Gear Pioneer John Good

The “Wood Whisperer” of DW Drums: John Good

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A Conversation with John Good of DW Drums.

By Marty Paule

John Good is a self-confessed drum geek. He lives and breathes the infinite number of details that go into shaping the way a drum sounds and plays. From bearing edges to wood species to the concept of timbre-matching the fundamental tones of drum shells, John has spent decades refining the drum builder’s art and technology. Like so many of the Gear Pioneers we talk to, his curiosity is relentless. When his associates at DW Drums hear Good say, “What if…” they know something amazing is likely to develop, be it a new tonality or an eye-popping veneer that’ll set drummers to salivating. We spoke to John at DW Drums headquarters in Oxnard, California.

The HUB: How did you get into drum building?

John Good: The entree to drum building came out of the necessity that Don Lombardi and I shared when we were running a little teaching studio. I had shown up on Don Lombardi’s doorstep in late 1973 wanting to learn how to play drums a little better—actually a whole lot better. I had some terrible bad habits with the way I was playing. He said, ‘Sit down and let’s see what you got.’ I sat down and played, and he said, ‘We’ve got a world of trouble here.’ So he got a practice pad in front of me, put a stick in my hand, and we started working on all of the mechanics. He said, ‘Okay. Go away for a week and practice that. I’m thinking, 'On a pad—really? I just want to play rock ‘n’ roll!’ So I was terrible about practicing.

Anyway, this went on for a while, and each week I was in the exact same boat as the week prior. This kept going until one day he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You know, I’ve had all these successful students who have gone on to tremendous careers in the entertainment business and I’m afraid you’re not one of them.’

Instead of being shattered by the news that I might not turn into the cat’s meow of drumming, we realized that what we spent most of our time doing during these sessions was talking about things that were wrong with drum gear. Don had this small retail shop and he’d get these drum kits in from XYZ Drum Company that would have various problems. The spurs would be sticking straight out 180 degrees on the bass drum, there would be a mount that would be backwards…things we felt that we could do a little bit better.

As time went on, and I was running the retail thing, I started to wonder about bearing edges, timbre matching, and things of that nature. They were new ground for the industry. Bearing edges on drums were just a means for seating the drum heads. Setting them on a flat surface I found there were all kinds of inaccuracy. I knew that if we flattened that out and recut an edge, we could gain an awful lot more tonality out of the drum and let the drum speak for itself. In doing that I was becoming pretty successful at recutting bearing edges for customers and students. I had a knack for knowing how to make the drums sound good. Tuning was always a passion of mine.

John Good narrates a complete tour of the DW plant documenting how the drums are built.

I would give the drum back to the customers very in-tune, so to speak, and they’d take it and go, ‘Gosh, this great for the studio. Would you mind coming to the studio and tuning drums for us?’ So, in my spare time I’d go into the studio, and that turned into, ‘Would you be interested in going out on the road?’ So, I turned into a technician and most of my life was about tuning drums. Once I realized that there was a need to take some of the inaccuracies and fix them, I had the idea that I would love to be able to control a lot of what was not under my control—such as building drum shells.

The HUB: So you became focused on overcoming the inherently poor designs and manufacturing of the drums you were trying to tune?

JG: It was my fantasy at that stage to want to control everything. What was controllable? Well, the materials that went into the drums. That was one major thing. We actually started off building bass drum pedals. We were known as a hardware company. But as the years went by, I was buying shells from Keller and putting our own edges on them. I learned a lot through associations. I had a neighbor, Joe Montineri, and we spent a lot of time talking drums—we were total drum geeks. He hipped me to the idea of timbre, basically in snare drums. He said, ‘Here’s this snare drum, it’s basically got this “dum-dum,” sound. And here’s this snare shell that’s got a higher ”dung-dung” sound. To get the optimal sound of each of these drums you can’t tune them exactly the same.’

I started to think about that. I was literally in the shower when it dawned on me that maybe I could apply that theory to a full drum set. I thought maybe that’s why some drum sets just aren’t comfortable with themselves. I started to timbre-match all the drum shells that I was buying from Keller, putting them together in kits. That immediately bore fruit because all of a sudden we had a drum set that acted like it wanted to be a kit, and not just components.

As time went by, the need became clear to buy some machinery and start making shells. So I researched the veneer world, and basically everything was maple at that time. I had some really good mentors who helped me learn how to buy veneers and taught me how they could be cut. I’ll never forget the “aha!” moment when I was making some drum shells, similar to those Keller was making for me, and I put some curly maple on the outside of these drums. I noticed that every time I had a curly maple drum shell it had a lower timbre. Not just once in a while, but always. I couldn’t quite understand it. I knew the grain was going horizontally, but the figuring in the curly maple was going vertically. So I decided it had to be in that predominantly vertical figuring. I simply took some maple and turned it in the other direction—made it run up and down vertically. And all of a sudden, we had these lower-timbre shells that were gorgeous to hear. To this day, we call them VLT—Vertical Low Timbre shells.

That started a whole thing with grain orientation. The number of plies is very important, but more important is the way you place them in the shell. We found that we were able to manipulate the tone of the drum. That turned into what we call the X Shell. It had 45-degree grain patterns opposing one another all the way through the shell in an X pattern. And that shell got even lower than the VLT! That was exciting for us.

Then I wondered, what if I have an 8-ply X Shell and ran two of the plies staggered vertically? The shell got even lower. I thought to myself, ‘How much further can I take this?’ Now I’m making bass drums with so much low-frequency punch in them—we call that VLX. The VLX shells were 8-ply with two vertical plies. Then I thought, let’s try three. That became VLX Plus. I jokingly say if you twist my arm, I’ll put four in your bass drum if you really want to. But I kiddingly tell drummers that they’ve got to watch out for small animals because they can kill them at a hundred yards with these kick drums.

All of that was an entrance into experimenting with different materials, like cherry, for instance. I’m from Michigan so I went back there, it’s where I buy most of my maple. We have a tremendous resource with cherry wood in Michigan. Cherry has a bit darker sound than maple, and I introduced that recently. In doing so, I developed yet another shell that was called HVLT, which has a horizontal outer ply with a basic VLT in the center of the shell. In doing that with the horizontal outer veneer, we don’t have to put reinforcing hoops in it. If you have an X pattern in a drum shell, you almost always have to put a reinforcing hoop in to keep the tension in the right place.

John is joined by Mick Fleetwood as he talks about the the cherry wood touring kit he built for the legendary founder of Fleetwood Mac.

We went from that to the birch shells. If you’re playing drums in the studio and you’re putting tape all over everything, maybe the drums are sustaining too long. You may want to consider playing birch. Unlike maple it has a very fast, explosive tone with a much shorter sustain ratio. So, in the studio you don’t have to use Moongels and gaffer tape over everything.

With all of these available tonalities, it continues to be an exciting time at DW. We just expanded our Jazz Series. Thos shells always consisted of two maple, three thicker gum, two maple plies . In other words, the maple is one thirty-second of an inch and the gum is one twentieth. So we exploit what gum has to offer, providing a beautiful, soft, mellow center in the drum, where the maple has a lot of the length and the vibration of the shell. Then we tried that with cherry, and oh man, it makes such a difference in contouring the sound. It’s like you’ve got a Jazz Series sound, but it’s a little darker with a lot of headroom so you can play into these drums with a lot of velocity and they stay right there with you. Don’t be confused by the word “Jazz,” you don’t have to tickle them—they’re not just for jazz.

Going from there, we said, ‘let’s try some mahogany on the outside of the gum.’ We came up with Mahogany Jazz, and that’s got a fatter, warmer, very low end-oriented drum shell. We now have the maple, mahogany, and cherry shells in the Jazz line and they’re just absolutely wonderful.

Scott Donnell, my Marketing Director asked me, ‘John, what if if we put your vertical mahogany on the outside of the drum, maple in the center, and vertical mahogany on the inner ply? What would that do?’ So we started working on that and developed a very nice line called Maple Mahogany. That’s doing very well for us right now, it’s one of the most musical drum kits I’ve ever played. It just screams notes every time you hit a tom.

We’ve also been pretty successful with a vintage sound—that’s our Classics line, which has horizontal mahogany on the outside with very thick three-sixteenth poplar, and horizontal mahogany on the inside. Now, poplar’s a really bad boy because it doesn’t like to behave. It’s really hard to keep it in a round shape. That’s why you see a lot of these older drums that are so romantic, but it’s hard to put a head on them. So we put big, stout, 6-ply reinforcing hoops of maple on the inside of those shells. What you get out of poplar is a very, very nice kind of a big-band sound that a lot of drummers are looking for these days. So it just keeps going on and on—the excitement level has not diminished. And that’s not mentioning the 45 different exotic woods that can we put on the outside of these drums.

John Good Picking Drum Shells
Using his highly attuned ears, John Good selects timbre-matched shells to create a drum set that’s inherently in tune with itself.

The HUB: When you go out there looking for new and exotic species, what are some of the other factors you’re looking at beside the obvious one of their availability?

JG: I have a route that I take, so to speak. I go wood hunting two or three times a year. I start in Michigan, which is where I buy most of our woods. I buy hundreds of thousands of square feet of maple each month, about 90,000 square feet of cherry, and about that much in birch as well. What I’m looking for in that region is birdseye maple, curly maple…things that are indigenous to that part of the world.

When I go to Europe, I have some friends who are incredible mentors in the area of exotic wood veneer. They guide me through a lot of the woods that come from Europe, but also a lot of things that come from Africa. I don’t find myself traveling to Africa very much, but these folks do, and they get it in and they will prepare it for me. You have to hand-select these woods.

Good displays the range of Standard Exotic finishes that are the result of his globe-spanning wood hunts.

For example, take olive ash burl. I buy that in a pocket of the world that is literally God’s country. It’s north of Milan, Italy and just south of Switzerland in the Lake Como region. I buy it from my friend, Renzo. Now, you can’t just order up olive ash burl. It doesn’t come wide and it doesn’t come long, so you have to hand-select it and to find the character you’re looking for—you’ve got to be so hands-on with this material. So Marty, what do you think my favorite thing to do with olive ash burl is?

The HUB: I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?

JG: Run out, so I have to go back for more. [Laughs]

The HUB: A nice excuse for a vacation!

JG: It’s a stunning, gorgeous place, and it’s such a pleasurable thing to know the background of all those logs, all those species, and how they grow. Burls grow halfway into the root system of the tree, and I’ve got some people in Europe who have the wherewithal to slice these things efficiently. It’s exciting every time I go hunting for wood there.

Now, you might ask what are the tonality differences in all these woods. Well, a burl, for example, doesn’t have a grain direction; it’s an omnidirectional grain. It confuses the direction of everything else, so it basically lowers everything. Horizontal is always going to be the most tensioned, vertical is always going to be the lowest, and omnidirectional is equally very, very low.

The HUB: Would you say that burls are more unpredictable in the kind of resonance that you’re going to get out of them?

JG: Pretty much, because there is no clear-cut grain direction. We also use bamboo in an X pattern, and what does that do? It lowers the pitch. We also put some two-ply banana husk on the outside of the bamboo. Why? One, because we can, and two, because it did a luscious, wonderful thing: it confused the direction of the grain and made everything sound very round, very low, and very, very nice with deep resonance. There are so many things to discover. You might ask me what does vertical macassar ebony do to the sound of a drum? Well, if you know about grain direction, it’s pretty easy to surmise that the vertical pattern is going to lower the pitch of the shell.

The HUB: It sounds like with all the variables: the wood species, grain direction, and the number of plies, the possibilities are practically limitless. It seems like that could be a lot of fun but also daunting in sorting out all those possibilities.

JG: Yes, it could be daunting, but I’ve got a factory in which anything is possible. I’ve got great big presses where I can put stuff together and press the plywood in any direction I want. We’ve got the drum heaters, all the saws, and most of all, I have very talented people. They get excited when I get excited. We’re going to do something new. Sure, there’s rolling of the eyes, ‘What’s he doing now?’ But its keeping the fun in the research that keeps this place going.

The HUB: I’m glad you touched on your crew. I watched a couple of your videos and was taken by the artistry of Louie Garcia, who does the graphics on your drums. I was curious, did he arrive with those skills, or is that something that evolved as Louie worked at DW?

JG: Louie started in the automotive world, painting cars in the Oxnard, California area and he came on board maybe 22 years ago to prep drums. I had no idea what a tremendous talent I had right underneath my nose. At the time, I had a painter, and when he left us Louie stepped up to plate. He started showing me some of the art and airbrushing he could do. He can take a photograph of almost anything, and free-hand paint it on a drum with an airbrush. The guy is incredibly talented.

The HUB: Doing that work free-hand, not using stencils must take some amazing hand-eye coordination as well as the artistic sense to pull that off.

JG: We just did a drum set for an artist of ours in Germany, Bertram Engel, who plays with Peter Maffay. He wanted his drum kit to look like a ship. So how do you do that? You sit there and talk to Louie. He’s the kind of guy that if you can explain your dreams, he can make it happen. He just did an amazing job on this drum kit and Bertram is very, very happy. You know he painted rivets and rust around the rivets. You look at it and you’d swear it’s metal.

Betram Drumset
DW Drums’ talented graphic artist Louie Garcia applied a mind-bogglingly realistic battleship-motif paint job on the custom kit built for German drummer Bertram Engel.

The HUB:He creates the dimensionality to fool your eye.

JG: He does it so artistically and I’m very proud and happy that we have him.

The HUB: Can you talk about the highly specialized machinery in your plant? I was curious to what extent it’s built to order, or are they “off the rack” machines that you buy?

JG: There are a few things that are off the rack. like guillotines for clipping the veneers. When you make plywood, you cross-laminate it then put it into a hot press that has many levels, or platens, and you press it at 200 degrees at 3100 pounds for three minutes, and out pops beautiful plywood. I’m not talking Home Depot plywood, this is pretty swingin’ plywood we make here. So before you make the shell you’ve got to make the plywood. I have guys making plywood all day, every day of their lives.

Some of the processes can’t be done with off-the-rack machines. How do you cut with two saws and hold the plywood so that you have perfectly parallel sides? Well, we had to make that machine. I have a very talented machinery builder who’s on board here. We tell tell him what we’re trying to do, and we’ll put our heads together to build that machine. We have another cutting machine that cuts on demand. It’s a very specific machine that has to move in and out and cut the plywood to length. Because when you cut plywood to length, you have to use it immediately. Why do you have to use it immediately? Because it’ll shrink. We’re in Southern California and right now it’s about 8-12 percent humidity, so we have foggers going in the shell shop—it’s raining in there right now. We’re making great drum shells, or we’re making mushrooms, I’m not sure which. [Laughs].

The HUB: How much humidity is ideal in the shell-building process?

JG: I like to keep it at at least 35 percent. I’d like it to be closer to 50, but those poor people working in there, it’s like Nicaragua, you know?

The HUB: So when the Pacific Ocean weather moves in and you get a little moisture you can back off on the artificial humidity?

JG: Absolutely. We’re riding that clutch every day, and you’ve got to have the right people running that show in there. They get in at six o’clock in the morning and they call the shots on where we need to put the humidity. When it’s as dry as it is right now we have to leave that system running all night long. So there’s that kind of machinery we’re dealing with.

Then, the drum shell presses themselves, those are certainly not off-the-rack machines. I have some world-class machinery builders in Taiwan that have made our drum heaters. I’ll go in there and describe the features that we want. They have a basic chassis, but we like to customize all of our stuff to fit our needs. We have a wide variety of drum shells, and these machines have to perform at different thicknesses, different dimensions, with different types of wood, and everything has to be sensitive to that. Not to mention built-in safety features, because this is dangerous stuff; we’re dealing with a lot of heat and pressure.

Getting into the sanding of these shells, we’ve got a ton of different sanders, stroke sanders and machines that roll the shell while peeling off the glue residues on the outside and the inside of the shells. We don’t just take a newly made shell out of the heater while it’s hot and set it on the floor. We did that for years and had numerous failures. It depends on the kind of day you have. You don’t know if you’ve got the fog rolling in off the Channel Islands, or you’ve got Santa Ana winds and all the hills are on fire. It changes here from day to day. So what we’ve found is we take a shell molded at 200 degrees and 2600 pounds of pressure and pull it out of the press steaming hot, then put it in another drum molding machine that is cold, and put the shell under 2600 pounds of pressure. That takes all the heat out of the shell. It makes the heat dissipate evenly in about four or five minutes. The glue crystallizes, and when you pull it out, you’ve got a rock-solid, hard shell that is as round as we can humanly make it. We all know that a round shell is easier to tune and a harder shell is more resonant. We call that the Cool Tempered Shell Process, and we were lucky enough to get a patent on that.

Then, when you get into the spraying of the shells, we’re just now getting our UV [ultraviolet] curing booth up and running. That’s exciting for us right now. We have three different spray booths with three different procedures doing sealing, colors, and top coats. etc. The booths may be off the rack, but then we have to polish this stuff, and we’re using up to 1500-grit sandpaper. We have to have machines made to polish the shells. The simplest way is with a buffing wheel, and we did that for a number of years. But that relies so heavily on the operator and how he feels, how he’s holding the shell, etc. So we developed our own machine. You put the shell horizontally between these rollers and they expand and start to turn the shell in a clockwise motion, turning it like a screw in and out with a belt that’s going in the other direction that’s made of a lamb’s wool-type of material. It strokes back and forth and toughens that lacquer up, getting it very, very flat. To me, that’s the best way to polish drum shells.

The HUB: So. it takes the variability out of the process?

JG: It certainly does. You end up with a very glassy, hard finish. Then we move into all the bearing-edge stuff that we have to do. We have router bits cut for our purposes. We have tables on which the guys cut the bearing edges. I wanted that to be a hand-made part of the shell, because a guy’s touch is vital. It’s got to be flat and on an even plane with the right counter cut to the outside and the right angle to the inside. So we’ve developed those tables for routers.

Then on snare drums, we’ve got to put a snare bed in the resonant side of the drum shell. We’ve developed a machine that simultaneously cuts the shape of the share bed on both sides of the shell. Some drum makers subscribe to just taking the profile of the bearing edge and then flattening it out slightly to create the bed. I used to do that years ago, but we’ve developed this machine that cuts the snare bed shape and retains the bearing edge all the way in and back out again. It makes the bottom head tremendously tunable.

Then you’ve got to drill all the holes in the drum, right? I’ve spent a fair chunk of change on a machine that has a multiple-spindle drill head on it; there’s a pyramid part that opens up with air pressure so you can put any size drum on it. The machine scans a barcode on the shell’s paperwork that contains all the information about it. It then drills and turns the shell while switching to different drill bit sizes for the name badge, or floor tom legs, or bass drum spurs, etc.

The HUB: So everything is computer-controlled?

JG: It sure is and this bad boy even emails the salesman to tell him that this shell is done.

The HUB: Who develops that software for you?

JG: Our IT Director here, Curtis Ludders, helped quite a bit. And then we had an IT guy from the machinery company as well as help from Haas Automation. It’s stuff that’s basically way over my head. I can tell them what I want, but I sure as heck couldn’t program something like that!

The HUB: How do you train the folks who tune the drums?

JG: There’s another gizmo involved, before I get into how they tune. I’ve got two drum tuners out there—that’s what they do all day. So if they’re out sick or missing in action, guess who becomes the drum tuner? I do. We’ve got this little drum turntable like a Lazy Susan, and you’re bending over all day tuning. That can really tax your back. After about an hour of that I’m useless. So my machine builder here built me a little scissor lift. We use a DW 5000 bass drum pedal to pump it up, and it lifts the turntable up to the height needed for whatever size drum you’re tuning. That’s another specialty piece of gear.

The HUB: Ergonomics must be critical when you’re doing it all day long.

JG: If you want to really focus on what you’re doing, comfort is priority number one.

So we timbre-match the drums, we analyze the shells, and we go so far as to put the note that the shell was analyzed at on a sticker on the inside of the drum. What that’s designed to do is offer a note to which we like to tune the bottom resonant head. So we get that close, on tom toms especially. Then, depending on how much velocity you’re going to hit that drum with, you can go sharp from there. On the batter head, you can vary a whole or a half step—it’s all about your taste. We tune those drums so we know the shell’s working, the bearing edges are right. We use a quality DW Head made by Remo USA.

So as you can see, there’s a lot that goes into it. Also, I spent about a year of my life with Rich Sikra here at the office developing what we call the True-Hoop, which is a very flat counter hoop. The ears are spread out and distortion-free. We roll the top of the triple flange all the way around for a nice bead of strength around the top of the hoop, and we spent a lot of time making that right. Once you’ve got a great bearing edge, a really well-made drum head, and you’ve got a counter hoop you can rely on that is flat and distortion-free, then you can do an awful lot with tuning.

In the beginning, we started with a 12/24 thread pitch on the tension rod—that’s 24 threads per inch. I felt the need to make it finer than that, so we went to 30 threads. We call that True Pitch. I’m also working on a rod with a much finer pitch for problem drums with 50 threads. There’s nothing standing in our way other than a receiver nut and a tension rod. I’m making them out of stainless steel, and we’re in the testing phase right now. We don’t even know yet what we’ll be calling it—Fine Pitch, or something like that.

Everything I do is focused around tuning drums. So making the True Pitch tension rod made that a lot easier. I still sweat tining 8” and 10”toms—it’s just my problem that I have with those smaller drums. So I tooled up some of these Fine Pitch tension rods, and now tuning an 8” and a 10” drum is a joy. So we’re experimenting right now with factory-installed and after-market very fine thread tension rods. It will open up the tunability of drums ten-fold.

The HUB: It makes perfect sense that with finer threads you can nail tuning more precisely.

JG: You might be traveling right past the semitones or quarter-tones that you’re looking for. With finer threads this happens a lot slower. Sure it’s going to take a little longer to change a drum head, but who cares?

The HUB: I wanted to touch on the Icon snares you guys recently introduced. We were blown away by the level of artistry that went into the inlay and marquetry work to replicate graphics associated with the bands of the three drummers involved. I wondered if you could talk a little about the process.

JG: Thank you for noticing! I’m very proud of those instruments. Not only are they pieces of art, they’re also really nice, very playable snare drums. The process of doing them started with Louie doing a layout on the computer. He had to make sure the graphics didn’t fall in a place a lug is going to be. Once the layout was complete, we searched for the wood.

For example, the Dark Side of the Moon graphic has a dyed grey birdseye background. We laid out the pulse line using dyed bass wood in various colors. Then we laid out where the prism goes. Dyed-blue poplar was used around the edges of the prism. The center of the prism was ebony, and then the beam coming into the prism was natural maple. When you put all that together with the fan out of the colors, you’re using all these bits of wood that come from all these people I’ve come to know. We basically take all these resources and put them together. We make the program and we send it to this outfit in Indiana that actually has the laser cutting equipment. They do work for aircraft interiors for sheikhs, kings and queens. It just so happens the main guy there is a drummer and he’s been tremendously helpful in getting this done.

Neil Peart of Rush, Roger Taylor of Queen, and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd talk about the Icon Snares that were designed to honor this trio of legendary rock drummers.

The HUB: That helps explain how you achieved such intricacy with the inlay work. It’s laser-guided, huh?

JG: There’s a lot to the laser cutting. You have to cut with what they call “draft.” It’s not just a straight cut downward; you have to cut at an angle. Then the opposite image has to be cut with equal draft so when you’re dealing with very precision inlaying, when you place the piece down into the glue, the draft takes up any variable around the sprockets on Neil Peart's Time Machine drum, or for example, the Queen crest. That’s very difficult to do. But once you sand it on the top, it’s almost seamless. You can’t even see where one piece ends and the other one begins. The Icon Series continues to be a very gratifying program. Hopefully, next year we’ll include another artist.

The HUB: It sounds like having forged this partnership with the folks in Indiana the sky’s the limit in terms of what you could pull off with that kind of inlay work.

JG: It’s fun to be able to do it with dyed exotic woods as opposed to just paint jobs. Of course Louie’s painting is second to none. I had a hang tag made of maple and walnut that says “Laser Wooden Inlay Made in the USA” in walnut with a maple background. I put that on the case so people understand that it’s not a bloody decal, this is actual inlaid wood! Its been accepted in the market very well. We introduced the Icon series at winter NAMM and we also had it displayed at the Frankfurt Music Fair.

Learn more about the creation of the Collector Series Icon Snares

The HUB: It sure got a lot of buzz. As you talk, it becomes more and more evident that there’s an enormous amount of handcrafting that goes into DW drums. Obviously, that impacts the price, and I wondered to what extent the development of the PDP line is a response to those economic realities.

JG: Well yes, with everything we put into the Collector’s Series drums, if you can dream it, I will try and build it for you. But there’s also a large audience that are just starting out or are not financially in that place. We developed PDP primarily for those folks. For example, the Concept Maple and Concept Birch PDP drums are very high quality drums for the dollar. We’ve also gotten into what we call the Design Series that’s made at DW Taiwan. I’m very happy with those drums. If you’ve played or seen them, they’re extremely good quality for a very fair price.

From there we go to the serious mid-range, the Performance Series, which is made right here in our factory. And then we have the Collector’s Series. I’m trying to supply drums to dreamers, who want the kit they’ve dreamed of all their lives, with whatever kind of exotic wood, whatever kind of inlay, whatever hardware option, be it gold, satin chrome, chrome nickel, oe black nickel. We have all these different things to dress up the drums. Then there are Louie’s paint jobs on top of all that. But, of course, the price tag keeps going up because we’re not only making it in America, but in one of the hardest places to manufacture, California, because of the regulations, taxes and all the things that go along with it.

But all the way back down at the other end of the spectrum, we’re not interested in just building a cheap drum set. We want to build a really quality instrument at a very fair price, so we can include a bigger family of players.

The HUB: A lot of the Musician’s Friend customers have more ambition and enthusiasm than they do cash. What advice do you have for the drummer who’s just starting out in terms of building a kit on a tight budget?

JG: Budget’s got to be the first thing you’re thinking about when you’re starting out, and you have to decide if this is really going to be for you. Drummers see an awful lot of value, but they also hear with their eyes sometimes. I always suggest that the PDP brand is a great way to get started.

I always hated that people would go get Johnny a little plastic ukulele because it only cost ten dollars. And then he sits there and goes “kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk,”. and then he puts the thing down because it doesn’t make a pleasing sound. It’s a toy!

If you’re really going to help a young man or woman, you give them an instrument with a sound that inspires them to keep going. Once you catch that bug and you get inspired, then. and only then, do you start to dream about where you can take your musical expression and have that instrument become the voice that you’re trying to create.

Shop the huge selection of DW and PDP drums, hardware, and accessories at Musician’s Friend


# Collink 2015-01-28 06:00
I'm a drummer of over 30 years. I have played every brand of drum, and most of the finest models from every manufacturer. I have owned and played 4 different DW kits over the years. I have not found any other drum set to be as personally satisfying to own, msintain, and play as DW kits. This is in no small part due to the relentless innovation and commitment to creating a better experience for the drummer. DW is what works for me.
# Mark 2016-04-26 12:13
Well said. I agree with you 100%.
The passion at DW has bore unrivaled quality innovation & success. Amazing drums that inspire you to play them just so you get to hear more of their sweet sounds. I love my kit and wish I could sit & talk with Mr Good.
# Ernesto Pediangco 2015-01-10 08:57
John Good speaks from actual experimenting and doing while Geo is in denial that he is less qualified to state such negative comments. He simply has a need to be controversial: That input ~ is that aside from the sciences and other expertise going into the development of drums is the tuning system and john has stated some obvious up grades on the engineering details regarding the screw threads. This is a smart assessment and shows freedom from the long established old school standards limitations from when the American drum tuning system was developed for CALF skin heads. In MY opinion and as a result of all my drum tech research and experimentation and tinkering...the old system need to be completely re engineered in regard the the high tension plastic head varieties and the heavier way drummers play in many music genres. My system corrects the design issues in all Latin drums and progresses the old American drum tuning system, adding new capabilities. Ernesto.P
# Guru Drums 2014-06-20 07:26
Reply to Geo Rimes.

Of course, your personal recording experience & preferences are as valid as anyone else's, but whatever your opinion of DW drums, there's no doubt that John has helped craft a very successful company. If there's one thing business experience has taught me, it's that there's always substance behind long term success.

Calling someone a fraud on the basis they've got their marketing right, is over the top to say the least. I/we make some of the finest sounding drums out there. We know our craft, inside out, & my opinion of DW's drums is that they represent a quality product delivered with passion.
Drum design is all about aligning elements in a cohesive way to get the results you're after. Features, in themselves, are irrelevant, & that's often lost.
# Geo Rimes 2014-06-18 14:02
As Pearl has said time and time again in its videos, if you have a variance in timbre, you don't have consistency in your shells. Hear that John?
You don't have to timbre match Pearl shells, why? read the above statement again slowly.
I've put Pearl Masterworks, Tama Star, Brady and/or a Rocketshells kits against DWs and time and time again they've all recorded better and outperformed better on stage in and outdoors.
That's not why I don't own any more DWs oddly enough, it's the incessant bullshit coming out of John's mouth that sent me running from the company.
You can't temper wood John. Especially not plywood of cross grained configurations.
Your a marketing genius, but a fraud. Can't wait till they all begin to wake up and see it John.
# adrumsadrumadrum 2015-11-23 19:12
always thought JG's marketing skills exceeded everything else, plus making a product that looks like top shelf eye candy; in Australia I think they are way way over priced; their Classic series, is a remake of Keller's Vintage Mahogany; I also think DW manipulates the sound of their drums using slightly altered heads, well you can put thicker heads on any drum and make it sound better in my opinion; I think DW is responsible for a lot of innovations, how many are really usefull is debatable; I use their hardware but there is plenty out there now which is just as good; like a lot of top shelf drum companies, more marketing than substance; I'm sure they are good drums but I'll live happily without them thanks. a drums a drum a drum
# Frank 2014-07-20 08:42
That's just complete Bull, Geo.
Every drum made out of wood will have variance in timbre. That's plain logic because every tree grows a bit different and you will never get two pieces of plywood that are exactly the same.
# Hoby Bonelli 2014-05-31 22:44
Wow! This is the most indepth interview on building the perfect drum I've ever read. Thanks mucho bunches to The HUB for this article. Eventhough I grew up playing all maple Ludwigs and Slingerlands, I've always loved the sound, performance and tonality of DW kits. Thank you again!

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