion on it.
Who Makes Solid Shell Drums?
Unfortunately, not every drum company produces solid shell drums. The longer production process and higher cost make it not feasible for many drum brands to make solid shells. They’re generally seen as luxury drums, so the most common place to find them is from boutique drum companies.
Many drum companies that make custom drums for their clients offer several solid shell drums. Custom drum companies specialize in hand-making drums and getting specialty woods, so making solid shells is part of their business.
Here are a few of the best companies that make solid shell drums:
Pearl is one of the few mainstream drum brands that offer solid shells. Other brands like DW and Sonor offer them, but only when you custom order drums from the brands. Whereas Pearl sells the Music City Custom solid shell snare drums.
The company has a wide selection of woods to choose from with their solid shell snares, including maple, walnut, cherry, and ash. Each one of these snares costs around $1000, proving the point of solid shell drums being expensive!
Craviotto is arguably the best example of a company that makes solid shell drums. They specialize in making them, and they don’t make any other types of drum shells. So, any drum that you buy from Craviotto will be a solid shell one.
They offer a long list of snare drums, and you can choose from either maple, mahogany, walnut, cherry, or ash. They also sell full drum kits that are made with solid shells. They sound incredible. However, they’re some of the most expensive kits you will ever find.
A&F Drum Company
The final drum company to mention is A&F. They’re another custom drum company, similar to Craviotto. However, A&F is more well-known for making metal drums and drums with unique shell sizes. You can buy solid shell drums from them, though.
The A&F Rude Boy Oak is one of the most incredible sounding solid shell snare drums around. You can also get maple solid shell snares from the brand.
Ronn Dunnet is an incredibly popular drum maker in North America. While most of his snares and drums are known for being incredible metal drums, he makes some high-quality solid shells as well. The Classic MonoPly Maple snare is one of his finest creations.
He uses George Way Drum Co. hoops on many of his drums, which give them a vintage, yet sturdy and punchy atmosphere.
Noble & Cooley Drum Co.
The Solid Shell Classic Series were some of the first solid shell drums to be sold on the modern drum market. It was the first type of drum that the company produced, kickstarting their fame in the drumming world.
If you want a solid shell snare drum made with countless years of experience, Noble & Cooley is the company you need to look out for. They have an incredibly large range of solid shell snare drums to choose from.
PA Lovetone is another drum brand that specializes in making solid shell drums. They use Western Australian Timber to make the drums, giving you truly unique sounding snares.
The makers of these drums are true artists. If you’re passionate about drum gear, it’s highly worth ordering one of these drums from Australia.
Now that you know about solid shell drums, you can appreciate the luxurious touch that they bring to a drum setup. While they’re not cheap, the pure tones and extended projection they offer are well worth the high price. This is especially true for solid shell snare drums.
Full solid shell kits are out of reach for most drummers as they often cost close to $10,000. So, getting a solid shell snare drum is what many people opt for. You only need to spend about $1000, and you’ll have a top-quality snare to add to your collection.