The close-minded among us may wonder, “Why would anyone want a metal drum set?” This question may arise even in the minds of those who already own a metal snare drum, yet have never questioned its purpose. Trick Drums, a company that has been making high-tech drums since the early ’90s, has become known chiefly for its custom aluminum shell drum sets. During a recent tour of the Trick warehouse, I received an explanation of why aluminum makes a good material for drum shells from a company that’s gambled everything on its ability to convince drummers to simply give its product a chance.
The main reason for owning a metal drum set, as it turns out, is consistency. We’ve all played wood drum sets and faced the challenge of not being able to get, say, one of the toms to sound good. That can be related to a manufacturing error or to a natural variation in the wood’s density. Aluminum doesn’t suffer from the density variations of wood, and is by its nature a very musical metal. Wind chimes and vibraphone bars are often made of aluminum because it has a beautiful, airy quality with tons of sustain and no strange overtones. After my tour I sat down with an assortment of Trick offerings to see if the company could put its metal where its mouth is, and I’m happy to report that the drums live up to their reputation for innovative design, rich sound, and consistency.
Trick uses very high-tech manufacturing processes and a high-quality grade of aircraft aluminum, both of which result in strong, musical shells. During my tour of the facilities, Trick’s V.P. struck a few shells of the same size, producing an identical pitch each time, with far more sustain than a wood shell. The shells are 3.175mm (1/8")-thick, making them some of the thinnest shells you can buy. And as you may know, thinner shells produce lower notes than thicker shells. Since they’re made from a rolled sheet of material and welded, they have a single-ply style of construction and don’t need or use reinforcing rings to add strength. The shells are incredibly strong, the proof of which came when a Trick employee stood on a raw shell that didn’t deform under his 200-plus pounds of weight. The weld points are smooth and are actually stronger than the shell itself. As a result, Trick confidently offers a lifetime guarantee against material failure.
Trick uses void-free extruded aluminum billet alloy lugs, which are stronger and don’t have the porous interior of die-cast parts. They’ve recently improved upon their bass drum hoops, which are now constructed of a solid ring of high-grade aluminum and, like the shells, produce identical pitches to each other when struck, with lots of sustain.
Trick feels that, unlike wood shells, its drums have enough sustain that they don’t warrant suspension mounts, which is why the kit I tested didn’t have them. But being a custom manufacturer, Trick will gladly accommodate a request for suspension mounts. The shells have dual 45-degree bearing edges, and you can choose the heads you want to come with your kit. I chose Trick’s default setup of Evans Clear G1s for the toms, an EMAD for the bass drum, and a coated G1 for the snare batters with Hazy 300s underneath. All the drums have 2.3mm hoops and the snares come equipped with Trick’s innovative GS007 strainer. Even the snare attachment cables are high-tech, and are made from stainless steel braided line dipped in nylon to prevent you from puncturing your skin or the drumhead. The snare wires themselves are made of phosphor bronze.
Trick loaned me a 4-piece kit with a 20" x 18" bass drum, a 12" x 8" mounted tom, a 14" x 12" suspended floor tom, a 14" x 5.5" matching snare, one of Trick’s remarkably smooth pedals (the new favorite among death metal drummers), and an assortment of additional snare drums, which I’ll talk about later. The kit featured Trick’s Sapphire Sparkle finish, both on the inside and outside of the shells. The finish is a rich, dark blue with small multi-colored flecks under a smooth gloss. Viewed straight on, it makes the drums appear blue, but when viewed from an angle, it changes to more of a purplish color.
Trick offers an incredible array of stock finishes – thousands actually. The company also offers painted and powder-coated finishes, anodized finishes, and its unique Millillusion finish, which places holograms in the surface of the metal. Trick recently added another process as well, which places high-resolution digital graphics onto the shells. This would come in especially hand if your band is on tour supporting a new CD. You could have Trick put the album graphics on the shell for much less than the cost of hiring an artist to paint everything by hand. And the process can be repeated over and over again at a nominal cost.
Trick’s GS007 strainer is available in two colors – black or aluminum, and two varieties – a standard on/off style and a cool multi-step version. The difference between the two is that the multi-step strainer has four positions. You can set it to “off,” or you can set it to three different degrees of the “on” position. As you rotate the handle you can feel three slight detents where you can leave the strainer for varying degrees of crispness without having to adjust the fine-tuning knob. This is nice if you want to quickly change from a looser second-line sound to a tighter and crisper Stewart Copeland-type sound.
AT THE GIG
I unleashed these drums at a gig with an unsuspecting band, whose members were subscribers to the myth that metal shell drums sound bad, tinny, metallic, or lack tone, which is why I didn’t tell them I wasn’t playing a high-end wood drum kit until after the gig was over. Needless to say, I got a couple of serious double takes when I said they were made of aluminum. The bass player still had trouble believing it even after I removed the rack tom to show him the inside of the drum. I had to rap on the shell of the bass drum with my stick to finally convince him.
Speaking of the bass drum, this 20" x 18" sounded incredibly deep, with lots of low end for its diameter. But it can also be tuned higher for more of a jazz sound. With the rock tuning I employed, the drum was deep and punchy, and was capable of producing plenty of volume. I preferred the thinner EMAD muffling ring with this drum. I got great feedback when I miked it at the gig. The drum has convenient Sonor-style, round tuning knobs that don’t require a drum key and, unlike T-rods, don’t get caught on the edge of your bag when you’re packing up.
The 12" x 8" and 14" x 12" toms were absolutely wonderful, and sang with crystal-clear notes. At a normal tuning, the rack tom sounded perfect, with lots of tone and sustain even without a suspension mount. The bigger tom sounded very deep, and projected with great attack. I tried jazz tunings later and the drums rang even more, but they might benefit more from a coated head for this type of gig. The pitches between the drums were clean and completely distinct.
The 14" x 5.5" matching aluminum shell snare had a full-sounding attack and a lot of body. The rim-click was killer, very loud and clear, which was a result of the 2.3mm hoops. And the rimshots had just the right amount of ring.
THE OTHER SNARES Each of the snare drums I received sounded excellent, with wide tuning ranges and a great rim-click. Each one could be a prize choice for any professional drummer. While sensitive, none of the drums ever sounded choked under heavy bashing, and they always seemed to have a little more to give.
The 13" x 7" aluminum Green Sparkle snare was one of my favorites. It has everything you might want in a snare drum. It offers the slightly higher pitch a 13" drum offers, but with enough depth of body so the sound doesn’t become too thin. The drum was very crisp and sensitive, responding to soft buzzes or loud rimshots with equal ease. The rim-click was also excellent on this drum. The rimshots, while loud, had a good balance between decay and attack and didn’t require any muffling.
The 14" x 5.5" solid brass 3mm-shell snare had a bit more midrange than some of the others, and sounded strikingly similar to the next drum on this list – the identically sized copper snare – but had a little more ring. It featured a gold, Millillusion finish that was simply stunning.
The 14" x 6.5" copper snare had a slightly drier, darker, and warmer tonality than the other drums. If you’d like a drum with a bit more in its lower midrange, or even the sound of a wood drum but with better articulation, this is your snare. My only complaint with the one I received was cosmetic: Trick decided against clear-coating it so it would get a verdigris appearance over time (think Statue Of Liberty). If you live near the coast, the drum should turn an interesting shade of green over time. In the Midwest where I live, however, the drum simply looked smudged. Of course, Trick will gladly clear-coat the drums on request.
The 14" x 6.5" stainless steel snare with a brushed finish was another killer snare drum. It was loud and full yet still very crisp sounding. It was perfect at the gig and clearly brought out my lighter notes in a way that a wood drum just can’t match. Unlike the two aluminum snares, this drum, the solid brass snare, and the copper snare, were fairly heavy due to the 3.175mm thickness, but their sound is worth the drums’ weight in gold.
VERDICTWhat didn’t I like about these drums? Not much. Obviously, if you want the striations of a natural wood finish, these drums can’t deliver. But on all other fronts they have a lot to offer. These drums offer a lot of innovative features, are incredibly strong, remarkably consistent, and sound fantastic. They’re sensitive to delicate playing, yet project well when pounded, and come in a plethora of finishes. What more could you want?
MODELS Trick Sapphire Sparkle aluminum-shell drum set and aluminum, brass, copper, and stainless steel snares.
SHELLS 3.175mm aluminum, brass, copper, or stainless steel
Kit: 20" x 18" bass, 12" x 8" and 14" x 12" toms, and 14" x 5.5" matching snare: $4,647.
FEATURES Dual, 45-degree bearing edges on the shells, void-free extruded aluminum billet alloy lugs, a staggering variety of finishing options, and a lifetime warranty against material failure.
Trick Percussion Products Inc.
450 E. Remington Road
Schaumburg, IL 60173