The Top 10 Drum Kit Innovations
4. Electronic Drum Kits
Graeme Edge, drummer for The Moody Blues, holds the distinction of creating the first known recording using electronic drums (on “Procession,” from 1971’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favor). “This was pre-chip days,” Edge said. “Back then you did it all with transistors ... like, 500 transistors. The electronic drums inside looked something like spaghetti.”
The kit had six snares, thirteen tom-toms, eight bass drums, sixteen sequencers, and incorporated a tambourine. Although the drum sounds didn’t match acoustic drums, the new sounds, which included the classic “trash can” effect, opened up a new sonic palette to drummers. In 1978, Simmons began production on its line of electronic drum kits. Simmons’ signature dzzzzshh and clap sounds became staples of the ’80s and are still used heavily today. The entirety of rap and hip-hop owes a debt to Edge and his electronic kit.
5. Isolation Tom Mounts
The Rogers Drum Company’s Swiv-O-Matic tom holder featured the innovation of a ball-and-socket connection that exponentially increased movement and flexibility. Even Ludwig drummers such as Ringo Starr, Mitch Mitchell, and John Bonham used Swiv-O-Matic hardware. The Swiv-O-Matic represented the first significant thought drum builders had given to the mounting of toms.
The year 1979 brought out the RIMS (Resonance Isolation Mounting System), created by Gary Gauger of Gauger Percussion in a recording studio after cross talk from tom mounts transferred the vibrations into other toms and kick drums mounted from the same stand. The RIMS innovation eliminated the acoustical “short circuit” and “choking” effect on the resonance created by the drums, which drum builders often overlooked. Due to the slow reaction of drum builders to this chronic problem, RIMS remained a secret of studio drummers for years. The system has since become commonplace, and RIMS or their equivalent are now featured on the drums of many manufacturers.
6. Mylar Drumheads
In 1957, Remo Belli learned about a new film being produced by DuPont. The Mylar film intrigued Mr. Belli because of its low cost, weather resistance, and durability. As a drummer, he knew the pitch and tone of Mylar would work as a great substitute for calfskin heads. Remo traveled the Midwest pitching his new drumheads, dubbed “The Weatherking” after his dramatic demonstrations of pouring water onto the heads and then playing them, something inconceivable with calfskin. This act proved the heads’ viability for many dealers across the country. But convincing musicians who had grown accustomed to the old natural heads was a little more difficult. Chick Evans had invented a different plastic drumhead around the same time and encountered the same hesitations Remo did with musician acceptance. Jazz musicians still preferred calfskin.
With the ’60s came the new sound of rock and roll and a steady supply of younger, more aggressive players seeking longer-lasting drumheads that could keep their tone and pitch through punishing sets and despite changes of humidity and weather. Before long, Remo and Evans became the dominant forces in the drumhead industry, eventually supplanting nearly all calfskin heads with Mylar.