• Chris

Questlove Breakbeat upgrade project

Really? Another drum set? I recently acquired a Ludwig Breakbeats kit. A talented indie hip hop artist friend was in between studios and asked me to hold on to them during his year long transition. Once he settled in to his new place and his studio was built, he decided his breakbeats were better off in my possession. I kindly obliged.

The breakbeats are great little kits out of the box. They have a unique punchy sound, but not without some minor shortcomings. I decided to improve upon a fun little kit and get it to sound as good as possible. Exactly what are you upgrading? The "Azure sparkle" wrap is lackluster and overall, meh. The sparkle is not so sparkly and the overall blue color just doesn't have any stage presence. First order of business is to rewrap the shells with something a some eye candy. Since the Breakbeats are small, I decided to go with a bright color to reflect more light and give them as much visual appeal as possible. White works well but I don't like solid colors - again, too meh for me. After a little digging I found a classic white ripple wrap over at Drum Maker in Nashville. The hardest part is removing the factory wrap which was glued down quite well. The safest wrap removal technique is to use a heat gun, a flexible paint scraper and gobs of patience. If you try and pull the wrap off with too much force, you will likely tear the outer ply as well.

white ripple drum wrap
White ripple drum wrap

Wrap isn't really an "upgrade"! Okay fine! With the shells stripped to their core, it's a good idea to check for trueness. I discovered the 10" tom was not true at all and needed to be sanded down level again. If a drum shell is not true, they won't tune up as well. While I'm at it, I will be cutting fresh 45 degree bearing edges as well. Surely there's more!? The stock 1.6mm metal hoops are flimsy. Hoops that thin usually produce a brighter tone but can easily bend out of shape after a few rim shots. I decided to upgrade to 2.3mm hoops for the 10" and 13" toms. Cool. So what about the kick? The biggest upgrade for the kick is to ditch the factory metal hoops and replace them with maple wood hoops. This will open up the drum a bit more and also provide a nice aesthetic. I'll also be able to cut a notch in the batter side hoop to provide clearance for the pedal linkage.The notch will allow me to get the pedal mounted closer to the batter head thereby reducing the angle of the beater at impact. Anything else? Ludwig uses a shell mount for the 10" tom. I decided to fill those mounting holes and upgrade to an ISO style mount instead. ISO mounts allow the shell to resonate more. Drumheads? Of course! For the 10 and 13" toms I prefer Remo coated Emperors for the batter heads and coated ambassadors for the resonant heads. The 2-ply Emperors will allow for fatter, lower tuning and the 1-ply resonant heads will allow for more resonance. Stay tuned for more photos as parts arrive and the build is completed.

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