Brian Spaun’s career as a drum builder started out the way so many others have, as a natural consequence of his frustration with what was available coupled with an insatiable curiosity that had him tearing apart his drums since he was a teenager, trying to see exactly how they worked so he could one day do it better.
It began innocently enough — with Spaun pirating the hardware off cheap, steel-shell snare drums and reapplying them in new configurations on Keller maple shells, which he’d already dressed in experimental new finishes. Around 1995, while attending the Percussion Institute Of Technology in Hollywood, California, Spaun met his future business partner, David Pimentel. With Pimentel’s training in machining and Spaun’s access to his father-in-law’s woodshop, the conditions were ripe for the birth of Spaun Drums.
Today, Spaun has evolved into a quality manufacturer with one of the most state-of-the-art boutique factories in the business. The company has developed the “Spaun Sound,” a product of its unique solid-brass lug design and double–45 degree bearing edges. “Our double–45 degree places the bearing edge further in on the drumhead and creates a timpani effect,” Spaun explains, “substantially increasing resonance and tuning range.”
The company considers the ideal Spaun drummer to be a working pro who loves great gear as much as great music. Spaun’s offerings include maple, birch, and acrylic drums in a variety of eye-catching finishes. Kits start at around $2,000. Snare drums range from $250 to $500.
Contact Brian Spaun, spaundrums.com, 909-364-010
DRUM! How did the business start? What was your first drumbuilding experience like?
SpaunIt was more of a progression than an actual start for Spaun drums. As a drummer since my early teens, I always loved tearing apart my various drums to see what makes them tick. That developed into me buying used entry level steel shell snare drums for cheap, pirating the hardware off them, and putting a nice finish on a Keller maple shell to create a pretty nice, almost-new snare drum. I already had experience in woodworking and finishing, so that wasn't a problem. And my father-in-law had a workshop that I could invade. Those were my earliest drum building experiences in the early to mid-90's.
Around 1995, I was attending drum school at PIT in Hollywood where I met my future business partner David Pimentel. It turned out that Dave was doing similar type of work on the east coast. He's from Rhode Island. We hit it off and started developing the idea to create a custom drum line ourselves. We knew it had to be different and better to have any chance of success. Dave was trained in machining, so we were able to use my father-in-law's lathe to start the prototyping and development of what is now our exclusive Solid Brass lug design. During this time, we also developed our Double 45 Degree bearing edge, which places the bearing edge further in on the drumhead and creates a timpani effect, which substantially increases resonance and tuning range. Our Solid Brass Lug design and Double 45 Degree bearing edges are the two major developments that define the "Spaun sound". In the end, it's the great sound and quality of Spaun drums, as well as our unique designs, that have made us highly regarded by professional drummers around the world.
DRUM! What is your background in music and drumming?
Spaun I've played in numerous bands since my teens and continue to play actively today. It's the love of playing the instrument that got me interested in building them in the first place.
DRUM! Spaun is known for solid drums and great finishes? Is there a philosophy of drumbuilding that you have?
Spaun Quality Craftsmanship, Innovative Design, and Superior Sound. That's our philosophy and our intention for each drum we make.
DRUM! Would you say your drums are best at a particular kind of sound or style?
SpaunNot really. Spaun drums are appropriate for any drummer playing any style of music. Our drums can be found performing in jazz trio's to black metal and everywhere in between. I think that's another point that sets Spaun apart from other custom drums that tend to be very stylized. When the style dies out, so does the company.
DRUM! You've got one of the best shops we've visited. What are all the features of your factory?
Spaun I'm glad you enjoyed the visit! We have a full size automotive paint booth, two semi-automated drilling stations, a few standard drill presses, multiple routering stations, buffing wheels, sanding plenum, a couple laminate sheers, high pressure laminate roller, snare bed machine, edge sanding machine, and two granite surface plates for perfecting our bearing edges. Most of everything is designed, or has been modified by us for drum building or finishing processes.
DRUM! What do you like best? Designing, building, selling, managing, working with artists?
SpaunI like painting the best. That's the time when I can forget about the pressures and problems of the business side of making drums. Assembly is probably my next favorite. You get to see and test the final product!
DRUM! Give us a description of your current product line?
Custom Series 100% Maple Kits Recording Series 100% Birch Kits Acrylic Series
Hybrid Series (acrylic and wood combined) Vintage Series (wood hoop kits) Exotic Series (various exotic veneers) TL Series (production style, non customized, maple kits) 900 Series and 800 Series stands, bass drum pedals, and hi hats
DRUM! What is the strangest request you've gotten on a custom order?
SpaunWe get lots of strange requests for weird sizes and finishes. For me, the
strangest request is every drum a different color and the hardware of each
drum a different color. Now that's just weird. Then again, we make Edgevent drum kits with Swiss Cheese vents and that's a self-inflicted weirdness. I guess everyone would have a different opinion of the strangest request.
DRUM! Who comes up with all your designs?
Spaun We all participate in new design and finish ideas. Myself, Dave, Mark, and Gabe each have our own likes and dislikes so I prefer to keep an open mind to what each individual thinks. This helps keep things fresh and everyone feels like they have a say in what goes on here.
DRUM! What would a customer pay for a completely custom kit? What would they pay in a store for one of your snares?
The variance can be huge depending on style, finish and number of drums, but a drummer can get a custom Spaun kit for as little as $2000. A good-sized Exotic kit might run $4k-$5k. For a snare drum, the average probably runs from $250 to $500.
DRUM! It takes a lot of perseverance to be in the custom boutique end of the drum industry? What strengths have helped you do that?
SpaunIt's a very tough and competitive business that has seen many new companies enter the market even though overall sales of drums haven't increased enough to accommodate them. It really comes down to having a love for what you do. As long as drummers continue to appreciate the quality and sound of Spaun drums, and want to buy them ... I'll keep making them!