Q & A With John Shaffer at Woody Drums

  • Posted on: 26 February 2014
  • By: sheldonkreger

While there are many small drum manufacturers today, there are many unique needs for all of the different styles of music people play. The truth is that you need different tools for different jobs, and some companies make drums that are really great for some styles of music, while others may have strengths in other styles. However, we all know that high end instruments can be expensive, which often forces drummers to settle for less than the best. And, when you need multiple kits for different kinds of music, you're starting to develop a pretty demanding burden on yourself. Drummers must consider their needs carefully when choosing to buy a high level instrument.

If you're like me, than you're unwilling to settle for anything less than professional quality equipment. You're also unwilling to compromise the need for specialized sounds in different genres of music.

This is why I'm excited to see Woody Drums come forward. Their desire to bring professional quality instruments into a lower price range, without cutting any corners. Let me explain what I mean here.

I've noticed a trend over the last few years, that many large drum manufacturers are developing intermediate level drum sets which sound pretty good. Often, the build of the shells are nearly identical to their professional counterparts. However, there are always sacrifices made in order to cut costs, and I've noticed that these seemingly small details add up very quickly. Generally speaking, here are the problems I've noticed with intermediate level drum sets recently:

1. Shells are usually only offered in very standard sizes - 10, 12, 14, 22 sort of set up.

2. Most of the time, the snare drums sound terrible. I don't know why this is true, but it is very common.

3. Attention to detail drops substantially. For example. lugs, tom stands, mounting systems, and bass drum legs seem to be lower quality.

4. The finishes, although usually quality, are sometimes offered in less than appealing colors.

5. All manufacturing is done overseas.

Now, there are exceptions to each of those rules, but when you buy an intermediate level kit, you're going to run into those kinds of problems.

In contrast, speaking to John Shaffer at Woody Drums, I am optimistic that there will be other options for intermediate price-range kits than the major manufacturers. And, based on my Q and A with him, I believe many if not all of these shortcomings will be transcended with their instruments.


Can you tell me about the shell construction of Woody Drums?


In order to create nearly perfect acoustics on a drum you must figure out where the imperfections of the sound wave are coming from when you strike a drum. We measured and watched exactly what happens when a stick strikes the batter/top side of a drum. When the sound wave is created it travels down the bearing edge of the drum and straight down the inside of the shell. the sound wave travels over every obstacle in the shell including grain of the shell, finish or not on the inside of the shell, screws that hold the lugs to the shell and proper size and placement of the vent hole. Our studies found that by not finishing the inside of the drum, designing a screw that has no 90 degree angles that deflect the wave and putting a smaller vent hole at the bottom of the drum, you get a much smoother and natural sounding wave. We measured these indications during my time at GA Tech.


I noticed that you use maple for the inner plies of your drums, and then an exotic wood for the outer layer to create the gorgeous finishes. Can you tell us about your selection of plies?


The thickness or plies of a drum shell directly affect the tone of the drum. The physics are simple. Thinner the shell-Lower the pitch. By using a thin 5ply shell drum you start with a much lower fundamental note than that of a thick shell. You can always tune a thinner shell drum up high and have a much broader tuning rang but you cant tune a thicker shell drum with a high fundamental note down. That's why we use 5 plies for toms, 8 plies for the bass drums, and 10 plies for the snare.


How did you select the 45 degree bearing edge?


The angle of the bearing edge is responsible for getting the pressure of the stick striking the head converted to a sound wave that travel down the inside of the shell. By having a sharper angle you get a more direct faster response and therefore a brighter, sharper sound. By using a round over bearing edge cut you get a more glowing type slower/smoother sound. We also noticed that placement of the bearing edge on the top of the shell meaning how much of the shell width the wave travels over when being created, directly affects the pitch of the wave but not anything the human ear could detect. Therefore we choose to use a 45 degree cut placed in the center of the bearing edge to gain both smooth and direct characteristics.


One of the distinguishing factors of your drums is that they ship with wood hoops. Can you tell us why you use wood hoops?


The Wood hoops are the most sonically noticeable difference in our drums as opposed to other companies. The instant you strike one of our drums you notice there is something that sounds more natural than a drum with a standard metal hoop.

The easiest way to explain what wood hoops do to the sound of a drum is to say..... metal hoops on a drum create the majority of the high end resonance. So by not using metal hoops you get almost acoustically perfect , natural soundings drums. The sound waves mentioned in question #1 not only travel down the inside of the shell but up the hoop touching the head. A standard metal head has many bends and angles which modify the travel of the sound waves. The wood hoops are straight and flat allowing the waves to move naturally. Wood hoop drums, when miked up in a studio, sound great and are flat across the board with no EQ.


Thanks John, I'm very excited to see your company introduce these kits into the market.

To learn more about Woody Drums and hear their kits in action, be sure to visit their main site, www.woodydrums.com

Woody Drums is currently fundraising to bring their kits to Nashville for NAMM. If you are interested in supporting them, follow this link to find out how you can help.



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