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MMD > Archives > April 2001 > 2001.04.20 > 02Prev  Next

Calfskin Heads for Orchestrion & Band Organ Drums
By Stephen Kent Goodman

I've had several collectors comment after I finished a restoration
of their instruments with drums on how good the drums in particular
sounded.  I thought I would share some simple drum suggestions which
I use.

Firstly,  the old heads, being made of leather, should be replaced
with new calfskin heads of similar thickness, the best being "slugs"
using skin from unborn calves.  A certain parchment translucency is
best, although most heads produced today are of a bleached white,
which is alright, but the "slug" or parchment transparency is best.
Under no circumstances use new plastic heads.

Rub a thin coat of blonde saddle soap and buff thoroughly on the new
heads.  If obtaining new heads is prohibitive,  use Neatsfoot oil on
the old heads, applying according to bottle instructions.  Drum heads
are leather and leather looses its natural oils over the decades,
especially so in instruments where lamps are placed in the drums or
directly in front of them.

Make sure the drum is uniformly tightened with the same tension on
each tuning lug.  It's best to tune the drums at mid-temperature, like
70 to 75 degrees F.  Rainy weather will tend to loosen the tuning and
lower the pitch; the opposite is true with hot, dry weather.  If the
drums are to be used outdoors during the summer, make sure that they
are not tuned too high or tightly as this could rupture their heads.

Snares should be adjusted to just loosely rest against the resonant
head.  By experimentation, you can find your drums ideal resonant
point, where the tuning is in acoustical agreement with the head
diameter and drum depth, and the drum will beautifully and resonantly
"sing" and enhance your machine.

Stephen Kent Goodman

(Message sent Fri 20 Apr 2001, 19:00:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Calfskin, Drums, Heads, Orchestrion, Organ

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