Far from just a pretty background, far from the ungrateful status of a rhythmic stooge and role of b(r)and ambassador bearing the name of the group plastered across the instrument, the drummer is the guide, the foundation of any group. (S)he’s also the most physically connected to the instrument, with the whole body being used to play it. Scalable and conspicuous, a drum kit can be reduced to its simplest form, or taken to gargantuan proportions (like the kits of Terry Bozzio or Mike Portnoy). In a seemingly infinity of configurations, certain drum kits have become as legendary as their performers. Here’s an overview of some of them that also have an immense aura about them.
A true reference in the guitar world, the Gretsch brand is no less so a reference in the world of drums. It may not be a surprise then that the main revenue from the brand in its first five years was concentrated on drums after its banjo and tambourine lines. From a small shop founded in the USA in 1883 by German immigrant, Friedrich Grestch, the shop grew after Grestch’s death thanks to the determination of his son, Fred, who developed archtop guitars to diversify the company's offer. The family business expanded after the war thanks to grandsons William followed by Fred Grestch Jr. Grestch’s famous drum owes much of its success to the jazz scene breakthrough of the 1950s and 1960s when musicians like Art Blakey, Tony Williams or Elvin Jones adopted models adorned with the famous "round-badge." The brand then gained its legitimacy in the field of rock with the support of Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones including, a few years after the major technological evolution of the drums, the passage of three to six layers of wood. Then, Phil Collins of Genesis or even more recently, Brad Will of Rage Against the Machine chose to carry on the high the standard of this versatile drum thanks to its exceptional sound that’s deliciously retro.
The brand Drum Workshop, or DW for pros, may seem like the youngster of the group in comparison to the others, with a birthdate of 1972. The drum is thanks to Don Lombardi who developed it in a school of music with the help of student John Good. The first musical product they marketed as a team was unusual (a height-adjustable stool) but so successful that it allowed the company to buy Camco and expand its product range to include the famous pedal drum from its 5000 series. It was soon joined by a double pedal before the duo started developing complete kits. The brand stands out for its exceptional quality, ensuring a precise and sharp sound, and perfect tonal balance. As for its reputation, it's been endorsed by a pedigree of drummers who are faithful to it including Dave Grohl, Chad Smith, Dominic Howard and of course Neil Peart, whose kits border on excessive: his kits were customized to match the album cover's of Rush and special mention goes to the one with bronzed based one with its nod to the Time Machine album.
The fatherly direction of Ludwig Musser, could be summed up in three common names in the history of rock drums: Ringo Starr, John Bonham and Alex Van Halen. Their respective models became mythical: the kit with the finish Oyster Black Pearl, the famous Ludwig Vistalite with its transparent drums and its runic symbol on the bass drum, and of course the quadruple bass drum kit of Van Halen. These models, both mythical and unique, illustrate the diversity of this Musser's offer of highly visual kits. But it is mostly thanks to a snare drum model that Ludwig's kits became legendary with the famous Supraphonic LM400, known to be the most recorded in the world.
Pearl is the first major brand to have been a heavy contender to US competitors in the sector. Initially available only in Japan, the company that was founded by Katsumi Yanagisawa in 1946 to market desks, gradually became a benchmark in the field of drums in the mid-1950s. Its reputation for strength and durability alongside versatility soon transcended borders. Above all, the drum kits are based on a look that is both classic and elegant, two guarantees of a timeless product. Many rock pundits will trusted it, making it memorable in the minds of many: Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Ian Paice (Deep Purple) or the spectacular Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe).
The other legendary Japanese brand experienced a meteoric rise in the mid-1960s thanks to the very affordable prices and range of products. Tama, produced in China, became all the rage in the United States, with higher-end models produced in Japan. Its particularly powerful and well-defined sound ensures excellent arrangements for metal. It’s thus attracted the favors of such specialists as Bill Ward of Black Sabbath, John Dolmayan of System of a Down and of course Lars Ulrich of Metallica (with his white Tama and black hardware).