Yamaha Stage Customs... and what about the snare?

5 Style

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Ok... a friend of mine has a home recording studio setup. It's really only to record his own stuff. He's a singer songwriter type (though his music runs to prog-rock, punk, all kinds of stuff so not really "singer songwriter" music necessarily) and he's a singer-guitarist, but also plays bass and a bit of keys on his recordings. The one thing that he doesn't play is drums and he had been hiring a local hotshot guy to do it, but that guy is expensive and as great a player as he is, doesn't always come up with the kind of drum parts that my friend feels perfectly match the music... so he hired me to play on his last batch of tunes. That eneded up going really well. I'm sort of the Ringo to the other guy's Billy Cobham, but I'm also the kind of player who can figure out something to play over the kind of stuff that isn't obvious what drums might do (my strength is creativity more than chops and I can play with brushes, which opens up a lot of territory). I'm maybe at doing things like playing at super-langid tempos and in navigating very subtle-fuzzy seeming changes better than the other guy, who has admittedly much better chops and is able to play much more flashy than I could ever do. So... he's getting ready new batch of songs and had convinced himself that a "house drumset" would be a great idea (and good for me because I won't have to drag a kit over there) he bought himself a new set of Yamaha Stage Customs.

I went over there the other day to set up and try out the kit and I have to say that it is very nice... Amazing for a really inexpensive kit and very good even if money is no object. I'm fond of the 20" bass and this kit has to be one of the few in it's price range which offers that. It's got that and 10", 12" rack toms and 14" floor tom... and the bass and rack toms aren't those silly deep sizes either. The finish is a clear lacquer type thing that though it isn't quite the mirror finish of the most expensive lacquer kits that I've seen it seems like a deeper finish than on others (like Gretsch Catalina kits that I've played). I did a kind of rough tuning of the kit and it sounds very good to my probably not as discerning as some of you folks here's ears. It tuned up very easily and even though I'm not really crazy about the pingy, clear heads that came on the thing, I had to admit that the kit sounded fine with these things (more modern "prog rock" and less warm/vintage than what I go for though). Those heads and the sharp bering edges though do give it a much different, more lively sound than the single weight coated Aquarian heads on my Slingerlands, with their rounded edges. I even liked the sound of the bass drum, that has only a thin extra ring on the batter side for dampening and no hole in the bass drum. I tried it without even a towel on the batter head, expecting a sort of pingy, oil drum sound and what I got maybe wasn't my ideal sound, but it sounded good... A bit like a echoey, John Bonham type sound. I have to say that I liked thise drums much more than the other inexpensive modern kit that I've played, Gretsch Catalinas, which were fine but seem to be made of softer, cheaper wood and aren't nearly as sensitive and punchy sounding as these. My style is to play very relaxed, not hitting the drums very hard and having the kit do more of the work in carrying the sound and for me the Stage Customs do that better...

I have a couple of questions though that maybe you folks can help me with...

First of all, I like playing my two vintage Slingerland kits (one a bop type kit and the other a "rock" 12, 16, 20 config) with coated single weight heads, witout any dampeing on the toms. I've recorded with the bigger kit and felt like the tone was great without any dampening (and with a tuning higher than most folks use for rock). Since I don't plan on changing the heads of this new Stage Custom kit (the clear single weight ones) I'm wondering if since the sound of these drums, particuarly with these single weight clear heads is so much more lively, that I'm going to want to dampen the heads to get a good sound for the mics? Though the sound isn't quite my preferred thing (as I mentioned) I like it OK and like the feel and the full sound of everything open, but I don't want to make the mistake of using it as is if it's likely to sound horrible in the mix. One thing that my buddy had a bit of an issue with last time out was getting a great balance between the toms and cymbals, with the cymbals generally being too hot in the mix in proportion to the toms. I figure that lounder, open toms might go a ways to fix that issue, but I'm not sure that the ring is going to sound good in the mix... I do have a bit of Moongell to dampen though if it's going to be a better idea to do so. So, with or without dampening?

Also, I know that most folks put a hole in the bass drum, but I wonder if I can get it to sound very good in the room without that, if there's any real disadvantage to going without (I'd probably put just a t-shirt or a towel on the outside of the batter head). What do folks recommend (short of buying new heads, which I don't see happening)?

Finally, the snare that comes with the kit is the one part of it that I struggled with. it sounds fine with the snares off, but the snare response is a bit sloppy. Not nearly as bad as the Gretsch Catalina snare that I once tried to tune as that the best sound that I could get with it was a kind of "bag of nails" rattling type of thing (incredibly bad!), but it lacks the kind of precision that I'm accustomed to. What's the trick (if any) with these things; new snare wires, sanding the snare beds, etc?

Thanks...
 

shuffle

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Ive had several of the newer birch kits,2015.
Ive got a shell bank in natural with a 20 and 22 bass.
Toms are 10,12,14fltm,16fltm.
The snare,i tuned for gigging not recording,med. tension on batter,scream the snareside and kiss the snares,and it played just fine,deceiving because at players field it has lots of top end,Listeners field it was fully developed, ie phat! Articulate as well.
The toms play great,i use Cl Emps and Ambas resnos. They sing wonderfully with projection and punch.
The basses are outfitted with either an SK1 or an Emad,boths basses have an Aquarian Regulator on front,both are monstrous and punchy.
Again,this is all for live so this may be of no use to you.
They are great drums ,big bang for the buck!
 

Seb77

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With the snare, you could try using generic snappy wires with cord instead of straps. A very minor investment, but this combo often helps with articulation.
As for mellowing clear heads: you can't do much about the attack (other than trying a different tuning relation top and bottom), but you could put the slightest bit of tape on the batter near the edge to reduce the ping.
 

blueshadow

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The toms and bass are great and I think would be suitable for just about any recording short of maybe the most high end studios and more than doubling your budget on them. Snare though just my preference but I'd skip and go with a used 6.5x14 Ludwig Supra. Should be able to find one with the chrome plating in poor condition for a nice price.
 

Ptrick

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I always bring a snare or two of my own on house studio kits. I can sound like “me” on just about everything, but I’m most comfortable with my own snare, which is probably the most defining part.

I have a Stage Custom Birch kit, extremely happy with it. But I do not play the snare. It’ll be a gift to one of my nephews.
 

Drumbumcrumb

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Great kit, as you said for the money or not. I don’t know how they do it, but they do.

The factory clear heads have to go. Those are gonna hold that kit back from sounding REALLY good. You should be able to get a pack of heads in those sizes for a good price. For your playing style and those drums, I’d go with Aquarian Texture Coated or if you want to fatten things up a bit maybe Ambassador X. The TC heads are the least plasticky sounding of the single-ply, white coated heads to my ears (Modern Vintage are even more natural sounding, though a bit more $. You can find them on close-out for cheap sometimes). The Amb X will give you that fat 2-ply sound without the 2-ply behavior, great heads for a light hitter who wants more beef. Amb X heads will give you a little less ring/overtone action too, maybe kill two birds with one stone - improve the sound of the kit AND make it more recording-friendly. If budget is the primary concern and you MUST keep the factory heads - a set of studio rings will make the most dramatic difference for the buck. Iirc, a 10/12/14 set might be like $10-$15 and will tame those puppies in a flash.

I’m a big believer in un-ported bass drums - especially 18 or 20”. Not quite as simple to mic, but there is a ton of useful info out there about micing unported bd. Get that full, round, bass tone and mute/dampen as needed with a shirt or towel or whatever between batter head and pedal’s goalposts. Done deal.

The snare is gonna drive you nuts. IME, the “included” snare in an affordable kit isn’t worth the time and trouble. If you have a good snare, just use it. If you’re forced to squeeze a good sound from the included snare - a new reso head and new snares/cords is a good place to start. The factory reso heads are too thick sometimes, and the snare wires and straps have been installed carelessly. A fresh Ambassador or 300 snare side and a good set of wires with cords can only help. I’d stick with 20, or even 16 wires.

Keep us posted on your progress, let’s see some pics!
 

5 Style

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5 Style, where ya been?
Hey... an old name that I remember!

I've been involved with other stuff... A few years back I started to get really into digital photography. I had been into the film stuff years ago, but kind of tailed off with the whole thing until I bought some newer digital gear and had new inspration to do that. Spent my online BSing time on a digital photography forum that I've begun to get bored with. I'm not a big buyer of drum gear (I haven't bought anything new, beyond a cymbal bag in a decade or more) so I didn't feel that I had much to say about that part of it or technique since I really don't have all that much (though I have been recently woking on that part of it!), or the drummer fandom thing either, since I felt like I said most of what I would ever want to say about that... which all meant that I kind of ran out of energy to BS about drum related stuff... but alas, I'm still drumming, if not quite as much as in the past. I can't really keep away from it, ya know...

What have I missed?
 

kallen49

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Long time YSC owner, many threads here about them,
I make “muffles” out of old drum heads cut so they fit exactly inside the batter hoop. You can cut a hole in the center to lessen the amount of muffling. I practice with these on just to save my ears but they are useful to quickly change Tom/snare sounds.
Inexpensive! (if you have old heads to cut up. I also get scrap sheets of Mylar from the print shop I work at)

”Big fat snare drum” is a commercially available version. I have the original with no hole, use at gigs.
the YouTube channel “Sounds like a drum” has a review (and many other useful drum vids)
 

mcjaco

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With the right heads, wires, string or strap, and tuning the SC snares are great snares outdoing most other affordable kit snares tbh.
Was going to say the same thing. I worked on two Stage Customs, and early 80s set, and a 90s Nuveau model. With the right heads (I used coated Emperors on the top side, and cranked them and the reso head up. I think I replaced the snares on the older SC set. Nice snappy snare that can fill a lot of music styles.
 

5 Style

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Thanks for all of the good info...

As for the tom heads, I'm not going to be replacing them as it's not my kit and I don't really want to lean on my pal to make the investment to do so (however small it may be). As much as I hate the idea of dampening, I think that I'll spit the differences between none at all and a more heavy handed approach by using a bit of Moongell on those things. As I said, I didn't mind the open tone, but I don't want to find out the hard way that it sounds terrible on the recording.

For the bass, it seems like I might just be able to put a towel on the batter head and be done with that (with no hole in the reso head), but where/how to deal with the mic on an unported bass drum head. Are there different compression, mic pre-amp settings, etc?

The snare is really is really an afterthought as I'll be bringing mine. I have a few to choose from, but the one that I pretty much always choose first is an old Ludwig Standard wood snare that at least for me has some kind of magic that I haven't experienced with anything else. The tone and the response are about perfect to my ears. It might be nice to set up the kit snare to work a little bit better, if just for rehearsal (not recording) purposes, but if folks think that this thing is really junk, I'm not going to bother spending my time swapping wires or any other kind of mod on it. it still sounds worlds better though than the Catalina snare that I once checked out (and tried to tune up!).

I'll probaly be using my own cymbals too, or at least some of them. My buddy has some OK ones though including a nice ride that somewhere between rock crisp and jazz dark of a brand I haven't heard of called Turkish (how generic!), a Istanbul crash that's a little too bright and clangy for my taste and some Istanbul hats which are pretty nice, but which I don't like quite as much as my Zildjian Ks (modern, not vintage ones).

I gotta have my Ludwig throne too, with the backrest (which I got because someone on the forum here who posted that it was priced all wrong. They honored the price and it was something like $40 with shipping!) and probably my own Iron Cobra pedal too. The pedal my bud got for the kit is a bottom of the line Pearl thing, which actually is surpisingly good, but there's extra piece of mind using my own... At least, i'm not having to drag the rest of my kit though. Moving gear is my #1 least favorite thing about playing the drums so I'm always happy to play a house kit, at least when it's not a terrible one. Those Stage Customs are really nice. I feel like probably the main reason that anyone buys a new kit that's any more expensive is because they've convinced themselves that they probably need to spend more to get something that's any good. All of that automated machinery and cheap overseas labor means that these days you can really get a lot for a little!
 

5 Style

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With the right heads, wires, string or strap, and tuning the SC snares are great snares outdoing most other affordable kit snares tbh.
I must have missed your post at first here... What kind of wires to you recommend for that thing? Why is it that the straps are considered bad?
 

Seb77

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Why is it that the straps are considered bad?
If I may chime in: it's with the flat end-plates (no "channels" for the cord) of the generic wires (and others like Canopus) that cord makes a difference because the wires are pressed against the head a bit more than if they were just pulled flat by strap. Nothing wrong with that as such, but that extra upward pressure might give you the articulation you're missing. It's similar to what a deeper snare bed would do.
 

musiqman

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I must have missed your post at first here... What kind of wires to you recommend for that thing? Why is it that the straps are considered bad?
The Puresound Custom Pro 20 always works great for most if the snares I have and had.

Never use a steel wire but always nylon or a woven strap.
 

Neal Pert

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I will be honest and tell you that the SC Birch snare drum kinda ticks me off. I have gone through a bunch of snare drums over the years and at $99 the SC Birch really holds its own as a recording snare. My other snares retail for 5 to 10 times more. It ticks me off that a drum that cheap can hang with my expensive drums. I haven’t played mine live yet.

Some companies have created drums that are “utility” drums that are supposed to be able to do everything. And that’s where the Stage Custom really shines, but it’s way cheaper than all those drums. It seems like it’s so purposefully middle of the road that tuning and muffling strategies have a huge impact. I’ve gotten mine sounding all sorts of ways just changing the tuning and batter head. If after the quarantine I successfully build any sort of remote recording clientele I could imagine buying three of them and putting a Hydraulic on one, a Skyntone on another, and a coated G1 or HD dry on the third.

A quick fix for the plastic straps is, of course grosgrain ribbon. I use the stock snares and a Hazy 300 reso.
 

5 Style

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I will be honest and tell you that the SC Birch snare drum kinda ticks me off. I have gone through a bunch of snare drums over the years and at $99 the SC Birch really holds its own as a recording snare. My other snares retail for 5 to 10 times more. It ticks me off that a drum that cheap can hang with my expensive drums. I haven’t played mine live yet.

Some companies have created drums that are “utility” drums that are supposed to be able to do everything. And that’s where the Stage Custom really shines, but it’s way cheaper than all those drums. It seems like it’s so purposefully middle of the road that tuning and muffling strategies have a huge impact. I’ve gotten mine sounding all sorts of ways just changing the tuning and batter head. If after the quarantine I successfully build any sort of remote recording clientele I could imagine buying three of them and putting a Hydraulic on one, a Skyntone on another, and a coated G1 or HD dry on the third.

A quick fix for the plastic straps is, of course grosgrain ribbon. I use the stock snares and a Hazy 300 reso.
I don't doubt that these snares are better then their low cost would suggest. I wonder though why the companies don't go the extra mile and put the kind of heads, snare wires, etc on that thing to really make it shine? It seems like this would be a minimal cost upgrade for them and might be enough to get someone that might be tapping on the thing at Guitar Center, to say to them selves "who, what a great snare" and to choose this kit over something else...
 


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