Tuning vs Tone (5 misconceptions about Drops)

Tuning vs Tone (5 misconceptions about Drops)

What do Drops do, exactly? Good question. We see a fair amount of confusion out there about what Drops are designed for, so we asked internet drummer Justin Scott to chime in and help add some clarity. Justin is a true master drummer – not only in the exquisite craft of his playing, but in his ability to achieve impeccable drum tone. Here are 5 misconceptions about Drops, with responses from Justin Scott, and Tandem’s founder, DK:


1. “I can tune my drums, so I don’t need Drops.”

JS – Drops are not designed to change the tone and pitch of your drums, or cover up badly tuned drums. Like other drum dampeners, Drops are tools used for controlling the amount of resonance or sustain that your drum has. The tone that you desire is acquired from properly tuning the drum. So my recommendation is to learn how to tune your drums properly, and to use Drops to control the sustain. 

DK – Justin is spot on here. For example, my guitarist has a sea of effects pedals, but none of them remove the need for properly tuning the guitar. Drops are like applying effects to properly tuned drums. By reducing the sustain, you create a different feel. No plugins needed. That said, I’ve actually started tuning my drums a bit differently now that I use Drops: On my rack tom, I tune a bit tighter, which gives a great stick response but extends the sustain, then I use Drops (usually a 60g) to reduce the sustain while retaining that faster stick response.


2. “But drums are meant to be LOUD!”

DK – This is a surprisingly common misconception. Drops don’t affect the volume of the drums. Some people confuse Drops for “drum mutes” which reduce the volume of the drums by adding a layer of material between where the stick hits the drum. Drops, on the other hand, shorten the decay of the drums to create a different feel at any velocity. So unfortunately for your neighbors, Drops won’t make your drums quieter.


3. “I like that wide open sound.”

DK – Wide open is certainly the way to go, if that’s the sound you’re looking for. I like to have the ability to tighten up certain drums – or the entire kit – depending on the situation. In a practice space, Drops make my kit sound more punchy, less boomy. In the studio, having a set of Drops on hand allows me to reduce overtones on the live kit directly, so that the producer doesn’t need to over-gate or over-EQ the drums (and this also stops them from coming into the drum room with a roll of gaffer tape to gunk up my new heads). The point of Drops is to provide just-in-time effects that can be increased, decreased, moved around, or removed as desired. It’s a tool to give the drummer options for creating the right feel in a given situation.

JS – I actually tend to prefer my drums to be wide open, which means I tend to not use a lot of drum dampening products. However, there are many situations when I have tuned a drum to my desired pitch, but I feel it has too much sustain for the sound I am going for. So using Drops is the best way that I have found to get the perfect amount of sustain for each drum without changing the tone or pitch of the instrument.


4. “Drums used to have these built in.”

DK – Yes and no. It’s true that drums generally had built-in dampeners – a mechanical arm that you could dial up against the batter head. These vintage dampeners definitely were an inspiration for Drops. But those mechanical contraptions didn’t move with the drum head. They were fixed, and therefore created a more aggressive form of dampening. Drops, on the other hand, rest on the batter head using gravity, so they bounce off when the drum is struck. This is how they create an active gate effect that lets the drum’s natural tone come through. Those vintage internal dampeners tended to choke the drum tone. I personally don’t like the idea of a built-in contraption permanently mounted inside my shells. I’d much rather use Drops as needed.


5. “Duct tape is much cheaper.”

DK – It’s true. The last roll of Gaffer tape I bought was only twenty bucks, and I could cover my drums with it if I wanted. I pass no judgment on creative solutions to problems that cost next to nothing. I understand that paying a premium for quality is either a value system, or a privilege, or both. There are a lot of things I could fix around the house with duct tape. So why do I spend the time to properly hang a framed photo into a stud? Or to invest in solid wood furniture with good joinery? For me, it’s a feeling. Putting tape on my drums always crushed my soul a little bit. And I think there is an economic argument to be made for doing something right the first time, or buying something once. A good batter head costs around $25. Good sticks cost around $15. We replace these all the time. Drops cost under $20 each, and they will long outlive those batter heads and sticks. In fact, those heads will probably last a lot longer if they’re not getting gunked up with melted adhesives. And a tin of gels for 8 bucks? That adds up, considering they disintegrate or get lost all the time. So while I could make a financial argument for why it makes more sense to purchase a durable set of Drops, I don’t think it’s about that. It’s about how you want to feel when you’re behind the kit. What materials do you want to interact with? How do you want things to function?


We hope this was helpful. Shoutout to Justin Scott for contributing to the conversation. Check out Justin’s insanely tasteful drumming here, and you might even want to take advantage of his lessons, or book him for session work.

Lastly, follow us on Instagram where we post new drummer videos weekly.


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