The drums pictured below fall into several different categories. The instruments listed at the very top of the page are the ones I use most frequently for orchestral playing. Some of these instruments are antiques and some of these are modern instruments.
Towards the middle of the page are a handful of drums which are very much playable but are in my collection more as pieces representative of the era in which they were constructed. These drums were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are more at home in jazz and rock idioms.
Nearer to the bottom of the page are drums which I collect almost purely for their historical significance. Drums such as these make up the majority of my personal collection. While many of these instruments are still playable, others have outlived their usefulness as practical musical instruments and now live to serve purely as historical examples of the companies which built them. Most of the antiques I seek out and preserve were made in Boston, Massachusetts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and represent a lost chapter in the history of American drum building.
5" x 14" Brass Snare Drum
This has become my go to drum for general orchestral playing. Built from a black nickel plated brass shell, it is an all metal drum with individually adjustable cable and wire snare units.
This is a crisp, powerful instrument with a sound that only brass can provide - not too dark and 'woofy' but not too bright or thin. It is sensitive at soft dynamics but still articulate at loud dynamics making it the closest thing I have found to an ideal general drum.
Eames Master Model Snare Drum
This drum was built for me by Joe MacSweeney at Eames Drum Shells in the Fall of 2008. Joe builds great drums in the tradition of the George B. Stone & Son Drum Company going all the way back to 1890.
Of the three Eames drums I own, this is by far my favorite. With an 18 ply, 3/4" thick Birch shell there is no lack of projection. A second air vent gives this drum a bit more 'bark' than usual. And with a depth of 5.75" it walks the line beautifully between bright and crisp, and deep and powerful.
4" x 14" Late 1920s Ludwig Professional
Built in the late 1920s, this drum has a two-piece nickel plated brass shell which overlaps at the bead and is soldered together. Where the shell flanges inward to form the bearing edges, it is flanged a second time back towards the shell and is soldered onto itself again. The resulting heavy brass shell is extremely sturdy and exceptionally sensitive.
Simply equipped with thin plastic heads and Puresound 12 strand concert snare wires, this drum is my favorite for soft playing.
This Eames Master-Model is built around a 15 ply, 5/8" thick birch shell. It was ordered in 2005 by Boston Pops drummer Jim Gwin, but Jim liked my drum better, and I prefered his. So the trade was made. But this one still has Jim's name stamped inside!
For my taste, this drum is an exceptional all around drum along with the brass 5" x 14" pictured above.
5" x 14" Late 1920s Ludwig Professional
This is another late 1920s Ludwig, again with a heavy two-piece brass shell. An inch deeper than the above 4" x 14" model, this drum has a bit more power and a slightly lower fundamental pitch.
Set up with thin plastic heads and natural gut snares, this drum has a fantastically rich and cutting character.
Eames Mastertone Snare Drum
This Eames Mastertone snare drum was built for me by Joe MacSweeney in 2003. The 5.5" x 14" shell is 12 ply birch with an overall thickness of 1/2 inch.
With a slightly more open sound than the 15 ply Master-Model, this drum is a nice combination of crisp and 'woody'. It works well for me at a higher tunings and sees regular use in multi-percussion setups.
Black Swamp Brass SoundArt Snare Drum
This was my general snare drum for concert playing for many years after buying it new in 1999. I used this drum for the majority of the snare drum repertoire on both my Navy Band and BSO auditions. The shell is 1/8" thick solid brass and the drum weighs 20 pounds.
Though it can sound box-like in some rooms, it is impossible to overplay this instrument. It has a surprisingly warm sound and is amazingly sensitive for a 6 inch deep drum.
Ludwig & Ludwig "Super-Ludwig" Snare Drum
This drum dates from the early 1930s during which time Conn owned the Ludwig company. The earlier two piece shells gave way to a very similar one piece shell as is the case on this example. The original wire snares are intact on this drum and can be tensioned individually with a screw driver.
This is a powerful brass drum with a brighter than usual sound due to the wire snares. Equipped with a thin plastic heads, this is a tasteful concert sound for certain occasions.
Ludwig & Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum
This drum dates from 1932 - 1934 and has a one piece heavy brass shell. The hardware is plated in what Ludwig called "Art Gold", an imitation gold plating. The engraving pattern here is more understated than the earlier Black Beauties and is typical of the engraved Ludwigs of the early to mid 1930s.
Slingerland "Hollywood Ace Model"
This drum has a special place in my collection because it belongs to my Dad who was a drummer and percussionist before going on to a long career as a college band director. He purchased it new at a local music store in 1959 or 1960.
This snare drum has the typical Slingerland three ply mahogany / poplar/ mahogany shell with maple reinforcing rings and is covered in black diamond pearl wrap.
Gretsch "Chrome Plated Metal Snare Drum"
It was commonplace for drum companies to include a metal snare drum with new drumsets sold in the 1960s. Gretsch was no stranger to this practice and the drum pictured here in fact came to me with a silver sparkle round badge kit.
Purchased from the family of the original owner, the drum is in good condition with a proprely functioning 'microsensitive' throw-off and original 42 strand snare wires which are a bit overkill for my taste.
Gretsch "Dixieland Separate Tension Snare Drum"
Dating from the 1960s, this was one of Gretsch's student model drums and was distinguished by the use of only 6 lugs and the 'renown' throw-off. It is also equipped with diecast hoops which were a feature unique to Gretsch at the time. Gretsch's top of the line models during the same era utilized 8 lugs and the microsensitive strainer.
I originally bought this drum because it was green but it quickly became my favorite for jazz drumset.
George B. Stone & Son "Separate Tension Orchestra Drum"
First produced in the early 1910s, the Stone Separate Tension Orchestra Drum predated the Master-Model as the company's top of the line snare drum. The two models were produced concurrently during the 1920s and are both catalogued in Stone's Catalog "K" published in 1925.
This example dates roughly from the late 1920s and features a 5/8" thick three ply maple shell with no reinforcing rings, and one ply maple counterhoops. (Earlier examples utilize a thin one ply shell with three solid reinforcing rings.) Where the Separate Tension Orchestra Drum differs from the Master-Model is in its smaller snare throw-off which is attached to the bottom hoop, and in its hoop-side tensioning as opposed to the Master-Model's method of adjusting each rod from the side of the drum.
For more on George B. Stone & Son and the Stone Separate Tension Drums visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.
George B. Stone & Son Black Beauty Separate Tension Drum
Boston's George B. Stone & Son produced a great of drums in black lacquer finishes during the 1920s and into the 1930s. Most were either Master-Model snare drums or bass drums from matching drumsets. Much less common are black lacquered examples of the Separate Tension Orchestra Drum.
Read more about the Stone Black Beauty Separate Tension Drum at: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2016/01/the-stone-black-beauty-separate-tension.html
George B. Stone Separate Tension Band Drum
Dating roughly from the late 1910s or early 1920s, this model represents the Stone Company's top of the line offering for field drums. This particular example measures 8" x 15" and has fourteen separate tension tube lugs. The slotted tension rods connect to the hoops using die cast metal hooks.
This drum predates the two Separate Tension Drums pictured above and is different in a few subtle ways from later examples. Note the rosewood grommet and the omission of the word "INC." on the badge. Also, the drum employs double post tube lugs and has a one-ply maple shell with four maple reinforcing rings.
Upon arrival this drum was in rough shape. It had a nasty crack running halfway around the shell and was missing the strainer, one tension rod, and a claw. Worse, the whole thing had been crudely repainted. Normally a purest, I decided to have this drum refinished due to its poor condition and relative scarcity. The end result is striking in appearance and is as true to the original as could be achieved. It is also a great sounding drum when a deep, warm field drum is called for.
George B. Stone & Son "Master-Model Drum"
This drum dates from December of 1923 and is the earliest of my eleven complete Stone Master-Models. It differs in several ways from the later examples including the use of round tensioning nuts instead of hexagonal shaped ones, and a rosewood grommet rather than the threaded plastic version which would become standard on Stone drums by the end of 1924. The badge on this drum is also rather unique in that it is made from a silver colored metal and makes no mention of the Master-Model name.
A comprehensive overview of the Master-Model drums is available at blog.BostonDrumBuilders.com in three parts:
Do you have a drum built by George B. Stone & Son? I want to hear from you! Send Lee and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
George B. Stone & Son "Master-Model Drum"
First introduced in 1922, the Master-Model Drum was Stone's premier snare drum offering and remains the most recognizable and iconic instrument produced by the company. Originally marketed as the "All-Weather Drum", the name "Master-Model" was adopted by late 1922. More than 700 Master-Model Drums were ultimately produced.
The most commonly applied finish is what Stone cataloged as "Black De Luxe", as seen above. Second most common is the natural maple finish seen here. This particular example was in very poor condition upon arrival underwent a full restoration with the help of Adrian Kirchler and Will Tillman.
For more on George B. Stone and Son, please visit: BostonDrumBuilders.com/stone.html
George B. Stone & Son "All-Metal Master-Model Drum"
George B. Stone & Son All-Metal Master-Model Drums are quite uncommon. No such instrument is included in Stone's catalogs of the 1920s, though it was announced in trade publications in July of 1925.
The shell is made of solid aluminum and is painted silver. The hoops are also formed from aluminum but are polished to a shine and are not painted. The remaining hardware is nickel plated and is all typical of mid - late 1920s Stone Master-Models.
For more on this rare drum, see: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2013/03/george-b-stone-son-all-metal-master.html
Nokes & Nicolai Separate Tension Orchestra Drum
Nokes & Nicolai was a Boston-based drum builder from 1912 through 1926. The Separate Tension Orchestra Drum was their premier wooden shell snare drum offering. Bird's-eye maple, seen here, was an available option at an added cost.
This particular model employs a unique tensioning method allowing each head to be tuned separately by adjusting the tension rods with a wrench near the center posts. The posts are formed from milled brass and allow the rods to turn freely.
Stamped metal hooks attach over the wooden rims and house swivel nuts into which the tension rods feed. Tight fitting stamped metal caps cover the posts giving a more complete appearance while keeping the tension rods in place when not under tension.
For more information about Nokes & Nicolai please visit: BostonDrumBuilders.com/nokes&nicolai.html.
Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drum
Nokes & Nicolai appears to have had more success than any of the other Boston Drum Builders at manufacturing metal shell drums. As metal drums gained in popularity through the 1910s and into the 1920s, virtually every American drum company had their own rendition, the most common shell choice being nickel plated brass. Nokes & Nicolai constructed theirs around a thick, polished aluminum shell riveted together at the seam.
Nokes & Nicolai All Metal Drums are easily recognizable by the star shaped vent hole configuration and logo stamped shell and hoops. Of the four in my personal collection, this early example with polished aluminum counter hoops is the cleanest and least altered from its original condition. Later production models utilize an updated snare strainer and diecast hoops eliminating the need for rim clips.
For more on this drum, please visit:
Nokes & Nicolai Double Tension Rod Orchestra Drum
This remarkably well preserved Nokes & Nicolai Double Tension Rod Orchestra Drum features a shallow 3" x 14" one ply maple shell and would have been at home in a vaudeville orchestra pit with its matching 26" single headed bass drum. In trtuh, so called 'double tension' drums are in fact single tension seeing as the heads cannot be tuned independantly of one another, only simultaneously.
Upon arrival from a retired musical instrument dealer south of Boston, the original heads were missing so new oversized flesh hoops were required. New calfskins were then tucked and the heads left to drum on the shell allowing for a perfect fit. The end result is a drum that is literally just as it would have left the factory circa 1920.
Do you have an instrument made by Nokes & Nicolai? I want to hear from you! Send Lee and email at email@example.com.
Stromberg Invincible Orchestra Drum
Charles A. Stromberg, originally a cabinet maker by trade, immigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1887. He worked for Boston's Thompson & Odell for eighteen years as foreman in their banjo, mandolin and guitar factory before going into business on his own about 1905.
The drum seen here dates from March of 1906 and is a splendid example of Stromberg's early drum patents, both granted in 1904. The fully functioning snare throw-off and separate tension lugs were revolutionary at the time this drum was produced. It is a finely crafted, wonderfully well-preserved antique snare drum.
For more on this beautiful instrument, please see: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2015/04/the-celebrated-stromberg-invincible.html
ca. 1905 Stromberg Artist Drum
In addition to producing custom-made guitars, banjos, and professional level snare and bass drums, Stromberg also built instruments aimed at amateur players. Such was the case with this "Artist Drum" dating from about 1905.
Note that while this drum was produced at roughly the same time as the one pictured above, this is a single tension drum which does not allow for the heads to be tuned independently.
A puzzling wooden brace sits loosely inside of the drum, but why? See the pictures and decide for yourself at:
Charles A. Stromberg Orchestra Drum
Likely dating from the 1910s, this drum bears a label stating that it was produced for a musical instrument retailer in Rhode Island. The Stromberg snare strainer and butt are both stamped with a patent date of March 8th, 1904.
Upon arrival this drum was in abysmal condition so a full restoration was undertaken. The missing hardware was fabricated by Italian master craftsman Adrian Kirchler who then replated all of the parts in nickel as they were originally. The shell and hoops were faithfully restored in using period correct materials and techniques by Will Tillman.
For more information about Charles A. Stromberg, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.
Stromberg Supertone Orchestra Drum, ca. late 1920s
This drum by Charles A. Stromberg and Son dates roughly from the late 1920s and in many ways represents the pinnacle of drum building in Boston during the early 20th Century. With its separate tension lugs, aluminum hoops, securely functioning snare throw-off, and peerless crafsmanship, this instrument rivaled those offered by the drum building titans of the age - Leedy, Ludwig, and Slingerland.
Stromberg would ultimately move away from building drums and along with his youngest son Elmer become best known for their big-body archtop guitars of the 1940s and 1950s.
Do you have a drum by Charls A. Stromberg? I would love to see it! Email Lee anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harry A. Bower Snare Drum, 1917-1918
Harry A. Bower was a prolific inventor, author, and performer and was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1904 to 1907. He is perhaps best known as having authored the Imperial Method for the Drum (1898) and the Harry A. Bower System (in three parts) for the Drums, Bells, Xylophone, Timpani (1911) to of the earliest percussion method books to treat the drum as something other than a miliary instrument, and to include timpani and mallet percussio nalongside the snare drum.
Bower's drums range unusual to the excentric. This particular drum is not uncommn with its oversized flesh hops doubling a counterhoops, and a compressed fiber shell wrapped in a sheet of thin nickel. Bower's patented snare mechanism was one of the earliest to maintain tension on the snares as they were disengauged from the drum. This design also allowed the wires to be tensioned across the head, or against the bottom of the drum.
For more on Harry A. Bower and the instruments he made, please visit BostonDrumBuilders.com.
Harry A. Bower Field Drum, 1924
The majority of Bower drums were produced in sizes most applicable for band and orchestra work. Field drum sizes and bass drums were much less common. The drum is built around a one ply birds-eye maple shell with two pairs of reinforcing rings - one pair inside the shell and one on the outside.
This particular drum, number 1022, was produced in 1924 making it the lateset of the five Bower drums in my collection. Serial numbers on Bower drums are useful to a point. A collection of known Bower drums with serial numbers can be seen at: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2012/09/harry-bower-serial-numbers.html
Do you have an instrument made by Harry Bower? I would love to hear from you! Send Lee and email at email@example.com.
F. E. Dodge Snare Drum, ca. 1902 - 1903
This is a very early F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum predating the Company's incorporation in 1903. The heads are tensioned by way of 18 single tension rods which adjust both heads simultaneously. The label inside reads as follows:
F. E. DODGE,
DRUMS TRAPS AND DRUM
PROFESSIONAL XYLOPHONE AND ORCHES-
TRA BELLS A SPECIALTY.
12 & 14 Winter St., Boston, Mass.
F. E. Dodge Orchestra Drum, ca. 1908 - 1909
The 1907 Dodge Drum catalog lists the Orchestra Drum in two sizes including the 4" x 15" model represented here. The shell is one ply maple with maple reinforcement rings and has a beautiful rosewood grommet. The strainer is stamped "PAT APL'D FOR" though no known patent was ever granted for this design.
Nokes & Nicolai succeeded F. E. Dodge in 1912 taking over the firm in every capacity. Note the strong resemblance between this drum and the Nokes & Nicolai drums above.
For more information about the F. E. Dodge Company visit BostonDrumBuilders.com/dodge.html.
Oliver Ditson Orchestra Drum, ca. 1910s
Boston's Oliver Ditson had a hand in founding both Cincinnati's John C. Church and Chicago's Lyon & Healy. And it may well be that Lyon & Healy was responsible for this drum as identical instruments exist with conflicting makers marks.
This drum matches well with the 1910 Ditson Wonderbook No. 4 and bears a label reading "made expressly for Oliver Ditson Co. Boston - New York. Labels which list all three Ditson outposts - Boston, New York, and Philadelphia - likely date from between 1904 and 1910 as the Philadelphia branch was closed in 1910.
J. C. Haynes & Co. Drum, ca. 1880s
John C. Haynes became involved with Oliver Ditson as early as 1852 and by 1861 was manager of J. C. Haynes & Company, Oliver Ditson & Company's Boston based musical merchandise department. It is a common misunderstanding that the Haynes company only produced drums during the Civil War. Haynes continued to operate for Ditson under the J. C. Haynes & Co name at the 33 Court Street address until 1889 when the retail business moved to Washington Street. The building at 33 Court was razed in 1898 and the Haynes department was finally absorbed under the Ditson name in 1903.
This drum likely dates from the mid-late 19th century prior to the death of Oliver Ditson in 1888 and the retail department's relocation in 1889.
Measuring 16" across by 8.25" deep, this shell and hoops constructed from a dark colored hardwood, possibly walnut. The shell is secured at the seam by a series of eleven brass tacks.
This drum is especially significant to me because I acquired from John H. Beck, retired professor of percussion at the Eastman School of Music. The drum had previously belonged to William G. Street, professor of percussion at the Eastman School of Music from 1927 to 1967.
J. B. Treat Artist Drum for Thompson & Odell, ca. 1890
Billed as "The Celebrated Artist Drum", Treat's drums for Thompson & Odell were large, rope tension drums intended for military and semi-military purposes. Shells were typically single ply maple, tacked at the seem, with single ply maple reinforcing rings. Hoops were commonly painted black around the outside with the rope connecting to the hoops via cast iron hooks for ease of use. Generally, these were straight ahead, well built, common looking rope drums of the late 19th century.
For more on the life of Jospeh B. Treat, please visit: http://blog.bostondrumbuilders.com/2015/02/joseph-b-treat-drummer.html
Thompson & Odell Prussian Style Drum, ca. 1880-1886
The Thompson & Odell firm is listed at 177 Washington Street from 1880 - 1886 during which time this drum was made. This instrument is what was commonly refered to by drum manufacturers and retailers during the late 19th century as "Prussian" Drums.
This example retains its original hardware used for attaching it to a belt or a sling worn over the shoulder which would be used while playing this drum in a standing position or while marching. Also of interest are the hoops which are in fact maple painted in a faux rosewood pattern.
This particular drum is probably another example of this Thompson & Odell distributing instruments built for them by an outside source. Many drums similar to this one have surfaced bearing a makers label from the Lyon & Healy Company of Chicago who likely produced this one as well.
A. W. White Field Drum, ca. 1863 - 1871
The White Brothers, Ira Johnson and Asa Warren, were known as "the first Boston master makers of violins". Both Whites are reported to have been fine woodworkers who taught themselves the craft of violin making by studying instruments from the European masters. Drum making evidently made up a comparatively small part of the brothers' operation who were known primarily for their string instruments.
This drum was manufactured by Asa Warren White after his brother Ira left for Malden around 1863, but before Asa partnered with Louis P. Goullaud around 1871.
For more about Asa Warren White, please visit: