Selecting & Buying New Percussion
The rules for selecting and buying new percussion are a little
different to new drums or 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.
Think about the sounds you already have at your disposal: will the new equipment fit in to these?
Are you looking for contrasts or sounds to complement your current set-up?
On this page, percussion has been divided into the following
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 a vast array of sizes and colours. Think:
- 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?
- Always take someone with you who knows what they're looking
- Check the roundness of all drum shells and look for signs of
damage e.g., scratches or splits. 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.
- 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.
- Similarly on CONGAS make sure that the tension rods 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
- Although not part of selecting your drum, ALWAYS detune after
use to avoid stretching the head. If you play congas in a shop
which are already tuned-up to high tension, look for signs of
stretching or shell distortion. Never be afraid to ask how long
they have been tuned-up that high.
- 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. However, the sound of a drum is largely determined by
the quality of its head (especially if it a natural skin 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
To cover all of the 'toys' available would be
Once again, the major manufacturers produce very
high quality goods. It is when you go for something a little bit
different, perhaps 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 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.
- With WOODEN INSTRUMENTS such as wood blocks, tambourines or
vibra-slaps™ always ensure that they are not cracked or
- With SHAKERS always ensure that they are not cracked or
split, AND that any cap or 'attachment' which is there to keep
the filling INSIDE the shaker, is secure and does its job.
- 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.
- 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 play a slap
Waywood Music supplies a wide range of African and Brazilian
and the Dream range of Chinese
gongs & cymbals at greatly reduced prices. See our cajons & djembes and our
Gongs & Cymbals sales
pages, or contact Us for further details.
The list is almost endless. You may also like to contact Us with specific
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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Equipment for Drummers & Percussionists Page
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