Selecting & Buying Second-Hand Percussion
The rules for selecting and buying used hand percussion are
a little different to drums and cymbals.
The scope of percussion is huge (much bigger than can be dealt
with here) ranging from tuned classical at one extreme to
'eclectic' at the other.
We have divided percussion into the following
Tambourines & Pandieros
If you apply the following principles you won't go very far
- Research the models that are available and what the reviewers
say about them.
- Drums come in many different sizes and colours.
Review adverts in the music press and always take someone
with you who knows what they're looking for.
Check the roundness of all drum shells and look for signs of
damage e.g., chips, scratches or splits which may indicate poor
treatment. Examine the bearing edges (where the drum head
rests on the shell) IF YOU CAN.
Drums requiring high skin tensions should have shells and
tensioning hardware which can stand up to those tensions.
- Will it be easy to find extra drums of the same colour, if I
want to add drums later?
- What kind of music will I be playing?
Listen to the drum. Is it what you're
after? Listen for buzzes and rattles which may indicate
problems (although they may simply be due to a loose nut, screw
or tension rod).
Remember that your drums will largely be played with your
hands, and therefore too much volume is unlikely to be a
problem. Check for damage or dents on the skin caused by
playing thin skin heads with sticks. Check the quality of
the head. Always go for the best quality head that you can
afford. It may cost you more at first but will pay
dividends in the longer term.
- With BONGOS always aim for 'full-length' tension rods which
pass through a steel or cast aluminium hoop at the bottom of the
drum. These can withstand much higher tensions without
problems. Check the thickness of the heads. Very
thick skins can lose definition at the higher frequencies, and
very thin skins can be 'all ring and no tone'. Thicker
skins will also place more strain on the drum and its
hardware. Check for damage to the heads and shell such as
splits or cracks. Also look out for very stretched heads
which may indicate no de-tuning between gigs, and worn threads on
tension bolts or nuts.
- Make sure that the tension rods on CONGAS are heavy duty and
that the side plates have a steel plate inside the drum to spread
the load across the shell. This will help to prevent
cracking. Check that the body or shell of the conga is
thick enough to withstand high tension. Thinner shells are
prone to distortion. Check for damage to the heads
and shell such as splits or cracks. Also look out for very
stretched heads which may indicate no de-tuning between gigs, and
worn threads on tension bolts or nuts.
To cover all of the available 'toys' would be
impossible. Once again the major manufacturers produce very
high quality goods. It is when you go for something a
little bit different from a small supplier who has less stringent
quality control, that you have to be more careful. The
following list may help you through the 'maze'.
- With METAL
INSTRUMENTS such as agogo bells and cowbells, ALWAYS
check the spot welds or seams for signs of cracking or
incompleteness. Check for rattles and buzzes. Make
sure that the metal is thick enough to withstand the hitting that
it will receive. There is no point buying small, thin
cowbells for loud music; they often last less than one gig!
Ensure that any clamps or brackets attached to these are securely
welded on and that the 'thumb screw' used to secure the bell to a
holder works smoothly and is not cross-threaded. Check for
signs of corrosion.
- With WOODEN INSTRUMENTS
such as wood blocks, tambourines or vibra-slapsTM
always ensure that they are not badly chipped, cracked or
- With SHAKERS,
always ensure that they are not
cracked or split. Check that any caps or 'attachments',
there to keep the filling INSIDE the shaker, are secure.
Losing one of these during a performance is spectacular, and not
- For HAND DRUMS with natural
skin heads, check for splits or
holes. Make sure that they are of a good quality (cheap,
poor quality heads may split the first time you give them a good
hit with your hand).
- With TAMBOURINES and PANDIEROS
always make sure
that the jingles are held in place by secure pins. Also
make sure that the pins do not have sharp protrusions sticking
out of either side. REMEMBER these will at some stage be
hitting your hands and fingers as you play. Check the
jingles for excessive wear or 'key-holing' around the mounting
pins (see thumbnail for illustration of this). Check for
corrosion on metal parts.
Diagram of Key-Holing in Tambourine Jingle (Click image to
The list is almost endless. You may like to Contact Us directly with
Alternatively, you may like to contact the Percussion Manufacturers directly, or the
Music Press to access reviews and 'road
tests' of the equipment you're looking for.
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