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HD custom drumsThere comes a point where the term “best” becomes sort of irrelevant. The thing that comes to mind is when friends post something on Facebook about “the best” burger. Californians will go to the mat, swearing upon In-N-Out, while others are fanatical Five Guys fans (like yours truly).   Or up in Chicago — who has the best pizza? Gino’s East or Girodanno’s…or someone else?

It’s sort of the same in the world of drums, whether you’re talking about major brands or custom makes. “Best” is a very personal concept and sometimes only serves to stir up arguments. So why not celebrate the fact that there are many great drums being made today, and in particular, that HD Custom Drums is bringing some VERY cool stuff to the banquet.

Rhett Hendrix is the mastermind behind the HD name, a drummer first and a passionate, knowledgeable wood worker second. Some years ago, he started by experimenting with vented snare drums and it’s been onward and upward ever since. The goal of this ascendancy might be summed up in one word — RESONANCE!

Rhett is all about resonance, and how it is best achieved in a drum. While HD is truly a custom manufacturing operation, building drums to order (rather than building drums to be ordered), there are some guiding principles that are applied universally.

Shells

Okay, so we all know that there is a particular manufacturer that makes practically all the drum shells that are out there today. Not that these are bad shells, but HD’s shells are made differently, according to HD’s specs. It comes down to a simple premise: Wood resonates, glue does not. HD improves upon the wood/glue ratio two ways.

Ply Shells

Thicker plies, and fewer of them; That’s the key to getting more resonance out of a ply drum shell. Compare one of HD’s shells with most others and you’ll find for example, 6 plies vs. the other makers’ 8 plies – but HD’s are just slightly thicker. There’s just more wood in them.

Stave Shells

Rhett wanted to find what sort of results a stave shell construction would make, and was “shocked” at the results. (You know what I mean by “stave” shells, right? Essentially blocks of wood glued side-by-side, sort of butcher-block style.) When you think about it, this radically changes the wood/glue ratio and the difference is indeed noticeable. I hate trying to come up with words that will adequately describe a particular sound because those words will end up being filtered through every reader’s own personal grid. I’ll put it this way. The difference is real and should be experienced by everyone. (HD plans on adding audio files to their site at some point in the future.) The tone — was “like butter”.

Getting back to this concept of “best” again, I would stop short of saying that ply drums are passé, and that everyone needs to replace their kits with new ones using stave construction. But what I whole-heartedly say is that it is quite possible that the stave tone is what you’ve been looking for but have not been able to find.

Hardware

While HD is willing to use any hardware the customer specifies, their lugs are true to that guiding principal of resonance above all. Simple physics tells us that vibrations move better through solids than through air. The milled aluminum lugs (whether in their brushed or polished finishes) allow that resonant energy to flow more efficiently than a typical lug design where there is an empty casing, full of air. And they look good too! Simple and clean.

Bearing Edges

HD offers the customer a choice of bearing edges for a true custom design experience. Depending upon the design, you are able to build in more attack or more tone, or a balance between the two.

Finishes

You name it! Satin, gloss, solids, glitters, stripes — whatever. I saw a beautiful set with a sort of dark grey-ish silver sparkle. Now this was not a wrap – this was a lacquer finish, again holding true to the goal of resonance. (While I didn't see any drums on my visit that used a wrap of any sort, I suppose they are possible. Check with HD if there is a specific wrap that you want used on your drums.)

Price

So how much is all of this going to cost? With such a commitment to customization, you’ll need to request a quote from HD according to your specific requirements. But I will say this — one of the quotes straight from the HD website is, “We build drums worthy of super stars at a price for the “every man”.

Services

Have a set that you like, but think it can be improved? You’re probably right. At this time, HD will entertain requests to re-cut bearing edges, which in itself can be a life-changing experience. Rhett gave an example of a set of major name drums which when checked had all manner of high and low points on the bearing edge. Now the drums sounded good to begin with, but with new bearing edges cut and the head finally making full contact with the shell at all points around the circumference, the drums were finally able to resonate to their fullest potential and there were no more weird vibrations coming from where the head was just “flapping in the breeze”.

And this is not a dig at major name, mass produced drums. It’s just a reality that in that type of manufacturing environment, attention to this level of detail is not always possible.   If you have a set that you love but think you might be able to love it more, check into having HD doctor up your bearing edges. Likewise, if you've found a cool vintage kit or snare that has just seen years of abuse, this could make the transition from “well at least they LOOK cool” to “man, where did you get THAT”.

Future

Beyond just building beautiful drums that sound fantastic, Rhett is guiding HD into the future with more unique ideas and developments, not just in the design and manufacture of the drums (the fun part) but also in how the business is managed. I think HD is s serious contributor to the custom drum scene, and you need to check them out!

So set me up with a Five Guys cheeseburger, a Giordanno’s deep-dish pizza and a set of those HD stave drums, and I’ll be a happy camper!

(Visit www.hdcustomdrums.com for all the delicious details, and enjoy!)



Davin McLaird Davin McLaird has been playing drums for 45 years. His primary focus in his college years was jazz, playing in various ensembles at Edmonds Community College in Washington state, and Foothill College in California. Since that time he has been an instructor, clinician, and has toured and recorded with a number of artists, covering a wide variety of styles. He currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee, and plays for UZoo, a U2 tribute band.