Nowadays, everyone wants to customize their gear; to make it unique, if possible. There are various ways one can achieve that. One of them, of course, is to give their trusty instruments a fresh coat of paint. That brings us to the main introductory question. Are you a musician wondering what can you use to paint your drum shells, by any chance? 

If your answer to the last question is nothing less than a YES, we’ve definitely got something to talk about today! In the article you’re about to read, we’ll show you exactly what you’ll utilize to paint your drum shells. Once you reach the bottom of it, you’ll have all the necessary knowledge to make your drum set as unique as possible!

To paint your drum shells, you’ll want to use lacquer or acrylic enamel paints since that’s the most common type of paint you’ll see folks painting their drum shells with. Of course, there’s an alternative or addition in the form of spray paint. Make sure you do two coats of paint and let your shells dry for 24 hours. 

That can’t be it, right? Right. To quote some of the texts on this blog, feel free to dive deeper into this one!

Table of Contents

Drums shells 101 (FAQ)

Here we’ll try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning drum shells. We’ll kick-start the FAQ session with the most obvious one.

What are drum shells?

There’s a chance some of you mightn’t know this. However, you’ve certainly seen drum shells before and you’ll recognize them in an instant. Here’s something that resembles the usual definition: a drum shell is a sine qua non of any drum and it holds everything together; it’s actually where the sound you hear once you hit the head is coming from. Drum shells are mostly made from metal and wood; you might be dealing with a wooden drum shell that’s been glued in plies or a metal shell that’s been cast in a mold. Needless to say, both options will significantly affect the sound that will be coming out of your drumkit.

What is a drum shell made of?

Okay, so we’ve already kinda answered this one, but let’s give a more in-depth kind of response. Drum shells are usually made of wood (most notably: birch, beech, maple, and oak). These wooden shells are typically crafted from two-ply or three-ply plywood. Here’s a fun fact: every single drum inside a drumkit needs to have the same color and exterior finish. In other words: they’re made from the identical type and color of plywood.

There’s one kind of type of wooden shell we forgot to mention. Ever heard about poplar? It’s the type of softer wood cheaper drumkits are made from. Also, this type of wood’s much easier to process. Additionally, it possesses a weaker tone than the wood used in the production of more expensive, high-end kits. We’re talking about harder wood such as birch and maple.

Alternatively, drum shells are made out of various types of metal (brass, aluminum, steel, or titanium). So, what’s the difference between wooden and metal shells? Here’s your answer:

  • Drumkits with metal shells are known for their bright and crisp sound. On the other hand, wooden shells are known to produce a sound that’s more resonant and warm. Here’s another thing: metal drums are a bit harder to carry since they’re heavier than their wooden siblings. 

What are the most popular drum shells?

In other words: what’s the type of drum shells you’ll most easily find on today’s market? And the correct answer is birch. Birch shells are the most common type of drum shells out there. That’s because birch trees are pretty abundant, and that means their price isn’t very high. However, that doesn’t say anything about the quality of a certain drumkit; you’ll find birch drumkits on both sides of the spectrum.

Do drum shells really matter?

You’ll wanna know that they do matter, greatly. Here’s an example of why that’s so. For instance, take ply count into consideration. Each ply of the drum shell is very important and has a great effect on the way your drums sound:

  • For a more sustained & sensitive sound and lighter playing en général, folks tend to use thinner shells.
  • For a more comprehensive and less-sustained sound, folks tend to use thicker shells. 

Now you see why the way the drum shells are made has an undeniable influence on the sound that’s coming out of your drumkit.

How long do drum shells last?

They’ll last a lot more than your drum heads (if you’re playing on a daily basis, you’ll need to change them every six months) if treated with care. What do we mean by that? Here’s the thing: they’ll need to be stored at a steady temperature. You’ll want to keep your drums away from cold spots and temperatures as much as possible. That’s because humidity can “inspire” your wooden shells to warp. They’ll lose some of the sound quality if exposed to too much humidity.

Speaking of age and all that jazz, has anyone wondered if drums sound better with age?

How do I choose drum shells?

You’ll wanna choose your drum shells based on your plans. To phrase it differently, it depends on whether you’re planning to stay in one place or travel a lot. If you’re choosing the first option, your best bet is to opt for drum shells that are good for your rehearsal space. If, on the other hand, you plan to travel a lot with your drumkit, opt for drum shells that are lighter such as the ones made from maple, also known as the most versatile type of wood.

Okay, that was a bit long for an introduction, don’t you agree? Without further ado, let’s check out what can you use to paint on drum shells! Oh, and if you’re, by any chance, wondering how many calories will you burn by playing drums, click right here! 

A black drum set with wooden drum shells.

What can I use to paint on drum shells?

Not only will we show you what can you use to paint your drum shells, but we’ll also provide you with a little guide on how to handle the whole process. So, shall we begin?

Step #1: Wrap removal

The first thing you’ll want to do is to remove the wrap from the drum shell. It’s a delicate process and will demand you to use some tools. Once you begin, separate the drum heads, rims, and other hardware. You’ll want to put them inside some plastic bags just so you don’t end up losing any of the parts.

Next up, locate the point where the wrapping “meets”. Usually, you’ll notice some little screws or stapes near the edges. Remove them! For your next act, you’ll need to obtain a heat gun. You’ll use it to warm up/heat the adhesive that’s between the wrapping, making sure it runs on “low heat” since we reckon you don’t want to burn the drum shell. Utilize a putty knife to lift the wrapping with extreme care, slow and gentle.

Alternatively, you can use a hairdryer. However, if you find the first option doable, if you’ve got a heat gun, go for it! Now that you’ve removed the wrapping, check the area underneath it while it’s still hot. If there’s any adhesive left on it, use your putty knife to gently scrape it off. Now, let’s say the adhesive’s something you’d call pretty stubborn. If that’s so, use your heat gun/hair dryer to heat the end of the putty knife, then you’ll want to slowly lift the adhesive away from the drum shell.

Step #2: Sand the shells

Before you continue to sand the shells, you’ll first need to inspect them for any cracks or splinters. If you happen to find some of them, simply fill them with some fast-drying paintable wood filler. Once you’ve done that, wait for it to dry out.

Utilize the 220-grit type of sandpaper and sand the drum shells. Afterward, you’ll want to clean it using a piece of dry cloth. Here’s a quick digression: if you’re wondering why drummers put water on their drums, just follow this link.

Step #3: Grab some newspapers

Why you’ll need some newspapers? Well, because you want to stuff/cover the inside of the shell just so you steer clear of getting some paint inside the drum shells.

Step #4: Start painting

Finally, here’s the part where we tell you what can you use to pain drum shells! You’ll want to use lacquer or acrylic enamel paints since that’s the most common type of paint for decorating/painting over drum shells. Alternatively, you can utilize spray paint. It all depends on what’s your vision in the first place.

It’s something of a rule that you go through two coats of paint, doing the second one once the first one dries. The drying period should be a whole day (24 hours). Once that’s done, you’ll want to apply some Polycrylic semi-gloss clear coat and wait for it to dry. Afterward, just reassemble the whole drum kit.

The bottom line

That’s about it on the what-can-I-use-to-paint-on-drum-shells-and-other-info topic! Now you’re equipped with the right knowledge to handle the process of redesigning your drum kit! We hope you’ve enjoyed this one as much as the last article (if you’ve enjoyed that one at all).

For tips on drums, drumming, and everything that’s even mildly related to this amazing activity, visit this page.