[Ref. 080825 MMDigest, "Regulating & Recording Percussion Instruments"]
When I restore drums for band organs and orchestrions I use as close
to the same materials as we can get today. Most of the original drums
heads are dried out and cracked and needing restoration. When the
heads dry out they lose their tonal qualities. The originals were
low-tension, finger adjusted drums, which meant that the tension must
be, as with all adjustable drums, distributed equally. Once this is
accomplished, tuning is the most important step in the use of drums
The original use of the snare drum in an automatic orchestra or band
organ was to approximate the usage in a concert band or small dance
orchestra. Oftentimes for today's ear this usage is considered
"overuse", but in reality it was the style of the day.
It is a crime to replace any head on an antique drum with anything
other than a skin head of approximately the same thickness as the
original. Using a goat skin to replace a calf skin head is acceptable,
as the cattle today do not have the same watering and feed schedules
and formulas as those ranched years ago.
I make certain that, for my clients' restorations who have machines
with drums in them, these conditions are always met:
1) The playing mechanism is properly and accurately rebuilt, including
replacement of worn springs as needed.
2) The beater distances are within originally intended factory
parameters and the striking heads are of the same material or restored
with the original finishes. All pads glued on the strike zone are of
the similar thickness and materials as the originals.
3) A good restorer replaces all leather -- gasket, pouch and valve
leather -- of the instrument, as well as drum head skins.
4) The vacuum level is regulated to operate the percussion properly,
at both low and high settings.
Only when these things are done can we hope to enjoy the drum section
of an orchestrion or band organ like it was originally intended to
sound. And, for Heaven's sake, play the instrument with its case doors
closed as it was originally intended to be played! Allow its own
expression to create the volume variations and hold any comments until
after the performance, instead of trying to out-shout the music!
If any of you have broken or dried out heads, please contact me for
head replacement services and well as full restoration of the drum
Stephen K Goodman - Professional Player Piano
& Nickelodeon Restoration Services
firstname.lastname@example.org [delete ".geentroep" to reply]