Drum Shell Thickness: What’s Best for the Type of Music You Play?
Drum-shell thickness is a subject many drummers don’t pay enough attention to when choosing a kit, but it can be a big factor in how well your drums work for the type of playing you do. Although there’s no absolute formula for choosing the right shell thickness, there are several broad categories to choose from. Each presents unique advantages and disadvantages.
Shells in this category are typically 4-ply, with a thickness of 5mm. Thin-shell drums tend to have a very rich, resonant sound because they transfer energy more effectively between the head and the shell. For this reason, shells in this thickness range are well suited to studio recording and close-mic’d setups.
Drums in this range are generally 6-ply, with a thickness of 7.5mm. This in-between size tends to offer somewhat of a compromise, which can be a good thing for many players. Medium-thickness shells don’t vibrate as much as thin ones, and therefore don’t have as ‘hot’ of a sound, but they tend to project better. For this reason, medium-thickness shells can be a good all-around choice for studio or live work.
Drum shells in this category are usually either 8-ply and 10mm thick, or 10-ply and 12.5mm thick. With their high intensity and strong projection, thick shells are the heavy artillery of the drum world. They focus more energy and are therefore best suited to applications where high sound levels and intense projection are required.
There are, however, still many other elements that come into play when trying to get the ideal sound from a drum kit — type of wood, different heads, tuning variations, and even the kind of sticks you use can significantly affect what you hear.
Nonetheless, shell thickness is one of the most important fundamental elements of a drum. It strongly influences everything you do to tailor the sound of the kit. For this reason, you need to be honest with yourself about how you’re really going to use your drum kit. Once you know that, you can choose the most appropriate shell thickness for your kind of playing.