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Are Gretsch Catalina maple drums really that bad?

HowardW

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Let me start by saying this is a tongue-in-cheek post. It is a story of family dynamics, multi-generational musicians, personal biases and how grandchildren are our revenge upon our children.

I've played drums since jr. high school. As you can see my my sig line, I have a collection of vintage and modern sets, all American made. When my daughter was in 6th grade band, she also wanted to go into band, and also in percussion. This completely irritated her mother (my ex-wife) who wanted her to play a more "feminine" instrument like flute or clarinet. Nope. My daughter DEMANDED to play drums, "just like my daddy!" Even better, I made a secret deal with my daughter during her first year in band: if my daughter got straight As in beginner band, I would buy her a (used) drum set to take home to her mother's house! Yes, my daughter held up her end of that bargain, and the look on my ex's face as we unloaded my daughter's drum set was priceless! (My daughter still has the set.)

Now let's roll the clock forward. I'm in my upper 50s, my daughter in her mid 30s, she's married with two daughters ages 9 and 4. My older granddaughter has been taking piano for over a year now and is pretty good for her age. When they come visit, my granddaughter is fascinated by my drums. Of course, she is still too small to play any of my drum sets, but she can follow a beat on the hats, play down on simple fills. Just can't reach the pedals. This has led me to thinking about getting a bop kit (12/14/18) and setting it up for her to play here. I have plenty of free space in my music room, so if the kit is pretty enough, I can leave it out on display. Back to family dynamics: if the kit is at my house, my granddaughter will want to visit more!

And another advantage: if my daughter and I get into a tiff, the drum set goes to HER house. Consider it a nuclear deterrent against family drama ;) . And remember the saying "grandchildren are our revenge on our children."

Now I'll get a bit more serious: we come to the issue of finding an affordable bop kit for a beginner band student. This is where my personal biases come into play: I refuse to buy any drum set whose parent company is not American (see other threads as to why.) For a student, I can deal with the set being made overseas, as long as the parent company is American. So this means Ludwig, Gretsch and maybe DW (PDP... I can stretch the point here.) Then we come down to price... obviously it doesn't make sense to pay $4k for a Gretsch USA Custom bop kit to give to a 9 year old. Yes, I'm a cheap grandfather.

I'll be honest, of late I've fallen very much in love with my Gretsch sets, and never play the others; as a result I'm leaning towards a Gretsch set for her. With the logo head, she'll be playing the same brand as me, which is another psychological factor. The Renown is beautiful and the reviews give it a fantastic tone, but even used, it's too expensive. I need something pretty with some quality, but priced for a 9 year old.

So, what about the Gretsch Catalina Maple? In many threads on the site I see there's not much love for them. But for a 9 year old?
 

JDA

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depends how much money you have in them after replacing all the heads?
I mean if you're approaching $900-1000 I'd seriously bail.

I only played recent years, one Catalina maple (20" bass) owned by a "band director" who never touched tuned them. They sounded like (they were built by) plastic But I never tweaked or worked a set
 
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HowardW

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depends how much money you have in them after replacing all the heads?
I mean if you're approaching $900-1000 I'd seriously bail.
Very good point! I'm in the process of swapping out my G2s for G12s on my 58 Gretsch and 63 Slingerland. The heads have little play, so I might hang onto the G2s for the granddaughter kit.
 
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Tornado

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I haven't looked recently, but is there a Catalina Maple bop configuration? I thought the Club (Luan) was the only one.
 
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varatrodder

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I think the problem with their popularity might be where they fall price-wise. You can spend a little less and get a Catalina Club kit with the same hardware, but different shells. Or, you can spend a little more and get a Renown kit which is far superior.
 

HowardW

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By the way, I love that you sent a drum set to your ex-wife's house.
We divorced when our daughter was 3, but we really made an effort to co-parent. After a few years we were able to develop a strong friendship again. She passed away last year (Covid) and my daughter had me give the eulogy.
 

mydadisjr

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I think the problem with their popularity might be where they fall price-wise. You can spend a little less and get a Catalina Club kit with the same hardware, but different shells. Or, you can spend a little more and get a Renown kit which is far superior.

Yeah, go for the Renown. Maple Catalinas can be pretty good but will always suffer from the their name (the first generation Catalinas were real crap). Resale can be rough.

There are LOTS of used Renowns around. Currently there are eight used Renown sets on the Guitar Center site all under $1000.
 

Tornado

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The Catalina lines change so often in significant ways, it's almost impossible to have an accurate discussion about them based on personal experiences over the years. However, of all the Catalina offerings, I like the Catalina Maple the best because the hardware is better. 2.3mm hoops vs 1.6mm on the other lines. Buy some suspension feet for the floor tom if you buy....but I guess I do that for any floor tom anyway.

I put together and refinished a franken bop kit with Cat Maple toms and a Cat Club 18" bass drum. I like the sound of the toms, but not really crazy about the bass drum. But it's fine for what it is. I was inspired to put together the Cat bop kit because I heard one in a local jazz club that I thought sounded pretty good. A 9 year old doesn't need anything better than a Catalina Club. Neither do I really, I just have money.

But that's if you're set on new. Used is the way to go. Find a used Renown if you can like some others have said. Then you have a kit that can last a very long time.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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When my older one turned fve, I bought him his first kit, one of those cheesy First Act kits. He played it for a week and pretty much tossed it out of his bedroom! When he turned eight, I bought him a Sonor Safari kit. He didn't really play it at all. He now plays guitar, piano, and trumpet in 3 school bands and an outside band (and has 8 A's).

My point is that there's nothing wrong with the Gretsch kit for a nine year old. She may change her interests down the road and if she continues with drums, Grandpa can give her a nicer kit. If not, you can always donate the kit to the younger sister or to a school, etc. I gave the Sonor kit to the little brother when he turned 5 and he'd much rather jam on Daddy's vintage kits! At least he's a drummer though (for now.....).......
 

wflkurt

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First of all, I am sorry for your loss.

I have had a few of those catalina bop sets that I picked up cheap from CL. I used to see them a lot and I bought two of them so cheap, I was actually able to flip them. I kid of wish I had kept one of them as I think they looked and sounded great. While i think other companies probably make a decent cheap set, I get where you are coming from especially if you play high end Gretsch drums. I would love to have one of the catalinas in Champagne sparkle. I really don't need more drums now but thought it would be cool to have one for gigs where space is limited or the trip to the stage sucks. I'm in my early 50's and hauling around a ton of big heavy drums is becoming less and less fun.

I think one of those sets would be perfect. Good luck!
 

HowardW

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I think JDA and JazzDrumGuy have captured my quandary: do I want to start her off on the wrong foot? Or do I want to give more weight to her being a 9 year old (and with a 4 year old coming up behind her.) And saving money is pretty important too, first kit would definitely be used.
 

Esotericdrums

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I think a lot of people get confused between the Catalina clubs and Catalina maples. My understanding is the clubs are Luan where as the Maples are 100% maple?

My first kit I bought in Highschool/2005 was a Catalina Maple 22/10/12/14/16 and they have been a great set of drums. Still use them as my gigging kit today and the toms, bass drum sound great, the snares are junk as one would expect. But I have always gotten compliments on their sound. Hardware while not as nice as my Brooklyn’s hardware has held up to the test of time and 300+ gigs. Also when I bought mine they went for 699 so at the 1k price point today there may be better options.

I do agree with others that I don’t believe they make a true bop size kit in the Catalina maples.

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T_Weaves

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They're Gretsch in name only. I owned a set for a brief time and thought they were pretty dreadful. If I'm shopping that price range I'd lean towards a Mapex Armory kit.
 

CC Cirillo

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We divorced when our daughter was 3, but we really made an effort to co-parent. After a few years we were able to develop a strong friendship again. She passed away last year (Covid) and my daughter had me give the eulogy.
The content of your character and courage is noted, touching, and admirable.

Hand over heart here.
 

Tornado

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They're Gretsch in name only. I owned a set for a brief time and thought they were pretty dreadful. If I'm shopping that price range I'd lean towards a Mapex Armory kit.

Mapex Armory do sound pretty nice. Mapex supplied the backline to a jazz education festival that I recently attended, and even with UT heads they were absolutely fine.

But OP specifically wants brands made by American companies, even if actually made overseas. I'm not sure where Mapex fits in there.
 

JDA

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Practice pad two sticks and a stand, let her have her way with it; snare drum and lessons over time.
Like we did in 1968 when we had to walk uphill to school both ways.
 

Pickinator

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A few years ago I bought our oldest son a Catalina kit. He's a very good Bass Player and an OK drummer. Bass really is
his instrument.
The Catalina drums are Maple and the shells, lugs, and rims seem quite good. The Rims mount is even good. The hi hat stand, bass
drum pedal, and floor tom legs are OK. The snare stand and (3) cymbal stands are "almost good". I didn't expect great hardware and
and didn't get it either.
I would be replacing it all if it was mine, but for a kit used for band practice in our son's basement it is OK. His drummer likes it.

The shells and finish seem quite good and have held up just fine to the punishment. I think I paid around $800 for the 6 piece kit:
- 22 X 18
-6.5 X 14 snare
-10 X 8 tom
-12 X 9 tom
-14 X 14 floor tom
-16 X 16 floor tom
-Not bad for Maple at $800.

I also bought him Wuhan Cymbals. 20, 18, 16, 14 hats, 10 for fairly cheap. The cymbals sound good; not great.

Wuhan Cymbals has to be about as happy with their Company Name now as much as Corona Beer is. :(
 

JDA

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There has to be degree's of "maple" . The difference being what? Sapling maple versus 65 year old trees?
When I see these $300-400 new sets in "maple" and "birch" it can't be the same maple or birch as in top end sets..
Or what; is there an old-growth and new- growth or what
 


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