Thick vs. Thin Shells


New member
Related to the issue of the difference b/t maple vs. birch shells is the question of what's the difference b/t thick vs. thin shells.

For instance, Yamaha makes Maple and Birch "Custom" and "Custom Absolute" models. The Custom Absolute line is described as thin shells, the Custom line has slightly thicker shells. What's the difference?

My instinct tells me that thinner shells are less loud and more resonant than thick shells. It is also my opinion that maple is louder, higher pitched and more resonant that birch.

What do you think? Let's discuss :)


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Thinner shells resonate more and are lower in pitch.

Thicker shells resonate less and are higher pitched.


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drummingpraetor":1vk7vh2o said:
Thanks for your replies.

Is it true that thicker shells are louder? Or are they 'louder' only because they're higher pitched?
thick shells are louder because energy from the heads doesnt transfer to the shells as easily which means the wood doesnt vibrate as much and the sound is projected more but with less tone, resonance and sensitivity. in thin shells, the energy transfers from the heads to the shells and the shells vibrate which is causes the rich "wood" tone.


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Also, don't confuse number of plies as = thickness of the shell. Mapex makes thinner shells out of more plies than for example Pearl.


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I met Hartley Peavey (yeah, the owner of "Peavey" Electronics).
I think I spelled it correct.
Anyway, he said that he did the tests and found that the sound
of the wood came through best with a very thin shell.
Hence Peavy drums VERY thin shell.

I think that there is a lot of math that goes into it.
Like speaker making.
There is a lot to factor in. I am sure both are great


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thicker shells ARE louder. i prefer medium/thick shells myself. mykit has to be sturdy and well spoken.


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By and large you want thin shells on the toms and bass drum and thicher shells on the snare. That way you have nice sound from the toms and bass and a really good crack from the snare. that's about all I know about it.


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Thinner shells have a wider tuning range and you can get lower notes out of them.
As far as thinker shells being louder, I haven't noticed a volume difference between the two. I've got some 4mm 3-ply Premiers (birch) and I've played 8-9mm 9-ply Tama/Mapex (maple/mahogany/basswood) drums that didn't sound any louder to me.
Personally, I'd go with the thinner shells.

Qbs":3arqpvkk said:
but doesn't more plies mean more glue -> less resonance? :}
Yes, more glue means less resonance. I'm not sure to what extent though. It may be negligable.


New member
Any time this question is asked, it ends up in a long list of opinions that are seemingly presented as facts, when in reality, it's a fairly complex issue that depends on MANY factors.

While it's true, thin shells and thick shells sound different, the question of which one is "better" comes down to far more than just the shell thickness.

Bearing Edges have a huge effect on volume and tone, due to the energy transfer that is initially set up by this mechanical interface. Further, the rigidity of the the shell, the hardware which is placed upon the shell and the resonance of the shell material are also very important factors.

A thin RIGID shell will not sound the same as a thin FLEXIBLE shell because there seems to be a relationship between VOLUME and rigidity. A RIGID shell is louder.

Thin shells have lower fundamental frequency and wide tuning range because they will "speak" at a lower note. Thick shells have a narrower tuning range because they want to speak at a higher note.

In the case of Thin vs. Thick, there can be four or more variants that come into play. A Thin shell that is RIGID has a low fundamental frequency and high volume. A Thin shell that is Flexible has a low Fundamental frequency and will be quieter. A THICK shell that is rigid has a higher fundamental, and will be loud. A THICK flexible shell (if this is possible) should be quieter with a high fundamental.

A good discussion of drum physics can be found in "The Physics of Musical Instruments", by Fletcher and Rossing, Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. New York. 1998. Virtually every scientific study of late that has been on the subject of drum "tone" cites this important text.

The drum manufacturers try to simplify the process and make some really outlandish claims about shell thickness, hardware density, wood selection and construction techniques. Remember... these claims are designed to sell drums, not shed light on the truth of the matter. The first time I read about "Resonant Glue" in DW drums I decided that I would be better off without glue at ALL in my drum kit. In Fact, I'm better off without wood.

The drums I play don't have any plies or glue or wood at all. They are THIN, RIGID with double 45 degree bearing edges. This makes them LOUD (if I hit 'em hard) and they have a WIDE tuning range. They sound great and I really like them. You might prefer something different, and that's the whole point of all these choices. We get to sound exactly the way we want to, because these days a drummer has so many choices compared to the past, and that's a VERY good thing. We're really lucky!

The bottom line is you have to buy your drums based on how you sound while playing them. Don't sweat the physics, we're musicians, not rocket scientists.


New member
Thanks for that zen_drummer, you pretty much summed it up about as good as anyone will ever be able too.

How are those Trick drums compared to other sets you've played? I've never gotten to rock out on a set, or hear anyone else play them.


New member
How are those Trick drums compared to other sets you've played? I've never gotten to rock out on a set, or hear anyone else play them.
Thin Rigid Shells... I love them! The TRICK drums are the best sounding drums I have ever played, and I've owned a lot of drums from the top manufacturers out there.

If you've never heard a kit, or had the opportunity to try them for yourself, do yourself a favor and seek out a dealer, it's worth the effort. While they are not cheap, I absolutely guarantee you'll see, feel and hear the obvious advantages.


New member
Can you post examples of which drums have a rigid shell and which have a flexible shell? Every manufacturer states that their shell is the strongest etc etc... Never heard of a flexible shell.
And what about reinforcement rings? Do they make a big difference in the sound? They add some thickness to the shell in the edges, but who knows? :)


New member
Can you post examples of which drums have a rigid shell and which have a flexible shell? Every manufacturer states that their shell is the strongest etc etc... Never heard of a flexible shell.
They never quite come out and say "our shell is flexible" because that wouldn't be a very compelling argument to buy their product!

Think about the materials involved.... which is more rigid... Maple or birch? Maple is, but a THICK birch shell will be more rigid than a really thin maple one. A thin birch shell will be quite a bit more flexible. Poplar, basswood and mahogany are not as rigid as maple and ash. The real question here is how thin can they make it and still be rigid. This is why I like the TRICK drums, they are seriously rigid and only 1/8" thick and they sound exactly like the properties would indicate. Wide tuning range, wide dynamic range and quite focused in their attack. Reinforcement rings do effect the sound of the drum by increasing the contact area at the bearing edge and making an otherwise flexible shell a bit more rigid laterally. Whether this is an "improvement" is a matter of subjective observation. I certainly have played and owned drums with reinforcement rings, but none have sounded as good as to me as my current setup.

The drum companies are always marketing "their" version of the truth and yes, they will always tell you that the drums they make are the best and I generally don't believe a word their marketing department has to say. I'm a hands-on guy that has to be convinced by actually touching and playing the instrument in question.

By comparison, I generally don't believe it when every auto manufacturer tells me they make the best cars... do you? You would go out and find what automobile suits you best and you would buy based on how you enjoy driving it, right? Personally, I would never buy a Monte Carlo simply because Dale Earhardt drove one, nor would I buy DW simply because Neal Peart and Terry Bozzio happen to play that brand this year.

The other thing that is important to realize, is that the choice of what instrument you buy should not be based on some arbitrary choice as to what method of shell construction is considered to be the best at this point in time. Fads come and go, and with them, so do drum manufacturers. In the 70's every manufacturer jumped on the single headed concert tom fad, these days it's considered to be a joke to have single headed toms. There are many different brands available and they all have their own sound. Which sounds best? This all comes down to which one of these manufacturers makes the drums that you feel will best serve you in creating your own sound. It would be tragic if you spend a lot of money on a kit because they have the shells that everybody thinks are best, only to find out that you don't enjoy playing them because they don't feel right to you, on your music.

The decision on what to buy should be based on how it sounds when you play them. How do they feel when you are behind the kit and how do they make you feel. I would even tune them at the drum shop and see how easy it is to get them sounding the way you want them to sound. When it comes to making a purchase of this size it's all about you and your specific needs. If it's your first major high-end drumkit, I would seriously suggest you buy a kit that you can grow in to, as opposed to out of.