200 Greatest! Gear Breakthroughs
Invention of Modern Tuning Systems
While we’re on the subject of Gene Krupa, Slingerland introduced toms in 1934 with tunable top heads, but non-tunable tacked-on bottom heads. By 1936, Krupa became Slingerland’s first and most famous endorser. With Krupa’s encouragement, Slingerland introduced toms with fully tunable top and bottom heads.
Modern Bearing Edges
The modern synthetic drumhead encouraged an evolution toward modern, sharper bearing edges that enhanced the new drumheads’ sustain and attack. In the 1950s, Gretsch was among the first companies to offer drums with beveled edges. Today, the majority of mass-produced drums come with 45 degree edges, but not all. Gretsch’s Renown series drums, for example, have 30 degree edges.
Nylon Tip Drum Sticks
If you’ve ever suffered the frustration of throwing away an otherwise perfectly good stick because of a damaged wood tip, you can imagine the impetus for Joe Calato’s 1958 invention of the nylon-tip stick. Calato’s use of nylon tips created sticks that lasted longer and produced a brighter cymbal sound than wood tips.
Ludwig Supra-Phonic 400 Series Snare
For decades now, drummers have considered the Ludwig 400 series Supra-Phonic snares a standard go-to drum for most styles. Something about the sound of these snares is just “right.” The initial 400 series models offered in 1959 had chrome-over-brass shells with “top quality matched plastic heads.” From 1962 onward, the 400 series came with Ludalloy shells — i.e., chrome over aluminum.
Drummers who love infinite angles can thank, among others, Rogers Drums. In 1960, the famed drum company introduced the Swiv-O-Matic tom holder, which used hexagonal rods and a key-tightened ball-and-socket joint. Slingerland introduced its own ball-and-socket variant in 1968 — the Set-O-Matic tom holder. Many modern manufactures now offer their own variants.
First Cymbals Made From Sheet Bronze
When Paiste introduced its Giant Beat series in 1965, they were made from discs cut from sheets of B8 bronze (92 percent copper/8 percent tin). This contrasted with other traditional processes of making cymbals from individually cast ingots of B20 bronze (80 percent copper 20 percent tin) and paved the way for other affordable professional B8 series like Paiste’s 2002 line. Today, Paiste’s website argues “there can be no non-cast alloys,” so “the distinction between cast and sheet alloys is plain nonsense.”
Acrylic Drum Shells
Known as the inventor of acrylic drum shells, Bill Zickos received a U.S. patent for the concept in 1970. That same year Keith Moon bought a kit from Zickos. By 1972, Ludwig introduced its acrylic shell Vistalite series as a clear alternative to wood shell drums.