What Materials Are Commonly Used To Make Drum Shells?

You’ve probably wondered what goes into crafting the perfect drum shell. Well, wonder no more! In this article, we’ll explore the common materials used in drumshell construction. Whether it’s the warm tones of maple, the bright resonance of birch, or the cutting power of steel, each material brings its own unique characteristics to the table. So, grab your sticks and let’s dive into the world of drumshell materials! From traditional favorites to modern innovations, you’ll discover the secrets behind the art of drummaking.

Overview of Drum Shells

When it comes to drum kits, the drum shells are undoubtedly one of the most significant components. They serve as the foundation of the drum, contributing to its overall sound quality and projecting the rhythmic beats we all love. Drum shells are the hollow cylinders that make up the main body of a drum. They determine the drum’s tone, resonance, and durability. In this article, we will explore the various materials commonly used to make drum shells and delve into their individual characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

Wooden Drum Shells

Types of Wood Used

Wood has been a popular choice for drum shells due to its natural resonance and warm, rich sound. Common types of wood used for drum shells include maple, birch, mahogany, and oak. Each wood species produces a unique tone, offering drummers a range of sonic possibilities to suit their preferences and musical styles.

Advantages of Wooden Drum Shells

Wooden drum shells provide excellent tonal characteristics. Maple, for example, is highly regarded for its balanced sound, warmth, and versatility. Birch offers strong projection and a bright tone, ideal for live performances. Mahogany delivers a warm, deep sound with enhanced low frequencies, perfect for genres like jazz and blues. Oak, on the other hand, provides a powerful and focused sound favored by rock drummers. Additionally, wooden drum shells are known for their durability and can endure the demands of extensive playing.

Disadvantages of Wooden Drum Shells

One downside of wooden drum shells is their susceptibility to changes in humidity and temperature. Wood can expand or contract, potentially affecting the drum’s tuning stability and overall sound quality. Additionally, wooden drum shells tend to be more expensive compared to other materials due to the high-quality craftsmanship required in their production.

Metal Drum Shells

Types of Metal Used

Metal drum shells have gained popularity for their crisp, loud, and cutting sound. Common materials used for metal drum shells include steel, brass, aluminum, and bronze. Each metal offers unique tonal characteristics that cater to different musical genres and playing styles.

Advantages of Metal Drum Shells

Metal drum shells are highly durable, making them ideal for heavy hitters and those who play in high-energy genres such as rock and metal. They provide a distinct bright and focused sound that cuts through the mix, ensuring maximum projection on stage. Metal drum shells also have excellent tuning stability, as they are not as prone to fluctuations caused by environmental factors like humidity.

Disadvantages of Metal Drum Shells

One drawback of metal drum shells is their potential for overtones and metallic ringing, which may not be desirable in certain musical contexts. Additionally, metal drum shells can be heavier than their wooden counterparts, making them less portable. The cost of metal drum shells varies depending on the material, with some metals being more expensive than others.

Acrylic Drum Shells

Properties of Acrylic

Acrylic drum shells have gained attention for their unique appearance and sonic characteristics. Made from clear or tinted acrylic plastic, these shells offer a distinctive visual appeal, allowing drummers to showcase their individuality. Acrylic, being a transparent material, provides a different aesthetic experience compared to traditional opaque shells.

Advantages of Acrylic Drum Shells

Acrylic drum shells are known for their excellent projection and transparency of sound. They produce a bright, punchy tone with enhanced sustain, making them ideal for live performances and studio recordings. Additionally, acrylic drum shells are highly durable and resistant to temperature and humidity changes, ensuring consistent sound quality.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Drum Shells

One drawback of acrylic drum shells is their potential for unwanted overtones due to their inherent brightness. This may require additional tuning and dampening to achieve the desired sound. Acrylic drum shells can also be relatively heavy and more expensive compared to other materials, which may be a consideration for some drummers.

Fiberglass Drum Shells

Properties of Fiberglass

Fiberglass drum shells are constructed using layers of woven glass fibers, resulting in a lightweight yet durable material. This composite material provides drummers with a unique sound that sits between the tonal qualities of wood and metal drum shells.

Advantages of Fiberglass Drum Shells

Fiberglass drum shells offer a versatile sound that combines the warm characteristics of wood with the projection and brightness of metal. They provide excellent resonance and sustain, making them suitable for various musical genres. Fiberglass drum shells also have exceptional durability, ensuring they can withstand the demands of extensive playing without compromising their sound quality.

Disadvantages of Fiberglass Drum Shells

While fiberglass drum shells offer a unique blend of tonal qualities, some drummers may find them lacking the distinct characteristics that wood or metal shells offer. Additionally, fiberglass drums can be relatively heavier compared to wooden shells, which may affect portability and comfort.

Hybrid Drum Shells

Combination of Materials

Hybrid drum shells combine multiple materials to create unique sound profiles. This blending of different materials allows drummers to explore new sonic possibilities and tailor their drums to suit their specific preferences. Common hybrid combinations include wood and metal, wood and acrylic, and other creative combinations.

Advantages of Hybrid Drum Shells

Hybrid drum shells offer versatility, allowing drummers to experiment with different tonal qualities. Combining materials such as wood and metal can provide a balanced sound with enhanced projection, ideal for a wide range of genres. The flexibility to mix materials enables drummers to achieve customized sounds that may not be achievable with a single material.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Drum Shells

One potential drawback of hybrid drum shells is the added complexity in construction, which may result in increased manufacturing costs. Additionally, the combination of materials may introduce additional challenges in maintaining consistent tonal quality throughout the drum shells.

Plastic Drum Shells

Types of Plastic Used

Plastic drum shells offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional materials. Common types of plastic used for drum shells include ABS plastic, polyethylene, and polycarbonate. These materials provide a lightweight and durable option for drummers on a budget or those seeking a different sound.

Advantages of Plastic Drum Shells

Plastic drum shells are lightweight and highly portable, making them ideal for drummers who frequently travel or gig. They offer good overall durability and resistance to changes in humidity and temperature. Plastic drum shells also provide a unique sound that can be characterized as punchy and bright, suitable for various musical genres.

Disadvantages of Plastic Drum Shells

Plastic drum shells may not offer the same level of tonal complexity and warmth as wooden or metal shells. While they can provide a distinct sound, some drummers may find them lacking in depth and resonance. Additionally, plastic drum shells may not possess the same level of craftsmanship and attention to detail as higher-end materials.

Composite Drum Shells

Composition of Composite Materials

Composite drum shells are made by combining different materials, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar. These materials are layered or woven together, resulting in drum shells with unique tonal qualities that blend the strengths of each constituent material.

Advantages of Composite Drum Shells

Composite drum shells offer a wide range of tonal possibilities, combining the characteristics of different materials into a single shell. They provide excellent resonance, projection, and durability, making them suitable for professional drummers. Composite drum shells are also less prone to changes in humidity and temperature, ensuring consistent sound quality in various environments.

Disadvantages of Composite Drum Shells

One potential disadvantage of composite drum shells is their higher cost compared to other materials due to the complexity of manufacturing and the quality of constituent materials. Additionally, the combination of materials may introduce unique challenges in drum tuning and maintenance.

Carbon Fiber Drum Shells

Properties of Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber drum shells have gained popularity for their exceptional strength, light weight, and unique tonal characteristics. Made from carbon strands woven together and reinforced with resin, carbon fiber offers a high-tech and modern alternative to traditional drum shell materials.

Advantages of Carbon Fiber Drum Shells

Carbon fiber drum shells are highly durable, providing excellent resistance to cracking, warping, and changes in environmental conditions. They are extremely lightweight, making them ideal for drummers who prioritize portability and reduced physical strain. Carbon fiber drum shells offer a focused and articulate sound, with enhanced brightness and projection.

Disadvantages of Carbon Fiber Drum Shells

One downside of carbon fiber drum shells is their higher cost compared to other materials. The specialized manufacturing process and premium materials contribute to this increased price point. Additionally, some drummers may find carbon fiber shells to be lacking the warmth and tonal complexity associated with wood shells.

Other Alternative Drum Shell Materials


Bamboo drum shells offer a unique and eco-friendly alternative to traditional materials. Bamboo is known for its sustainability and rapid growth rate, making it an environmentally conscious choice. Bamboo drum shells produce a warm and resonant sound, similar to certain wood species.


Porcelain drum shells are a rarity but offer a distinct sonic experience. Known for their hardness and fragility, porcelain shells provide a clear and bright tone with exceptional clarity. Due to their delicate nature, porcelain drum shells require careful handling and are more commonly seen as display pieces rather than functional drums.


Glass drum shells provide a visually stunning option for drummers seeking a one-of-a-kind instrument. While not as common, glass drum shells offer a unique aesthetic and sound characteristics. They produce a bright and crisp sound, with excellent sustain and projection.


Cardboard drum shells, also known as eco-drums, are a recent innovation aimed at reducing waste. Made from recycled materials, these shells offer a lightweight and portable option suitable for beginners and casual drummers. However, cardboard drum shells may not provide the same level of durability and tonal quality as other materials.

In conclusion, drum shells come in a variety of materials, each offering unique tonal characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. From the warm and versatile sounds of wooden shells to the bright and cutting tones of metal and acrylic, drummers have a wide array of options to choose from. The choice of drum shell material ultimately depends on personal preference, musical genre, playing style, and budget. Whether you’re a professional drummer or a beginner just starting your musical journey, exploring the different drum shell materials can help you find the perfect sound that resonates with your individual style.