There is constant debate in the drumming community about the superiority of one type of construction method over the other. Some of the discussion is based on the attributes of each approach, but much of it is based on the fact that manufacturers specialize in one type vs the others. Naturally, they favor the approach their company takes.
Here at Noble & Cooley, we just want to make the best sounding drums we possibly can so that you can express yourself as a musician. You would think that, since much of our reputation is based on being the preeminent manufacturer of solid shell snare drums, we would be biased towards one ply construction methods. While we are very proud of our solid shell drums, ply shells represent the bulk of the drum world and have benefits solid shell drums cannot provide, just as solid shell drums have benefits ply drums cannot provide. As manufacturers of both solid shell and ply drums, our goal is to provide you, the artist, with enough different sonic choices so that your vision can be expressed with the voices you want. To make it a little easier, we have provided some of the pros and cons of each approach to serve as a guide and we are always available to answer questions directly. Ultimately however, it comes down to which drum you think sounds the best to you.
Which is better for your situation?
We are here to help, but it’s your choice.
Far and away the most played and recorded type of shell in music history
Ability to stagger the number of plies to create a uniformly optimal tone across all the shell sizes
Ability to create hybrid shells of different types of woods to maximize certain tonal qualities
Ability to vary ply thickness and types to match snare drums with kits
Easier to manufacture and thus relatively less expensive to produce and cheaper to buy
Easier to mass produce
Plies necessitate the use of glues which interfere with drum tone. (No one makes a drum out of glue)
Ubiquitous presence of ply kits makes it difficult to have a truly different sound
Not as loud, ambient or resonant as solid shell drums
Ply drums don’t have the same purity of tone as solid shell drums
One piece of wood allows for pure tone and resonation.
No glues or cross lamination to interfere with
the inherent sound of the particular wood.
Purity of tone
Clarity of tone
Most of the drum’s sound comes from the shell, not the heads
Inability to use different plies to capture and blend the tonal qualities of different woods in one drum
Limited to woods which respond to the bending process
Time intensive construction process increases costs rendering equivalent drums more expensive
Larger drum sizes are limited by the maximum growth potential of the different wood species
Larger shells are challenging to produce from a manufacturing perspective
Solid shells are difficult to produce in mass quantities
If you don’t like the tone of a particular kit, there is not much that can change it