What is UTUR?
In short: UTUR means Ultra Thin Ultra Rigid. I came up with this design in 2017. It is a shell design that combines maximum rigidity with minimal wall thickness. The idea is that a drum with this design will be easy to tune and have enough attack and volume, due to it's rigidity, but can bring a lot of that nice warm wooden tone to the overall sound, because the thin wooden wall is so easy to excite.
Below I will show you two video's to illustrate this. One video is of a drumshell hanging from a rope that I tap with my vingers. In the other one I tap a hanging lampshade. The drumshell is a 3 ply birch Premier shell with beech re-rings. The shade is made from one ply of ash veneer that is backed with a thin sheet of some plastic I don't know; in total the shade is 1,2 mm thick. Please listen with headphones. You will instantly hear what UTUR is about.
(About tapping drumshells: Whenever I see drumbuilders or -sellers tapping shells, I always wonder why they tap the side. I think tapping the edge much closer resembles what happens when a complete drum is hit. The energy of the stick transfers to the head that first touches the edges and transfers some of its energy there.)
I am in an ongoing slow proces of prototyping. Click here for all prototypes: UTUR I, UTUR II, UTUR III, UTUR IV, UTUR V, UTUR VI. The design of UTUR VII is more or less definitive. Next up is slightly adapting this design to make it possible to execute it using CNC.
In depth: I studied the builds of acoustic guitars to find out how to achieve my sonic goal. My first attempt (UTUR Oak) was made with one thin ply of oak (about 2,5 mm. thick) that I bent on a hot pipe. I fixed it around a horizontal re-ring made from hard ply-wood. Compared to a traditional re-ring this ring has less mass and more rigidity. I had the drum tested by several drummers (with a very standard comination of heads and snare-wires) and they were unanimously impressed by the sensitivity and tone of this drum. I followed up this drum with UTUR mohagony, in which I reduced the mass by drilling holes in the re-ring. I had it tested again, with the same results. One downside of these two drums was that the walls were so thin and therefore vulnerable. I was a bit anxious to use single ended lugs, because I reconed the wood would break under high tension. With double ended lugs (with two posts) this is not so big a problem (the tension evens out), but still I wanted to have the freedom to use any lug I want. So I had to keep on searching.
Current design: In 2020 and 2021 I made a few more steps in this design adventure. I wanted to bring the wall thickness even further down (to 1,5 mm. max) while making the structure of the drum stronger. I built inner skeletons that (more or less) carryed an extremely thin wall that is as free as possible to resonate. The lugs are connected to the structure instead of the walls, so I don't have to worry about tension breaking the wall. These drums were tested by several pro drummers. Yonga Sun concluded that it was very warm and woody and that it kept that character even in high tunings and that when it was hit hard the energy was transformed into tone instead of extreme volume. Fokke de Jong, also found the drum very warm soundig and probably a most ideal snare for recording because of the low amount of overtones. He also said it would be ideal for the not so heavy drumming jobs, but not the go-to snare for a drummer that has to cut through the mix in a loud blues rock band. Kim Weemhoff tested it and concluded that it is was not the kind of snare he liked, which indicates that somehow my design works, because he likes very open and singy snares and found my UTUR too warm and woody, which was exactly my aim.
Concluding, a downside my design seemed to be that it was a little limited to only giving warmth and tone. I then experimented with bearing edges. Changing the edge on the reso side from a roundover to a very sharp edge helped a lot to make the drum sound more open (that is: with use of standard 2,3 mm triple flange hoops, off course sound can also be opened up more with the use of single flange or no flange hoops). Apart from being more open, the warmth and full-bodiedness of the sound keeps impressing drummers.
Are these thin walls strong? Yes, they are: I use 1,5 mm. birch aeroplane plywood. Check out here how strong it is.
Background: Over the years I've done quite a bit of research. I tested materials, bearing edges, sizes, heads, etc. Also I did a lot of reading (mostly on drumbuilders facebook pages) and spoke to a lot of colleage drum builders. All the while I took quite a sceptical scientific approach: I rejected every myth, dogma and pre-consisting idea (like "you need maple for warm tone"). I came to the conclusion that allmost anything can work (from a sonic perspective that is, ease of use and durability are different stories); anything round, flat and rigid can be made in to a good sounding drum. I strongly think that the sticks, heads and tuning you choose, the space you play your drums (or how you mike them) and how you play your drums are factors of a much heigher weight than birch vs. maple, or 5 vs. 6 plys. Especially in shells thicker than about 7 mm.; these shells have so much mass that the wood itself will not vibrate much. I have more or less tested this claim by making a 14 mm thick stavedrum of MDF and let drummers evaluate it in a blind test. They loved it and thought it was made of birch, maple, walnut, copper, brass, steel, etc. Read about it here.
But as a fond lover of deep warm wooden tone I refused to believe that there's nothing I can do to create a drum in which the wood truely brings something substantial to the overall sound of the drum. I reasoned that if the wood was to do something it would have to be easily excited and so it would have to bee very thin. At this point I started looking at luthiers ways of working and that's were my idea was born.
Is my UTUR design (with its horizontal ring in particular) original? That depends on what you mean with "original". If it means "conceived without using ideas of others", then yes, it is original. I conceived UTUR totally on my own, after autonomous logical thinking. If "original" means "never been done by another" then the horizontal ring appears not to be original. Unbeknownst to me a similar ring was patented and trademarked in the US by creative drum-inventor George Lawrence of Famous Drums.
I never knew of the existence of his ring when conceiving mine. I have nothing to back up that claim, except my oevre of drums that is generally considered highly creative. I think my originality, as well as Lawrences, is undisputable.
April 6th 2018 Lawrence e-mailed me and told me about his patent, and he showed me two facebook pages showing his designs. He let me know that the purpose of his ring was to increase attack and also give a little dampening. Please check them out before reading further. Here you see his Tone Flange design (picture 3) and here you see what I think is a later version of it, with holes. Especially that later flange looks like my ring. Or maybe it's better to say that in reverse: my ring looks like that one; of course Lawrence should be credited for inventing his ring before I invented mine.
Famous Drums Tone Flange, pictures downloaded from facebook-page.
However, there are are differences between Tone Flange and UTUR. Yes, Lawrence invented an extra rigid shell design without adding tons of weight, so the UR (Ultra Rigid) in UTUR was there before I came up wit it. The UT (Ultra Thin) of UTUR, on the other hand, is unique to my design and is not found in the drums where he uses his patented ring. It is clear to see that his shell would in principle also function without the ring; it only has the ring on the batter side. That would be impossible in my design, because of the extremely thin walls I work with (currently only 1,2 mm.). Without the rings on the batter and reso side my drum would bend out of round the very moment you'd turn a tension rod. So the first function of my rings is to make the shell rigid AT ALL. I made the ring horizontal to let as much surface as possible of the thin wall free to resonate. Once I conceived horizontality I reconed that if I made the ring quite wide, I'd create a very rigid shell, and that would help compensate for a loss of volume I was counting on with these thin walls.
If we stop focussing on rings, but look at the totality of a whole drum then it is clear that Lawrence and I intend different drums: He intends a drum that a. has some built in dampening without touching the head and b. gives more attack due to hightened rigidity. I intend to make a drum that is higly rigid but most of all is able to have an extremely thin wall. I am most of all aiming for a specific sound via the thin wall, not via the ring, as Lawrence does. The dampening that Lawrence aims for, is not something I aim for; on the contrary, it is unwanted by me, and for now part of a trade off between what I want and what is technicly possible.
In other words, we designed two different drums using one similar element. I recommend drummers looking for a pre-dampened drum with a lot of attack to take a look at Lawrences work. He designs and builds them very well. Drummers interested in a drum that has wood-tone to the max best follow my endeavours. Currently I am working on versions of UTUR in which the ring is not so very horizontal anymore, does not have holes and is integrated in a skeleton. See pictures above.